Islam in Russia
|Islam by country|
Islam is the second most widely professed religion in Russia. Islam is considered as one of Russia’s traditional religions, legally a part of Russian historical heritage. According to a poll by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, 6% of respondents considered themselves Muslims. According to Reuters, Muslim minorities make up a seventh (14%) of Russia's population. Muslims constitute the nationalities in the North Caucasus residing between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea: Circassians, Balkars, Chechens, Ingush, Kabardin, Karachay, and numerous Dagestani peoples. Also, in the middle of the Volga Basin reside populations of Tatars and Bashkirs, the vast majority of whom are Muslims. There are over 5,000 registered religious Muslim organizations (divided into Sunni, Shia, Sufi and Ahmadi groups), which is over one sixth of the number of registered Russian Orthodox religious organizations of about 29,268 as of December 2006.
History of Islam in Russia
The first Muslims within current Russian territory were the Dagestani people (region of Derbent) after the Arab conquests in the 8th century. The first Muslim state in Russia was Volga Bulgaria (922). The Tatars inherited the religion from that state. Later most of the European and Caucasian Turkic peoples also became followers of Islam.
Tatars of the Crimean Khanate, the only remaining successor to the Golden Horde, continued to raid Southern Russia and were even able to burn down parts of Moscow in 1571. Until the late 18th century, Crimean Tatars maintained a massive slave trade with the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East, exporting about 2 million slaves from Russia and Ukraine over the period 1500–1700.
From the early 16th century up to including the 19th century, virtually all of the Caucasus was ruled by various successive Iranian empires (such as the by the Safavids, Afsharids, and the Qajars), and their political arch rivals on the other hand, the Ottoman Turks. In the respective areas they ruled, in both the North Caucasus and South Caucasus, Shia Islam and Sunni Islam was propagated, resulting in a fast and steady conversion of many more ethnic Caucasian peoples.
The period from the conquest of Kazan in 1552 to the ascension of Catherine the Great in 1762 was marked by systematic repression of Muslims through policies of exclusion and discrimination as well as the destruction of Muslim culture by elimination of outward manifestations of Islam such as mosques. The Russians initially demonstrated a willingness in allowing Islam to flourish as Muslim clerics were invited into the various regions to preach to the Muslims, particularly the Kazakhs whom the Russians viewed with contempt. However, Russian policy shifted toward weakening Islam by introducing pre-Islamic elements of collective consciousness. Such attempts included methods of eulogizing pre-Islamic historical figures and imposing a sense of inferiority by sending Kazakhs to highly elite Russian military institutions. In response, Kazakh religious leaders attempted to bring religious fervor by espousing pan-Turkism, though many were persecuted as a result.
While total expulsion as in other Christian nations such as Spain, Portugal and Sicily was not feasible to achieve a homogenous Russian Orthodox population, other policies such as land grants and the promotion of migration by other Russian and non-Muslim populations into Muslim lands displaced many Muslims, making them minorities in places such as some parts of the South Ural region to other parts such as the Ottoman Turkey and neighboring Persia, and almost annihilating the Circassians, Crimean Tatars, and various Muslims of the Caucasus. The Russian army rounded up people, driving Muslims from their villages to ports on the Black Sea, where they awaited ships provided by the neighboring Ottoman Empire. The explicit Russian goal was to expel the groups in question from their lands. They were given a choice as to where to be resettled: in the Ottoman Empire, Persia or in Russia far from their old lands. The Russo-Caucasian War ended with the signing of loyalty oaths by Circassian leaders on 2 June [O.S. 21 May] 1864. Afterwards, the Ottoman Empire offered to harbour the Circassians that did not wish to accept the rule of a Christian monarch, and many emigrated to Anatolia, the heart of the Ottoman Empire and ended up in modern Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Iraq and Kosovo. Many other Caucasian Muslims ended up in neighboring Iran, such as the fate of sizeable numbers of Shia Lezgins, Azerbaijani's, Muslim Georgians, Kabardins, and Laks. Various Russian, Caucasus, and Western historians agree on the figure of c. 500,000 inhabitants of the highland Caucasus being deported by Russia in the 1860s. A large fraction of them died in transit from disease. Those that remained loyal to Russia, were settled into the lowlands, the left-bank of the Kuban River. The trend of Russification has continued at different paces in the rest of Tsarist and Soviet periods, so that today there are more Tatars living outside the Republic of Tatarstan than inside it.
