05 June 2003, 04:27

Revival of Islam in Russia

The renascence of Islam in Russia is part of the general phenomenon of religious rebirth made possible by the perestroika initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev, which brought in its wake the collapse of totalitarianism and the creation of a system of democratic government. In our opinion, this axiomatic proposition requires a substantial rider: the religious renaissance has deeper roots, being an unavoidable process which was to commence in the USSR sooner or later.

The suppression of religion by the Soviets and the intention to exterminate its influence rather than merely restrict it, formulated in the thesis of religion`s dying-out (Nikita Khrushchev promised "to show the last priestling on TV"), challenged civilization, breaking the historical tradition of culture and catastrophically deforming the society. In fact, moral framework was demolished and established norms and values were eroded. The destruction of churches which was often accompanied by some people`s silence and others`  cheers symbolized this process.

Deprived of its religion-sanctified traditions, society was doomed to decay. Their restoration, given its impetus from without, by secular authorities, helps society survive and develop. From this standpoint, the impetus received by the religious rebirth from the secular world, was repaid in religion` s support (and consecration) of the social transformation. The revival of religion, despite its contradictory nature, itself became one of the key aspects of this transformation, making it irreversible. After such a robust renascence of religion, in the event of hypothetical takeover it would hardly be possible for any, event most radical, Communists to impose their exclusive ideology on society and once again subjugate public conscience, depriving the individual of the right to have his or her own beliefs, as the Bolsheviks once did.

The nature and pace of the religious revival defy precise statistical and even sociological analysis, as showed by the widely differing figures of believers in the Russian Federation. They range from 20 to 80% of the country` s 148-million population. According to the directory Religious Associations of the Russian Federation prepared by MPs Valery Borshchev and Mikhail Prusak and published by the State Duma, 75% of believers are Orthodox Christians(1). On the other hand, sociologists estimate "the non-religious section of Russia`s population"  to be 40 to 60%(2). According to the St. Petersburg-based analyst Elga Poretskina, believers total just 18% of the population of Russia; 90% of them are Orthodox Christians and Muslims(3). An article published in 1997 in the US magazine Time was saying that Muslims had 5.5% in Russia`s population compared to 71.8% claimed by the Orthodox Church (18.9% did not associate themselves with any religion)(4).

However, it should be noted that very often people who do not believe in God have an identification with some religious tradition. This point was made clear, in particular, by the poll conducted in 1993 by the Russian Independent Institute of Social and National Problems.

The rebirth of religion is attested to by the growth in the number of new churches and mosques, registered parishes and institutions of religious education, along with the more active secular involvement of religious organizations. Religion`s greater role in society encourages politicians`  attempts to put it to their own uses. We will say more on this below.

But first it seems reasonable to address the problem which defies statistical and political analysis and is often left outside sociologists`  scope of attention. These are changes in public and individual conscience. Its evolution has a slow pace, though superfluous observation shows that it is conscience that first adapts to new life, possessing the capability of instantaneous mutations. In reality, upheavals caused by social, economic or political factors are short-lived; after abrupt deviations in an individual`s ideas of society and him- or herself natural inertia brings conscience back to its stereotypes which in their turn affect individual and public behavior.

The process of religious revival seems especially interesting from this point of view. During the Soviet period predominated an indifferent attitude to religion which either overtly or surreptitiously was replaced with Communist ideology. "Expulsion" of religion from the life of individuals and families, liquidation of the system of religious teaching and the purely secular character of education all combined to produce in the Soviet Union a few generations of people ignorant of and estranged from religion. It would be incorrect to describe this society as completely atheistic. There remained quite a lot of believers in the Soviet Union and Russia. Return to religion became especially noticeable during and after the WWII. However, public conscience as a whole remained deformed during a few decades. It is noteworthy that in their criticism of religion, Bolshevik ideologists frequently used its ideas of social justice, collectivism and obedience to authorities.

Removal of religion from the life of society was effected gradually. Neither is its recovery too quick. Quite natural, after it took atheism decades to be implanted in society, during which generations of Soviet people were formed who were almost immune to religion, restoration of the natural order will require time sufficient for the formation of a new generation not subjected to Communist and atheist indoctrination in schools and universities.

The "vacuum" which arose in society after the collapse of the Soviet ideology and its key values is much talked about. "'The people of Russia which shook off the spiritual, political and economic slavery imposed by the Communist dictatorship experience apathy and confusion," says the lawyer and religious scholar Anatoly Pchelintsev (5). This opinion should not be taken without reservations. By the end of the perestroika and during the first months after the radical reforms were started people`s conscience did undergo an upheaval. However, it did not disintegrate and it is not correct to speak of an absolute vacuum reigning in people` s hearts and minds.

The paradigm of values enunciated by the Soviets either lingers on or has turned into its opposite. In both cases religion so far has had a purely decorative function. From this point of view the liberal Yeltsin does not believe in Orthodox Christian God any more than the atheistic communist Zyuganov. Earnestness of religious affiliation of both political camps, liberals and communists, is subject to doubt.

It may be that religion has not yet taken the place in mass conscience it deserves. Anyway, one can be sure that it is set on gaining importance in public conscience. It concerns both the elder generation (people get more inclined to believe in God as they approach the threshold of death) and younger people born in the 1980s. It is in their conscience that some spiritual "void" exists, previously occupied by Lenin, the Party, communist ideals and the belief in better future. Official ideology, especially in the years preceding the perestroika, by all means propagated ideas of the sacrosanctity of marxism-leninism and the Bolshevik pantheon from Vladimir Lenin to Leonid Brezhnev. Communist doctrine merely tried to perform the functions which in normal society are performed by religion.

