Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Russian Orthodox Church in Numbers

In order to give something of an idea of the massive nature of the Russian Orthodox Church, I've decided to translate the following statistics from a recent official publication. Statistics cover Russia, the countries of the Russian Federation, and the Baltics (as of December 2008):

Dioceses and hierarchs: 157 dioceses; 203 hierarchs, of whom 149 are ruling bishops and 54 are vicar bishops; 14 hierarchs are in retirement.

Theological education: 5 theological academies; 3 Orthodox universities; 2 theological institutes; 38 theological seminaries, 39 theological schools. Total of theological institutions: 87.

Total number of parishes: 29, 263.

Number of clergy in the dioceses: 30, 670.
Priests: 27, 216.
Deacons: 3,454.

Total number of monasteries: 804.
Men's monasteries: 395.
Women's monasteries: 409.

Total number of monastic dependencies and sketes: 203.

Number of Sunday schools: 11,051.

Number of Orthodox youth centers: 587.

Number of institutions ministered to by the Church:
-- hospitals: 2,890.
-- children's homes: 1,526.
-- other social institutions: 1,690.
-- military institutions: 2,237.
-- correctional institutions: 1,207.


Fr. Andrew said...

What's bewildering about all these statistics is the very sad one that might be seen to counter-balance them all: that only about 2% of the Russian population are actually regular church-goers. It's among the lowest percentages in Europe. Other majority-Orthodox nations are doing better, but still not so great.

Gabriel said...

Fr. Andrew,

Do you have a statistic that isn't a parrot from a study that was done in 1999? Come on.

More critically, statistics like these are meaningless without information on the methodology of the study. You can easily do a church attendance study where you ask a participant if they attend church every Sunday. If they say "No," despite attendaning, say, 40 Sundays during the year, their response is counted as a "0" for survey purposes. That's not very helpful.

You've had bones to pick with the Russian Church in the past, something which has always puzzled me a bit.

Fr. Andrew said...

No bones. Just not a fan of triumphalism or chauvinism, which do seem common for many in speaking of the Russian church. That puzzles me, too, since my impression was that we are the faith of humility and freedom.

Anyway, "parrot" or not, that's the statistic that remains the most common one out there. Do you know of another?

Michael said...

No bones. Just not a fan of triumphalism or chauvinism, which do seem common for many in speaking of the Russian church.

Maybe, but perhaps I missed something. Where is the triumphalism and chauvinism in this particular post?

Anyway, "parrot" or not, that's the statistic that remains the most common one out there.

It might be common, and might even be true, but without the context and methodology it is an objection without substance.

Fr. Andrew said...


I'm honestly not sure why Gabriel chose to "engage" here, but I didn't see any triumphalism or chauvinism in the original post.

Nevertheless, I think it's worth noting that big statistics like those cited here are not the whole story. All the signs coming out of Russia certainly indicate a big revival in terms of physical structures, clergy and monastics. There are apparently also many, many baptisms being done. But unfortunately, there is not a corresponding rise in actual church attendance, by any statistical measure I've seen.

The story is unfortunately much the same in Greece, with things a little bit better in Romania and Serbia. Many of these nations are also having severe demographic crises (the worst is Ukraine, but Russia, despite a recent reprieve has not been far behind). Within a few decades, it is likely that a number of these countries will be lost to Orthodoxy and become Muslim, not by force of arms, but by force of the womb.

All of this is significant context for the very impressive institutional statistics quoted in this post. It's no wonder that so many of these Orthodox lands have so desperately fought to hold on to their "diasporas," given that the future in their native lands is pretty precarious at the moment. They've got to start having babies and getting them in church, or else all the questions about primacy, the "diaspora," etc., will largely be decided by default. Demographic trends put a Russian patriarch in Constantinople within a few decades, and a much reduced role for the Moscow Patriarchate eventually. It may be that the Third Rome decides it likes the Second Rome better. :) I think it's also likely that Romania and Serbia will be taking an increasingly significant role in world Orthodoxy.

JLB said...

Within a few decades, it is likely that a number of these countries will be lost to Orthodoxy and become Muslim, not by force of arms, but by force of the womb.

I suppose by then a couple thousand Fr. Danil Sysoevs will be necessary.

Fr. Andrew said...

May God grant it! Our utter lack of evangelism to Muslims is to our great shame.

The Ochlophobist said...

If only the Russians went for GetToKnowTheOriginal AncientFaith™. That would solve their problems.

I have found the answers to russophobe demographic scarespeak at to be quite interesting.

And I'm intrigued by the thoughts here -
The Muslims are taking over the world bit seems increasingly unconvincing. Secularism already has taken over the world.

I was in Russia long before the resurgence of the Russian Church. I'm not sure America is considerably less secular. We have more toys, and more folks who express banal, bourgeois religious sentiments that have little to do with an actual Christianity, and conform perfectly well with a secularist schema, even when such sometimes think they are acting against it.

Fr. Andrew said...

Showing up to church would be a start, however one wants to count or quibble with the numbers. What solves anyone's problems, Russians or no, is actually getting up and doing what it takes to connect to God. That involves the ever-so-dull-and-pedestrian act of getting to church.

ISTM that much of what's behind a lot of this is the earnest desire to find some sort of "Holy Russia/Byzantium/Hellas/Etc.", that somehow, somewhere, despite the fact that we're surrounded by the Fake-o-dox, there must be a tribe out there that's doing it right. Orthodoxy's the one true faith, so there's got to be a One True Orthodoxy. But the truth is that there isn't such a tribe. They're all bums—the lot of 'em. (And not dharma bums, either, alas.)

