Three-quarters of Russians (73%) intend to continue with the usual diet during Lent without fasting and abstinence. According to the calendar of the Orthodox Church, Lent began on Monday, February 27th.
This year the Orthodox celebrate Easter on the same date as Catholics
(16 April), as happens every four to five years. The differences of the
two calendars, the Julian and Gregorian, usually have a 13 day
difference (December 25, Christmas Day, falls on January 7 for
Russians), but Easter is calculated differently, because of even older
According to a survey of one of the leading Russian statistics
institutes, "Levada Center", 18% of respondents are willing to make some
small sacrifice (give up part of meat or wine); only 4% is determined
to follow the strict requirements of the Orthodox Lent, which requires
the faithful to follow monastic rules of complete abstinence from all
animal food, so a strict vegan diet, and they intend to do this only in
Holy Week; just 2% is willing to commit to following it for all forty
It must be said that the Lenten fast has a particularly significant bond
with Orthodox identity, which attributes these ascetic practices (with
many periods of fasting during the year, not just during Lent), a much
higher value than Western tradition. The Lenten sacrifice is not just
about food, but a person’s entire lifestyle. In the survey, only 30% of
Russians will try to limit alcohol; 15% are willing to stop sexual
relations; 19% to give up social media and online entertainment (a new
frontier in ecclesiastical fasting).
These statistics reveal that since the "religious revival" of the
nineties, following the collapse of the atheist regime, instead of
increasing, religious practice is decisively declining. Similar surveys
in the West focus on attendance at religious services on Sundays and
festive occasions, but in the Orthodox tradition, which also considers
attendence important that, the most important indicators specifically
concern ascetic practices such as Lent and fasting, proposed to the
faithful as the true sign of 'belonging to the Church itself.
In fact, the Russian Orthodox Church has never before had such an
imposing presence in the life of the country. From 6,800 churches open
in 1986, at the end of the communist period, it currently has 30
thousand in 250 dioceses and more than 800 monasteries, served by almost
30 thousand priests. It is said that the Russian clergy has now reached
the size of the Italian, that even 50 years ago exceeded 50 thousand
Overall, the Russian Church has not only recovered the structural
dimensions of before the revolution, but today it is a much greater
power, more widespread than ever before in its history; and this in the
face of an almost only nominal participation of the population, as
indeed confirmed by the latest statistics.
Thus, this "religious revival" seems somewhat ambiguous, representing
more of a socio-cultural identity phenomenon that a real mass
conversion: Russians often express themselves as "unorthodox believers",
or at least "non-practicing" similar to many Western Christians. Russia
is actually one of the countries with the lowest participation in
religious practices, including those of Europe and America.
Lent began with the "Sunday of Forgiveness," in which each one people
are called upon to seek forgiveness from their neighbor for their sins:
Conversion, then, is always possible.