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Christianity in Kazakhstan Print E-mail

Christianity in Kazakhstan is represented by all its three basic directions: Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Protestantism. Besides, in 1994 the religious community of the Armenian Church "Surb Hach" ("Holy Cross") was registered in Almaty.

ImageBy the number of believers, orthodoxy in Kazakhstan is the second religious direction after Islam represented mainly by the parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as Communities of Old Believers.

The history of orthodoxy appearance in Kazakhstan is related initially to military settlements, which appeared after Kazakhstan had joined Russia. In 1871 Turkestan Eparchy was formed, out of which existing Almaty, Shymkent and Tashkent Eparchies appeared.

In 1872 archbishop Sophonios (S.V.Sokolsky) was appointed as the first Kazakhstan eparch in Verny and Semirechensk Eparchy who was managing it till 1877.

Before the revolution of 1917 the Orthodox Church was the state religion of tsar Russia and, because of this, it enjoyed significant advantages in comparison with other religions.

The first years after the revolution are characterized with severe persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church. Practically by the end of the thirties in Kazakhstan there remained only a few temples, many church buildings were destroyed, used as warehouses etc. Restoration of the ecclesiastic life on the territory of the country started only in 1945 with the establishment of Kazakh Eparchy and appointment of its ruling eparch (1945-1955) archbishop Nikolai (Mogilevsky), who became later the metropolitan and who was canonized by the Jubilee Cathedral in 2000. Thanks to his activity churches started to be restored and opened in the republic.

ImageIn 1991 the Holy Synod of ROC divided parishes in Kazakhstan according to three eparchial divisions. The first spiritual head of the orthodox Christians in independent Kazakhstan was Archbishop Alexiy - Andrei Nikolayevich Kutepov, who was born on 10 May 1953 in Moscow, graduated from the Moscow Spiritual Academy in 1984. For strengthening inter-national and inter-confessional harmony in 1995 he was honoured with the Presidential Award of Peace and Spiritual Harmony, in 1999 - awarded with "Astana" Medal, in 2001 - medal "10 Years of Independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan", in 2002 - "Parasat" Order. In October 2002 according to the decision of the Holy Synod, he was appointed as the Archbishop of Tula and Belevsk.

On 7 May 2003 the Synod decided to establish Metropolitan District in Kazakhstan and it included Astana, Urlask and Shymkent Eparchies. The centre of the district was Astana and the head was Metropolitan Methodius - Nikolai Fedorovich Nemtsov, born on 16 February 1949 in Rovenki, Lugansk Oblast. He graduated from Leningrad Spiritual Academy. He was honoured with Orders of "Saint Equiapostolic Prince Vladimir" of the first degree, "Blessed Prince Daniil of Moscow" of the second degree, "For Honourable Services to the Country" of the second degree, and the "Friendship" Order. Before appointment to Kazakhstan he was the metropolitan of Voronezh and Lipetsk, the chairman of the historical and legal commission of ROC, member of the Counsel on interaction with public and religious organizations and unions under the President of the Russian Federation, the member of the editorial board of the annual publication of the Russian Science Academy "World Religions".

Astana and Almaty Eparchy (till 1999 Almaty-Semipalatinsk Eparchy) includes parishes of Astana and Almaty Cities, Almaty, East-Kazakhstan, Karaganda and Pavlodar Oblasts.

Uralsk and Guryev Eparchy includes parishes of Aktobe, Atyrau, West-Kazakhstan, Kostanai and Mangystau Oblasts.    

Shymkent and Akmola Eparchy includes parishes of Akmola, Zhambyl, Kyzylorda, North-Kazakhstan and South-Kazakhstan Oblasts.

ImageIn 1956 there were only 55 parishes operating in Kazakhstan; as of 1 January 2008 the ROC has 281 religious unions in the country, to which 257 cult facilities relate.

Since 1991 in Almaty Eparchy Division there is 4-year spiritual academy, which trains churchmen and wardens (50 daytime students). Annually 4-5 people are sent to spiritual educational institutions of the ROC in Russia. Large number of churchmen study extramurally in the Spiritual Academy in Moscow. From March 1997 the branch of Saint-Tikhonovsky Theological Institute operates in Karaganda. In September 1998 the four-year theological missionary college was opened in Almaty. Practically all churches and prayer houses have opened church parish schools to study the orthodoxy basics. There are Sabbath schools where children and adults can study.

