Faith or superstitions? What do Russians believe in?

What do Russians believe in? Is it time of faith or superstitions? Throughout the history, faith has always been a peculiar category for this nation. One saw world salvation in orthodox Russia, others explained special Russian way by its faith. Some proved to be less exalted and, by using their ecclesiastical status, simply penetrated into ruling… But, besides large historical figures and politics, what is happening now with simple man, citizen of his country? Does he believe in God? Is it faith really or his superstitions? We will try to answer these questions by using numerical methods.

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Faith or superstitions? What do Russians believe in?

To define what Russian believe in, I appealed for official statistics – based on the results of lately conducted survey, the video presents the data of 2 panels, as of 1991 and 2016. All links, sources and explicit descriptions are listed below the video.

Thanks for watching and your interest to such problematics!


For the last 25 years considerably more Russians have started believing in God – their share grown up from 49 to 67% in 2016. Moreover, a number of those who always and often rely on higher power has doubled. Among Muslims this occurred more frequently than in groups of orthodox Christians. Since 1991 atheist quantity fell by 7 percentage points.

Nowadays, 43% of Russians believe in theory that life is predefined; 25 years ago only a half of them thought this way. Interesting that even among current atheists there are 10% of those who share this viewpoint! Also, respondents older than 60, Muslims and Christians believe in turning points of fate more frequently than average; youngsters between 18 and 24, and men – rarely.

If in the beginning of 90s around 24% confessed hell’s existence, 25% – devil’s presence, 33% – life after death, and more than half were convinced that all of these are superstitions and lies, then now, instead, the portions of believers and non-believers counterbalanced – mainly, at the expense of those who believe in higher power. More of our contemporaries begin believing in holy miracles – 32% in 1991 against 50% in 2016.

25 years did not change the attitude toward art works containing criticism for religion – 58% of respondents support the idea of legal prohibition. Only the quarter of respondents objected that books, movies of this type have legal right on existence. There are more adherents of prohibition among people with secondary or incomplete secondary education – 64 and 59% correspondingly.


  • WCIOM article:
  • Translated & aggregated dataset – click this link
  • Quick access to Google Sheet:

Survey design

Please, follow this link.

Complete Quotes

  • Alexander Hertzen:

Russian peasant is superstitious, but indifferent to religion – which looks for him like impenetrable mystery. To clean up his conscience, he properly complies with all visible cult ceremonies; he goes to Sunday liturgy in order not to think of church the rest six days. Priests are disguised by him as greedy parasites, people living at his own expense. The heroes of all popular obscene street songs, the objects of ridicule and contempt are always pop and deacon, or his wives.

  • Anton Chekhov:

Between “God exists” and “God does not” there is an enormous field walked through hardship by a true sage. Russian man knows only one of these two extremes, the middle is none of his interests – and therefore, he usually knows nothing or a little.

Datalypse between lines

P.S. For all eagering to know, the pictures used in the video were painted by famous Russian painters. Below you may find the full list of used images (in the order of slideshow):

  1. Andrey Rublyov, The Last Judgement (1408). Assumption Cathedral, Vladimir, Russia;
  2. Nativity Cathedral (1222-1225). Suzdal, Russia. Together with White Monuments of Vladimir belongs to the UNESCO heritage;
  3. Mikhail Nesterov, Holy Russia (1902);
  4. Ilya Repin, Procession (1880-1883). Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia;
  5. Vasiliy Perov, A Tea Party In Mytishschi (1862). Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia;
  6. Unknown Author, Icon of Tsar Family in addition to the photo of Grigory Rasputin;
  7. Grigoriy Myasoedov, Burning Archpriest Avvakum (1897). Private collection;
  8. Fyodor Bukhgolz, Fire In Village (1901). National Historic-Architectural and Arts Museum, Pereslavl-Zalessky, Russia. In addition to the picture of Konstantin Makovsky, The Christmas Fortune-Telling (1890);
  9. Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky, At Church (1939). Riga. Karl Bryullov, The Fortune-Telling Svetlana (1836). Arts Museum, Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia;
  10. Michael Vrubel, Pan (1899). Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia. In addition to Ivan Bilibin, Baba-Yaga In A Mortar (1900). Museum Goznak, Moscow, Russia;
  11. Vladimir Makovsky, Prayer on Easter (1887-1888). Arts and Historical Museum, Serpukhov, Russia.

P.P.S. As usual, I am happy to announce the books of my personal recommendation to get better understanding of faith’s place in the Russian social-cultural context. You may purchase them by clicking either the link or picture:

  • Dostoyevsky F. “The Brothers Karamazov
    As the ensuing investigation and trial reveal the true identity of the murderer, Dostoyevsky’s dark masterpiece evokes a world where the lines between innocence and corruption, good and evil, blur and everyone’s faith in humanity is tested.  ‘Dostoyevsky was the only psychologist from whom I had anything to learn: he belongs to the happiest windfalls of my life’, Friedrich Nietzsche. ‘The most magnificent novel ever written’, Sigmund Freud.




  • Berdyaev N. “The Russian Idea
    In this powerful, moving book first published in 1946, Berdyaev is not so interested in the empirical details of Russian history as he is in “the thought of the Creator about Russia.” The “Russian idea” is thus a mystical one. Religion and philosophy, not economics or politics, determine history and society. Berdyaev traces the lineage of powerful thinkers who struggled to integrate the polarities of East and West, spirit and matter, and male and female in the Russian soul.




  • Gogol N. “Dead Souls
    Since its publication in 1842, Dead Souls has been celebrated as a supremely realistic portrait of provincial Russian life and as a splendidly exaggerated tale; as a paean to the Russian spirit and as a remorseless satire of imperial Russian venality, vulgarity, and pomp.




Datalypse afterword


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