Estonia has traditionally been a Lutheran Protestant country, with a significant element of Orthodox Christians. Today, Estonia is considered one of the least religious countries in the world, as only 39.9 percent publicly profess a religious affiliation. 9.9 percent are members of the Lutheran Church and 16.2 percent are members of the Orthodox Church.
History of Christianity in Estonia
Christianity won its foothold in the 12th and 13th centuries after German and Danish missionaries. The Danish missionary support is particularly linked to Valdemar Victory and his warfare against the Estonians in the first century. From 1238 (the Settlement in Stensby), Estonia was subject to the Danish crown, but the dissemination of Christianity took place mostly through the Germans, who dominated the emerging urban citizenship and the nobility.
During the Swedish rule of 1561, the Lutheran Reformation was introduced. Through their demand to bring the gospel to the people in their language, Reformed Christianity helped to strengthen the national feeling. The Lutheran church system was continued under the Russian dominion of 1710. During this period, pietism, and especially men’s hutism (see Brotherhood), became strongly applicable. In the 19th century, a significant transition from Lutheranism to Russian Orthodox Christianity occurred.
After the upheaval in the early 1900s, a national Estonian Evangelical-Lutheran church was organized from 1917 on the basis of a denominational church. In 1919, the Faculty of Theology was reopened, and in 1923 religious instruction was reintroduced to the school on the basis of a referendum.
During the Soviet era, the churches were again greatly weakened. At the same time, a substantial Estonian exile church was organized with the weight of the membership in the United States. After the separation from the Soviet Union, the churches have re-established themselves in Estonia. There are two Orthodox denominations: the Russian Orthodox and the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church. In 1996, the Patriarch of Constantinople issued a decree stating that Estonian Orthodox Christians are subject to his patriarchy, with the Finnish Orthodox Archbishop as their immediate head.