Europe Religion and Languages

By | March 5, 2021

For the last thousand years, Europe has been dominated by Christianity. Pre-Christian religions (see Finno-Ugric religions, Ancient Baltic religion, Old Norse religion, slaves (Religion) and Celts (Religion) hardly exist any longer than as a people or possibly in isolated groups (such as the Finno-Ugric marriages of the Russian Federation). Today, Europe is characterized by far-reaching secularisation, and in many countries religion plays an inferior role. In addition to Christianity, Judaism and Islam have been important religious factors. A single people in Europe are Buddhist, namely the Calmuckers of the Russian Federation.

Europe Urban and Rural Population

Country Language
Albania Albanian is the official language (main dialects Tuscan and Gegian)
Andorra official language is Catalan
Armenia Armenian is the official language
Azerbaijan Azerbaijani is the official language 2
Belgium Dutch (Flemish), French and German are official languages
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian
Bulgaria Bulgarian is the official language; Turkish, Romani and Macedonian (not recognized) etc. are minority languages
Cyprus Greek and Turkish are official languages ​​in each part of the country
Denmark Danish is spoken throughout the country; in addition Greenlandic, Faroese and German
Estonia Estonian is the official language
Finland Finnish, Swedish and Sami (partly) are official languages
France French is the official language
Georgia Georgian is the official language
Greece Greek is the official language
Ireland English and Irish are official languages
Iceland Icelandic
Italy Italian
Kosovo Albanian, Serbian
Croatia Croatian is the official language
Latvia Latvian is the official language
Liechtenstein German is the official language
Lithuania Lithuanian is the official language 10
Luxembourg Luxembourgish, French and German are official languages
Northern Macedonia Macedonian is the official and national language, Albanian is the official language with some restrictions 11
Malta Maltese and English are official languages 12
Moldova Moldavian is the official language, Russian is widespread
Monaco French is the official language 13
Montenegro Montenegrin is the official language 14
Netherlands Dutch is the official language 15
Norway Norwegian (in the form of Bokmål or Nynorsk)
Poland Polish is the official language; Among the minority languages ​​are German, Belarusian, Ukrainian and Lithuanian
Portugal Portuguese
Romania Romanian is the official language, in addition Hungarian, Romani and many other languages ​​are spoken
Russia Russian is the official language 16
San Marino Italian
Switzerland German, French, Italian and Romansh
Serbia Serbian 17
Slovakia Slovak is the official language 18
Slovenia Slovenian is the official language, in some areas the minority languages ​​also have Italian and Hungarian official status
Spain Spanish / Castilian, Catalan, Galician, Basque
UK English, Welsh (Welsh), Scottish Gaelic, various Asian languages, etc.
Sweden Swedish has the status of main language 19
Czech Republic Czech is the official language 20
Turkey Turkish is the official language 21
Germany German is the official language 22
Ukraine Ukrainian is the official language 23
Hungary Hungarian is the official language, Romani and several other minority languages ​​are also spoken
Vatican City State Italian and Latin are official languages
Belarus Belarusian (Belarusian) and Russian are official languages 24
Austria German is the official language

Historical overview

During the first four centuries AD Christianity spread rapidly in the Mediterranean world and in the 390s became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Christianity had already become a state religion in Armenia and Georgia. In the Roman Empire, the cult of the ancient Greek and Roman gods disappeared. The Celtic and Germanic peoples north of the Roman national border soon became subject to Christian mission, especially since the death of Fr. King Klodvig in 496. As a leading country in the Europe listed by Countryaah, France became the center of Christianity’s further expansion, which reached the North through the Ansgar in the 800s. The Carolingian kingdom became a Christian empire, which dominated most of Western Europe. It was consolidated in the subsequent German-Roman Empire. Throughout the Middle Ages, Latin Western Europe constituted a religious and cultural entity with the Pope as unifying leader.

A corresponding Christian expansion took place from Byzantium and was directed specifically to the Slavic peoples, who then dominated Eastern Europe. When the great prince Vladimir was baptized in Kiev in 988, the foundation of a Christian empire was laid in the east, and when Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453 it was Moscow who assumed the role of “the third Rome”.

During the Middle Ages, the Nordic peoples and Finns, the slaves on the Baltic Sea coast and the Baltic peoples were Christianized. The Sami transitioned to Christianity only after the Reformation, partly under duress.

The success of Christian expansion was hampered by internal divisions. Eastern (Greek) and Western (Latin) Christianity developed in different directions because Rome and Constantinople came into schism with each other in 1054. Various attempts at unification failed, and out of the schism emerged the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Church.