Logistical base of the orthodox unions is constantly improving. In recent years the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Almaty was built, as well as Wedensky Cathedral in Karaganda, Annunciation Cathedral in Pavlodar, Seraphim-Iver Cathedral in Ekibastuz, Johan-Theological Cathedral in Taldykorgan, Saint-Pokrovsky Temple in Mirny Village near Ust-Kamenogorsk, Constantine-Yelena Temple in Kostanai and Saint-Nikolai Temple in Satpayev built by Kazakhmys Corporation in the memory of the died miners.

In June 2005 in Astana there were celebrations devoted to the 150th anniversary of the opening and blessing of Constantine-Yelena Cathedral.

ROC churches are mostly crowded during the Christmas, Epiphany, Easter and Trinity.

A good tradition is the visit of the President N. Nazarbayev into Constantine-Yelena Cathedral in Astana to congratulate on Easter not only to Christians but to all Kazakhstan citizens.

The event, which had important international significance, was the meeting in Astana of XIV General Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Orthodoxy Assembly. From 20 to 22 June 2007 the participants of the forum listened to the lectures of the prominent political persons, guests from foreign countries and the heads of religious unions. As the results of the forum the participants adopted the resolution on holding XV General Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Orthodoxy Assembly in 2008.

ImageOne of the significant events for the orthodox religious unions was the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Voznesensky Cathedral in Almaty, during which there were numerous activities dedicated to this date.

Positive reaction amongst the orthodox Christians had the visit into Kazakhstan of Metropolitan of Varna and Bulgarian Orthodox Church Cyril. During his visit the metropolitan visited orthodox parishes in Astana and Almaty.

In November 2007 in Pavlodar, on the initiative of the abbot of Annunciation Cathedral Amphilochios, the first exhibition of ancient copper icons of XVI-XX centuries was opened in the regional historical Potanin museum.

Also in November 2007 in Petropavlovsk there were meetings and conversations with the famous orthodox missionary, professor of Moscow Spiritual Academy, Deacon Andrei Kurayev.

The ROC restored its charity activity. Church contributions into different funds were made also in the soviet times (mainly to the Soviet fund of peace). Currently support is provided to orphanages, hospitals, houses for disabled and old people. Charity weeks devoted to celebration of Christmas, Easter are held, as well as educational activities on the days of Saint Cyril and Methodius, the founders of Slavic script.

There is "Vedi" Orthodox Charitable Fund in Almaty established by the International Fund of Slavic script and culture. The Fund is not a structural subdivision of ROC in Kazakhstan and it conducts cultural-educational, historical and publishing activity. Great deal of work is carried out by the "Svetoch" Charitable Fund (Cresset) assisting Kazakhstan applicants in entering the universities in Russia.

Newspapers "Light of Orthodoxy", "Vedi" and "Astana Orthodox Bulletin" are published monthly.

ImageFirst traces of the Catholicism at the territory of Kazakhstan date back to the XIIIth century. They are related to activities of the catholic missionaries (missions of Franciscan monks Giovanni del Plano Carpini in 1245, and Giloma de Rubruk in 1253 and others), which visited Great Khans on assignment of the Roman high priests.

Not insignificant role in appearance of the catholic communities played mass migration of the Poles sent into exile to Siberia in the mid of the XIXth- early XXth centuries, and migration of the German Catholics and the Latvians from the European part of Russia. At that time, the catholic parishes of Kazakhstan were the part of Mogilev Archdiocese.

In 1977, the community was officially registered and granted permission to build a church. In 1958-1959, the community made its first attempts to officially register a parish in Tselinograd, but could register and reequip a dwelling house to be a temple only in 1979. 

In the spring of 1991, the Apostolic Administration of Kazakhstan and Middle East was created, which also incorporated Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. Karaganda became its center.

Since August 1999, the Apostolic Administration of Kazakhstan was reorganized into the Karagandy Eparchy (parishes of Karagandy and East-Kazakhstan Oblasts), where ministry was entrusted to Bishop Jan Paweł Lenga, and three Apostolic Administration were formed:

Astana (parishes of Astana city, Akmola, Kostanai, Pavlodar and North-Kazakhstan Oblasts), which is headed by the Bishop-Administrator Tomas Peta;

Almaty (parished of Almaty, Almaty, Zhambyl, Kzyl-Orda and South-Kazakhstan Oblasts) headed by the Bishop Genrikh Feofil Khovanez;

Atyrau (parishes of Atyrau, Aktobe, Wast-Kazakhstan and Mangistau Oblasts) headed by the Administrator Janusz Kaleta.

At present, the structure of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) in Kazakhstan incorporates 90 functioning catholic communities, 82 of which are registered as legal entities and branches. There are 40 temples, around 200 chapels and prayer houses at their disposal. Over 60 priests (mainly foreigners: Italians, Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians, Koreans etc) and 70 sisters conduct their ministry.

