Published in Int. Journal of Anthropology – Vol. 30 – n.3-4 – 2015
Key words: North-West population of Belarus, Vidzy parish records, birth rates, religious factors and demographic processes.
This article discusses the impact of religious factors on the North-West population of Belarus at the end of 19th century. An analysis of historiographical data has shown that religious factors were an important element of culture. The author focused particularly on the impact of religion on birth rates. The approach of C. Goldscheider (2006) was used to analyze the relationship between religion and fertility. To establish the impact of religious factors, the author examined Vidzy parish church birth records from 1892-1896. This parish was selected for the following reasons: 1) Vidzy parish was the largest in the North-West of Belarus; 2) data on the parish were consistently recorded, without gaps during certain periods, and could therefore be considered reliable. The seasonal distribution of births provided an opportunity to analyze demographic events and determine seasonal rates. According to data from the church registers of Vidzy parish, births were registered according to the month of their conception. Table 1 shows that the months in which there were the maximum number of conceptions were April and June, and the months with the minimum number of conceptions were July and January. The author observed that the period of Lent, directly preceding Easter, significantly impacted on subsequent birth rates. Therefore, it can be assumed that the majority of the population strictly observed the rules of fasting, penitence, and abstinence dictated by the Christian faith. Hence, religious taboos are seen to have had a clear impact on demographic processes.
Department of Anthropology and Ecology, Institute of History, The National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, Minsk, Belarus.