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Two Countries, Five Years: Islam in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan through the Lens of Public Opinion Surveys

In: Central Asian Affairs
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  • 1 Assistant Professor of Organizational Studies, Pitzer College, 1050 North Mills Avenue, Claremont, ca91711 barbara_junisbai@pitzer.edu
  • | 2 Associate Professor of Sociology, Pitzer College, 1050 North Mills Avenue, Claremont, ca91711 azamat_junisbai@pitzer.edu
  • | 3 Chair of the Department of Biostatistics, Kazakh National Medical University, 94 Tole-bi, St.Almaty, 050000, Kazakhstan zhusupov.b@kaznmu.kz
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Drawing on two waves of public opinion surveys conducted in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, we investigate the rise in religiosity and orthodoxy among Central Asian Muslims. We confirm that a religious revival is underway, with nearly 100 percent of Kazakhstani and Kyrgyzstani Muslims self-identifying as such in 2012—up from 80 percent in Kazakhstan in 2007. If we dig a bit deeper, however, we observe cross-national variations. Religious practice, as measured by daily prayer and weekly mosque attendance, is up in Kyrgyzstan, but has fallen in Kazakhstan. While the share of those who express preferences associated with religious orthodoxy has grown in both, this group has more than doubled in Kazakhstan. We attribute these differences to political context, both in terms of cross-national political variation and, within each country, variation based on regional differences.

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