Religion in Estonia

You may not know it, but Estonia is actually one of the least religious countries in Europe. In Estonia, most people do not take their faith seriously and do not practice their religion. According to surveys, only 14% of Estonians believe that religion has any influence on their lives. Although statistical surveys show that about 30% of the population identify themselves as belonging to one of the churches, the vast majority of people describe themselves as atheists or have no religious affiliation at all. However, Estonians have always valued and respected all traditions and tried to preserve all architectural monuments. There are very few villages that have no churches at all, while towns have several.

As almost all the churches were originally built by Baltic Germans, Evangelical Lutheranism (Protestantism) became the main religion in Estonia for a long time. The country has been influenced by the Russians, the Danes and the Swedes, and all three have left their mark on the country. The Czarist Russians worked hard to popularise the Russian Orthodox Church in Estonia (and they succeeded), but during Soviet times public worship was forbidden. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, other former Soviet states immediately revived Christianity at the point of independence. In Estonia, however, it never really happened.

The situation has changed dramatically since Estonia regained its independence. Over the past 20 years, the number of Lutheran church members has almost halved (152,000 in 2000 versus 86,000 in 2021). We can assume that this is linked to history. Young Estonians learn about the waves of invasion and the imposition of Christianity in their history lessons. Christianity is seen as the faith of the colonisers, which is why it is immediately rejected.

Conversely, the Orthodox Church has noticeably strengthened its position, increasing the number of parishioners by almost a third (143,000 in 2000 against 181,000 in 2021). It is worth noting that there are two Orthodox churches in Estonia - the Moscow Patriarchate and the Constantinople Patriarchate.

According to the 2021 census, Orthodoxy is the most popular religion in Estonia. 16% of the Estonian population identified themselves as Orthodox and 8% as Lutheran. Some of the population identify themselves as Catholics (0.78%), Baptists (0.47%) or Muslims (0.52%). However, the overwhelming majority (60%) are committed atheists.

This does not mean that Estonians believe in nothing at all. Besides the "standard" religion, there are others, such as the nature worshippers. They consider nature to be their god and define their religion as Maausk, which is a form of Estonian nature spirituality. It is more of an unorganised religion, as there are no ceremonies or religious texts. Over 50% of Estonians say they believe in spirit or life force.

It does not matter what religion people are as Estonians are still very passionate about their country.

If you are planning to visit Estonia and are interested in the history of Orthodoxy, church architecture and local history, we recommend that you sign up for our tour. The tour is led by Deacon (future priest) Ilja. This is the best and only way to learn about the Orthodox religion and to see the normally closed parts of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

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