Estonia Table of Contents

The dominant religion in Estonia is Evangelical Lutheranism. Estonians were Christianized by the Teutonic Knights in the thirteenth century. During the Reformation, Lutheranism spread, and the church was officially established in Estonia in 1686. Still, Estonians generally tend not to be very religious, because religion through the nineteenth century was associated with German feudal rule. In 1992 there were 153 Lutheran congregations in Estonia with an estimated 200,000 members. Active members totaled about 70,000.

Orthodox Christianity is the second largest faith, with eighty congregations and about 15,000 members in 1992. Forty-three Orthodox congregations are Estonian, twenty-five are Russian, and twelve are mixed. There are eleven congregations of Old Believers (see Glossary) and a convent in Kuremäe, in northeastern Estonia. After independence, ethnic divisions among Orthodox Christians resurfaced over the question of their allegiance to Moscow. Many Estonian Orthodox Church leaders favored greater autonomy from Moscow or total allegiance to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the situation that existed during Estonia's first period of independence. In 1992 the Estonian Orthodox Church, despite local Russian objections, requested autonomy from Moscow. The issue was a delicate one for Russian Orthodox patriarch Aleksiy II, who had been born in Estonia and had served there as a metropolitan. However, in April 1993 he agreed to grant the Estonian Orthodox Church autonomy.

Among other religions in Estonia in the early 1990s there were eighty-three Baptist congregations with about 6,000 adult members, as well as about fifteen Methodist and several Seventh-Day Adventist congregations. Estonia's small Roman Catholic community was visited by Pope John Paul II during a tour of the Baltic states in September 1993, and the Dalai Lama came to Estonia soon after independence, in October 1991. The Jewish community has a synagogue in Tallinn.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress