Communist Legacies and Opposition Churches: Religious Behavior in Post-Communist Europe

Justin Clardie


The interaction between religion and the state in post-Communist countries has naturally received a great deal of scholarly attention.  The situation provides an almost natural experiment to examine the influence that government policies can have on religious behavior and organization.  The bulk of research has attempted to explain religious behavior in post-Communist countries using either the secularization approach or the supply-side approach.  Both of these models were developed with respect to non-Communist countries and have not been able to fully explain religious behavior patterns.  The current study suggests that two key factors are crucial to account for religious behavior in post-Communist countries:  the strength of the Communist legacy and the role of religious organizations in opposition movements.  A most similar systems design is employed by analyzing religious behavior in Estonia and Latvia.  Some support is found through the analysis.  Latvia, where the Lutheran Church was involved in opposition and displays a slightly weaker Communist legacy, has greater religious participation and belief than Estonia.  By grounding expectations of post-Communist religious behavior in characteristics of the transition the current study makes a valuable contribution to the existing literature.


religious participation; Communist transitions; post-Communist society

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