22 September 2003, 21:20

Islam in Russia

Islam is the second world religion in the number of adherents (after Christianity). It emerged in Arabia in the early VII cent. A.D., in the period of decay of the patriarchal commune and formation of a class society and the Arab state. The teaching is related in the Koran (Al-Qur'an) which legend says was sent down by Allah to Prophet Muhammad in parts through Archangel Gabriel (Jibril). It is based on the seven dogmas: faith in the single God - Allah; in the angels; in all of God's books (which include the Torah and the Gospels, besides the Quran); in all of Allah's messengers (Moses and Jesus Christ are mentioned among them; Muhammad, "the seal of the Prophets," is named last); in the day of judgment; in God's predestination; and in the resurrection of the dead. According to the teaching, Allah sent down one and the same primeval holy book to his different messengers. However, since the Jews and Christians perverted this book, Allah sent it down for the last time to Prophet Muhammad for all the people on the Earth to be guided by it until the end of the world. The Muslim cult is based on the five basic requirements ("pillars of faith"): practicing the faith - pronouncing the shahadah (declaration of faith): "There is no God but Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah"; the five daily prayers (namaz or salah/salat); the dawn-to-sunset fast during the month of Ramadan (uraza/roza or sawm); obligatory "purifying" alms (zakat/zakah); and the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj). Along with other religious ceremonies and rituals, as well as Muslim holidays (Kurban-bayram / Eid al-Adha, Uraza-bairam / Eid al-Fitr, miraj, mawlid, etc.), the "pillars of faith" have great significance for reinforcing religious influence on believers.

Like other religions, Islam has not remained unchanged since it emerged. In the course of their conquests, the Arabs encountered feudal relations that were more developed and prevailed in the empire they created, the Arab Caliphate. This was reflected in the Sunnah, a collection of hadiths (lit. "reports") on the sayings and deeds of Prophet Muhammad. Thus, another source of Muslim ideology emerged along with the Koran. The hadith collections universally recognized in the Muslim world are: "Al-Jami as-sahih" by al-Bukhari (d. in 870); "Al-Jami as-sahih" by Muslim an-Nishapuri (d. in 875); "Sunan" by ibn Majah (d. in 886); "Sunan" by Abu Dawud al-Sijistani (d. in 888); "Al-Jami al-kabir" by Muhammad at-Tirmidhi/Tirmizi (d. in 892); and "Sunan" by an-Nasai (d. in 915).

The need to fight to consolidate the position of Islam as ideology of the feudal society and to make it more regular and flexible promoted scholars who adapted the religious teaching to changing circumstances. An important stimulus for development of the Muslim ideology was its split into two trends: Sunni and Shi'i. Further development of the Muslim theology, law, morals, and social institutions was recognized as impossible ("the doors of ijtihad were closed") when four theological-legal trends (madhabs/mazhabs) in Sunni Islam had been formed (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii, and Hanbali) and Islamic dogmas developed (X cent.). Having prevailed in Islam, this position, known as taqlid, was basically preserved up to the XX cent. A reflection of the stagnant situation in the late feudal oriental society, it couldn't help a negative influence on the economic and cultural development of the areas where Islam was traditionally widespread. In the late XIX cent., Muslim theorists Muhammad Abduh and Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani proposed ideas that rejected following the taqlid. They advocated the need of an independent interpretation of the teaching of the Koran that would be in line with requirements of the time; and for bourgeois reforms. They also developed the idea of Pan-Islamism and linked it to the anti-colonial movement of oriental nations. These ideas came in handy during revolutionary movements in Muslim states in the XX cent.