The Ochlophobist said...

Fr. Andrew,

I’m not saying this is your motivation, buy usually the message “They're all bums—the lot of 'em” gets followed by the explanation of how we need to create some sort of real, biblical, renewed Orthodoxy here in America. Another expression of the American obsession with (re)creating the authentic NT Church.

I suppose the occasional pop slavophile one encounters here and there in America fits your bill.

But folks like Gabriel are familiar with all the literature and statistics you are, and the political machinations behind both russophilic and russophobic camps.

I have no interest in Russian style heavy handedness. I have no interest in some sort of Third Rome eschatology. I am leery of the MP taking over world Orthodoxy in certain respects. I am a big fan of the little Russian model, not so much a fan of the great Russian model.

But my motivation for leaning, and it is only leaning, toward the MP, is it is an easy place one can go to find useful Orthodox authority with regard to questions concerning living an Orthodox life in modernity. The EP has shown, time and again, a vacuous addiction to fashionable late modern ideologies. I don't gleefully go running to the MP, nor do I care to trump it up. I simply recognize that it is the place to go to find a coherent, actual presentation of the Orthodox faith in late modernity.

We might also consider that the MP is not monolithic in tone or style, I think we see within the MP a worthwhile discussion and debate, whilst within the EP mostly tiresome capitulation and endless EUspeak. As for the other Churches in the Church, is their health generally to be gauged by the degree to which they look to the MP or look to the EP for a measure of posture vis-à-vis engagement with late modern questions? Perhaps so, it seems to me. There are anomalies, to be sure, such as ACROD here in the states, which is under the EP but has more affinity in certain respects toward the soft side of the MP. I wish there were more ACROD like synods in world Orthodoxy. I think that there are others like me who look to the MP not out of any fetished longing for pure Orthodoxy which has a huge ecclesial structure behind it, but rather because of a desire to find a coherent expression of Orthodox teaching. But it is complicated. I have Orthodox friends in Poland who can’t stand the direction the EP has gone on a number of issues, who detest the increase of liberalism in the Romanian Church, but who also are also, for many reasons, not at all inclined to be under Russian ecclesial dominance, and I quite sympathize with them. I wish that the MP would lead solely by example in most cases, but we all know that is not going to happen. Nonetheless, we have very few choices to turn to. When the new Russian catechism comes out, it will be interesting to contrast this with whatever response comes from the EP theologians.

Fr. Andrew said...

My comments were precisely anti-utopian, whether some mythological Holy [Whatever] or some artificial construct one might try to cobble together in America. As for whom we need to "look to," it is to Christ and His saints, not to any particular jurisdiction.

Orthodoxy must shake off nationalism in every form. It is inimical to the Gospel. Unfortunately, I cannot think of a single Orthodox jurisdiction that is not shackled by nationalism in one form or another.

matslacker said...

A few more stats, incorporating those from the Moscow Patriarchate and those from Yakovlev's research. Together, I think, they form a powerful narrative.

Today the Moscow Patriarchate (i.e., the Russian Orthodox Church) has

30,142 parishes
160 dioceses
207 bishops
32,266 total clerics

Whereas in 1988, the 1000th anniversary of Russia’s Baptism, the Moscow Patriarchate had

6,893 parishes
76 dioceses
74 hierarchs
7,397 total clerics

Over the past century the Moscow Patriarchate has had

1918: 48,000 parishes
1928: 30,000
1960: 13,008
1969: 7,352
1988: 7,397
2008: 29,263
2009: 30,142

Of course, numbers do not holiness make. This point is clear in Orthodox doctrine, which insists upon salvation as a process involving free, ongoing engagement with the ‘curriculum’ of the Church. And surely gaps exist between identification with the Orthodox Church and a mature, living faith. Yet this is merely to state the present missionary task and the need for prayer—especially for the 32,266 clerics now free, thanks be to God, to engage in that task.

Yakovlev, Alexander N. _A Century of Violence in Soviet Russia_ (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 164-6.

Nadia said...

For more statistics, Nikolai Mitrokhin's works on the Russian Orthodox Church offer not only numbers but also some instructive analysis (the number of parishes in Ukraine as opposed to Russia, for example). One also needs to bear in mind the influence of the 'virtuosi,' that is, the dedicated people whose influence is disproportionate to their actual numbers (the same argument as in Gladwell's The Tipping Point). In short, the situation is more optimistic than Mitrokhin's stats alone would suggest.

Carlos Antonio Palad said...

"What's bewildering about all these statistics is the very sad one that might be seen to counter-balance them all: that only about 2% of the Russian population are actually regular church-goers"

FWIW, coming from a Catholic blogger who is identified with the more moderate side of Catholic Traditionalism:

I've been following the resurgence of Russian Orthodoxy with much interest and sympathy (despite the theological disagreements), and the statistics indeed fluctuate at 3-4% of Russian Orthodox actually going to church regularly. However, the number of those who consider themselves Russian Orthodox is also increasing by the year -- which would mean that while the PERCENTAGES might be steady, the ACTUAL NUMBERS seem to be growing.

I'd like to note as well that there are signs that the "demographic collapse" of Russia is slowing down (and Russia claims that it actually had population increase in 2009), and its rates of abortion slowly falling as well.

If there is anything that surprises me, it is the way people expect that religion would just, all of a sudden, revive in Russia and in the former Soviet Bloc within 10-20 years. The damage done to the fabric of people's faith and morality in these countries was immense, and will take centuries to overcome. Russia has a long, LONG way to go before really becoming a "Christian country", but at least it is taking some steps towards that goal.