ISSN 2330-717X

Religion Doesn’t Play Central Role Among Youth In Kazakhstan, Two New Polls Show – OpEd

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Polls conducted by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and the Kazakhstan Ministry of Information and Social Development show that religion doesn’t plan a central role among young people either ethnic Kazakh or ethnic Russian in that Central Asia republic. But both allow that the situation could change in the future.

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Sociologists from the German foundation surveyed 1000 young people in Kazakhstan. They found that only 14.8 percent of young people regularly take part in religious activities. Most do so rarely or not at all, with Kazakhs and rural people more likely to do so than ethnic Russians or urban residents (qmonitor.kz/society/3092).

Of the roughly 90 percent of the sample reporting that they were religious, 63.9 percent said they were Muslims, 23.6 percent Orthodox Christians, 0.7 percent Roman Catholics, 0.6 percent Protestants, and 0.2 percent Buddhists, figures roughly parallel to the ethnic mix of the population of Kazakhstan.

Intriguingly, the sociologists report, only 4.6 percent of those questioned said their parents were “very religious,” an indication that those who are practicing Islam or Orthodox Christianity are doing so less from influence within the home than from other sources, including social pressure and the Internet.

The survey conducted by the Kazakhstan ministry concluded that “young Kazakhstan residents, who call themselves believers do not consider it important to follow the dictates of their faith. Fewer than one in five follow all religious rules, and fewer than 40 percent follow any of them.

The poll said about a quarter of the young are not believers at all, with ethnic Russians more likely to be irreligious than ethnic Kazakhs. It also concluded that religious faith was transmitted largely by families or social groups and not in almost any case as the result of the work of religious leaders.

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But like the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung experts, the ministry sociologists also concluded that “in the future, the religiosity of the population, including the young, will only grow.”

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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