Islam began to penetrate territories of present-day Russia as early as the VII cent., the first century of its existence. In the course of their VII cent. conquests, Muslim Arabs were not able to break from Asia to E. Europe through mountain and maritime boundaries, although they took hold of the border city-fortress of Derbent (today in Dagestan) as early as 653. The Khazars controlled the coastline between the Main Caucasian Range and the Caspian Sea, along which practically the only way north lay; so the confrontation between the Muslims and Khazars continued for more than two centuries. Only once, in 737, military leader Marwan bin Muhammad, the future caliph, having routed the Khazar khakan (leader of the Khazar kingdom), undertook a campaign far north of Derbent, captured the Khazar capital, and reached the "river of sakalib" (apparently, the Don). Two Muslim authors' reports that the khakan agreed to adopt Islam during these events is not confirmed by the further developments. In the late VIII cent., the ruling top of the Khazar state adopted Judaism; Christianity preserved some influence in Khazaria, too, but the majority of its Turkic population mixed with other ethnicities of the "pre-Caucasus" (the area north of the Greater Caucasus - trans.) preserved its pagan beliefs. Converting the peoples of the N. Caucasus into Islam took centuries.

For a long time, Derbent remained a base for protecting Muslim states from Khazar invasions and for raids of Muslim detachments on their non-Muslim neighbors. A fortification system was built northwest of it where Arab soldiers from Syria and Iraq were first settled. The same soldiers began to preach actively and spread Islam among the native population, but mountain communities adopted it slowly and with difficulties. Sufi Islam was more successfully introduced, since it absorbed elements of local cults and beliefs, but even so the conversion process took a few centuries. Derbent continued to serve as a key base for Muslim propaganda and together with the fortifications that surrounded it turned into a Sufi teaching center.

Overall, it was in a peaceful way that Islam managed to become established and widespread in Khazaria, thanks to the incessant exchange of goods and people. The conversion mechanism is not quite clear; the names of initiators and preachers remain unknown, since the process is poorly covered in sources. There is only evidence of the late IX through X cent., regarding Itil (Atil), the Khazar capital in the delta of the river of the same name (= the Volga). There were a lot of Muslim merchants and craftsmen, a cathedral mosque with a minaret, and other mosques with schools that taught the Koran. The king's army consisted mainly of hired Muslims from Khorezm (Khwarazm) that numbered c. 7,000. One author estimated the total number of Muslims in the city at 10,000 without, probably, taking the army into account.

The Eastern Bulgars in the Volga region adopted Islam in 922, peacefully as well, although it had reached here much earlier. After the Khazar state had disappeared from the E. European political arena, Islam's presence in the N. Caucasus, the Volga region, and the Kipchak steppe (the Kipchaks had dominated the steppe Turkic peoples since the mid-XI cent., so this people name replaced every other used previously) was increasing and the significance of the Islamic Bulgar empire was growing, too. The Russian princes officially adopted Christianity in the late X cent., so the two world religions (resting on the power of the Caliphate and Byzantium) launched latent competition in the region. Yet the Muslims and Christians in E. Europe seldom met on the field of battle in the XI-XII cent.; more frequently they conducted peaceful trade and communication.

Guided by Genghis Khan's Yasa (or Jasagh, imperial code), the Tatars (Mongols) preferred none of the three world religions, although they readily accepted their adherents' services and patronized their ministers. Yet having settled in the steppe on the border of Europe and Asia, with the capital in Sarai on the lower Itil, they found themselves in a compact Muslim, Bulgar-Kipchak milieu. They gradually began to switch to the Turkic (Kipchak) language and adopt Islam and practically dissolved leaving the name "Tatars" to the entire population of the Horde/Ulus, as well as the lineage of khans whose right to power was for a long time considered indisputable. Berke Khan (1257-66) already was Muslim; allied with Egypt's Mamluk sultans, he warred against non-Muslim Tatars that held Iran. The Horde was completely converted to Islam under Uzbek (1313-42).