Under Communist rule, Islam, like other religions in the Soviet Union, was oppressed and suppressed.[when?] Many mosques (for some estimates, more than 83% in Tatarstan) were closed at that time. For example, the Märcani Mosque was the only acting mosque in Kazan at that[when?] time.
There was much evidence of official conciliation toward Islam in Russia in the 1990s. The number of Muslims allowed to make pilgrimages to Mecca increased sharply after the embargo of the Soviet era ended in 1991. In 1995 the newly established Union of Muslims of Russia, led by Imam Khatyb Mukaddas of Tatarstan, began organizing a movement aimed at improving inter-ethnic understanding and ending Russians' lingering misconception of Islam. The Union of Muslims of Russia is the direct successor to the pre-World War I Union of Muslims, which had its own faction in the Russian Duma. The post-Communist union formed a political party, the Nur All-Russia Muslim Public Movement, which acts in close coordination with Muslim imams to defend the political, economic, and cultural rights of Muslims and other minorities. The Islamic Cultural Center of Russia, which includes a madrassa (religious school), opened in Moscow in 1991. In the 1990s, the number of Islamic publications has increased. Among them are few magazines in Russian, namely: "Ислам" (transliteration: Islam), "Эхо Кавказа" (Ekho Kavkaza) and "Исламский вестник" (Islamsky Vestnik), and the Russian-language newspaper "Ассалам" (Assalam), and "Нуруль Ислам" (Nurul Islam), which are published in Makhachkala, Dagestan.
Kazan has a large Muslim population (probably the second after Moscow urban group of the Muslims and the biggest indigenous group in Russia) and is home to the Russian Islamic University in Kazan, Tatarstan. Education is in Russian and Tatar. In Dagestan there are number of Islamic Universities and madrassas, notable among them are: Dagestan Islamic University, Institute of Theology and International Relations, whose rector Maksud Sadikov was assassinated on 8 June 2011.
Talgat Tadzhuddin was the Chief Mufti of Russia. Since Soviet times, the Russian government has divided Russia into a number of Muslim Spiritual Directorates. In 1980 Talgat Tazhuddin was made Mufti of the European USSR and Siberia Division. Since 1992 he has headed the central or combined Muslim Spiritual Directorate of all of Russia.
The majority of Muslims in Russia adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam. About 5% are Shia Muslims. There is also an active presence of Ahmadi Muslims. In a few areas, notably Dagestan and Chechnya, there is a tradition of Sunni Sufism, which is represented by Naqshbandi and Shadhili schools, whose spiritual master Said Afandi al-Chirkawi receives hundreds of visitor daily. The Azeris have also historically and still currently been nominally followers of Shi'a Islam, as their republic split off from the Soviet Union, significant number of Azeris immigrated to Russia in search of work.
Notable Russian converts to Islam include Vyacheslav Polosin, Vladimir Khodov and Alexander Litvinenko, a defector from Russian intelligence, who, according to his father, converted on his deathbed.
A record 18,000 Russian Muslim pilgrims from all over the country attended the Hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia in 2006. In 2010, at least 20,000 Russian Muslim pilgrims attended the Hajj, as Russian Muslim leaders sent letters to the King of Saudi Arabia requesting that the Saudi visa quota be raised to at least 25,000-28,000 visas for Muslims. Due to overwhelming demand from Russian Muslims, on 5 July 2011, Muftis requested President Dmitry Medvedev's assistance in increasing the allocated by Saudi Arabia pilgrimage quota in Vladikavkaz. The III International Conference on Hajj Management attended by some 170 delegates from 12 counties was held in Kazan from 7 – 9 July 2011.
For centuries, the Tatars constituted the only Muslim ethnic group in European Russia, with Tatar language being the only language used in their mosques, a situation which saw rapid change over the course of the 20th century as a large number of Caucasian and central Asian Muslims migrated to central Russian cities and began attending Tatar-speaking mosques, generating pressure on the imams of such mosques to begin using Russian. This problem is evident even within Tatarstan itself, where Tatars constitute a majority.
Islam in Moscow
Moscow has 2 million Muslim residents and up to 2 million more Muslim migrant workers. The city has permitted the existence of only four mosques, none of which can fit more than 10,000 people. The mayor of Moscow claims that 4 mosques are more than sufficient for a population of several millions because at least half of the Muslims are immigrants from poorer regions. The city's economy "could not manage without them," he admitted. The government insists that the vast throngs of Muslims who fill Moscow streets and wait, often for many hours, to enter the city's few existing mosques are mostly people who come from outside the city limits and therefore have no right to be catered to.
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