After leninism was divested of its quasireligious status, society felt the need to replace it with new irrational ideals which might be believed in. This need was felt especially strongly in connection with the education of the younger generation. However, contrary to the apprehensions of communists (and nationalists), ideals of revolution and developed socialism will not be supplanted solely by mass culture and alien moral values. Some young people, despite the strong influence of traditions imported from abroad and stereotypes adhered to by the older generation, show interest in religious beliefs and rites. No efforts are made now to impose either atheistic or religious ideas on the youth.

We are observing the formation of a generation accustomed from its birth to making an independent choice of its spiritual and psychological self-identification. Using this right, many ethnic Muslims choose Islam. "When reforms started, education of young people in the spirit of Islam became possible, and the Muslims of the Russian Federation started to feel they were part of the Islamic world," says R. Gaynutdin(6).

Interest in religion is stimulated by the growing number of religious publications, politicization of religion and its growing influence within society. Ever greater number of young people associate religious affiliation with ethnic origins, while synthesis of religious and national traditions makes either of them stronger both in individuals`  minds and in public conscience. In historical perspective, the process which is now called "religious renaissance" is more important for the younger generation which most probably will carry on the religious tradition terminated or at least ousted from the country`s spiritual and cultural life after the revolution of 1917.

All this also concerns the revival of Islam. However, in our opinion, it in some significant aspects is different from the recovery of the major religion of the Russian Federation, Greek Orthodox Christianity. First, compared to Christianity, Islam's influence on its potential adherents in the so-called Muslim ethnic groups remained strong. Attacks on Islam were less severe than on the Orthodox Church, because atheistic propaganda and political reprisals targeted first of all the country`s chief religion. Besides that, its resistance to the atheistic (or any other external) pressure was more vigorous and at the same time flexible due to its internal cohesion and union between spiritual and secular principles. Hence Isla's deeper entrenchment in society both in religious and secular spheres. Islamic religion was humiliated and deformed by the Soviets but it managed to survive in its ethnic milieu's everyday life. In other words, on the perestroika eve it had an organic sociocultural basis for recovery. This basis was almost annihilated in Orthodox Christianity, and its restoration, started anew, is symbolized by the re-construction of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

Second, Islam in Russia is a religion of ethnic minorities. This means that Islamization is to a great extent a factor of ethnic self-identification for the Muslims or means of their survival within an ethnically and religiously different majority. This is especially true of Tatars, Bashkirs and the Islamic diaspora. The sense of belonging to a national and cultural community, to a great deal lost or blurred in an urban environment, is reconstituted by the return to religious traditions. Growth of minorities' religious awareness is clearer and more consistent compared to the majority. Sociologists say that back in 1993, 67% of Russian Tatars were believers (7), and the percentage has certainly grown since then. According to the Kazan-based sociologist R. Musina, in 1994, 86% of the rural and 66.6% of the urban population of Tatarstan were believers (in 1989, 43.4% and 31.1% respectively)(8). Though such polls were not conducted in the Northern Caucasus, sociologists suppose that almost 100% among its Islamic ethnic groups are believers or at least share the ideas of Islam.

Third, the Islamic revival in Russia is supported by Muslim countries. Along with direct financial, educational and other assistance, this support takes the form of spiritual reunification of the Russian Muslims with their coreligionists in the Islamic world, first of all in the Middle East, the cradle of Islam. The Russian Muslims have started to feel they are part of the universal Islamic community. Though a minority within the Russian Federation, they outnumber Orthodox Slavs in global terms (Muslims live in 130 countries, in 35 of which they predominate). While for the Orthodox Christian Russians their religious rebirth is their own, purely national phenomenon, the restoration of Russian Islam is envisioned as the task for the entire Islamic ummah. Middle Eastern countries see in it the natural process of their northern coreligionists` return into the fold of Islamic civilization and re-establishment of contacts which have existed since the Middle Ages but never grown into close ties. The rebirth of Islam makes the Muslims living on the Volga and in the Northern Caucasus, Ural and Siberia more confident. This process is also connected with the phenomenon of EuroIslam which may become a great challenge for the future.

Fourth, the revival of Islam is not a purely religious process. Its integral component is the re-politicization of the Muslim religion. The advent or, more exactly, the return of Russian Islam to politics may exert its influence on forces acting in society on the regional level or even on Russia`s foreign politics. It seems that in the mid-1990s this was realized by the establishment, as it was earlier realized by the opposition.

Politicization of Islam is evidently stimulated by the Kremlin`s policy of deteriorating relations with the Muslim areas, which culminated in the war in Chechnya. This war without doubt caused the growth of radicalism among the Russian Muslims, awakening in their minds the idea of Islamic solidarity.

The clear criterion for the revival of Islam like any other religion is the growth in the number of Muslim parishes and mosques. On 1 January, 1997, Russia had 2,738 registered Muslim associations including 2,587 mosque parishes. In total, Muslim associations make up one fifth of all religious associations registered in the country. It should be remembered that in 1937(9) the Russian Federation had about one hundred registered mosques, in 1956, 949 (10), in 1986, 189, in 1991, 870 (11). Raul Tukhvatullin says in Nezavisimaya Gazeta that in 1995 there were 5 thousand mosques in Russia(12).

