Islam in the Soviet Union
The Soviet Union was a state comprising fifteen communist republics which existed from 1922 until its dissolution into a series of separate nation states in 1991. Of these fifteen republics, six had a Muslim majority, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. There was also a large Muslim presence in the Volga-Ural region and most of the population of North Caucasus of Russian Federation were Muslims and a large number of Tatar Muslims lived in Siberia and other regions.
The Bolsheviks wanted to include as much as possible of the former Russian Empire within the Soviet Union. This meant they were faced with a number of contradictions as they set out to establish the Soviet Union in regions with strong Islamic influences.
Although actively encouraging atheism, Soviet authorities permitted limited religious activity in all the Muslim republics. Mosques functioned in most large cities of the Central Asian republics and the Azerbaijan SSR; however, their number decreased from 25,000 in 1917 to 500 in the 1970s. In 1989, as part of the general relaxation of restrictions on religions, some additional Muslim religious associations were registered, and some of the mosques that had been closed by the government were returned to Muslim communities. The government also announced plans to permit training of limited numbers of Muslim religious leaders in courses of two- and five-year duration in Ufa and Baku, respectively.
In the late 1980s, Islam had the second largest number of believers in the Soviet Union, with between 45 and 50 million people identifying themselves as Muslims. But the Soviet Union had only about 500 working Islamic mosques, a fraction of the mosques in pre-revolutionary Russia, and Soviet law forbade Islamic religious activity outside working mosques and Islamic schools. All working mosques, religious schools, and Islamic publications were supervised by four "spiritual directorates" established by Soviet authorities to provide governmental control. The Spiritual Directorate for Central Asia and Kazakhstan, the Spiritual Directorate for the European Soviet Union and Siberia, and the Spiritual Directorate for the Northern Caucasus and Dagestan oversaw the religious life of Sunni Muslims. The Spiritual Directorate for Transcaucasia dealt with both Sunni and Shia Muslims. The overwhelming majority of the Muslims were Sunnis; only about 10 percent, most of whom lived in the Azerbaijan, were Shias.
Unlike the Russian Orthodox Christian church, the Muslims of the Soviet Union originally encountered a larger degree of religious freedom under the new Bolshevik rule. Vladimir Lenin oversaw the return of religious artifacts, such as the Uthman Quran, the foundations of court systems using principles of Islamic law which ran alongside the Communist legal system, Jadids and other "Islamic socialists" were given positions of power, an affirmative action system called "korenizatsiya" (nativisation) was implemented which helped the local Muslim populace, while Friday, the Muslim Sabbath, was declared the legal day of rest throughout Central Asia. Under the Tsars, Muslims were brutally repressed and the Eastern Orthodox Church was the official religion. On 24 November 1917 Lenin declared;
Muslims of Russia…all you whose mosques and prayer houses have been destroyed, whose beliefs and customs have been trampled upon by the tsars and oppressors of Russia: your beliefs and practices, your national and cultural institutions are forever free and inviolate. Know that your rights, like those of all the peoples of Russia, are under the mighty protection of the revolution.
When Joseph Stalin consolidated power in the second half of 1920s, his religion policy changed. Mosques were closed or turned into warehouses throughout Central Asia. Religious leaders were persecuted, religious schools were closed down and Waqf's were outlawed. The Soviet government took the paranji veil that the women wore (as part of the Islamic hijab interpretation of Modesty) as evidence that the Muslim women were oppressed, and began the Hujum to try and forcefully remove it. This backfired, and the veil became more popular than ever among the workers, whereas prior to this was mostly used by the middle, wealthier classes. Stalin's cult of personality left virtually no place for any religious sentiment.
|This article's factual accuracy is disputed. (July 2012)|
Stalin also forcibly moved several small nationalities residing primarily in southwestern Russia (Chechens, Ingushs, Crimean Tatars, Balkars, Karachais, Meshketian Turks, Kalmyks, Germans and others) from their homelands during World War II, lest they rise up against him in favour of Nazi Germany.
During Stalin's reign, Crimean Tatar Muslims were victims of mass deportation. The deportation had begun on 17 May 1944 in all Crimean inhabited localities. More than 32,000 NKVD troops participated in this action. 193,865 Crimean Tatars were deported, 151,136 of them to Uzbek SSR, 8,597 to Mari ASSR, 4,286 to Kazakh SSR, the rest 29,846 to the various oblasts of RSFSR.
From May to November 10,105 Crimean Tatars died of starvation in Uzbekistan (7% of deported to Uzbek SSR). Nearly 30,000 (20%) died in exile during the year and a half by the NKVD data and nearly 46% by the data of the Crimean Tatar activists. According to Soviet dissident information, many Crimean Tatars were made to work in the large-scale projects conducted in Soviet GULAG. 
- Persecution of Muslims
- Soviet Orientalist studies in Islam
- Population transfer in the Soviet Union
- Deportation of Crimean Tatars
- Operation Lentil (Caucasus)
- Hannah, Abdul. "Chapter 1." Early History of Spread of Islam in (former) Soviet Union. 16 Sep 2002. Witness Pioneer. 14 Feb 2007 
- Crouch, Dave. "The Bolsheviks and Islam." International Socialism: A quarterly journal of socialist theory. 110. 14 Feb 2007. 
- Helene Carrere d’Encausse, The National Republics Lose Their Independence, in Edward A. Allworth, (edit), Central Asia: One Hundred Thirty Years of Russian Dominance, A Historical Overview, Duke University Press, 1994.
- Kowalsky, Sharon A. Book Review: Veiled Empire: Gender and Power in Stalinist Central Asia. by Douglas Northrop Journal of World History: Vol. 26, No. 2, June 2005.
- Douglas Northrop, Veiled Empire: Gender and Power in Stalinist Central Asia, Cornell University Press, 2004.
- Robert Conquest, The Nation Killers: The Soviet Deportation of Nationalities (London: Macmillan, 1970); S. Enders Wimbush and Ronald Wixman. 1975. "The Meskhetian Turks: A New Voice in Central Asia." Canadian Slavonic Papers 17 (Summer and Fall): 320-340; and Omer Bin Abdullah. Muslims of Chechnya continue their lonesome struggle for freedom, keeping Russian might in a bear trap. Islam Online. 03/02/2001
- The Muzhik & the Commissar, TIME Magazine, November 30, 1953