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SECTARIAN DENOMINATIONS IN KAZAKHSTAN: EXTENT, ROLE IN SOCIETY AND INFLUENCE TO CHANGE OF SOCIAL VIEWS (XX – THE BEGINNING OF XXI CENTURY)




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Eurasian steppe have been real way of historical cultural relations of many inhabitants with various faiths during many centuries. Nowadays, the age of globalization and also trying nations to retain own cultural-historical and religious identity, one of the most important task of humankind is to form tolerant relations between representatives of different religions. In addition, this issue has more urgency with world conflicts based in religious contrast.

The territory of Kazakhstan, in other words Eurasian steppe has been a religious melting pot from ancient time. Although whole picture of the world was changed, this area has preserved own particulars up to the present. Initially, before we proceed to discuss about situation and role of sectarian denominations in Kazakhstan, it is necessary to review common religious situation in Kazakhstan and its historical background.

It is no coincidence that religious difference and special position of Kazakhstan concerned with its geographical location and historical events which took place there. The spread of many religions throughout Eurasian steppe mainly was realized by activities on the Silk Road from ancient time. Along the Silk Road were accomplished not only trade issues, but also historical dynamic of cultural interaction, exchange, and cultural conversion. In ancient Eurasian as in other primal societies, religion manifested itself mainly through rituals of daily life. In these rituals it is not difficult to note that religious viewpoints throughout Eurasia were influenced by different other religions such as Greek, Indian, etc. It is also attested by archeological remains.

Religions are not monolithic, fixed institutions existing each in their own realm of dominance, although often speak of “Christendom”, “the Islamic World”, and so on. In reality, religions are like organisms: They are born into this world at a point in time, they grow, develop, undergo diverse influences, and adapt to their environment. They quibble with their neighbors, experience periods of painful soul-searching, have good days and bad. At some point they may split like cells, each taking on a new life. Nothing could better illustrate the organic nature of religious traditions than the example of their experience along the Silk Road [1, p. 7-8]. Many religions extended throughout all over the Eurasian steppe at time of the Silk Road. The existence of trade routes and constant commercial activity linking diverse cultures from ancient times meant that religious ideas (like technology and other aspects of culture) could spread easily along trade networks which spanned Eurasia. Indeed, like running water finding open channels, this spread was probably inevitable [1, p. 8].

Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam were spread in the territory of modern Kazakhstan through overland trade, the Silk Road. Then denominations of all of them also spanned Eurasian steppe mainly through trade relations. Apparently, each of them had own popularity and place in this area, but not all could survive their position up to the present. One of the specific features of this area is that all religious ideas obtain local characteristics. Denominations of Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism and Islam were adapted to local conditions, absorbed traditional religious viewpoints of native people. In order to that, only flexible denominations of above religions were popular among Eurasian people. For example, what made Mani’s message (Manichaeism) so attractive to so many people was that he made every effort to “speak their language”. He did so literally but also figuratively, borrowing ideas, symbols, and religious terminology from every tradition in existence. Religious systems spread most effectively when they succeed in appropriating the mind-set and worldview of their target audience, making the “new” message seem merely a “perfection” of old truth, compatible with people’s traditional understanding. Mani and his disciples were unparalleled masters of this technique [1, p.75]. It is important to emphasize that at the present many sectarian denominations try to spread their religious ideas also through this technique.

Christian denominations which were spread along the Silk Road mainly were considered as heresy in Europe, though they were popular among steppe people at the time. By the down of the Mongol period Christianity was certainly the most visible of the major religions amongst the steppe people. What Christianity meant to them, however, in another question. The sources indicate that the essential test of a Christian was baptism; but other practical activities of this religion among nomads were only Christianized forms of traditional practice [1, p. 71].

The extent of Islam was determined the future religious picture of Central Asia. The presence of Muslim rule and the increasing Muslim dominance of trade meant that Islamization came first in the urban areas along the Silk Road and only in later centuries spread to the countryside. The gradual Islamization of the nomadic Turkic peoples of Central and Inner Asia was a first directly tied to their increasing participation in the oasis-based Silk Road trade in the tenth century [2], accelerated by the political activities of three Turkic Muslim dynasties – the Qara-khanids, the Ghaznavids, and the Seljuks – and supplemented by the proselytizing efforts of Muslim missionaries [3]. In terms of religious culture, sixteenth-century Central Asia was one of the most thoroughly Islamized areas of the Muslim world, more so than the Arab and Iranian heartlands of western Asia and Egypt, which retain significant non-Muslim minorities even to the present day. [1, p. 143]. Islam obtained dominance in territory of Kazakhstan from the time when Turkic states accepted it and has retained this position up to the present.

