Sunni Islam and Russian Orthodoxy had historically cultivated a tolerant co-existence in Kazakhstan. Protestantism first arrived in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with Lutherans, Baptists, Adventists, and Mennonites. Catholic presence, stemming from Franciscan monks in the thirteenth century, flourished with large numbers of Polish exiles, and Catholic German and Latvian immigrants. The Russian Revolution brought religious persecution and during decades of communist rule the country suffered a loss of identity. In 1991, Kazakhstan was declared an independent secular state; however, the loss of a state ideology led to renewed interest in religion and/or new moral and social communities. Since 1991, the Orthodox denomination has undergone a revival. While legislation targeted extremism, the law in practice had a negative impact on both Islamic and Christian communities, restricting religious freedom. This has led to a decline in religious organisations, dropping between 2011 and 2014 by around one-quarter. Still, Protestant churches outnumber Russian Orthodox churches by more than two to one. However, the ROC holds meetings with the government to discuss its spheres of activity in Kazakhstan. Given the state’s limitations on religious expression, literature and teaching in school, the future of religious freedom in Kazakhstan remains uncertain.
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