Islam in Tatarstan
Established in 922, the first Muslim state within the current Russian borders was Volga Bulgaria from whom the Tatars inherited Islam. Islam in Russia has had a long presence, extending at least as far back as the conquest of the Khanate of Kazan in 1552, which brought the Tatars and Bashkirs on the Middle Volga into Russia. Today, Sunni Islam is the most common faith in Tatarstan, as 55% of the estimated 3.8 million population is Muslim.
The earliest known organized state within the boundaries of Tatarstan was Volga Bulgaria (c. 700–1238 CE). The Volga Bulgars had an advanced mercantile state with trade contacts throughout Inner Eurasia, the Middle East and the Baltic, which maintained its independence despite pressure by such nations as the Khazars, the Kievan Rus and the Kipchaks. Islam was introduced by missionaries from Baghdad around the time of Ibn Fadlan's journey in 922.
In the 1430s, the region became independent as the base of the Khanate of Kazan, a capital having been established in Kazan, 170 km up the Volga from the ruined capital of the Bulgars. The Khanate of Kazan was conquered by the troops of Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible in the 1550s, with Kazan being taken in 1552. Some Tatars were forcibly converted to Christianity and cathedrals were built in Kazan; by 1593, mosques in the area were destroyed. The Russian government forbade the construction of mosques, a prohibition that was not lifted until the 18th century by Catherine II. The first mosque to be rebuilt under Catherine's auspices was constructed in 1766–1770.
On May 27, 1920 the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of the RSFSR was declared. Under Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Union began to place restrictions on the use of the Tatar language, which used a variant of Arabic script. The Tatar alphabet switched to Cyrillic. The development of national culture declined significantly and religion in Tatarstan was severely repressed.
According to expert on Islam in Russia Ruslan Kurbanov in modern times, Tatars demonstrated most constructive and most effective way of developing of their religious and national identity and widening their political autonomy within Russia. In the most difficult years of post-Soviet Russian history—in the years of deep economic crisis and two Chechen wars—Tatars demonstrated phenomenal results in economic development of their national republic.
1921–22 famine in Tatarstan
The famine deaths of Muslim Tatars in Tatar ASSR and in Volga-Ural region in 1921–1922 was catastrophic as half of Volga Tatar population in USSR died. This famine is also known as "terror-famine" and "famine-genocide" in Tatarstan. The Soviets settled ethnic Russians after the famine in Tatar ASSR and in Volga-Ural region causing the Tatar share of the population to decline to less than 50%. All-Russian Tatar Social Center (VTOTs) has asked the United Nations to condemn the 1921 Tatarstan famine as Genocide of Muslim Tatars. The 1921–1922 famine in Tatarstan has been compared to Holodomor in Ukraine.
The majority faith in Tatarstan is Islam. In 1990, there were only 100 mosques but the number, as of 2004, rose to well over 1000. As of January 1, 2008, as many as 1398 religious organizations were registered in Tatarstan, of which 1055 are Muslim. Many of the Muslims in Tatarstan are practising. Increased religiosity has been evident amongst Muslims and interfaith relations remain very strong.
In September 2010, Eid al fitr as well May 21, the day the Volga Bulgars embraced Islam, were made public holidays. Despite the holiday, students protested a Kazan Federal University administration's decision to hold classes on Eid with some declaring their intention to skip class and attend mosque services. Tatarstan also hosted an international Muslim film festival which screened over 70 films from 28 countries including Jordan, Afghanistan and Egypt. The first halal food production facility opened with foreign companies expressing their interest to expand the project in Tatarstan. The recently opened facility produces 30 halal products and employs 200 people.
The Russian Islamic University is based in Kazan.
Kazan held the 8th international Quran reader's Contest on the 23rd to the 25th of November which was organized by the Russian Islamic Institute. Ways of facilitating modern religious education in Tatarstan was also discussed.
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