The Northern Caucasus excluded, Tatarstan has the highest number of mosques: 700 in the beginning of 1997 (18 of them in Kazan), then comes Bashkiria with some 490 mosques(13), Orenburg Region with 75 mosques and religious associations, Ulyanovsk Region 50, Samara Region 41, Sverdlovsk Region 38, Chelyabinsk Region 36, Nizhny Novgorod, Penza and Tyumen Regions 35 in each, and Perm Region 33.

Mosques are also opened in places where Muslim communities are small and dispersed, like Irkutsk, where finance (300 mln. rubles) for repairs was provided by the World Muslim League(14), Novosibirsk, Saransk (where a former kindergarten has been converted into a temporary mosque, and local authorities have assigned 600 mln. rubles for the construction of a new one)(15), or Noginsk near Moscow. Mosques are built in places lying far from traditional Islamic centers like the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region. The Turkish company Ata is building a mosque in its capital Salekhard where Muslims make up 20% of the population(16).

Special note should be paid to Moscow mosques whose number is growing with a steady though slow pace. By the early 1990s, Moscow had only the Cathedral Mosque. In 1991, after long pleadings with the authorities, Muslims were given back the so-called Historical Mosque. During the subsequent years, Moscow` s sizable Muslim community had just four mosques at its disposal (including the memorial mosque on Poklonnaya Gora commemorating soldiers fallen in WWII). In 1996, for the first time in 93 years, the construction of a mosque with madrasah was started in the North-West District. The construction is carried on by the Hilyal Charity for the Development of Spiritual Heritage, chaired by Academician R. Bayazitov, and the Yardym Islamic Association (17). By 2000, Moscow will probably have seven mosques (18).

The repairing of old mosques and the construction and registration of new ones are especially active in some of the North Caucasian republics, Daghestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia. According to official records, in 1997 Daghestan had 1200 mosques and associations, Ingushetia 400, Kabardino-Balkaria 96, and Karachaevo-Cherkessia 91 (official information on Chechnya is unavailable; according to the author` s estimate, it has about one thousand mosques). At the same time any information on the number of mosques in Islamic areas, especially the Northern Caucasus, may not be taken as absolutely trustworthy. Not all parishes apply for registration, while the registration of those which do is often delayed.

Unregistered mosques existed even under the Soviets which had to tolerate them. According to G. Mikhaylov, Director of the Department for Relations with Religious Organizations, Council of Ministers of the Russian Federation (who formerly held a high-ranking post in the Council for Religious Affairs, USSR Council of Ministers), in 1986 the Russian Federation had 189 registered and 311 unregistered mosques (in 1975 the figures were even more striking, 159 and 455). The same source says that in 1980, 335 Muslim priests in the RSFSR were performing their functions officially, while 1245 imams and mullahs were actively practicing without official registration (19).

The difference between the number of registered and unregistered parishes remains. According to Daghestan`s Mufti S.-M. Abubakarov, this republic in 1997 had about 3.5 thousand mosques, while the Caucasian scholar V. Bobrovnikov asserts that in late 1994 Daghestan had as many as 5 thousand mosques. The largest mosque in Russia, accommodating 8 thousand worshippers, has been built in the Daghestani capital Makhachkala. (The second largest mosque with the capacity for 5 thousand worshippers was founded in 1992 in Naberezhnyye Chelny, Tatarstan. However, its construction was suspended due to financial problems.)

The difference in figures attests to the pace of religious awakening which official authorities fail to duly record rather than to the existence of half-legal Muslim associations.

Parishes and mosques arise everywhere in the areas with Islamic population. The "unexpected" appearance of mosques or Muslim cemeteries sometimes causes misunderstanding or even displeasure of local non-Muslim communities who traditionally think of their neighborhoods or even the entire country as monoreligious. Mosques and minarets with their distinctive architecture, broadcasting the azzan call for prayer do look exotic in a Russian city. However, they will be accustomed to, as they have been accustomed to in Paris, Marseilles or other cities of France where the North African Muslims are not even indigenous population.

Much finance is needed for the repairing of old mosques and the construction of new ones. Russian official authorities with their constant money shortages do not often come up with the required financing. Farid Asadullin notes with sadness that in accordance with the Program for the Study, Preservation and Restoration of the Cultural Heritage of the Russian Federation, adopted by the Russian Ministry of Culture, tens of millions of rubles are assigned for the repairing of the existing mosques, compared to 8.5 billion assigned for Orthodox Christian uses (21). However, in the autumn of 1994 the Russian President decreed to provide 2.2 billion rubles for the restoration of mosques controlled by the Central Muftiyyat (22). Though local authorities in some regions provide financing to Islamic parishes, it is usually meager. In this situation the Russian Muslims place some hopes with their more well-to-do coreligionists in the Middle East. However, according to Ravil Gaynutdin, such assistance "'has so far been too insubstantial" . In the spring of 1993, R. Gaynutdin was complaining that the Muslims of Russia were receiving no finance from either Saudi Arabia or other Arab countries. In the summer of the same year he was saying that of $1.5 million promised by Saudi Arabia to Russia` s Islamic community as little as $400 thousand had been received, while the construction of one mosque in Saudi Arabia itself or Pakistan requires $50-69 million(23). Still, Sheik al-Ansari of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi ambassador Abdel Aziz Muhiddin Hadji assisted in the restoration of the historical Tatar mosque in Moscow, and ethnic Caucasians from Arab countries help build small mosques in the Northern Caucasus(24).

Talgat Tadzhuddin, Mufti for the European Part of the Commonwealth of Independent States and Siberia, agreed with R. Gaynutdin, saying in 1992 that "(foreign) donations were very few". In 1991, the United Arab Emirates donated $250 thousand to the Muftiyyat, and in 1992 the Islamic Development Bank and the Organization of the Islamic Conference provided $414 thousand for the development of theological education in Bashkiria, Tatarstan and Moscow (25). However, there neither exists nor is expected any special pan-Islamic program of assistance for the Muslims of Russia.

