Estonians are fond of talking about their Lutheran work habits. This is largely the only religion-related topic that reaches your ear. In predominantly Protestant (since the early 16th century) Estonia, the church is separated from the state, and religious topics only emerge at Christmas and Easter. Confessional belonging is strictly everybody’s own business. Representatives of the state, however, consider it necessary to appear in church from time to time, and the church diligently voices opinions on social matters. The most heated religious debates focus on whether or not religion should be a compulsory subject in the school curriculum.
The mass Christianisation of Estonians began in the 13th century, although the previous pagan beliefs persisted until the 17th century. Alongside Christian holidays there are also a number of “pagan” traditions alive today; such as bonfires in May and on Midsummer’s Eve.
The majority of religiously active people belong to the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church or the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox church in Estonia has two separate branches: the Russian-language church subordinated to Moscow and the Estonian-language church subordinated to Constantinople. Visitors to Tallinn will immediately notice the Orthodox presence here: the cathedral from the period of Russification (the end of the 19th century) dominates Toompea hill in the Old Town. By Lake Peipsi, the archaic community of Old Believers has sheltered since the Russian reformation.
The most common time for Sunday services is 10 o’clock, but in some congregations services begin at 11 or 12. You should contact a congregation directly if you wish to become a member.