The Reformation was yet another split of Christian Europe. The Baltic Sea countries, like much of Germany, adopted the Reformation in its Lutheran form, while Switzerland, the Netherlands and Scotland were largely reformed. Many other European countries have significant Protestant minorities, e.g. France, Slovakia and Hungary. The Thirty Years War and Westphalian Peace consolidated the division of Western Europe into a Catholic and a Protestant.

Despite internal strife, England came to preserve an episcopal state church, where a vaguely reformed theology was united with medieval traditions. The Scottish colonization of Northern Ireland in the 17th century created the opposition between Catholics and Protestants that still exists.

With religious freedom came an increasing pluralism in the area of religion. Various revivals and sectarian movements established themselves as free societies, especially from the 19th century. This contributed to the marginalization of religion (see below).

While the Christian Europe was created, the Jews retained their integrity and contributed in many ways to cultural development. The Jewish diaspora in the Roman Empire spread to new areas. By the end of the Middle Ages, Jews in Europe had their main focus in Eastern Europe and Spain, but there were other important centers, including in Germany. When the Sephardic Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, they formed minorities in other countries. The Jews have often been a culture-bearing layer in European cities. The Christian ban on interest rates during the Middle Ages led to the banking system being largely placed in the hands of the Jews. This, as well as others characteristic of the Jews – their own languages, ie. Hebrew, Yiddish and Ladino, as well as endogamy and specific customs – made the Jews a constant object of harassment by the surrounding community, which also led to the pogroms in Russia and finally to the ghastly extermination of Nazi times. After World War II, a large part of Europe’s Jews emigrated to Israel.

Islam has reached Europe in several ways. The first time was when the Moors conquered Spain in the 7th century and established an empire which, although continually diminished, but which disappeared only with the fall of Granada in 1492. By the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the Turks gained a foothold in Europe, and large parts of the Balkan peninsula were under Turkish rule. right down to the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. During the turnaround part of the Orthodox population converted to Islam, which today is majority religion in Albania and largest community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while there is a Muslim minority in Bulgaria. Due to large migrations after the First World War, Muslim Turks in Greece were forced into Turkey, while Christian Greeks in Turkey similarly had to move to Greece. The French colonization of North Africa and its settlement after World War II has led to an extensive immigration of Muslims to France. Muslim immigrants and guest workers are found in many European countries.

One phenomenon that was specific to the 20th century was the systematic attempts made in Communist countries to prevent or prohibit the practice of religion. This went the longest in Albania, where all religion was banned. However, these attempts, which led to many atrocities and a great destruction of churches and monasteries, proved not to be effective, and Christianity in these areas seems to have gained a stronger position than in many parts of Western Europe.

Current position

The religious unity that existed in many European states and which could also be enacted (compare cujus region, ejus religio) has during the 20th century been replaced by an increasing pluralism by immigrants and refugees. Secularisation has also broken many of the traditional patterns, and it is hardly meaningful anymore to talk about “Catholic” or “Protestant” countries. Church and state are now often separated, but the state church system has been preserved in the Nordic countries, in the United Kingdom and Greece. The relationship between church and state can be regulated in different ways, through concordance or other agreements.

From the time of the Enlightenment, the demand for religious freedom has become ever stronger, and religion has come to be seen by many as a concern of the people group, family or individual rather than the state.

Religion has in many cases served as a political identity factor (Ireland, Poland, Greece). Its identity-making ability in Europe is underlined by the fact that so much of the European cultural heritage is characterized by Christian history (art, architecture, music, literature, etc.). However, not least during the era of bourgeoisie, this legacy has increasingly been dissolved from its religious substrate and come to be perceived as part of the general secular education. Dante, Rafael and Bach are perceived as cultural rather than religious greats.

Secularisation is often perceived as something typical of Europe, but has similarities in other continents with Western culture. It has its roots in the European Renaissance and Enlightenment and was borne from the very beginning of the political purpose of freeing people from religious coercion. During the 19th and 20th centuries, it has been noted that there is a decrease in religious activity throughout Europe, most noticeable in the Nordic countries, at least in countries such as Greece and Poland. Secularisation is linked to urbanization and the emergence of a working class with little church support. One can also notice a marginalization of religion; it has disappeared more and more from social life but lives on in congregations, associations or families. New revival movements have quickly reinforced this tendency by drawing a sharp boundary between “repent” and others.

Among the characteristic of Europe is the large number of religious thinkers and poets who have been strikingly independent of established churches and communities: Jakob Böhme, Emanuel Swedenborg, William Blake and others. The fact that these odd people had a great literary and cultural influence testifies to the fact that religious creativity in Europe has often taken different paths than that of the big churches.

Europe’s forthcoming integration places great demands on the churches to show openness and overcome the centuries of division, problems that are noticeable, among other things. in Eastern Europe. Growing Islam is likely to change Europe’s religious map in the future.