Religious Adherents, 2010 (World Christian Database)1
Religious Adherence, 2010 (other estimates)2
The country has an area of 33,774 square miles and a population of 8.5 million. There were no reliable statistics on membership in specific religious groups; however, according to official figures approximately 96 percent of the population is Muslim. The remainder of the population consists mostly of Russian Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Jews, followers of other Christian groups, and nonbelievers.
Among the Muslim majority, religious observance is relatively low, and Muslim identity tends to be based more on culture and ethnicity than religion; however, there has been a gradual growth in the number of observant Muslims. According to the State Committee on Work with Religious Associations (SCWRA), the Muslim population is approximately 65 percent Shi'a and 35 percent Sunni; traditionally, differences are not defined sharply.
The majority of Christians are Russian Orthodox whose identity, like that of Muslims, tends to be based as much on culture and ethnicity as on religion. Christians are concentrated in Baku and several other urban areas.
The great majority of the Jewish population, numbering approximately 20,000, lives in Baku. Much smaller communities exist in Guba and elsewhere.
Shi'a, Sunni, Russian Orthodox, and Jews are considered to be the country's "traditional" religious groups. Small congregations of Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Baptists, Molokans (Russian Orthodox Old Believers), Seventh-day Adventists, and Baha'is have been present for more than 100 years.
Since independence in 1991, a number of religious groups considered by the Government as foreign or "nontraditional" have established a presence, including "Wahhabi" Muslims, Pentecostal and evangelical Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Hare Krishnas. There are significant expatriate Christian communities in Baku.
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 the country were taken from the United States Department of
State's Report on
International Religious Freedom. "The 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." The report profiles issues of religious adherence and freedom for each nation in the world. The information for each country was derived from a combination of "government and religious officials, nongovernmental organizations, journalists, human rights monitors, religious groups, and academics." Section I of each specific country report contains information on the religious demography of that nation. It is important to note that the estimates are of the proportion of national citizens (excluding resident non-nationals) who identify with specific religious traditions.
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.