Census: Slight increase in the number of people without religious beliefs in Estonia | New

The largest single denomination in Estonia among adherents remains Eastern Orthodoxy, the agency adds, while Lutheranism has seen a downfall.

A total of 29% of the population is estimated to adhere to a set of religious beliefs, the survey, reflecting the 2021 results, found a share that is unchanged from previous censuses, while the proportion of the population who did not express religious affiliation increased from 54% in 2011 to 58% last year, according to Statistics Estonia.

Commenting on the results, Terje Trasberg, chief analyst at Statistics Estonia, said: “The increase is due to the fact that this time there were fewer people who did not want to answer the question about religion, we can therefore assume that they had a more decided opinion.

The largest Christian denominations of adherents in Estonia remain Orthodoxy and Lutheranism.

Eastern Orthodox Christians represent 16% and Lutherans 8% of the total population.

While the proportion of people feeling affiliated with Orthodoxy has remained unchanged, the proportion of people with an affiliation with Lutheranism has seen a downward trend, according to the agency: in the 2000 census, 14% of people declared an affiliation to Lutheranism, while in 2011 the share had fallen to 10%, compared to 8% last year.

Those with “other” religious affiliations make up 5% of the population, according to Statistics Estonia.

Christianity remains the most widespread overall religion in Estonia.

Of those who expressed religious affiliation in 2021, 93% were Christian, up from 97% in 2011.

Adherents to Roman Catholicism have seen a slight increase in Estonia over the 10 years 2011-2021, from 0.4% of the total population to 0.8%.

Islam also saw an increase, from 0.1% in 2011 to 0.5% last year.

As noted, 29% of the Estonian population said they felt they belonged to a religion, while 58% said they did not, and 13% were unwilling or unable to answer the question.

Older people tend to express more religiosity than younger people, the agency found.

Trasberg said, “With almost all religions, the proportion of young followers is lower than that of older followers.”

The demographic breakdown of the survey was as follows (source: Statistics Estonia).

  • By gender: 32% of women surveyed declared a religious affiliation, compared to 25% of men. Similarly, 63% of men surveyed said they did not believe in any religion, compared to 55% of women.
  • By age: Among respondents aged 65 and over, 43% reported religious affiliations, compared to 14% in the 15-29 age group.
  • By education: The share of those with higher education who expressed a religious affiliation was 34%, compared to 28% for those who had completed high school and 21% for those with basic education.
  • By ethnicity: 17% of Estonians said they belonged to a religious denomination; 71% said they had no religious beliefs. 11% of them said they were Lutherans; 3%, Eastern Orthodox. Among “Slavs”, according to Statistics Estonia, the proportions expressing a religious affiliation were much higher, ranging from 54% to 65% among Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian respondents to the survey – with 47 to 58% of respondents from these ethnic groups declaring allegiance to Eastern Orthodoxy.
  • People of “other nationalities” were more likely to be affiliated with Orthodoxy (15% of respondents) and Islam (14%), according to the survey.

The survey was conducted as part of the population and housing census carried out at the end of 2021/beginning of 2022, and asked respondents, aged 15 and over, if they had a religious affiliation. The survey was conducted online and by telephone.

More detailed information is here, here and here.

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Ruth R. Culp