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Mosque in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan; Kazakhs predominately follow Sunni Islam.

Islam is the largest religion in Kazakhstan, followed by Russian Orthodox Christianity. By tradition the Kazaks are Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi school, and the Russians are Russian Orthodox. According to Kazakh officials, 62% of the population are Muslim and 35% Russian Orthodox.[1] Some Jews, Catholics, and Pentecostals also live in Kazakstan; a Roman Catholic diocese was established in 1991. As elsewhere in the newly independent Central Asian states, the subject of Islam's role in everyday life, and especially in politics, is a delicate one in Kazakstan.[2]


Religious history

The country has historically hosted a wide variety of ethnic groups with varying religions. Tolerance to other societies has become a part of the Kazakh culture. The foundation of an independent republic, following the disintegration of the USSR, has launched a great deal of changes in every aspect of people’s lives. Religiosity of the population, as an essential part of any cultural identity, has undergone dynamic transformations as well.

After decades of suppressed culture, the people were feeling a great need for exhibiting their ethnic identity – in part through religion. Quantitative research shows that for the first years after the establishment of the new laws, waiving any restrictions on religious beliefs and proclaiming full freedom of confessions, the country experienced a huge spike in religious activity of its citizens. Hundreds of mosques, synagogues, churches, and other religious structures were built in a matter of years. All represented religions benefited from increased number of members and facilities. Many confessions that were absent before independence made their way into the country, appealing to hundreds of people. The government supported this activity, and has done its best to provide equality among all religious organizations and their followers. In late 1990’s, however, a slight decline in religiosity occurred.The draft religion law being considered in June 2008 has raised international concern over whether there is an intention to meet general standards of freedom of religion and human rights.[3]




Muslim Philosopher Al-Farabi's imagined face appears on the currency of the Republic of Kazakhstan

Islam in Kazakhstan the most commonly practiced religion. Islam came to the region during the 9th century by the Arabs.[4] Ethnic Kazakhs are Sunni Muslims who mainly follow the Hanafi school.[5] Kazakhs including other ethnic groups of Muslim background make up over 90 per cent of the total population.[6]


Christianity in Kazakhstan is the second most practiced religion after Islam. Most Christian citizens are Russians, and to a lesser extent Ukrainians and Belarusians, who belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. About one-third of the population of Kazakhstan identifies as Christian. 1.5 percent of the population is German, most of whom follow Roman Catholicism or Lutheranism. There are also many Presbyterians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, and Pentecostals.[5][7] Methodists, Mennonites, and Mormons have also registered churches with the government.[5]

Bahá'í Faith

The Bahá'í Faith in Kazakhstan began during the policy of oppression of religion in the former Soviet Union. Before that time, Kazakhstan, as part of the Russian Empire, would have had indirect contact with the Bahá'í Faith as far back as 1847.[8] Following the entrance of pioneers the community grew to be the largest religious community after Islam and Christianity, though only a few percent of the nation.[9] By 1994 the National Spiritual Assembly of Kazakhstan was elected[10] and the community has begun to multiply its efforts across various interests. The Association of Religion Data Archives (relying on World Christian Encyclopedia) estimated some 6,000 Bahá'ís in 2005.[11]


Kazakh Jews have a long history. There are approximately 12,000 to 30,000 Jews in Kazakhstan, less than 1% of the population. Most Kazakh Jews are Ashkenazi and speak Russian.[5][12]


Hindus in Kazakhstan are mainly of the ISKCON sect and by Diaspora Hindus from India. The Indian community in Central Asia, which comprises Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, numbers only 2732 out of a total population of 55.5 million. It consists mainly of NRIs.

Freedom of religion and religious tolerance

Kazakhstan has a very diverse and stable religious background. However, some reported occurrences of persecution against Hare Krishnas and Jehovah's Witnesses for proselytizing has raised concern in the international community.[13] [14] [15]


  1. ^ Kazakh Muslims Celebrate First Official `Eid Holiday Daily World EU News. Retrieved on 2009-09-10.
  2. ^ [1] Library of Congress Country Studies
  3. ^ Bayram, Mushfig (2008-06-10). "KAZAKHSTAN: Restrictive draft Religion Law to reach full parliament tomorrow". Forum 18. Retrieved 2009-06-05.  
  4. ^ [2] The Beliefs of the Kazakhstan people
  5. ^ a b c d International Religious Freedom Report 2006 U.S. Embassy in Astana, Kazakhstan
  6. ^ Estimation based on Kazakh population share of 67% (Итоги 10 дней с 25 февраля по 6 марта) and 16.3 mln total population according to the preliminary results of the 2009 National Census
  7. ^ "CIA - The World Factbook - Kazakhstan". The World Factbook. CIA. 2009-05-14. Retrieved 2009-06-05.  
  8. ^ Momen, Moojan. "Russia". Draft for "A Short Encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith". Bahá'í Academics Resource Library. Retrieved 2008-04-14.  
  9. ^ "Religious Groups in Kazakhstan". 2001 Census. Embassy of Kazakhstan to the USA & Canada. 2001. Retrieved 2008-05-21.  
  10. ^ The Bahá'í Faith: 1844-1963: Information Statistical and Comparative, Including the Achievements of the Ten Year International Bahá'í Teaching & Consolidation Plan 1953-1963, Compiled by Hands of the Cause Residing in the Holy Land, pages 22 and 46.
  11. ^ "Most Baha'i Nations (2005)". QuickLists > Compare Nations > Religions >. The Association of Religion Data Archives. 2005. Retrieved 2009-07-04.  
  12. ^ Oreck, Alden. "The Virtual Jewish History Tour - Kazakhstan". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2009-06-05.  
  13. ^ Corley, Felix (2007-04-03). "KAZAKHSTAN: Officially-inspired intolerance of religious freedom steps up". Forum 18. WorldWide Religious News. Retrieved 2009-06-05.  
  14. ^ Corley, Felix (2006-12-06). "KAZAKHSTAN: More Hare Krishna home demolitions planned?". Forum 18. Retrieved 2009-06-05.  
  15. ^ Palace of the Soul: Project Updates

PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Library of Congress Country Studies.


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