Despite a low level of religious practice, the weak legitimacy of other institutions in Armenia has allowed the Armenian Apostolic Church to assume a significant role in the post-Soviet republic, according to one specialist. Ani Sarkissian (Michigan State University) presented her research at a panel on religion and identity in Armenia at the 8th Conference of the Central Eurasian Studies Society, which convened on Oct. 18-21 at the University of Washington in Seattle, and which RWattended.
Anti-religious policies as well as closures of churches and seminaries had left few churches operational during the Soviet period. Nevertheless, expectations toward the Armenian Church as a keeper of national identity in a relatively homogeneous society were high at the time of transition. Proselytism is viewed with suspicion (and legally banned, though not defined), but fears seem greatly exaggerated; the progress of other religions remains limited, and groups of Protestant origins make up only two percent of the population. According to a survey conducted in 2007, 68 percent of respondents answered that it was not good for a country to be divided among multiple religions.
After the end of the Soviet period, there has been no massive opening of churches in Armenia. Rates of religious practice are low in Armenia; eight percent report attending services weekly, and 47 percent once a year or less. Nevertheless, 87 percent of Armenians claim to belong to a denomination. The Armenian Apostolic Church promotes the idea that religion and national identity are inseparable. After years of negotiation, a concordate was signed between the Armenian government and the Church. According to the agreement, the government is expected to support the renovation of church buildings and help fund church schools (although none exist as of yet).
— By Jean-François Mayer