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Zdorovtseva O. Question on the dominant religion in modern Abkhazia / annotation

Zdorovtseva Olga – extern student. Institute of philosophy and social-political science. Southern federal university. Rostov-on-Don, Russian Federation.

This study aims to show that Christianity is neither traditional nor dominant religion of Abkhazia in spite of the current official position of the state power and religious identity of the population in this issue. Objectives: 1) to show on the basis of historical and statistical data that in Abkhazia at the beginning of the twentieth century the Orthodoxy prevailed nominally and not really because of the actual Islamization of the population; 2) to show that modern statistics in relation to Orthodoxy as formal as in the early twentieth century due to the fact that the Abkhazians follow the Abkhaz traditional religion. According to the Statistical Yearbook of Russia of 1913 the Orthodox Christians in Abkhazia were in the majority - 85,14 %, Muslims - 11,12 %. Archival data only thirty-two years ago suggests the opposite: in Sukhumi, the Bzyb and Anguish administrative districts the proportion of Mohammedans was 85,48% of the entire population, that exceeded the number of Orthodox more than 70%, and in the whole province persons of the Muslim faith were in dominate. The data of the Statistical Yearbook, probably, have been achieved in the short time due to the quantitative extension of the number of formally baptized residents, essentially remaining “in their opinion” religion. According to the 1897 census the majority of the population in Abkhazia were peasants - 848 persons per 1000 (for comparison students consisted of 64,1 people per 1000 people), the clergy - 23 281, 3 people in the whole province (+10 582,41 people engaged in worship and service in the liturgical buildings). A large part of the population of the province was the local peoples - Kartveli (Abkhazians, Mergels) - 82,1 % - the adherents of the Abkhaz traditional religion. The national and the social composition of the territory, the status of the literacy of the population show the formality of the statistical data of the Orthodox in the prerevolutionary period.
The current state of Abkhazia`s attitude to religion can be described as ambiguous. According to the opinion polls of 2003, 60% of Abkhazia`s population identify themselves as Orthodox Christians. However the Abkhazians are formal Christians: “the Abkhazians- Christians” do not attend churches (or attend them very rarely), do not participate in the sacrament of communion, do not comply with any of the posts, do not interested in the basic beliefs, and do not read the Bible. About 50% of the Abkhazians, who called themselves Christians, have traditional shrines and perform their own rituals which have nothing to do with Christiany. The local religion is actively reviving in Abkhazia over the last 20-25 years. The modern researchers characterize it as “Abkhazian monotheism”. The commitment to their tradition faith the Abkhazians had preserved throughout the Soviet period. Despite the fact that the Abkhazian authorities are trying to demonstrate the equality of all religions, attaching the corresponding provision in the Constitution of 1994, the representatives of the current leadership of Abkhazia, are the obligatory participants in religious ceremonies annually performed in the main Abkhazian sanctuaries (Dydrypsh, etc.). In the current post-Soviet reality the traditional religion of the Abkhazians plays a crucial stabilizing role in the society, it is claimed and, in fact, continues to be the true religion the majority of the Abkhazians. Thus, Orthodoxy in Abkhazia is neither traditional or really the dominant religion in a number of historical and national peculiarities of this state, and the official point of view on this issue is contrary to the actual religious situation.

Key words: Abkhazia, Orthodoxy, Christianity, the traditional religion of Abkhazians, Abkhazian monotheism, the religiosity self-identification.

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