The country has an area of 1,052,540 square miles and a population of 16.4 million, according to preliminary results of the 2009 national census. The society is ethnically diverse, and many religious groups are represented. Due in part to the country's nomadic and Soviet past, many residents describe themselves as nonbelievers; surveys from past years suggested low levels of religious conviction and worship attendance. The Government maintains statistics on the number of registered congregations and organizations but not on the size of each group. The most recent reliable statistics on religious affiliation are based on the 1999 census. Although there was a large increase in the number of minority religious congregations registered since 1999, the Government believes that percentages of the population belonging to particular religious groups have remained consistent.
Approximately 65 percent of the population, or 10.5 million, profess to be Muslim. Ethnic Kazakhs, who constitute an estimated 60 percent of the population, and ethnic Uzbeks, Uighurs, and Tatars, who collectively make less than 10 percent, are historically Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi school. Other Islamic groups that account for less than 1 percent of the population include Shafi'i Sunni (traditionally associated with Chechens), Shi'a, Sufi, and Ahmadi. The highest concentration of self-identified practicing Muslims is in the southern region bordering Uzbekistan. There were 2,308 registered mosques, most affiliated with the Spiritual Association of Muslims of Kazakhstan (SAMK), a national organization with close ties to the Government. Approximately 70 mosques are not affiliated with the SAMK.
Approximately one-third of the population, comprising sizeable numbers of ethnic Russians and smaller populations of ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Belarusians, are Russian Orthodox by tradition. There were 265 registered Russian Orthodox churches. Members of a Roman Catholic archdiocese include ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Germans and account for 1 percent of the population. An estimated 1.3 percent is ethnic German, many of whom are Roman Catholic or Lutheran. The Government reported 93 registered Roman Catholic churches and affiliated organizations throughout the country. A smaller, affiliated community of Greek Catholics, many of whom are ethnic Ukrainians, had five registered churches.
According to government statistics, Protestant Christian congregations outnumber Russian Orthodox or Roman Catholic congregations, although it is unlikely that Protestant Christians account for a larger number of adherents. The Government reported 1,018 registered Protestant Christian organizations with 543 places of worship during the reporting period.
There are two Baptist groups in the country: the Union of Evangelical Christians and Baptists (Union of Baptists), with an estimated 10,000 adherents and 227 registered groups, and the Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians and Baptists (Council of Churches) with as many as 1,000 adherents. The Council of Churches refused on principle to register.
Other Christian religious groups with a sizable number of congregations include Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Pentecostals, as well as Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists. Smaller communities of Methodists, Mennonites, and Mormons are also registered.
A Jewish community, estimated at less than 1 percent of the population, has synagogues in Almaty, Astana, Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kostanai, and Pavlodar.
Government statistics included 43 other registered religious groups during the reporting period, including five registered Buddhist groups, 12 affiliates of the Hare Krishna movement, as well as the Church of Scientology, Baha'is, Christian Scientists, and the Unification Church.