In fact, the Muftis do not take into account the money received during the 1990s by the Islamic organizations which they do not recognize, including the Center for Islamic Culture, which since its foundation in 1991 has gained some prominence, the University of Islamic Civilization, some provincial centers, etc. In the late 1980s - early 1990s, Russian Muslims, especially religious activists and public figures, were experiencing an euphoria of the expectation of financial support for Russia`s renascent Islam. They were bombarding delegations from rich oil-producing countries with requests of assistance. Sometimes money provided for religious purposes was put to commercial use. Millions of dollars may have been misused in this way, though exact figures are unavailable. Some time later guests from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE, taken aback by the shower of requests (which sometimes looked like extortion), became less credulous, cutting the amounts of financing. (Meeting some time ago a Saudi delegation, the author, to dispel their apprehensions, announced from the very beginning that he was not going to ask about subsidies for an Islamic conference or publication. The guests smiled understandingly, and the meeting took place in a cordial atmosphere.)

One of the key aspects of the revival of Islam was the creation and development of a system of religious education. By the late 1990s, it included three grades:

optional (Sunday school-type) madaaris at rural and urban mosques where young Muslims were educated in the elementary precepts of Islam;

two-year madaaris at urban and cathedral mosques;

higher Islamic schools.

The second and third grades were designed to educate Muslim clergy. (During the last years of Communist rule, Muslim clergymen in the USSR were trained only at the Mir-Arab Madrasah in Bukhara, and at the Rizaetdin Fakhretdin Madrasah in Ufa and the Imam al-Bukhari Institute of Islam in Tashkent, opened in the late 1980s.)

In the beginning of 1997, Russia had over 100 institutions of Islamic education, besides numerous mosque schools (26). Over 800 young Muslims study abroad, in Saudi Arabia, Libya, Qatar, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, etc. (27). In 1995, as many as 400 people went from Daghestan to study at institutes abroad(28). And even this figure is not exhaustive, since some young people go to study abroad on their own, using their families`  funds.

Religious education develops along two lines: first, introduction of rank-and-file Muslims to religious knowledge (including basics), second, education of Muslim clergy whose professional level remains generally low. Imams and mullahs make mistakes when performing religious rites (it is known that in the mid-1990s, people who wanted to bury their relatives according to the Islamic customs still could not find a knowledgeable mullah), are badly versed in the Qur` an and have a poor command of Arabic. Neither does the Russian Islamic community have its own theologians. All this makes the professional training of imams, mullahs and teachers of religious disciplines who would subsequently become efficient propagators of the religious tradition an urgent task.

The most authoritative institutions of Muslim education are the Higher College of Islamic Theology created in 1994 by the Muftiyyat for the Central European Region of Russia, Muhammadiya Madrasah in Kazan, the oldest Muslim educational institution in Russia, reopened in 1992, and the Islamic Institute created by the Madrasah of Ufa (29).

The Institute of Religion and Philosophy was opened in 1995 in Naberezhnyye Chelny. This is a non-governmental school without any state financing, where full-time course of studies costs 2 million rubles, part-time, 750 thousand rubles (30). In the early 1990s, Russia` s largest Muslim higher school was the National Institute of Islam in Grozny which provided free education to 420 students(31). This was the only institute whose two departments educated Shari`a jurists. The school had on its staff 12 teachers from Jordan, Syria, Sudan and other Arab countries. Its activities were disrupted by the war. The Islamic Medical School opened in 1992 in Makhachkala was unique for Russia. It admitted both Muslim and non-Muslim girls. According to the School` s Director Gadzhi Gasanov, it educated "both Islamic missionaries and highly-qualified medical personnel"(32).

Muslim schools differ in their appearance very much. Some are well-established, others look shabby because of little or no financing. However, the dedication of shakirds and talibs to their studies is evident everywhere. While in major centers it may be to a great extent career-motivated, elsewhere motifs include religious zeal. It is evident that these few thousand students and those who will follow them will finally exert their influence on the spiritual and moral condition of the Russian Muslim community, first of all in its heartland. Most of those who chose the spiritual career were telling the author that after graduating from their madaaris or institutes they would go back to their towns or villages to become mullahs or imams and propagate the principles of Islam. The esteem with which these young people referred to their spiritual preceptors and Islamic authorities was remarkable. Quite naturally, the moral and spiritual condition of the young Muslims should not be idealized; however, it is in this age, from 12 to 20-22 years, that their basic moral values and individual principles are being formed.

The Abu Hanifa Madrasah in Naberezhnyye Chelny may be given as an example of a fairly well-established Islamic school of second grade (33). In 1996, the madrasah, converted from a former kindergarten, had 68 shakirds, the oldest of whom was 26 years of age. It`s premises were almost ideally clean and fairly well furnished. The course of studies lasted two years; diplomas were issued to graduates. It had three foreign teachers on its staff, two from Jordan and one from Tajikistan. Religious disciplines and Arabic were the principal emphasis. Shortage of textbooks was noticeable. Rector Rustem-hazrat Shaykhevaliyev complained that the madrasah had no financial benefits and had to pay 30 million rubles solely for heating in winter time.