Contemporaries pointed out Golden Horde khans were encouraged to adopt Islam by specific Egyptian ulama (religious scholars), but folk tales later attributed this achievement to Sufi sheikhs. The cardinal change in the religious orientation of the ruler and elite was favorable to Muslim communities in the region and the improvement of their cultural connections with Muslim states in the north. This period comprised Islam's expansion into the northern Black Sea area and Crimea and further increase in the number and area of peoples and territories that adopted Islam in the N. Caucasus and the Don, Volga and Ural areas, as well as the appearance of a Muslim enclave in Lithuania. Islam in E. Europe reached a maximum spread in the XIV cent. and the number of its adherents increased accordingly. At the same time, the Muslim authorities of the Horde did not force people of a different religion to conversion to Islam; they did not even encourage Muslim missionary work. Loyal adherents to the principle of religious tolerance, they supported the Orthodox Church just as well, granting it a series of privileges.

By the end of the same, XIV cent., the principality of Moscow had grown strong enough to challenge the Horde khan, with the ideological support of the Church, and defeat his army in 1380. In a year, the Moscow prince was forced back to submission, but later, too, Moscow's aspiration to free itself from being tributary to the Horde took shape as Christian-Muslim opposition. Infighting and succession struggles, as well as a defeat by Timur (Tamerlane), led to weakening of the Horde and its disintegration into the Kazan, Nogai and Crimean khanates, with a few small states emerging in the N. Caucasus and a local Muslim culture developing in each of them. At the same time, the principality of Moscow claimed succession to Byzantium, expanded at the expense of other Russian principalities, and was steadily accumulating power becoming a centralized czardom. It launched a military advance on the Muslim states that took shape as a result of the Horde's disintegration; in doing so, the Church stepped up significantly its anti-Muslim polemics and propaganda, particularly after defeating the Kazan khanate and taking Kazan in 1552.

Having made this state one of its possessions, Christian Russia turned into a country with a large community adhering to a religion that was different from its own; so it faced the need to develop its policy in respect to its Muslim subjects. It rejected the Horde's tradition of confining itself to exacting tribute from its subjects of a different religion without interfering into the inner life of their community. On the contrary, its military leaders allied to hierarchs of the Orthodox Church made it their aim to eliminate Islam, so they destroyed a lot of mosques and their ministers. Without an organized clergy and stripped of any sort of protection, the Muslim community had now nothing to do but fight for survival in the hostile state. No doubt, it suffered heavy losses, both human and territorial: the nobility and lower military class either began to serve Russian princes or changed their occupation; as for farmers and stock-breeders, the Muscovites ousted them from their lands.

During the next three centuries Russia took possession of all Muslim territories in E. Europe, with the same situation taking place time and again. Retreating before the advancing Russia, the Muslim states (the Nogai and Crimean ones and those in the N. Caucasus) diminished, grew even weaker, and finally vanished; a major part of the aboriginal Muslim population also left their lands occupied by the Russians. Those who remained in the course of time diminished, too, either ousted by the alien, mostly Slavic population or assimilated by it under administrative, propagandistic and economic pressure of Russian authorities and the Church.

Surviving Muslim communities, in turn, became isolated in conservatism as a means of self-preservation; they were in constant opposition to Russian authorities and took every opportunity to rebel or supported rebellions of Russian resettlers and the Cossacks (Ivan Bolotnikov, Stepan Razin, Emelian Pugachev, and others); and they suffered new losses when the rebellions were quelled. Their opposition made them attractive to the malcontent and persecuted who did not wish to resign to the despotism of the Russian officialdom and Church, so Islam in Russia and along its borders did not only constantly lost adherents, but also gained new ones.

