Conflicted With Change
The region of the world designated as Eurasia primarily encompasses nations that were once part of, or controlled by, the Soviet Union. Ever since the collapse of the Iron Curtain most of these nations have struggled politically and economically.
During Soviet rule ethnic Russians were encouraged to move to the former republics and were usually the individuals placed in positions of leadership. With independence, the various native ethnic groups have reestablished control, but not without considerable tension.
Russia continues to have strong influence throughout the region as it is the largest nation (population 144 million), and even though its economy is struggling, it is still the dominant economy.
Like much of Western Europe, Eurasian nations are also seeing a negative population growth.
“Russia is experiencing unusually high death rates from non-natural causes (starting in 1992), many related to alcoholism. Life expectancy, especially among working-age males, has dropped precipitously. The Russian fertility rate has declined to among the world’s lowest, while its abortion rate is the highest. As a result, for the first time in Russian history, the annual number of deaths has exceeded the number of births.” (The Rand Corporation)
The lower birth rate translates to a decreasing number of young people. In Russia less than 27% of the population is under the age of 24. Across most of the region the youth population barely exceeds 40%. This is having a direct effect on the overall work force and is a major area of concern as the population ages.
Regarding religion, after years of Communist control, when the number of people claiming to be Christian decreased, there is now a growing number of people seemingly coming back to the faith. However, this resurgence is more about tradition and cultural identification than it is about any return to a biblical faith.
Islam is the dominant religion in the “stans”. Countries like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are respectively 70% and 88% Muslim, with most of the rest of the population being non-religious.
Freedom of religion as it impacts Christians is restrictive in many of these countries while others maintain somewhat of a secular political culture as a carryover from Soviet days. Persecution against evangelical Christians is also growing in Russia as the Russian Orthodox Church has strong religious and social influence.
However, in Ukraine, Youth Ministry International’s center of Eurasian ministry operation, both the growth of Christianity and youth ministry training has increased significantly since 1994.
Eurasia Ministry Spotlights
The Impact of Mentoring
Youth Leader, Alexandra Dutka
Ukraine | Encouraging Others
YMI Wives in the Trenches