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Soviet Union


Official figures on the number of religious believers in the Soviet Union were not available in 1989. But according to various Soviet and Western sources, over one-third of the people in the Soviet Union, an officially atheistic state, professed religious belief. Christianity and Islam had the most believers. Christians belonged to various churches: Orthodox, which had the largest number of followers; Catholic; and Baptist and various other Protestant sects. The majority of the Islamic faithful were Sunni. Judaism also had many followers. Other religions, which were practiced by a relatively small number of believers, included Buddhism, Lamaism, and shamanism, a religion based on primitive spiritualism.

The role of religion in the daily lives of Soviet citizens varied greatly. Because Islamic religious tenets and social values of Muslims are closely interrelated, religion appeared to have a greater influence on Muslims than on either Christians or other believers. Two-thirds of the Soviet population, however, had no religious beliefs. About half the people, including members of the CPSU and high-level government officials, professed atheism. For the majority of Soviet citizens, therefore, religion seemed irrelevant.

Data as of May 1989