Religious affiliation in Russia has increased considerably over the last two decades, according to a series of surveys by the Pew Research Centre.
The number of Russians claiming to be religious has risen from 11% in 1991 to 54% in 2008. The portion of adults who said they believe in God rose from 38% to 56% over the same period.
Between 1991 and 2008 the percentage of Russian adults calling themselves Orthodox Christian rose from 31% to 72%, according to the Pew analysis of data from the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) – a collaboration involving social scientists in approximately 50 countries.
During the same period, the number of people who did not consider themselves affiliated dropped from 61% to 18%. The number of Russian adults identifying with other religions, including Islam, Protestant Christianity and Roman Catholicism, rose in the 1990s but then levelled off.
However, the return to religion has not meant a return to church. Apparently only one tenth of Russians attend regular religious services. So, although more Russians feel affiliated with the Orthodox Church, there has been little change in formal observance in recent years.
Russia has been undergoing continual religious change since the beginning of the 20th century. Prior to that, orthodox Christianity was dominant in Russia. The earliest changed following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and the imposition of state-sponsored atheism as part of communist ideology. It is of course likely that a proportion of the population continued to practice their religion in private. It is also possible that rather than a new religious fervor, Russians may simply be expressing religious feeling that they have maintained throughout.