How we have mentioned above Christianity and its denominations extended from ancient time and had success amongst nomads several ages. But after Islamization of Turkic tribes denominations of Christianity such Nestorian and Manichaeism were weakened. Another manifestation of Christianity, Orthodoxy, came to Kazakhstan with annexation of Kazakh Horde to Russian Empire. Nowadays the Orthodoxy is the second large religion in Kazakhstan.

Establishment of the Soviet power in 1917, led to beginning of scale atheistic campaign, which had continued during seven decades. A struggle against religion became component of “cultural revolution”, declaring by the Soviet regime. If the tsarist power fought against Islam to convert Muslims into Orthodoxy, Bolsheviks tried to root out all reflections of religious views, including Christianity. A religion was considered as “opium of people”. Churches, mosques, monasteries were closed in administrable order and their buildings were handed over to open cinemas, clubs, also radio stations, feedings, stables etc. At that time were opened antireligious courses and universities [4]. So in period of the Soviet power any relations with religion were illegal and entailed serious consequences. In order to that situation religious literacy of Kazakhstan nations by the time of the independency was in low level.

After collapse of the USSR in Kazakhstan, as in all over post soviet space, took place a rebirth of religious ideologies, were marked tendencies to the change of identical criteria in mass consciousness. A religion becomes not only significant element of culture and lifestyle, senses and fates of Kazakhstan people, but also vital factor in the policy. An influence of political, social-economic, moral-ethnic, cultural conditions determine the development of religiosity in Kazakhstan. In the republic has been formed multiconfessional space, including all traditional religious faiths (Islam, Christianity) and new non traditional religious movements [5].

According to historical review of religious situation in Kazakhstan, which has been demonstrated above, religious viewpoints and attitude of local people to new faiths were changed under influence of historical, political and social alternations. These conditions determined popularity and survival of certain religious ideas amongst local people. In fact, this dynamic of religions in Kazakhstan hasn’t change up to the present.

Today, the Republic of Kazakhstan is a striking instance of peaceful coexistence of over 40 confessions and denominations as well as 130 nationalities and ethnic groups. Today, the total number of religious associations reached 4,173 while in 1990 it comprised 670. The number of Islamic associations grew from 46 to 2,441. There occurred almost five-fold growth in number of the Russian Orthodox Church parishes (from 62 to 293), two-fold increase of the Roman Catholic Church associations (from 42 to 86), Evangelical Baptist Christians communities (from 168 to 362) and Seventh Day Adventists (from 36 to 66). The quantity of Jehovah’s Witnesses associations increased from 27 to 78, and that of Protestant alliance of new trends jumped from 13 to 540. Religious associations own 3,129 cultic buildings, including 2,229 mosques, 258 Orthodox and 93 Catholic churches, 6 synagogues and over five hundred Protestant churches and prayer houses. Currently 384 missioners from over 20 foreign countries work in the Republic of Kazakhstan while in 1990 there were only 12 people [6]. In accordance with result of common national census in 2009 70, 2 % people  of Kazakhstan are Muslims, 26 % — Christians, 0, 03 % — Judaists, 0,1 % — Buddhists, 0,2 % — followers of other religions. Also 2, 8 % of population is considered as atheists. These indices show that many religious faiths which don’t have any historical root in Kazakhstan last several decades have been spread very quickly. Probably, so that Kazakhstan is opened for any religious propaganda and tries to keep tolerant attitude to other religions. But how we can see above traditional religions in this territory can retain own dominance at the present. In spite of this statement, many of denominations of world religions are considered as illegal according to the last religious law of Kazakhstan [Low of 2011 “About religious activity and religious associations”], including several Islam and Christian denominations. But in this article we consider sectarian denominations of Christianity in order to their rapidly spreading and important difference with traditional religious ideas of local people. Considerable sectarian religions are not radical in Kazakhstan.

It is no coincidence that political, economic and social conditions of country always influence on religious ideas and changes of people. Since independent exist from 1991 the Republic of Kazakhstan has been affected by different forms of religions from outside, so that by that time the state hadn’t own powerful religions. Probably, all religious organizations all over the world waited the collapse of the USSR. Like other countries of the Soviet Union, the government of Kazakhstan couldn’t stop this social disintegration before declaration of its independency and acceptation of new religious low. During this transition period every member of society become an individual and demonstrated own interests where didn’t exist any social values. These types of unreliable conditions accompanied with social isolation and economic unbalance for majority of people. At that time religions, no matter local or foreign, began to fill this gap of psychological fear and inner anxiety [7]. Protestantism and other religious groups, also Rome catholic church began own missionary activity on ground, consolidated by atheism and materialistic ideology. All religious groups initialized own influence through spread of literary, religious education and humanitarian help. At the time all of people, including Kazakhs and other nations, replied on this with curiosity and interest. Nowadays, though many ethnic Protestants had migrated, many denominations of Protestantism are extended very rapidly in Kazakhstan. It is important to consider each of them.

