"It would be correct to describe Russia as a land of believers, but it cannot be called a country of religious people," says Mikhail Tarusin, head of sociology at the independent Institute of Public Projects in Moscow. "We were an officially atheist state for 74 years, and it may take some time to rebound from that. Right now I don't think we could put the proportion of truly religious, church-going people at more than 20 percent."
Experts say that most Russians lead overwhelmingly secular lives and pay little heed to the Orthodox Church's increasingly frequent efforts to influence public morals, including a leading priest's recent call for a national dress code and a string of Church-instigated lawsuits against artistic "blasphemy."
"There is no doubt that Orthodoxy is the traditional confession in Russia, but only a small part of those who call themselves Orthodox actually go to church regularly, mark the festivals, or practice the rituals," says Vladimir Gurbolikov, deputy editor of Foma, a missionary magazine published by the Orthodox Church. "The problem is a lack of information in society. People do not have normal communication with the Church and are unable to establish it, and so they do not know the Orthodox Christian faith even if they identify themselves with it."