Religious Adherents, 2010 (World Christian Database)1
Religious Adherence, 2009 (other estimates)2
The country has an area of 1,052,540 square miles, and a population of 15.4 million, according to 2007 government statistics. The society is ethnically diverse, and many religious groups are represented. Due in part to the country's nomadic and Soviet past, many residents describe themselves as nonbelievers; surveys from past years suggested low levels of religious conviction and worship attendance. The Government maintains statistics on the number of registered congregations and organizations but not on the size of each group. The most recent reliable statistics on religious affiliation are based on the 1999 census. Although there was a large increase in the number of minority religious congregations registered since 1999, the Government believes that percentages of the population belonging to particular religious groups have remained consistent.
Ethnic Kazakhs, who constitute just over half of the population, and ethnic Uzbeks, Uighurs, and Tatars, who collectively comprise less than 10 percent, are historically Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi school. Other Islamic groups that account for less than 1 percent of the population include Shafi'i Sunni (traditionally associated with Chechens), Shi'a, Sufi, and Ahmadi. The highest concentration of self-identified practicing Muslims is located in the southern region bordering Uzbekistan. There were approximately 2,200 registered mosques, all of them affiliated with the Spiritual Association of Muslims of Kazakhstan (SAMK), a national organization with close ties to the Government.
Approximately one-third of the population, comprising sizeable numbers of ethnic Russians and smaller populations of ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Belarusians, are Russian Orthodox by tradition. There were 257 registered Russian Orthodox churches. Members of a Roman Catholic archdiocese include many ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Germans and account for 2 percent of the population. An estimated 1.5 percent of the population is ethnic German, many of whom are Roman Catholic or Lutheran. The Government reported 82 registered Roman Catholic churches and affiliated organizations throughout the country. A smaller, affiliated community of Greek Catholics, many of whom are ethnic Ukrainians, had four registered churches.
According to government statistics, Protestant Christian congregations outnumber Russian Orthodox or Roman Catholic congregations, although it is unlikely that Protestant Christians account for a larger number of adherents. The Government reported 964 registered Protestant Christian organizations with 546 places of worship during the reporting period.
There are two Baptist groups in the country, the Union of Evangelical Christians and Baptists ("Union of Baptists"), with an estimated 10,000 adherents and 227 registered groups, and the Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians and Baptists ("Council of Churches") with up to 1,000 adherents. The Council of Churches Baptists refuse on principle to register.
Other Christian religious groups with a sizable number of congregations include Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Pentecostals, as well as Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists. Smaller communities of Methodists, Mennonites, and Mormons are also registered.
A Jewish community, estimated at well below 1 percent of the population, has synagogues in Almaty, Astana, Ust-Kamenogorsk, and Pavlodar.
Government statistics included 43 other registered religious groups during the reporting period, including 4 registered Buddhist groups, 11 affiliates of the Hare Krishna movement, as well as Baha'is, Christian Scientists, and the Unification Church.
Note: The World Christian Database (WCD) estimates, used in the Religious Adherents section above, count each person as belonging to a maximum of one religious group. For more information, see the WCD methodology document. The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom report estimates, used in the Religious Demography section, use less restrictive criteria in which a person who identifies with more than one religion is classified as a follower of each. In certain cases (such as Japan and other nations with strong folk religion traditions), this can cause counts to vary widely between estimates. Users are advised to consult the relevant source documents before determining which counts to cite.
1. The World Christian Database (WCD) is based on the 2600-page award-winning World Christian Encyclopedia and World Christian Trends, first published in 1982 and revised in 2001. This extensive work on World religion is now completely updated and integrated into the WCD online database. Designed for both the casual user and research scholar, information is readily available on religious activities, growth rates, religious literature, worker activity, and demographic statistics. Additional secular data is incorporated on population, health, education, and communications. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. Used with permission.
2. Estimates for Kazakhstan are based on information from the country's 2009 census. The proportion of the Muslim population who were Sunni or Shi'a was estimated using the 2009 Pew report entitled "Mapping the Global Muslim Population."
The Pew report bases its estimates of the proportion of the Muslim population that is Shi'a on 1) "Analyses by more than 20 demographers and social scientists at universities and
research centers around the world who are acting as consultants on this project"; 2) "Ethnographic analyses published in the World Religion Database (WRD)"; and 3) "review of other published or frequently used estimates."
3. The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom Report is submitted to Congress annually by the Department of State in compliance with Section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. This report supplements the most recent Human Rights Reports by providing additional detailed information with respect to matters involving international religious freedom. It includes individual country chapters on the status of religious freedom worldwide. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. These State Department reports are open source.