Under Catherine II the annexation of the Crimea was completed (1783) and measures were taken to extend the Russian Empire's patronage to its Muslim subjects and integrate the most active of them into the state's class structure: Tatar murzas (a murza is one of the hereditary nobility among the Tatars, a prince - trans.) and Bashkir "chieftains" were granted nobility rights (1784); Muslim merchants received privileges (in trade with Turkistan, Iran, India, and China); it was ordered to print the Koran in the original (1787); the ban on building mosques was relaxed and the Orenburg Mohammedan Spiritual Assembly (OMSA) was set up in 1788. Thus, after more than two centuries of intolerance towards Islam and sever persecutions, the Russian government recognized an official status of the Muslim confession and began to organize its leaders in the form of a clergy (like a church) it would be able to control. These measures facilitated improvement in relations between the Muslims and authorities. Clerics and merchants from among the Russian Muslims became intermediaries between Russia and its Muslim neighbors, establishing all sorts of relations and promoting its expansion into Asia. Russia also greatly benefited from recruiting Muslims to the army and navy where offices of mullahs, muezzins, and akhuns (an akhun is a Muslim theologian, more revered mullah - trans.) were introduced for them later, so that they instructed and administered prayers and rituals. The Muslims were also admitted to the bourgeois and merchant classes. At the same time, the government persistently proceeded with its policy of christening and russification, supporting anti-Muslim propaganda that formed negative stereotypes of Islam in the Russian public opinion.

In the early 1860s, Russia completely conquered the N. Caucasus breaking down the durable resistance of the mountain peoples for whom Islam in the form of Muridism (an Islam-based ideology developed in Dagestan and Chechnya; from Arabic murid "disciple" - trans.) based on the Sufi orders Naqshbandiyya and Qadiriyya was the principal ideological support that rallied them organizationally and boosted their warlike morale. The Sufi teaching of the Yasawi (Yasavi) and Naqshbandi orders had been popular with the Muslims in E. Europe since the Horde times, but its followers were usually apt to compromise with authorities. In the XIX through early XX cent., Sufism served as a means of expressing conservative aspirations of wide public that was happy about neither official bureaucratized Islam nor various innovations and external influence. There appeared Sufi leaders in the Volga region who adhered to quite controversial and confused precepts, for example Bagautdin Vaisov (d. in 1893) or ishan (head and teacher of a Muslim, usually Sufi, community - trans.) Zaynulla (Zainulla) Rasulev (d. in 1917).

As a result of forced or voluntary participation of the Muslims in different spheres of Russia's public and government life, an increasing number of them could speak Russian, which enabled them to learn about secular Russian and W. European culture, so they were inevitably influenced by it. Each success Russia achieved on the way of developing science, technology, culture, and education in some respect affected its Muslim population: it generated educated soldiers and officers, technically competent workers and professionals, and scholarly intellectuals mostly stemming from among the Muslim clergy; schools, book-printing, and journalism were developed, as well as reformation that sometimes was going ahead of analogous proceedings in the rest of the Muslim world.

A dispute broke out in the second half of the XIX through early XX cent. between the conservatives that praised adherence to anything old, habitual and traditional as virtue and "reformers" (Jadidists); both sides appealed to the public opinion and Russian authorities. All this in many respects determined the specific nature of "Russian" Islam.

The revolutionary developments in 1905 and subsequent liberal innovations rendered an exceptionally strong impulse to the awakening of the social consciousness of the Russian Muslims. The Muslim press and publishing business experienced a real heyday; charitable institutions and political parties were established and there was a Muslim faction in the Duma. All this activity that contributed to the secularization and politicization of Islam gradually died away in the World War I years, beginning from 1914.

The two revolutions of 1917 inspired new hopes in the Russian Muslims, drawing them into nationwide social processes even more. Yet the real course of events only brought them hardship: the civil war tragically split the Muslim peoples of the former Russian Empire between fighting groups; it rushed like a tornado through the Volga region, N. Caucasus and Crimea claiming numerous human lives and material resources; Muslim community leaders and their disciples most often sided with those who could not accept ideas of atheism and denial of private property, so they were obliterated or driven out beyond Soviet Russia; the exodus of Muslims from the N. Caucasus and Crimea was particularly large-scale.

