Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Thursday, November 14, 2013
After just over seventy years of formal state atheism during the Soviet Union, attitudes towards relationships with atheists are generally negative in the South Caucasus. Most people in Armenia and Georgia (and lesser in Azerbaijan) consider themselves to be religious, and the predominant religions in these countries (Georgian Orthodoxy and the Armenian Apostolic faith, respectively) are strongly connected to each country’s national identity. In addition to the usual questions on religiosity, the 2012 Caucasus Barometer (CB) included two questions on attitudes towards atheism for the first time– one concerning personal relationships and family (attitudes towards marrying atheists), and another on professional relationships (business with atheists). Comparing these attitudes provides a deeper understanding of attitudes towards atheism.
The WIN-Gallup 2012 Religiosity Index asked, “Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person, not a religious persons or a convinced atheist?” With a global average of 59% who call themselves religious, Armenia is in the top ten most religious countries by declared level of religious belief, with 92% considering themselves religious (with a further 3% non-religious, 2% convinced atheists and 2% unsure). 84% of Georgians say the same (12% non-religious, 1% convinced atheists and 3% unsure). Much fewer Azerbaijanis consider themselves religious (44%) and 51% say they are non-religious (0% convinced atheists and 5% unsure). The 2012 CB also shows that a majority of people in all three countries of the South Caucasus consider religion to be important in their daily lives (although attendance of religious services is much lower). South Caucasians thus appear to have more of a subjective attachment to religion.
The numbers of and exposure to atheists are negligible in the South Caucasus. In the 2012 CB, 4% of Armenians 0.2% in Azerbaijan and 0.7% in Georgia said they had no religion. However, being irreligious, indifferent and atheist are not synonymous. Regarding contact, the majority of people in all three countries say they have not had any contact with atheists. Interestingly, Azerbaijanis appear to have the most contact with atheists on a regular basis (10% on a daily basis).
There are overwhelmingly negative attitudes to marriage with atheists in all three countries. Georgians show the highest level of uncertainty (15%). Armenians have the most negative attitudes to this idea (77% object overall), while Azerbaijanis are slightly more tolerant when it comes to having an atheist in the family.
As one interviewee from the Helsinki Foundation’s study said, “I have a positive attitude towards the [Armenian Apostolic] Church because it was an institution created by Armenian people, rather than imposed on us by anyone from above.” This quote illustrates post-Soviet perceptions of religious identities well – Soviet atheism being perceived as an imposition from above and abroad, in contrast to the traditional religious beliefs of the peoples of the South Caucasus.
Attitudes towards atheism is one of many complex and interesting topics in the South Caucasus which would benefit from further study. What do you think are possible causes for the negative attitudes shown? Explore further by downloading any of the Caucasus Barometer datasets here.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Tuesday, November 05, 2013
The LIT survey asks, “To what extent do you trust people from the following groups: Your family, your neighborhood, people you meet for the first time, friends and acquaintances, people of another religion and people from another nationality?” 43% of Georgians say they trust people from another nationality (23% distrust and 29% neither trust nor distrust). Armenians and Azerbaijanis show lower levels of trust with 14% and 17%, respectively, who say they trust people from another nationality (50% and 57% say they distrust people from another nationality, respectively).
Opinions vary with regard to particular ethnic groups. One way to understand perception trends is to look at the willingness of doing business with people from other ethnic groups. Data from the 2012 CB shows that practically 0% of Azerbaijanis approve of doing business with Armenians, and 32% of Armenians are open to doing business with Azerbaijanis. 39% of Armenians also approve of trade with Turks, which have the highest approval rating for business among Azerbaijanis (92%). Georgians take the middle ground with more or less 75% willing to engage in business with most of the groups listed. It is important to note that despite the recent conflicts, Georgians are rather accepting of doing business with Abkhazians (74%) and Ossetians (73%). Overall, Russians are well-perceived (85% for Armenians, 81% for Azerbaijanis and 84% for Georgians), while Kurds get the lowest ranking (60%, 48% and 60%, respectively).
Approval of women marrying someone from another ethnic group follows a similar pattern, but on a much lower scale. Azerbaijanis and Armenians continue to largely disapprove of marriage with each other. Georgians are slightly more open to the idea of marrying outside their ethnic group (albeit results are within the 25%-35% range). Again, Abkhazians and Ossetians figure in this middle range. Russians continue to garner the highest approval, while Kurds receive less approval than many of the other groups. The main difference is that Azerbaijanis overwhelmingly disapprove of Azerbaijani women marrying outside of their ethnicity (only 6% to 11% would approve of doing so). The exception is marriage with Turks (53%) as they share some religious, cultural and ethnic similarities. There are no radical changes over time except for a decrease in the number of Armenians willing to marry Russians (53% to 40%) and Americans (44% to 33%).
For more information on ethnic perceptions and the South Caucasus in general, visit the Life in Transition data on the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s website, and the 2012 Caucasus Barometer dataset.