The 1100th Anniversary of Russian Islam Madrasah housed in the Zakabannaya Mosque, one of the most influential parishes in Kazan, looked poorer. Classrooms were separated by plywood partitions, desks and chairs were old, wires hang on walls. No computers, TV sets or other modern equipment could be seen. Nevertheless, despite the primitive conditions, shakirds` attendance was very high. Rector Iskhak Lutfullin (former artillery lieutenant colonel of the Soviet Army who received his military education in Leningrad) was pleased with his students and was saying that future generations would restore the norms of the Islamic way of life within the Muslim community of Russia.

Many madaaris and institutes including those described above have the status of boarding schools, because students coming from villages or small towns live there on permanent basis. This creates the additional problems of board and extracurricular activities.

The Islamic community of Russia so far does not have a uniform educational program. Neither do some of the Muftiyyats. No Muslim authorities or teachers are developing such a program. This may be explained, on the one hand, by the lack of good professionals, on the other, by the continuing disagreements between the Muftiyyats. Some Muslims believe that no such program is required at all, since it is enough for a Muslim to be able to read the Qur` an, know the generally accepted interpretation of the basic suras and correctly perform the Islamic rites. Others disagree, insisting that a carefully designed religious education is required, including the study of the history of Islam, fundamentals of Islamic philosophy and contemporary problems.

Anyway, most of the Muslims are still in need of basics(34). At the same time the wave of interest in Islamic education which rose in 1991-1993 has subsided. This is attested to by the fact that admission to most of Islamic schools is without competition, groups and centers of Islamic studies are less active and attendance at madaaris is rather low. Many mosques are also empty, including those recently opened. The virgin white snow around the jasper- and ophiocalcite-decorated Toube (Penitence) Mosque, opened in Naberezhnyye Chelny in July 1992, gives a sad impression. The mosque which may house up to 340 men and 140 women has a 120-seat conference hall, library and hotel (half of the 250-thousand population of the city are Muslims).

Religious education among other aspects includes the correct reading of the Qur'an. The traditional Qur'an reading competition for children was revived in Russia in 1996. The winner was awarded with hadj and participation in the international Qur`an reading competition. In 1996, the first award of this competition in Cairo was won by the Kumyk girl Zukhayrat, who represented Daghestan.

One of the aspects of the Islamic renaissance is the restoration of religious traditions in everyday life, including a number of Shari` a prohibitions abandoned during the Communist rule. Among other things, it concerns the prohibition of alcoholic drinks. In some regions with sizable Muslim populations the sale of liquors is restricted or even prohibited during Islamic feasts. In 1996, the President of Ingushetia prohibited to sell alcoholic drinks during the fast. The Republic`s Interior Ministry was instructed to enforce compliance. Similar developments have taken place in Tatarstan (where, for example, the prohibition imposed in 1997 by the authorities of the Muslyumovsky District on the importation of alcoholic drinks coincided with the month of ramadan)(35). Return to traditions is especially intensive in the Northern Caucasus, first of all in Chechnya for whose Muslims Islam has become the ideology of resistance to Russia. Islamic rules of behavior are adhered to there as never before. Smokers in the street of Grozny are very rare during ramadan. Use of liquors has decreased (this is less true of rebels who are still addicted to alcohol and drugs).

Muslim wedding rites and ritual circumcision of boys are practiced everywhere. While in rural areas and small towns these rites were observed despite prohibitions even during the Communist rule, they were gradually abandoned in major centers. The religious rebirth once again makes them part of the urban Muslim`s way of life. In 1992, the Russian Center of Sunnet (Ritual Circumcision) was opened at Children Clinic No. 1 in Moscow (36). Such centers are gradually arising elsewhere. It is noteworthy that even people who in the early 1990s treated Muslim rites with irony started to perform them by the late 1990s. Many of the zealous Muslims are urban intellectuals coming from various ethnic diasporas, who grew up in a Slavic milieu.

Sometimes the efforts to introduce Islamic rites into secular life take a grotesque turn, resembling the activities of Orthodox clergymen who are ready to take part in any public events, from the inauguration of the President to the consecration of the runway at Sheremetevo 1 Airport or Moscow casinos. For example, in 1991, mullahs prayed for success of the runner Liliya Nurutdinova who was leaving for the world light athletics championship (where she won gold)(37). The idea was carried on by the Orthodox Church: in January 1998 Russian athletes who were departing for the Winter Olympics in Nagano received the blessing from Archbishop Sergius of Solnechnogorsk, rector of the Church on Poklonnaya Gora.

One of the revived Islamic rites is hadj, pilgrimage to the holy Muslim sites of Mecca and Medina. During the Communist rule, hadj from the USSR was reduced to minimum. Authorities tried to make contacts of the Soviet Muslims with their foreign coreligionists as difficult as possible, fearing that they might be subjected to alien ideological influence or compare their way of life with the way of life in the oil-producing countries of the Persian Gulf. Hadjis were carefully selected and included loyal representatives of the spiritual elite, trustworthy Muslim veterans of war and agents of special services. In some sense, "Soviet hadj"  may be compared to tours of capitalist countries, where participants were also selected on ideological grounds (the financial burden of hadj was principally borne by the Muftiyyats). According to the Supreme Council of the USSR, as little as 31 Soviet Muslims could "visit Mecca and perform their spiritual duty"  in 1989 (compared to 9-10 thousand before the Bolshevik Revolution)(38).