The majority of the Muslim population that stayed in their homeland had even fewer opportunities to choose their own way and influence their destinies than under the czarism, since it was extremely poorly represented in the only ruling party and its governing bodies that made decisions and carried them out. Social experiments of the Communists were accompanied by severe persecution of religious people, including Islam's adherents and ministers that were destroyed or neutralized together with the small number of politically or intellectually active Muslims. Industrialization and collectivization pulled down Islam's age-old support - the village community and urban class of merchants and artisans. The replacement of the Arabic alphabet with the Roman and then Cyrillic and a ban on all forms of religious education and upbringing, as well as public administration of holidays and rituals, led to the loss of continuity in passing on cultural information and a spontaneous isolation of the new generation from the ancestors' traditions. Imposing the atheist vision of the world and militarized Soviet way of life in circumstances of a person's increasing dependence on technological and administrative systems made it very difficult and blameworthy even to observe the individual duties of a Muslim.

During World War II, authorities relaxed the religious ban and allowed opening some mosques, but as victory approached, they rained down extraordinarily cruel repressions on Muslim peoples. The Crimean Tatars, Chechens, Ingush, Karachays, and Balkars were evicted from their homes and deported to the Asian part of the USSR. A significant number (one-third to a half) of them died.

The collapse of the authoritarian regime accelerated the process of Islam's renaissance that began during the "perestroika". The share of the population that referred to themselves as faithful Muslims increased considerably. Presently, 15 to 20 million of Russian residents refer to themselves as Islam's adherents, according to various data.

The number of religious organizations has multiplied. Fewer than 200 Muslim religious societies legally operated in the Russian Federation before the perestroika. Their activity was managed by two Muslim spiritual boards, quartered in Ufa and Makhachkala. There were no religious educational institutions. A few groups of young men from Russia studied at Muslim educational institutions in Uzbekistan and a number of other foreign countries. The Russian Muslims had no publications of their own. As of January 1, 1998, the Justice Ministry of the Russian Federation and its offices in the regions registered 2,734 active Muslim religious societies (at least the same number of them operates without registration, which is legal) and 106 religious educational institutions, including the Higher Islamic Spiritual College and a madrasah in Moscow; the Muhammadiya madrasah in Kazan; the Imam al-Shafi'i Islamic University and a madrasah in Makhachkala; a madrasah in Ufa; and others. They provide education to hundreds of future ministers of religion and thousands of believers willing to acquire greater knowledge in the area of Islam's history and teaching. Besides, hundreds of Russians study at foreign Muslim educational institutions. Theology has notably livened up in the last few years. The Koran, hadith collections, and other religious literature are published in unprecedented numbers. A lot of Islamic organizations have their own organs. Islam Minbare ("The Platform of Islam"), the newspaper of the Muslim Spiritual Board of European Russia, enjoys the greatest popularity with believers, with a circulation of 6,500. The number of believers making pilgrimage to holy places in Saudi Arabia has increased thousandfold. Charitable activities of Muslim organizations are expanding. They also handle great educational work with convicts in jails and hard labor camps; allocate funds to support children's and old or disabled people's homes in their charge; provide material aid to disabled and single people and scholarships to students; advocate human rights; systematically arrange for charitable dinners, concerts, etc.

Forty-three Muslim spiritual boards administer religious life of Islam's adherents in Russia. Three religious centers aspire to a nationwide status: the Central Muslim Spiritual Board of Russia and the European States of the CIS (presently renamed as the Central Islamic Spiritual Board of the Muslims of Holy Russia - trans.); the Muslim Spiritual Board of European Russia; and the Supreme Center for Coordination of Russian Muslim Spiritual Boards. A fourth religious center aspiring to the same status was set up in Moscow in July 1996 - the Russian Council of Muftis.

Religious renaissance is accompanied by Islam's increasing role in the nation's social and political life. In the Soviet period, Islamic organizations were under state control, so all they were free to do was to express their solidarity with the government's stance on national policy issues. This occurred at various international forums and in sermons delivered in registered mosques. Presently, Muslim organizations take part in the drawing up of bills and freely voice their position on educational and environmental issues; youth, economic and taxation policies; or reforms in various aspects of social life. Quite often this position is substantially different from the government's line. Muslim organizations also take an active part in peacemaking activities, especially those related to regulating interethnic conflicts inside the country.

