From the 7th century’s Arab conquest, to the Tatar civilization and the conquered territories of the Caucasus and Central Asia, Islam has always been an important and major part of the Russian history.
Representing one of the largest Muslim minorities in Europe, more than 90% of Muslims in Russia adhere to the Sunni Islam. About 10% or more than two million are Shiite Muslims, according to the CIA Facebook.
The country is divided into several ethnic groups as follows, Russian 77.7%, Tatar 3.7%, Ukrainian 1.4%, Bashkir 1.1%, Chuvash 1%, Chechen 1%, other 10.2%, unspecified 3.9% (2010 est.)
In this file we present some facts and figures about the Muslim community in Russia:
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Islam first reached the Caucasus region with the Arab conquers in the 7th century. The Dagestani people became the first people to become Muslims within current Russian territory after converting to Islam in the 8th century. The first Muslim state in the future Russian lands was Volga Bulgaria.
Islam is recognized under the law and by Russian political leaders as one of Russia’s traditional religions. The position of Islam as a major Russian religion, alongside Orthodox Christianity, dates from the time of Catherine the Great.
Islam was declared as the state religion in the Volga Bulgaria in 922, which was 66 years earlier than the acceptance of Orthodox Christianity as the state religion of Kievan Rus.
After the fall of the Tsarist regime, the Soviet Union introduced a policy of state atheism, which impeded the practice of Islam and other religions and led to the execution and suppression of various Muslim leaders. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Islam regained a prestigious, legally recognized space in Russian politics.
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According to US Department of State in 2017, Muslims in Russia numbered 14 million or roughly 10% of the total population. As this survey didn’t include Muslim majority Chechnya and Ingushetia, the total number of Muslims may be larger.
In 2018, the Grand Mufti of Russia, Sheikh Rawil Gaynetdin, placed the Muslim population of Russia at 25 million.
Talib Saidbaev, advisor to the Head Mufti of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Russia, estimated the population at more than 20 million Muslims.
Today “it is openly said that Russia…is not only an Orthodox, but also a Muslim country. Living in the country today are more than 20 million Muslims, including members of more than 30 indigenous Russian nations,” he said.
In Russia, there are three federal centers as follows:
The Council of Muftis of Russia
It was founded on 2 July 1996 in Moscow. The Chairman of the Council is the spiritual leader of the Muslims of Russia.
Orenburg Muslim Spiritual Assembly
It was a state-controlled religious administration in the Russian Empire that had jurisdiction over certain aspects of Islamic activity in Siberia, the Volga-Ural region, and parts of Central Asia, including the Kazakh steppe. It was established in 1788 by order of Russian Empress Catherine II.
The Muslim Spiritual Authority in the Caucasus
It acts as the coordination center of Muslims in the North Caucasus.
Famous Mosques in Russia
Moscow Cathedral Mosque
Moscow Cathedral Mosque is the main mosque of Moscow, Russia. It is located on Olimpiysky Avenue, close to the Olympic Stadium in the center of the city. The original structure was built in 1904 according to the design of the architect Nikolay Zhukov and has undergone some reconstructions since then. It was also sometimes called “Tatar Mosque” because its congregation consisted mainly of ethnic Tatars.
Kul Sharif Mosque
Located in Kazan Kremlin, Kul Sharif Mosque was one of the largest mosques in Russia, and in Europe outside of Istanbul, at the time of construction in the 16th century. Though the mosque predominantly serves as a museum of Islam, sometimes, and during the major Muslim celebrations, thousands of people gather there to pray.
Lala Tulpan Mosque
Lala Tulpan in Ufa is one of Russia’s largest mosques with 53-metre-tall twin minarets. The building can accommodate up to 1000 worshippers. It was built between 1990 and 1998 to a modernist design by Wakil Davlyatshin. In 2001 Vladimir Putin held a meeting with Talgat Tadzhuddin and other Muslim scholars at the mosque.
Saint Petersburg Mosque
When opened in 1913, the Saint Petersburg Mosque was the largest mosque in Europe outside Turkey with a 49 meters minaret and 39 meters high dome. The mosque is situated in downtown St Petersburg. It can accommodate up to five thousand worshippers.