Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Sova statistical research center, one of the most authoritative in the country, has published data on church attendance region by region during the Orthodox Christmas liturgies of the past week. The figures range between 1 and 3%, for an overall average over Russia not exceeding 2%, in line with the last few years, even if slightly decreasing. This is the lowest frequency found in all Christian countries (France, one of the most secularized, is around 5-7%).
This poor propensity of Russians to participate in liturgical ceremonies illustrates the specific character of Russian orthodoxy, which is affirming itself through national-popular, rather than expressly religious identitification. Boris Yeltsyn, the first post-communist president in the 1990s, would often refer to his countrymen as "Orthodox atheists". The representatives of the patriarchate of Moscow have not commented the data, but they do not seem to be particularly worried about them, so much so that they continue to develop ecclesiastical building programs that increasingly contrast with the low attendence of faithful.
At the same time the mayor of Moscow, Putin's loyal Sergey Sobjanin, has lauded the great success of the "Journey into Christmas" festival, which took place in the capital from 13 December to 12 January, and which registered over 15 million visitors. Last year the event reached 18.6 million participants over a longer period; Sobjanin expressed his pride in the record for "the biggest Christmas party in Europe", where various cultural events, winter sports competitions, Christmas culinary proposals and a wide selection of souvenirs are held.