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Religiosity and Trust in Religious Institutions: Tales from the South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 April 2010

Robia Charles*
University of California, Berkeley
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Robia Charles, Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley, 210 Barrows Hall #1950, Berkeley, CA 94720-1950. E-mail:


This article examines the determinants of trust in religious institutions in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia — three countries with low levels of religiosity as measured by attendance, prayer and fasting, yet high levels of trust in religious institutions. The analysis employs individual-level survey data and uses ordinary least squares regression to show that while religious practices do not determine trust in religious institutions, the importance of religion in one's daily life is a strong indicator of trust in religious institutions in each country. The results also show some differences among these countries with regard to two types of control variables — trust in secular institutions and socioeconomic factors. In Georgia, interpersonal trust is a significant indicator of trust in religious institutions. Residence in the capital is only significant in Azerbaijan. Finally, both education and age are significant in Armenia. Additionally, two theories of trust in institutions are tested. First, a cultural theory of interpersonal trust proves ambiguous in the region. Second, the presence of both low religious practice and high trust in religious institutions in these countries challenges reformulated secularization theories that consider declining religious authority — measured by trust in religious institutions — as a form of secularization.

Copyright © Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association 2010

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