ImageAs per resolutions taken by the Pope John Paul II, the Apostolic Administration was raised to the level of Archeparchy of St. Mary, an Episcopal Conference was founded in the Republic, and T. Peta and P. Lenga were ordained as Archbishops. Besides, T. Peta became a Metropolitan.

On September 15, 2006, Holy Father Benedict XVI appointed Administrator Janusz Kaleta as a Titular Counselor.

The Greek Catholic Communities are registered:  in Pavlodar, where a church building was constructed in 2001, in Karagandy, where there is a Greek-Catholic monk, and in Astana. Since 1997, Karagandy hosts a High Seminary called Mary - Mother of the Church; since 1995, Credo monthly paper has been published with circulation of 4 thousand copies. According to its centuries-old tradition, the Catholic Church develops charity in Kazakhstan: canteen for the poor and free drugstores are opened at the churches; a home for the disabled founded in Talgar, Almaty Oblast; an orphanage was opened in Kapchagai. In 1997, Karitas International Catholic Charity Organization began its activity.

Historically important result of meetings at the highest level between the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nazarbayev N.A. and the Pope was the Agreement on mutual cooperation between the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Holy See signed on September 24, 1998 and ratified on July 30, 1999. The head of state of Kazakhstan was the first President among countries of the former Soviet Union, who made such a political move.  

The cooperation between two states was crowned with the visit of the Pope John Paul II to our country in September 2001, where he expressed his gratitude to the head of the state for preservation of peace and spiritual accord, stability in relations between the religions of Kazakhstan. As a pledge of further strengthening  relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev N.A.was awarded with the Order of Pious - the highest award which was honorably given only to 15 persons.

Positive resonance among the catholic associations was caused by the visit of Theodore Edgar MacKerrick (USA), Ex-Archbishop of Washington city, Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church to Kazakhstan in June 2007. In course of the trip the Cardinal visited North-Kazakhstan and Akmola Oblasts where he met with catholic believers.

From 6th to 10th August, a meeting of youth catholic representatives from the regions of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan was held in the village of Ozernoe, Tainshi district of the North Kazakhstan Oblast. Guests from Poland, France and Switzerland were participating in the event. 

Among recognized events of the religious life of Catholics, there should also be noted a celebration of 12th anniversary of foundation of Greek Catholic community in Pavlodar held in a parish of Saints Peter and Paul on July 12 with the participation of V. Gover, the Leader of Greek Catholic Church in the Middle East and Kazakhstan, priors of parishes of Astana and Karaganda, representatives of state bodies, leaders of Ukranian national cultural center of Pavlodar Oblast and the laity.

ImageIn Kazakhstan, Protestantism began to spread since the times of joining to Russia. This was caused by that in the Russian army located in Kazakhstan there were Germans of Lutheran faith, then occurred civil officials, craftsmen and peasants. 80-s of the XIXth century saw beginning of migration of Mennonites, Lutherans and Baptists from the European part of Russia to Kazakhstan. The Stolypin reform had strengthened this process; however, the main stream of Protestants into the Republic was related to "special migrations" of the dispossessed from the European part of the USSR in 30-s and deportations of Germans and Polls during 1939-1945.


Protestantism is Kazakhstan is of extremely different kinds. In the country, there are more than 1 thousand protestant associations and communities representing almost 20 confessions. New branches come into being practically every year. Main confessions, which have been existing in Kazakhstan over many decades, are Baptists, Lutherans, Penticostals and Seventh Day Adventists. Over the recent years, there are numerous charismatic and close to them new formations (above 300) originated abroad, appeared in the country.

Typical for all protestant associations of Kazakhstan is their tight connection with fellow believers abroad and those citizens, who emigrated from the country. Different human rights' organizations including international ones pay special attention to situation of protestant communities.  Activity of protestant religious associations is expressed in charity, wide participation and conduct of various international forums, festivals and conferences. Emphasis is made on issues related to youth. 

Entirely new phenomenon in the modern Protestantism in Kazakhstan is the tendency of establishing common interests between confessions.     

In the modern Protestantism, there are clearer tendencies both towards solidarity with purpose to protect common interests and certain confrontation between newly founded and already existing unions. For these purposes, the Association of Religious Organizations of Kazakhstan (AROK) was created in 1999, main goal of which, according to the registered Charter, is protection of interests and rights of religious organizations. At present, there are three organizations with similar goals and objectives in Kazakhstan: the Association of Religious Organizations of Kazakhstan (AROK) (Leader Klyushev A.V.), Kazakhstan Evangelical Alliance (Egizbaev A.K.) and Kazakhstan Association of Religious Freedom, KARF (Secretary General Sinelnikov A.E.).

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