In the 1990s, hadj was made (sometimes more than once) by all famous Muslim politicians of Russia, including Ruslan Khasbulatov, former speaker of the Supreme Council, Ramazan Abdulatipov, former deputy chairman of the Federation Council and now vice premiere, Aman Tuleyev, former minister for CIS affairs and now governor of the Kemerovo Region, presidents of Russia``s autonomous republics on the Volga, Mintimer Shaymiyev of Tatarstan and Murtaza Rakhimov of Bashkiria, and in the Northern Caucasus, Aslan Maskhadov of Chechnya, Ruslan Aushev of Ingushetia and others, MPs, muftis, leaders of Islamic parties and unions and public figures.

Two thirds of pilgrims come from the Northern Caucasus, first of all Daghestan. In 1990, when the authorities started to abandon their policy of selecting candidates for hadj, 345 Daghestanis took part in the first big "perestroika pilgrimage". In 1991, 1500 pilgrims from the entire USSR included 900 Daghestanis (39). For comparison, in 1993 as little as 170 people went on hadj from Tatarstan(40). In 1992, there were as little as 450 pilgrims from the European part of Russia and Siberia.

Information on the number of pilgrims is contradictory. According to the newspaper Kuranty (29 May, 1996), 10 thousand Russian Muslims went on hadj in 1996, while Nezavisimaya Gazeta (1 June, 1996) gives 12 thousand. The figure given by Komsomolskaya Pravda (27 July, 1996), 25 thousand, is based on Saudi Arabia` s supposed quota of 1 person per 25 thousand Muslims, and the newspaper believes there are 25 million Muslims in Russia. However, it is known that the Russian Muslims have never used their quota in full.

Up to 80% of pilgrims, most of them Caucasians, travel to Arabia` s holy cities by road. Others go by air. Costs are paid partly by Islamic charities and partly by the Saudi king, who compensates the Russian pilgrims`  royalty, the charge payable for entry to the kingdom by air and for visa. It is known that the Muftiyyats and Islamic public organizations which organize hadj usually request and receive financial assistance from the Government and President of Russia. Financiers of the Russian Union of Muslims and the Center for Islamic Culture give the (somewhat overestimated) average figure of $1,420 for one Russian pilgrim` s hadj costs(41).

From time to time political and other intrigues arise in connection with the pilgrimage organization and financing. In June 1991, hadj brought about a serious conflict between the Muslims and the secular administration and the Muftiyyat of Daghestan. Initially the Daghestani Muftiyyat requested from the Kremlin permission for 2 thousand Daghestanis to make hadj, then the figure was changed to 10 thousand (42). Muslims were told that everyone who wanted could go to Mecca. This promise was supported by neither finance nor authority of Daghestan`s administration (the events were taking place during the last months of the existence of the USSR). When it requested the Soviet prime minister V. Pavlov to facilitate the issue of international passports, grant discounts for the travel to the holy cities and back, make payments to Aeroflot in rubles rather than US dollars and allow the pilgrims to exchange currency at a lower rate, the request was rejected.

Not all of the would-be pilgrims were motivated by their beliefs. As it proved later, for many of them pilgrimage was a profitable commercial trip.

The few thousand pilgrims and their supporters who gathered in the central square of Makhachkala were demanding what they had been promised. Tension was running high, as the meeting was taking a clearly antigovernment turn, encouraged by the hesitation of the authorities and the solidarity of some high-ranking officials with the protesters. For example, the housing and utilities minister M. Bagandaliyev shouted "Allah akbar" and raised his clenched fist when he was addressing the meeting. The situation became critical after it was announced that 850 instead of 2,000 people would be allowed to go on pilgrimage. When army was brought into the city, passions were running still higher: the protesters started to break windows in the administrative buildings, trying to get in. They were met with shots. There were casualties, and emergency was declared in Makhachkala.

These events were the most critical episode in connection with hadj. Administrators of Muslim areas and pilgrims themselves learnt the lesson. No such occurrences took place later. Difficulties associated with hadj were mainly financial and administrative.

Muslim mass media which played their role in the rebirth of Islam were publications of the Muftiyyats, Muslim parishes or other religious associations. Before the early 1990s, such publications in Russia were virtually non-existent. The magazine Bulgar published by the Muftiyyat for the European Part of Russia and Siberia had a restricted circulation, very rarely reaching ordinary Muslims. Islamic periodicals started to appear from the early 1990s, when the restricted glasnost was gradually replaced with a full-fledged democracy, and the Muftiyyats and Islamic organizations started to receive finance for their newspapers. The article about Islam published in 1993 in Moscow News mentioned just three Islamic periodicals in Russia: Muslim Herald (Saratov), Islamic News (Makhachkala) and Wahdat (Moscow)(43).

The principal criteria for an Islamic newspaper are, first, the status of its publisher (mosque, Muftiyyat, Islamic party or other Muslim organization or group), second, its religious educational intentions. The description of tasks pursued by Islamic News given by its chief editor Maksud Gadzhiyev in this newspaper is eloquent enough, "First, the staff... were carrying on propaganda and education among the Muslim population, in mosques, madaaris, get-togethers and meetings, in mass media, etc. In this way Islamic News was promoting the Muslims` spiritual rebirth... Second... they were giving an objective picture of the countru`s political life... Third, they were openly propagating Islamic values among the Russian-speaking population"(44). This shows that an Islamic newspaper can possibly be the focus for a local Muslim community. Most of the Islamic periodicals are not exclusively religious. They discuss political problems, especially when they are published by parties or movements.

