Christianity was introduced into Estonia in the 11th century. During the Reformation it converted largely to Lutheranism, although political events in the 18th and 19th century occasioned a strong Russian Orthodox presence. Independence from the Soviet Union, achieved in 1991, relieved the pressure under which religious groups had labored since 1940.
In 2001 there were an estimated 165 congregations of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church with about 177,230 members. There were also about 59 congregations of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church (18,000 members) and 32 congregations of the Estonian Orthodox Church (100,000 members). While Lutherans and Orthodox constitute the majority, there are smaller communities of Baptists, Methodists, Roman Catholics, and other Christian denominations. There are also Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist communities; however, each of these minority faiths has less than 6,000 followers.