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Majority of Russians embrace Christmas despite communist past

Over 80 percent of Russians celebrate Christmas and a third see themselves as religious 20 years after the end of communism and its atheist ethos, according to a Deutsche Welle poll.

Russian Tamara Smirnova places a candle during a Christmas service in the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow

Russians celebrate Christmas on January 7

Twenty years after the fall of the communist regime in Russia, which enforced atheism and marginalized Christmas, 83 percent of Russians say they celebrate the holiday, according to a poll carried out by the IFAK institute and commissioned by Deutsche Welle.

A majority of 64 percent say they celebrate Christmas alongside other important occasions. Nineteen percent regard Christmas as the most significant holiday of the year.

Graphic showing Russian views on Christmas

Under Soviet rule, the communist regime suppressed religion and marginalized Christmas, instead focusing on the New Year as the main holiday of the year. After the fall of communism, Christian celebrations and the Christian Orthodox religion came back into favor, as many Russians turned to the Church and religion in the wake of political turmoil in the 1990s.

Many Russians are religious

The Deutsche Welle poll found that just under a third of Russians - 29 percent - consider themselves religious, with most of those saying they go to church on holidays like Christmas. Three percent say they are deeply religious.

Merely 11 percent of those polled consider themselves atheist and six percent say they are not religious but observe Christian traditions like christenings and church weddings.

Graphic showing Russian views on religion

According to the poll, many young people are religious, with just 16 percent of Russians under the age of 29 saying they do not believe in God.

Russians in favor of dialogue with Roman Catholic Church

The relationship between the Christian Orthodox and the Roman Catholic churches has always been fraught with conflict, which is why there has never been a meeting between the Roman Catholic pope and the Russian patriarch, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Graphic showing Russian views on dialogue between the pope and the patriarch

But according to the Deutsche Welle poll, many Russians would support a closer relationship between the two churches. Almost half of those polled are in favor of a meeting between the Pope Benedict XVI and Kyrill I. Forty percent say they are neutral on this issue. A small minority of just 2 percent are opposed to such a meeting.

The IFAK institute surveyed 1,000 Russians in December 2010. The margin of error is no more than 3 percent.

Authors: Ingo Mannteufel, Sergey Govoruha (ng)
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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