Religious education in Estonia

Authored by: Merilin Kiviorg

The Routledge International Handbook of Religious Education

Print publication date:  August  2012
Online publication date:  February  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415536301
eBook ISBN: 9780203106075
Adobe ISBN: 9781136256424


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Some surveys suggest that Estonia is one of the least religious countries in Europe. According to the last population census from the year 2000, approximately 29 percent of the adult population (those aged 15 and above; total questioned 1,121,582) considered themselves adherents of any particular creed. 1 Of this figure, about 13.6 percent declared themselves to be Lutherans. The majority of Lutherans are ethnic Estonians. The second largest religious tradition in Estonia is that of the Orthodox Church. Of the 29 percent of the population following any creed, 12.8 percent considered themselves as Orthodox. However, some new data suggest that the Orthodox community may have grown in numbers and become a fraction bigger than the historically dominant Lutheran Church. 2 The Orthodox community in Estonia is divided (also ethnically) between the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church (EAOC) and the Estonian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate. All other Christian and non-Christian religious communities have adherents of approximately 2.6 percent of the adult population (aged 15 and above). 3 The largest religious communities among those are Roman Catholics, Old Believers, Baptists, Pentecostals, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Considering the above figures, the percentage of atheists is surprisingly low—approximately 6 percent. There is a small Muslim community in Estonia. Muslims have lived on the Estonian territory since the eighteenth century. The majority of Muslims are ethnic Tatars. The ethnic composition of the Muslim community changed during the Soviet period due to new arrivals from other republics of the former Soviet Union, such as Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and other traditionally Muslim nations of the Caucasus and Central Asia. However, Tatars maintained their leading role in cultural and religious activity. 4 They have integrated well into Estonian society and there is no reason to associate them with radical Islam. So far there are only a limited number of new arrivals. Estonia does not yet have any of the challenges related to the growing Muslim communities as experienced in other European countries. The Estonian indigenous religious tradition is represented by the House of Taara and Native Religions. One way or the other some practices of indigenous religious tradition are popular and important for many in Estonia.

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