According to official statistics, Protestant Christian denominations surpass Orthodox or Roman Catholic congregations in number; at the same time it is improbable that Christian Protestants total more number of followers. According to the Government, in the republic there are 953 registered «nonconventional» Protestant Christian churches. [8].

Almost all Protestant communities turned into the multinational. They grow at the expense of representatives of the people for whom the Protestantism isn’t traditional religion. Among Baptists now there are a lot of Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Kazakhs, and Koreans. Thanks to it the number of Baptist churches grows in Kazakhstan, despite departure from the country of Germans, consisting majority of believers a long time. This is testified by statistics. For the beginning of 2011 in Kazakhstan, according to official figures, worked 362 religious associations and groups of evangelical Baptist Christians, thus 48 from them aren’t registered by authorities. Especially rapid growth is noted among denominations, nonconventional for Kazakhstan, generally Pentecostal, Presbyterian and charismatic denominations [9].

In the country there are two Baptist groups: Council of churches of Evangelical Christians and Baptists («Council of churches») and Union of Evangelical Christians and Baptists («Union of Baptists»).  In accordance with the government report about 232 registered groups involving into the Union of Baptists. The center of Council of churches of Evangelical Christians and Baptists is in Karagandy oblast, Saran town. Council of churches of Evangelical Christians and Baptists («Council of churches») and Union of Evangelical Christians and Baptists («Union of Baptists») don’t have differences in religious dogma and rites. At the present time baptism lead very active missionary activity amongst local people. Particularly, propaganda is understandable for ordinary people and they don’t see any danger in this movement. Now, especially in evangelical councils, preachers don’t tell about idea of predestination, on the contrary, they emphasize that every man who recognized own depravity and turned to Christ, will gain salvation. Baptists in Kazakhstan have own spiritual education center, institute opened in 1995 in Almaty with target to prepare servants of churches. At this institute work republic and foreign preachers. In Almaty also works correspondence courses, which give initial biblical education. These courses accepted all people in spite of nationality, faith, education.

Similarly there is strengthening in the republic the Lutheran association Synod of Missouri. It gives big spiritual and financial help to Lutheran communities of the republic, actively extends church literature in the German, English and Russian languages. The new apostolic church works in the republic since 1991 thanks to vigorous missionary activity of the German preachers. Now, about 40 communities with an approximate number of 2500 people function. The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), often referred to simply as the Missouri Synod, is a traditional, confessional Lutheran denomination in the United States. With 2.2 million members,[2] it is both the eighth-largest Protestant denomination and the second-largest Lutheran body in the U.S., the largest being Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Presbyterian in Kazakhstan has rapidly strengthened too. But today, this denomination in Kazakhstan is considered as dangerous for local society. Presbyterians distinguish themselves from other denominations by doctrine, institutional organization (or «church order») and worship; often using a «Book of Order» to regulate common practice and order. The origins of the Presbyterian churches are in Calvinism. Many branches of Presbyterianism are remnants of previous splits from larger groups. Presbyterians place great importance upon education and lifelong learning. Continuous study of the scriptures, theological writings, and understanding and interpretation of church doctrine are embodied in several statements of faith and catechisms formally adopted by various branches of the church, often referred to as «subordinate standards«. It is generally considered that the point of such learning is to enable one to put one’s faith into practice; some Presbyterians generally exhibit their faith in action as well as words, by generosity, hospitality, and the constant pursuit of social justice and reform, as well as proclaiming the gospel of Christ.

There are in Kazakhstan also small communities of methodologists, whose emergence is caused by activity foreign, mainly Korean, preachers. The number of followers of this direction was made by about 300 people of various nationalities. The Methodist movement is a group of historically related denominations of Protestant Christianity which derive their inspiration from the life and teachings of John WesleyGeorge Whitefield and John’s brother Charles Wesley were also significant leaders in the movement. It originated as a revival within the 18th-century Church of England and became a separate Church following Wesley’s death. Because of vigorous missionary activity, the movement spread throughout the British Empire, the United States, and beyond, today claiming approximately 80 million adherents worldwide. Methodism is characterized by its emphasis on helping the poor and the average person, it’s very systematic approach to building the person, and the «church» and its missionary spirit. These ideals are put into practice by the establishment of hospitals, universities, orphanages, soup kitchens, and schools to follow Jesus‘s command to spread the Good News and serve all people.

