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Russia: travelers guide about religion

Russian square

There are more than 5 thousand churches in Russia that are introducing this religion. According to the estimates of the Global religious future project in 2020, there will be 72.9% of Christians in Russia, 11.4% Muslims, about 1% Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, and other religions.

Historical view on religion in Russia

Historically, the country was surrounded by religious spirit since the very early ages of AN. For example, Russia adopted Christianity already in 988. This was done under Prince Vladimir of Kyiv. However, the country’s baptism laid the base for the Russian Orthodox Church. Therefore, it is merely the major religion in Russia since the described times.

A place of Russian religion in its culture

church interior view

Culturally, there were many fluctuations in Russia’s religious views. This can be referred to as the Soviet era when atheism arose under the influence of the Communist Party. Nevertheless, a long time ago the Russian Orthodox Church became autocephalous. First, it was highlighted in 1448, when the Council of Russia elevated Bishop Iona of Ryazan to the cathedral of Constantinople and referred to as the Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia.

However, the first Russian patriarch was enthroned in 1589. There were several attempts to modify church rites, their service books according to the practice of Greek churches. This created an old belief. Although after some time the collective control of the Russian Church was introduced by Peter and prince Vladimir І.

Religious freedom

Russia’s Constitution states that each citizen must have a right to religious freedom. However, in recent years Russia’s government did not pay the necessary respect to it after its decline since the late 1990-the 2000s. For example, there has been an attempt to ban the holy book of Hinduism – „The Bhagavad Gita as it is” in 2011 followed by the trial. In 2017 the report from the U.S. Commission on International religious freedom stated that the Russian government views independent religious activity as a threat to its political and social stability.

Criminal punishment for violating feelings of religious people

Today there are plenty of examples of people violating the feelings of religious people in Russia. For example, a while ago there was a case of the arrest of Ruslan Sokolovsky for playing a video game on his mobile phone intentionally inside Yekaterinburg’s church of all saints. As a result, a 21-year-old young man was kept in prison for about one year. He got both home arrest and a sentence of imprisonment. After sitting at home for a few months not being able to socially connect with the outer world, he broke the law once more by contacting his girlfriend and was sent to prison.

Another case similar to the described one appeared in 2012 – a Russian feminist protest punk rock group’s Pussy Riot performance in the Russian Orthodox church for the election campaign referred to as „weapon in a dirty election campaign”. Trial and imprisonment followed this case. There were more similar cases also in 2014, 2015, and 2016, when a criminal punishment followed after the act of violation of religious people’s feelings.

Today all such acts in Russia eventually lead to imprisonment as these are being viewed as felony crimes after Vladimir Putin signed a 2013 law on criminalizing acts that insult the religious feelings of the believers.

Things to do when traveling to Russia

When traveling to Russia, one must not forget what he or she must and must not do while visiting the country. For example, all the tourists are expected to follow Russian etiquette, such as wearing a dress code in theatres, restaurants, and churches. One should also know about giving tips and donations (how much, to whom, where, and so on), know some useful phrases in Russian, and so on.

When it comes to religion, there are also some important rules to follow. For example, when entering Russian Orthodox churches every woman should cover her head, wear a skirt (optionally, the long one-midi skirt, though), men, in turn, should wear trousers (long) and take off their headwear.

Things not to do when traveling to Russia

Firstly, one should not discuss such topics as politics or religion with every stranger as different consequences might come. To some religious Russians addressing them as a woman or a man can sound offensive, for this reason, better to avoid such formal words. One should also not wear t-shirts or shirts with foreign symbols (especially political or religious) as these symbols can be interpreted in the wrong way.

Smiling is different in Russia than in America or England, for example, as Russians don’t smile and don’t expect people to smile frequently. It is their personal business – to smile or not to smile while talking to tourists or natives, this must be taken into account, when addressing Russians during the trip.

Drinking in public places is prohibited by Russian law and not allowed according to religious views, for this reason, one should also remember not to drink in public. Smoking is allowed in special smoking rooms, cars, or in the streets (not closer than 15 meters from metros and railway stations).

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