The climate for Christians in Russia is certainly far better now than what it was in the days behind the Iron Curtain, but Christ-followers there still face some challenges.
The favoring of the Russian Orthodox Church and the rise of radical Islam explain why Russia is now one of the most dangerous places for Christians. The 2019 Open Doors World Watch List, released last month, has the Russian Federation cracking the Top 50 for the first time since 2011, ranked as the 41st most dangerous country for believers.
Dr. David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, explains why the country is climbing up the list.
"They do have some laws that they've passed that seem to indicate they're going to prioritize orthodox faith over other Christian movements, and we think that could be problematic," he tells OneNewsNow.
"But I think the main driver in them moving up into Top 50 [of the World Watch List] is that they have within the Caucasus [region] – in Dagestan and some of these areas – they've had some attacks against churches and some people killed. [Their ascension on the list is] really about Islamic extremism."
Curry says in that region, a strong, radical Islamic culture exerts enormous adverse pressure and violent outbursts against Christians who have converted from a Muslim background.
"... For non-Russian Orthodox Christians in Russia, every move by the government to squelch religious freedom is another step toward making Russia an increasingly difficult place to live, especially for those Christians who are also already experiencing aggression in areas dominated by Islam," he adds.
According to Open Doors USA, 81 percent of Russia's 144 million residents consider themselves Christian – and the next biggest religious group, mostly Sunni Muslims, make up a little more than 12 percent of the population. But in many parts of the Northern Caucasus region, Islam is the dominant religion.