Germans - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. Before the Revolution, about 65 percent of the Germans in Russia were Lutheran and 25 percent Catholic, the others being Mennonite, Baptist, Pentecostal, or Adventist. Religious communities were set up by the consistorial districts of St. Petersburg and Moscow of the Evangelical Lutheran Russian church (1832). The Catholic communities belonged to the diocese of Tiraspol (1848), and the bishopric was in Saratov. Religious communities like these fell apart in the thirties, however, because of the militant atheism of the time, widespread church closures, and the persecution of priests and the faithful alike. Religious life underwent a revival (the beginnings of ecumenicism) during the years of the mass deportation and work camps (1941-1956). The first religious communities to be granted state approval after World War II were a Lutheran community in Akmolinsk (in 1957) and a Catholic community in Frunze (in 1969). There are now about 300 Lutheran communities in the former Soviet Union with 150,000 to 200,000 active members. Since October 1989 these communities have established the German Evangelical Lutheran church. The number of practicing Catholics in Russia remains unknown, but there are roughly 25 to 30 Catholic communities in existence. In the mid-1980s the total number of German Baptists was estimated at 50,000 to 80,000, and a total of 50,000 is assumed for the Mennonites.

Arts. Germans in the former Soviet Union managed to preserve the cultural heritage of their home country until the middle of the twentieth century. The dissolution of concentrated settlements and the processes of acculturation and assimilation have since led to an accelerating loss of the traditions and customs that were previously handed down by word of mouth.

Death and Afterlife. Practicing Christians in Russia uphold the views on death and the afterlife that prevail in their particular religious denomination. Germans with a more atheistic bias believe that death is merely a biological process that puts an end to life.

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