They have been averaging about 1,000 new churches opening per year, which averages to about three per day. Russia has gone from just a few hundred churches under Stalin to over 36,000 today.
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In the following video, he discusses the impressive surge in the number of churches being built in Russia:
Hey there everyone! So good to be with you.
The number of Orthodox Churches being built in Russia is reaching record levels. That's what we'll be talking about on today's video.
As many of you know, a recurring theme that we talk about all the time on this channel is the phenomenon going on all over the world that scholars call retraditionalization. It's a big word, but it's a relatively simple concept. In the face of threats to a sense of place, identity, and security, populations tend to reassert historic identity and security markers such as religion, custom, and tradition as mechanisms of resistance against secular globalization's anti-cultural, anti-traditional dynamics.
And as a result, we're seeing, all over the world, a renewed interest in traditions of wisdom that have proved their validity through the test of history. We're seeing a longing for spiritual traditions and practices that have stood the test of time and, therefore, can be valued as authentic resources for spiritual renewal.
What scholars are noticing is that retraditionalization is not limited simply to private spiritual renewal or communal religious revival. Retraditionalization often involves a reconfiguration of the totality of society, which, of course, involves the political, and cultural, educational norms of a population around pre-modern religious beliefs and practices which serve to counter the secularizing processes of globalization in modernity. Perhaps there is just no better example of retraditionalization anywhere in the world right now than what's going on in Russia, particularly involving the revitalization of the Russian Orthodox Church.
I'm sure many of you are aware that the Russian Orthodox Church has been going thought a — well, it's kind of a revival — over the last few decades since the fall of communism during Christmas of 1991. But I don't think we really appreciate just how astonishing this revival really is. One indicator is the building projects — or, better, the re-building projects — of churches throughout Russia. We have to remember that, prior to the 1917 October Revolution, there were over 50,000 church parishes, 25,00 chapels. There were over 1,000 monasteries, 60 seminaries, four theological academies. They covered the land.
But all of that dramatically — indeed drastically — changed with the advent of atheistic communism in the Soviet regime. By the end of Stalin's reign of terror, the Orthodox Church was virtually eliminated. The 1,000+ monasteries: they were all gone. They were all closed. Same with the theological schools. Only four bishops remained in the entire nation. And the 50,000 parishes were reduced to a mere few hundred. It's estimated that over 85% of clergy and monastics had been arrested and were consigned to die in work camps. As many as 300,000 people associated with the Church were killed.
The Church was utterly decimated, devastated. But since 1991, the Russian Orthodox Church has experienced nothing less than a resurrection. Indeed, this is precisely how the Russian Orthodox faithful are interpreting the 70 years of the secular winter under the Soviets and its fall. It's as if they were entombed for a perfect Sabbath only to be reborn in a springtide of renewed Christianity throughout Eurasia. And we're seeing this particularly evident in the building projects of new churches throughout the Russian land.
Now, according to the latest statistics (Get this!), an average of three churches per day, PER DAY, are opening throughout Russia, which is averaged out to over 36,000 churches in just three decades. I mean, think about that now. Russia's gone from just a few hundred churches under Stalin to over 36,000.
Now, if construction continues at this pace, it's estimated that Russia's churches will exceed pre-revolutionary levels in a matter of just a few decades, perhaps within 25-30 years. They have been averaging about 1,000 new churches opening per year, which averages to about three per day. And this statistic applies to the entire Russian Orthodox Church, so we're talking Russia proper, but we're also talking Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, the Baltic states, which all told account for about 900 churches in 60 different countries. And this astonishing growth includes monasteries as well. Remember, they virtually ceased to exist under communism. Today, there are over 900 active Russian Orthodox monasteries, which is almost reaching pre-revolution levels.
Now, the city of Moscow alone exemplifies the change in landscape of Russia sort of in a microcosmic level — a close-up vantage point, as it were. Moscow is ground zero for what's called The 200 Program, which is the name — as the name implies, it's the name of an objective to build enough new churches throughout the capitol so that there's always one within walking distance in each of the residential areas, or about 200 churches total.
The program's been active — it's been actively underway since 2011. It's really a ground-up program. It runs entirely on the donations of citizens, of private organizations. This really is an organic movement among the Russian populace. And just to give you an idea of the speed of this project: In just the past eight years, there have been 62 church complexes built in Moscow. 24 churches were opened in Moscow in 2017 alone. By mid-January of this year, there were already 12 more church buildings completed. I mean, this is church growth figures that are simply beyond astonishing.
And as part of all this, they're planning (Get this!) . . . They're planning the design of a biblical park that will feature selections of about 40 different plants mentioned in the Bible. Now, of course, they're limited to what will grow in Moscow's climate since, as the . . . Well, for example, the oak, the ash tree, the birch, daffodils, roses, lilies, willows, and the like. But this will be the first biblical park of its kind in Russia — just another indicator of the re-Christianization that's going on throughout the entire Russian nation.
Now, this astonishing building project simply corroborates a number of polls and surveys that have confirmed that Russia's indeed going through a religious revival much like the rest of the world is going through, by the way. A phenomena we're calling, on this channel, retraditionalization is going on all over the world.
But, particularly in Russia, perhaps the most comprehensive study in all this was a study that was published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion that examined this question as to whether Russia really was experiencing a genuine religious revival. They had a number of criteria for analyzing the occurrence of just such a revival, such as the age and educational levels of professed believers, church attendance, and commitment to traditional moral values.
In terms of age and educational levels, for example, the study found that the Russians most likely to identify as Orthodox Christians were the younger generation, and they actually represented all levels across the educational spectrum. The reason why this is important, the age and educational levels, is that it amounts, in many respects, to a total repudiation of what's called the secularization hypothesis that was so dominant in the social sciences over the last century. It postulated that a combination of younger generations and higher education would basically wipe out historic Christianity.
Well, the Journal's findings involved a total repudiation of that. Russia was seeing a growth in Christian identity and commitment among the young and highly educated. They found that the moral commitments, too, of Russians were thoroughly in step with Christian ethical norms. For example, upwards of 70-80% of Russians understood homosexuality to be morally wrong.
And an increasing number are becoming pro-life, which is — as we talked about in another video, it's a huge shift for Russia. Since Russia under Stalin was the first nation to legalize abortion, it's been a widely accepted form of contraception ever since. Well, those attitudes are reversing. In the last 20 years, the proportion of Russian citizens who consider abortion unacceptable has actually tripled from 12% to 25% according to the latest surveys.
So, as we march into the 21st Century, we can see the emergence of a thoroughly Christian landscape throughout Eurasia and the Russian territories. The recent building projects, the most recent surveys that corroborate that nearly 70% of Russians see themselves as either religious or very religious, and an astonishing 93% affirm their support and their respect for the Russian Orthodox Church and Orthodox Christians around the world.
In fact, there was a recent survey that even found that 30% of Russians would like to see a return to some kind of monarchical rule comparable to the Tsars. Now, that's what we call retraditionalization! And it's guaranteeing that the 21st Century is going to be, as even scholars are now calling it, "God's Century."