RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE AND POLITICAL STABILITY
(A CASE STUDY OF KAZAKHSTAN AND RUSSIA)

Irina TSEPKOVA


Irina Tsepkova, D.Sc. (Political Science); Assistant Professor at the Social Humanitarian Disciplines Department, M. Tynyshpaev Academy of Transport and Communications of Kazakhstan (Almaty, Kazakhstan)


Introduction

Religious tolerance is a very sensitive sphere and a highly complicated social phenomenon, the limits of which are very hard to outline. It embraces moral and religious consciousness, hardly controlled by external means, and forms of behavior, including those regulated by law. The subjects of these forms of consciousness and behavior belong to various social levelsindividual (micro level), confessional groups (macro level), and the state (mega level).

In view of the highly complicated structures of the subjects of religious tolerance/intolerance, religious policy should take into account the difference between the external (secular) and the internal (confessional) interpretation of religious tolerance: each of them raises highly specific questionsrelated to internal tolerance (relations between religions) and external tolerance (state policy in the sphere of religion or the freedom of conscience).

In other words, the internal interpretation of religious tolerance is suggested by the dogmas, while the external interpretation by the state laws.

Tolerance of people of confessions other than ones own; attitude toward atheism, interpretation of the role and place of religion in the life of society and each of its members, assessment of the trends of secularism and sacralization and of religious fundamentalism, interpretation of the religion/science correlation, and acceptance of religious pluralism can be described as indicators of religious tolerance.

Pluralism of religious confessions, denominations, alliances, and organizations which can be described as the hallmark of our day and age has moved religious tolerance to the frontline of social and political stability and the emerging civil society.

The Legal Aspects of the Relations between the State and Religious Associations in Kazakhstan and Russia

According to official figures, there were 4,173 religious associations functioning in Kazakhstan in September 2009 (there were 3,855 of them in 2007; 3,420 in 2006; and 3,259 in 2005); they belonged to 42 confessions and denominations, as well as all sorts of religious missions and movements.

According to the RF Ministry of Justice, as of 1 January, 2009, there were 23,078 religious organizations in Russia (21,963 in 2008; 22,956 in 2007; and 22,513 in 2006). They belonged to 70 religious confessions and denominations (by the early 1990s, 15-20 traditional confessions were present in Russias religious sphere).

The above should not be taken as absolutely correct since the figures relate to officially registered religious communities well known to the state structures and covered by the media. There are several reasons for this state of affairs. First, the legal systems of both countries lack clear-cut definitions and criteria according to which groups of citizens can be treated as religious associations. Religious and quasi-religious trends and spiritual schools, which are new to our newly independent states, use the gap to function as.


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