Emergence of Islamic social and political unions has lately become a distinctive feature of social life. Some of them have quite clearly manifested themselves at the regional level (the Ittifak/Ittifaq party in Tatarstan or Islamic Democratic Party in Dagestan); others - at the federal level (the Islamic Renaissance Party, Union of Russian Muslims, Nur ("Light"), and Russian Muslims). A variety of Russian social movements and political forces, especially those in republics and regions with a significant share of Muslim population, nowadays try to find support in Islam.

Islam in the former USSR from the very beginning was Sunni with Hanafi as the prevailing madhab. One exception was Dagestan where the original Hanafi trend was in the XII cent. replaced by the Shafi'i school of law and theology. Shi'i Islam is represented from the XVII cent. by small groups in S. Dagestan that was influenced by Iran and Azerbaijan. The mystic-ascetic teaching (Sufism) within Sunni Islam was spread in Derbent by contemporaries and students of al-Ghazali (d. 1111) whose works were readily read and universally copied later as well. The Yasawi and Kubrawi/Kubravi orders had been popular with the Turkic population of the Horde, but from the XV cent. the Naqshbandi tariqah/tariqat enjoyed the greatest success, while the Qadiri tariqah was recognized in Chechnya. The latter two served as a basis for Muridism, a local Sufi order that was generated in Dagestan and Chechnya in circumstances of stiff resistance to Russian conquests in the XIX cent.

The earliest Muslim religious buildings in E. Europe were naturally located in Derbent (on the border of Asia and Europe) and S. Dagestan, as well as in Itil and Great Bulgar (capital of the Eastern Bulgars); they have not been preserved in the original form. The cathedral mosque (Juma) in Derbent was built in 115/733-34, according to a late inscription; it was then more than once rebuilt, so the stonework of the lower parts of the walls and inner columns is alone considered the most ancient element. The construction of the mosque in the Kumukh village (Lak district, Dagestan) is attributed to 779. Epitaphs and building inscriptions of the X-XII cent. have been found in a number of Dagestan's auls (villages). A lot of later Muslim religious buildings have been preserved in the N. Caucasus, since they were predominantly built of stone; the existence of a natural building material has played its role. Bulgar ruins of the X-XII cent. present remains of a mosque, while Bulgar headstones are attributed to the XIII-XIV cent. In the city of Stary Krym ("Old Crimea"; former Eski-krym/Eski Kirim also known as Solkhat/Surkhat) are the walls and floors of the so-called mosque of Uzbek, which is the earliest monument of Muslim religious architecture in the Crimea. Numerous mosques, madrasahs, Sufi "cloisters," mausoleums, and headstones in Crimea's Kaffa/Caffa (present-day Feodosi(y)a or Theodosia), Bakhchisaray, Gezlev (present-day Yevpatoriya), Karasubazar, and other cities have fallen into ruin or been purposely destroyed. The minaret of the Khan mosque (1467) has been preserved in Kasimov (Ryazan region). Most religious buildings in Kazan and other cities and auls in the Volga region were built of wood, so they were destroyed during the Russian conquest, burnt in fires, and so on. With Catherine II's permission to the merchant family of the Yunusovs, a stone mosque was erected in Kazan in 1767-71 (known presently as the Al-Mardjani Mosque). Other Muslim religious structures in Russia were built in the XIX-XX cent. More than a thousand of mosques have been built over the past ten years, and they continue to be built.