All major Muftiyyats have their newspapers. Quite natural, their readership is restricted to their respective areas or regions. The newspapers Light of Islam (Ufa) of the Central Muftiyyat and Islam Minbare of the Muftiyyat for the European Part of Russia and Siberia (whose chief editor is the famous Eastern scholar T. Saidbayev) are among the more popular. Islam and Society is published in Ufa by the Muftiyyat for Bashkortostan which stands in opposition to the Central Muftiyyat. Islamic Herald in Saratov and Bayt Allah in Ulyanovsk are also noteworthy. Faith is the publication of the Supreme Coordination Center of the Muftiyyats, created in 1994 (though its official founder is the Muhammadiya Madrasah in Kazan).

Created in 1990, the Iman Youth Center for Islamic Culture in Tatarstan has been publishing since 1991 the newspaper Iman in Tatar and, since 1994, its Russian-language version Vera. Since 1993, the Center has been publishing what may be the only religious and scientific periodical in Russia, the bilingual magazine Islam Nury whose authors include both clergymen and scientists and, since 1994, the magazine Yakyyn.

The newspapers Wahdat ("Unity") published by the Islamic Renaissance Party and Banner of Islam published in the Caucasus by activists associated with the Union of Russian Muslims may be cited as examples of political publications. The former publication has claimed and the latter still claims the status of a national periodical. They are distributed at all national fora of Russian Muslims. In the late 1997 or early 1998 the former first secretary of the Union of Russian Muslims Ahmet Khalitov started to publish his own newspaper The Voice of Ahmet.

The newspaper Altyn Urda published in Tatar and Russian by the Tatar radical party Ittifak and the Chechen magazine Islaman Zanarsh ("Dawn of Islam") whose publication ceased when the war broke out had ethnic alongside religious concerns.

Some publications endeavored to stay independent of political groupings and the Muftiyyats. In the Northern Caucasus these are the previously mentioned Islamic News and its monthly supplement The Light of Islam (they, as well as The Way of Islam, are published in Makhachkala). In 1994, the publication of the newspaper Ahmadiye was attempted in Moscow by a sect of the same name which is not recognized by the Orthodox Muslims.

It is hardly possible to establish the exact number of Islamic religious publications which is constantly changing. Many (if not most) newspapers are published irregularly due to financial problems and the restricted number of professional authors.

Almost all the newspapers publish works by the major religious authorities, most of whom would be qualified as radicals by European scholars and politicians. Most often these are the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Pakistani theologian Abul A`la Maududi, Egyptian theologian Jusuf Kardavi, and Hassan at-Turabi, the leader of Sudan`s Muslim Brothers. Foreign theologians` materials are intended to compensate the lack of Russian imams and ulams` theoretical works and sermons. The most popular Russian authors are the clergymen Ravil Gaynutdin, Talgat Tadzhutdin, Mukaddas Bibarsov and Nafigullah Ashirov, the Islamic philosopher Haydar Djemal and the famous Islamic intellectual Waliahmed Sadur. All of them are published by both religious and secular periodicals.

Educational materials play an important role in Islamic mass media. In the early 1990s, newspapers were explaining to the Muslims the rules of prayer and the meaning of religious feasts. Extracts from the Qur`an alongside tafsira (interpretations) and the Sunnah, the book of stories about the life and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, are often published. Russian publication of Qur`anic suras was for many Muslims the first chance to read the Qur`an themselves instead of hearing it in the Arabic, unintelligible even though pronounced by an honored mullah. New Russian translations of the Qur`an were published by the mid-1990s: the prosaic version by M.-N. Osmanov (with academic commentary) and the poetic version by V. Porokhova, which was published with the subtitle "Translation of Meanings" and quickly won popularity. Porokhova`s translation became widely known among both Russian Muslims and non-Muslims.

Many materials address the history of Islam in the world and in the specific area where the publication circulates. The issue of Islamic fundamentalism is often discussed, usually in positive terms, apart from extremism or terrorism.

The Islamic press is devoted to the liquidation of religious illiteracy, often in a simple or even simplistic form, which is however unavoidable and even productive in a country subjected during 70 years to the rabid atheistic propaganda. Islamic periodicals may criticize local authorities but almost never the President or his Government. Neither do they polemize with the Communists. On the other hand, the dangers of Russian nationalism and hegemonic claims of the Russian Orthodox Church recently started to be discussed (the radical Tatar newspaper Altyn Urde is especially critical).

Many Muslim authors feel freer when they reproach the Orthodox Church for its claims of leading role in the society in independent secular press. In his interview for Nezavisimaya Gazeta, reproduced by Tatarstan`s Shahri Kazan, T. Tadzhuddin was saying that "assertions of peaceful coexistence and mutual cooperation between Islam and Christianity" were "falsification", adding that "...even now massive pressure continues to be put on Islam: modern-day Christian missionaries are touring cities and villages... As a result, in 1994, 14 thousand Tatars in Kazan voluntarily converted to Christianity" (45). R. Gaynutdin is worried by the fact that today there are up to 90 thousand kryasheny, or Christian Tatars. "This is dangerous anyway," says the imam of the Cathedral Mosque in Moscow (46). The issue of mixed marriages is also raised. As its illustration may be given the article "Plea of a Suffering Mother: What Happens when you Marry an Infidel" signed by a "'suffering Muslim sister", published in the newspaper of the Muftiyyat for the Republic of Bashkortostan and the Dagvat Center. "Infidels are mellifluous, says the article, and they know how to court a girl, but when they get what they want, they start to treat you like a prostitute... Do not repeat my mistakes and do not waste your life" (47). This view is shared by M. Bibarsov who says, "...Muslim peoples of Russia are being assimilated. 45% of Tatars marry into another religion. If this movement is not reversed, won`t our descendants commemorate us in churches instead of mosques?"(48). It would be incorrect to discard such statements as "religious and nationalistic attacks" directed against non-Muslims, first of all Russians. One should remember that Islam played a key role in preserving the ethnic and cultural identity of the Tatar minority, and the assimilation of Tatar families who lived in an alien ethnic or religious milieu started from the abandonment of their religion. Negative attitude to mixed marriages seems to be the natural means of self-protection for Muslims, first of all the Muslim diaspora.

