Friday, July 11, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Russia’s 700,000 Buddhists Younger, More Tolerant than Other Russians

Paul Goble


            Staunton, July 11 – Two-thirds of Russia’s 715,000 Buddhists, most of whom live in Buryatia, Tyva, and Kalmykia, are younger than 45, a majority lives in rural areas, and one in every four says Buddhism plays an important role in his or her life, including making its followers more tolerant of others than is the case with the Russian population as a whole.


            Russia’s Buddhists are only half as likely as Russians as a whole to support traditionalist values now being pushed by Vladimir Putin’s regime, and they are far less likely to say they love Russia (35 percent compared to 52 percent for the entire population) or to say that they always obey the law (36 percent versus 44 percent).


At the same time, Buddhists in Russia are twice more likely than Russian Federation residents as a whole to say religion is important for them (27 percent compared to 15 percent), and they are less likely to be troubled by immigration, with only eight percent of them saying they are compared to 20 percent of all Russians.


            Those are just some of the characteristics of a community that forms only half of one percent of population of the country and that seldom gets much attention from Russians or others but that is increasingly important in the Russian Federation’s three Buddhist republics and adjoining areas (


            According to the “Atlas of Religions and Nationalities of the Russian Federation, Buddhists have the same gender division as do followers of other religions, but they are significantly younger: 37 percent of Buddhists but only 28 percent of Russians as a whole are between 18 and 30 and only nine percent of Buddhists but 20 percent of all Russians are over 60.


            Reflecting that age structure, Buddhists are more likely than are Russians as a whole to be found among students and those looking for work and more rarely among professional groups than other Russians and typically have a monthly income of 4,000 to 9,000 rubles (120 to 280 US dollars) or refuse to declare their income.


            And reflecting the more rural nature of the republics in which most of them live, Buddhists in the Russian Federation are far more likely to live in villages than are Russians. At present, 55 percent of Buddhists live outside of cities, while only 27 percent of the Russian population as a whole does so.

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