Staunton, January 8 – Despite the opening of more churches and official and media support for Christianity in Russia in recent years, the share of Russians attending Christmas services was less than two percent of the Russian population – a decline by more than half over the last eight years.
Russian officials and hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church routinely claim that 80 percent of more of the Russian people identify as Orthodox Christians, and polls show that almost that many acknowledge that they do, although they indicate that they only attend church and follow its rituals from time to time.
Consequently, and in the absence of reliable membership statistics for the church, one of the most reliable measures is the number of people attending services on holidays like Eastern Christmas as reported by the Interior Ministry which is responsible for maintaining security on such occasions.
This year, the ministry said that there were approximately 11,000 religious services in 5700 cities and villages across the country for Christmas and that “more than 2.5 million people” attended them (newizv.ru/news/society/07-01-2018/strana-ateistov-v-rozhdestvenskih-bogosluzheniyah-prinyali-uchastie-3-6-protsenta-rossiyan
They were protected by more than 50,000 interior ministry officers, 3800 military personnel and officers of the Russian Guard, 3500 employees of private security agencies, 10,000 members of the popular militia, and more than 5400 Cossacks, the ministry added. But what is striking is how few church attendees they had to guard.
The figure of 2.5 million is less than two percent of the population of the country, and strikingly is down from four percent only eight years ago when nearly six million Orthodox Christians in Russia attended services.