Estonia - the world's 'least religious' country

I love Estonia, Finland's neighbour to the south.
We have no land border, but are separated by the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea that I have lived by all my life. Estonia is closer to Helsinki and Porvoo than most of the rest of Finland, as a matter of fact - the city of Tampere is some 200 km to the north, which isn't so much, but Tallinn is even closer, only some 70 km to the south. Of course, in travel time the difference isn't so big, as Tampere is two hours by train from Helsinki, while Tallinn is two hours by ferry. But Lapland is so, so far away. The distance from Porvoo to the north of Lapland is equal to the distance to, say, Berlin.

For some years now, I have been engaged in S:t John Aid in Estonia (Johanniitide Abi Eestis), and this summer I got fed up with only knowing a bit of Estonian, so I have promised myself to learn the language properly. Which isn't too hard, since it is a fairly close relative to Finnish. You just have to be wary of the pitfalls - words that sound similar but have entirely different meaning. "Pulma" means problem in Finnish, but "pulmad" means wedding in Estonian, for instance. Not that the meaning is so different there, perhaps...

But our modern history separates us. While Finland was able to stay out of the Soviet Union after WWII, Estonia and the other Baltic states, Latvia and Lithuania, were annexed. This has had far-reaching consequences, of course, both economically and culturally.
One consequence is on the religious front. The Soviet anti-religious propaganda struck hard in many parts of the union. In Finland, some 80% of the population belongs to the Lutheran church. In modern-day Estonia, only 13% do, and yet the Lutheran church is the country's largest. A colleague in Tallinn said that he avoids wearing ecclesiastical garb in public because of the negative reactions he gets. I use it myself, since it often gives people an opportunity to contact the pastor and talk a bit. But that is at home in Finland, of course.

This does naturally not mean that Estonians are unspiritual. It only means that they now seek their answers outside of the churches. Which is their right, but it also shows that half a century of violent propaganda can have an effect on a good people. It is sad.

Spirituality in Estonia - the world's 'least religious' country (BBC News 26.8.11)
The Least Religious Country in the World (Aqurette 26.8.11)
Estonia: "We do not tolerate homosexuality" (Karl's comments 6.9.11)

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