The national Jehovah’s Witnesses Religious Center reported that it had generally positive relations with the government and the freedom to conduct their activities. However, the group experienced some registration difficulties and alleged several incidents of harassment by local governments. Although local Jehovah’s Witnesses organizations are registered at the national level, in Astana and Almaty, and in 13 (of 14) oblasts, the center has attempted unsuccessfully since 2001 to register in Atyrau Oblast. The Atyrau regional procurator’s office maintained that the group has consistently failed to comply with registration laws. The group submitted its most recent application on March 6, 2007. According to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the MOJ suspended the registration process on March 16, and forwarded the documents to Astana for expert examination, as in previous applications. On May 6, Atyrau police and procurators disrupted a gathering of Jehovah’s Witnesses, videotaped participants and seized worship materials. The procurator filed an administrative case against six Jehovah’s Witnesses for conducting religious activities without registration. On June 4, the local court imposed fines on the participants. The Jehovah’s Witnesses appealed the decision, but on June 25 the oblast level court rejected the appeal without explanation.

In March 2007 Jehovah’s Witness centers throughout the country rented local halls and rooms for an April 2, 2007, religious ceremony, and distributed fliers inviting citizens to the event. However, in several cities, including Kyzylorda, Shaktinsk, Shymkent, and Taraz, the landlords called the Jehovah’s Witnesses shortly before the event and canceled the reservation. The Jehovah’s Witnesses alleged that the landlords were pressured by local government officials. In Semipalatinsk, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their guests arrived on April 2 to find their rented space surrounded by firefighters. A local government representative claimed that they needed a permit for the ceremony and denied them admission to their rented room. In each case, the Jehovah’s Witnesses were able to hold their ceremony in other locations. No other religious groups reported similar instances of government interference in their public gatherings [10].

Viewpoints about sectarian denominations of Christianity in Kazakhstan are split two different groups. One of group considers these denominations nontraditional for Kazakh society and as danger for traditional culture and ethics, other group doesn’t see in developing of Christian denominations any danger to society. In spite of these viewpoints, majority of Kazakhs treat toward these religious movements with suspicious. Relations between traditional and new religious movements in our country are very delicate. It should be noted that, despite the menacing progression in change of a religious situation and religious structure of the population, in general, the situation remains rather stable. The matter is that, at the moment the limiting factors interfering expansion of the negative scenario of development in the religious sphere are saving of «status quo» in the interfaith relations and preservation of a dominant position of faiths, traditional for Kazakhstan citizens, – Islam and Orthodoxy that promotes consolidation of religious unity of the population and it is still capable to make positive impact on preservation of religious balance and balance in the republic.

Reference

  1. Richard C. Foltz Religions of the Silk Road. – Macmillan, 1999.
  2. Jiger Janabel The Islamization of Sourthern Qazaqstan in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries, paper presented at the American Historical Association annual conference, Seattle, WA, 9 January 1998.
  3. Devin DeWeese Islamization and Native Religion in the Golden Horde, State College, PA: Penn State University Press, 1994.
  4. Nurtazina N. Struggle against Islam. Religious policy of the Soviet power in Kazakhstan (20-40 years of XX century). — Almaty, 2008. – 36 p.
  5. Косиченко А.Г., Нысанбаев А.Н., Кенисарин Д.А. и Мельник Е.В. и др. Ислам и христианство: возможности духовной консолидации народов Казахстана. – Алматы, 2001.
  6. http://www.religions-congress.org/
  7. Трофимов Я.Ф. Религия в Казахстан. — Алматы: Әдiлет-Пресс, 1996.
  8. Трофимов Я.Ф., Иванов В.А. Религия в Казахстане. Справочник.- Алматы: Аркаим, 2003. С.62-63.
  9. http://e-history.kz/ru/contents/view/688
  10. Трофимов Я.Ф. Геополитические аспекты динамики изменения религиозной ситуации в Республике Казахстан. 22 сентября 2003 года. Справочно-информационный портал «Религия и СМИ». Адрес в Интернете http://www.religare.ru/article6503.
    SECTARIAN DENOMINATIONS IN KAZAKHSTAN: EXTENT, ROLE IN SOCIETY AND INFLUENCE TO CHANGE OF SOCIAL VIEWS (XX – THE BEGINNING OF XXI CENTURY)
    Nowadays the definition “tolerance” is the most popular and at that times the most important notion. Only this definition can save peaceful relations all over the world. In this case, we must pay must attention to religious and sectarians. It’s no doubt, that religious tolerance has own historical roots. In this article will been described historical background and common situation of sectarian denominations of Kazakhstan. Denominations will be compared with each other in depending on historical foundation, extent and role in Kazakh society.
    Written by: Тулешова Улжан Жангелдыновна
    Published by: БАСАРАНОВИЧ ЕКАТЕРИНА
    Date Published: 01/28/2017
    Edition: ЕВРАЗИЙСКИЙ СОЮЗ УЧЕНЫХ_31.10.15_10(19)
    Available in: Ebook