Monday, June 19, 2017

Protestant Churches Now Outnumber Russian Orthodox Ones in Kazakhstan

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 16 – The religious activity of people is seldom best captured by statistics, but some aspects of religious life, including the number of religious organizations and even the ones that a government or other organization uses to categorize them can nonetheless provide important details about this aspect of social life.

            A new article on the Regnum news agency provides comprehensive data on the numbers of various religious denominations in Kazakhstan in 2011 before Astana adopted its current law on religion and now, almost six years after it did so. They are extremely instructive about developments and especially state policy there (

            “In 2011,” the article reports, “32 confessions and more than 20 denominations were registered in Kazakhstan. They formed a total of 4430 religious groups, 3839 of which were registered as legal persons or branches and 559 as small groups.  Together, they used 3369 religious facilities.”  The list also includes the number of small, missionary-led groups.

            At the end of that year, Kazakhstan adopted a new law on religious organizations at least partially in response to a number of terrorist acts there.  The state tightened its restrictions on religious life. Among the results achieved in 2012, the Regnum article reports, were the following:

            The number of religious organizations and the number of confessions declined to 3088 and 17 respectively. The Old Believers and the Armenian Apostolic Church were folded into the Orthodox category. Protestant denominations were reregistered with their number falling from 666 to 462, Charismatics from 48 to 16, and the Scientologists entirely liquidated.

            But almost immediately, the number of organizations in each category began expanding again. According to a survey taken at the end of April 2017 by the Kazakhstan religious affairs and civil society ministry, there are now 3679 religious organizations (2570 Muslim, 333 Orthodox, 85 Catholic, 668 Protestant, seven Jewish, and 17 others.

            What is most striking is that the Protestant now outnumber the Russian Orthodox by more than two to one. 

            Last October, the same ministry published figures on the number of religious buildings in the country. At that time, there were 3436 “cult” facilities, including 2528 mosques, 294 Orthodox churches, 108 Catholic churches, 490 Protestant facilities, seven synagogues, two Buddhist shrines, three Krishna consciousness centers, and four Bahai houses.

            At present, Regnum says, there are 495 missionaries in Kazakhstan, 238 of whom are Catholics, 175 Protestants, and 87 Orthodox.

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