The continuity of any Muslim community was ensured by a system of religious education; one of its necessary elements was teaching the language of the Koran, i.e. standard Arabic. This was the case in Russia as well. The earliest sources about the spread of Islam in this area mention the existence of schools (kuttab, madrasah) along with mosques, also used for teaching, but there are no data on any of their specific local features. Ministers of the Muslim religion, as a rule, taught children and adults to read and write. There are specific data on madrasahs that trained spiritual advisers, teachers, and administrators (mullahs, imam-khatibs / imam-hatips, muezzins, mugallims/mugalims, mudarrises, qadis, muhtasibs, and nutavalliys) under Catherine II: the Apanaevskaya and Akhundovskaya madrasahs in Kazan were opened in 1771, the Amirkhanovskaya in 1780. The peak of the Muslim education system in the area occurred in the late XIX through early XX cent. when the "traditionalists" and "reformers" competed. Apart from a lot of primary schools (maktab/mekteb), there were higher madrasahs, including large ones such as the Muhammadiya, Marjaniya, Qasimiya, Amirkhaniya, and Azimovskaya in Kazan; Uthmaniyya, Galiya, Hakimiyya, and Hasaniya in Ufa; Husayniya in Orenburg; and Izh-Bubi in the Vyatka province. There was a prominent madrasah in Bakhchisaray, known as Zincirli, in which Ismail Gaspirali (also known as Ismail Bey Gaspirali, Ismail Bey Gasprinskii or Gasprinski, and Ismail Mirza Gasprinskiy) pioneered new teaching methods and new subjects; following his example a lot of Russian Muslim schools introduced new methods. Almost all Muslim intellectuals graduated from these educational establishments, including left-wing radicals (they accepted socialist and communist ideas, provided support to the Soviet government, and were then almost totally destroyed by it). Russian authorities saw threat in them, so a Special meeting was held in 1910, called by Piotr Stolypin (premier and interior minister for Czar Nicholas II) with a view to "counteracting the Tatar-Muslim influence." The meeting made a decision to introduce a ban on teaching lay subjects in such institutions.

From of old, Muslims in provinces of the Russian Empire consumed religious literature created in other regions in Arabic and Persian. Local authors occasionally supplied comments on individual works or made extracts from them, usually for education purposes. Only Sufi poetry in a local dialect of standard Turkic had certain originality. Experiments of using Caucasian languages to relate the teaching of Islam were first made in the late XIX through early XX cent. The libraries of some mosques and madrasahs, as well as individual scholars of modern history, judging by their remains, also contained antique manuscripts, but they descend from southern centers of Islamic scholarship. As for local manuscripts, they are most often student copies and various collections of mixed content. It is not only because of the poor preservation and deliberate destruction of everything written in Arabic characters, but also because of the spreading of printed typography that substantially ousted manuscripts. The first edition of the Koran in the Arabic original was carried out at Johann Schnorr's printing house in St. Petersburg in 1787 and it underwent a few more printings at the same printing house. The equipment was later transported to Kazan and delivered (for considerations of censorship) first to the First high school and then to the University. Copies of the Koran printed there sold throughout Russia and beyond. Private printing houses were, too, established afterwards, from the early XIX cent., not only in Kazan, but also in St. Petersburg and other cities in the Volga region, Crimea, and Dagestan. They published various Muslim religious literature in significant quantities year after year up to 1917. The Tatar calendar published in Kazan from 1857 became the first Muslim periodical in Russia. In 1883, Ismail Gaspirali began publishing a newspaper named Tarjuman in Bakhchisaray. The number of Muslim newspapers and magazines rose from 1905. Every year they were becoming more and more secular, even including the OMSA organ Ma'lumat Mahkamah-yi Syar'iah. All the Muslim press came to naught in the Soviet era.

The renaissance of Islam in Russia presently has a strong effect on the cultural development of peoples whose traditional religion is Islam. Islamic elements are extensively employed in works of art and literature. Muslim architecture is beginning to take up a prominent position in settlements (a decision has been made in some regions to build a mosque in every settlement). A lot of ethnic traditions and customs that were previously heavily battled by way of overcoming religious vestiges have presently got their "second wind."

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