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Distribution of Eastern Orthodoxy in the world by country
     Dominant religion
     Important minority religion (over 10%)
Under the current Constitution, Russia is pronounced to be a secular state that has no single state or compulsory religion. Religious associations are separated from the state and are equal before law. Each citizen is guaranteed freedom of conscience and religion.  

Traditionally, Russia’s main religion was Orthodox Christianity. It left an indelible mark on the Russian spiritual, cultural, and political traditions. Both Russia and the West represented predominantly Christian civilizations. However, Christianity reached them by different channels. Rome was the West’s main mediator of Christianity, whereas in Russia’s case it was the Byzantine Empire that acted as its Christian “godmother.”

Byzantium was the eastern part of the Roman Empire, and it saw itself as its heir after the collapse of the western part in 476. Catholicism (the western form of Christianity) reflected the peculiarities of Roman civilization, whereas Orthodoxy (the eastern form of Christianity) was imbued with the spirit of Greek civilization that dominated Byzantium at the time of the implantation of Christianity in Russia (Christianity was adopted as Russia’s state religion by Great Prince Vladimir in 988).

During the Soviet era, the communist authorities suppressed church and religion, and demolished many places of worship. In the 1920s and 1930s, priests, monks, and nuns were targeted as “class enemies” and put behind bars or sent into exile. Attempts at religious education of children were branded “counterrevolutionary propaganda” and stamped out relentlessly.

Only in the extreme conditions of World War II Stalin changed his policy in relation to the church to a certain extent. The rituals of the Orthodox Church and tsarist history were invoked in efforts to raise patriotic sentiments to the highest possible pitch. However, after the war religious life was again severely restricted. Militant atheism continued to be the regime’s official policy. In the atheistic propaganda of the period religion was characterized as a “vestige of the past” that had to be eliminated completely.


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