At the same time cases of conversion to Islam of Slavs (Russians, Ukrainians and Belorussians) have been recorded during the last few years. To some extent it was connected with the war in Afghanistan where a few dozens Slavs who were taken prisoner by the mujahids felt the attraction or even the magic of Islam, subjugating the will of an individual, allowing him to feel part of a monolithic community capable of self-sacrifice (in Islamic resistance) and adhering to simple puritanical principles. An attempt to analyze this phenomenon was made by Vladimir Khotinenko in his famous film The Muslim, where he managed, though not without some distortions, to show with respect Islam`s success in its competition with other religions. It is significant that the film won the First Award of the Council of Russian Muftis "for contribution into the dialogue between religions" (49).

It is known that the leadership of the Party of Islamic Revival included some converts. Interest in Islam was also showed by some Russian intellectuals (though non of the Slavic converts would stand comparison in terms of public or political importance or dedication to Islam with the famous French Muslim Roge Garodi, former member of the French Communist Party"s leadership). An attempt was made in 1991 to organize a Slavic Muslim parish at the Center for Islamic Culture in Moscow. The young people who grouped around the seventeen years old Igor Alekseyev believed that Islam was the religion of the future and were ready "to enunciate the Almighty`s ultimate way among the Slavs" (50). However, the parish was never created. In 1992, a group of Slavs was educated at the Cathedral Mosque in Moscow. In this connection, imam R. Gaynutdin was saying, "I am happy that Russians, Ukrainians... have learnt to read and write in Arabic and understand the Qur`an. This means that Christians and people of other religions can convert to Islam and believe truly" (51). However, Islamic parishes with a sizable share of Slavs can hardly appear in Moscow or any other Russian cities in the near future. What matters here is the fact that Islam does not confine its influence to ethnic Muslims solely. Islam in Russia confirms the assertion that it is now the only religion in the world trying to win new ethnic and cultural areas. This phenomenon is known best of all in Africa to the south of Sahara. It would be wrong to treat with irony the conviction of Islamic radicals that Islam will vigorously spread in Europe (which it already does) or that the "true rebirth of Russia"  is solely possible on the ways of its Islamization (or, more exactly, re-Islamization).

Muslim clerics are especially active in the Volga republics, first of all Chuvashia and Mordovia, where their principal adversary is not the "languid" Orthodox Christianity but paganism, which is recovering and claiming important positions in culture and ideology, and the very active Protestantism (for example, about 10 thousand Tatars have become Protestants in Tatarstan) (52) (53).

In their struggle against the so-called "non-traditional religions" , Muslim and Orthodox Christian clerics often combine their efforts, supported by the official authorities. Similar solidarity existed between them in their resistance to the atheistic regime even before the WWII.

Traditionalist and revivalist movements dominate in the ideology of Islamic renaissance. They both are characteristic of the entire Muslim world. Interacting or even clashing, they nevertheless constitute a whole. The two movements at work in the countries of the Middle East, India and South-East Asia have been analyzed by the major Russian Islamic scholars A. Ionova, L. Polonskaya, A. Sagadeyev, M. Stepanyants and others.

As represented now in Russia, these mindsets influence both the Islamic community` s internal condition and outlook and its relations with the state.

It should be noted that with rare exceptions neither Russian Islamic scholars nor ideologists of Islam themselves use these terms in their analysis of the ideas active in the Islamic revival. However, some of them, first of all radicals, readily employ the concept of fundamentalism which in accordance with their interpretation, moderate on the whole though sometimes subjective, is a positive phenomenon associated with revivalism.

Scholars so far have not made serious attempts to classify ideas discernible in the contemporary Russian Islam. As a rare exception may be cited an article of the Tatar analyst R. Mukhametshin who in his description of the religious conscience and ideology prevalent among the Muslims of Tatarstan set off three types, neotraditionalism, revivalism (also called fundamentalism) and reformism (54). In our opinion, this classification may be applied to the entire Islamic community of Russia. Though local conditions vary, these mindsets can be observed everywhere, in the Muslim areas on the Volga, diasporas of big cities like Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod and Omsk, and the Northern Caucasus.

Neotraditionalism and revivalism are more conspicuous. In his definition of neotraditionalism, R. Mukhametshin says, "This movement, which has its roots in history, was taking its contemporary shape during the Soviet era and to some extent still preserves its legacy. This is showed first of all by the fact that its adherents perceive and propagate Islam as a set of symbols of faith, petrified forms of religious thinking, rites and rituals" (55). If we accept this definition, the prefix "neo" becomes a misnomer, since the mindset represents a Soviet variety of Islamic traditionalism bent on preserving the customary or, according to the classics of Islamic reformism, "inert"  forms of Islam, including pre-Islamic and non-Islamic loans. The reformists who in the late 19th and early 20th centuries wanted to clean Islam of the later accretions, regaining the "purity"  of the age of the Prophet and the righteous Caliphs and the creative potential, directed their criticism against these traditionalists. Another task pursued by them was the creation of an "Islamic alternative"  to the Western model of development (56).

Unlike the rest of the Islamic world, traditionalism and reformism in Soviet Russia were not at loggerheads. Soviet atheistic regime was the principal adversary of both the jadid reformists who were quickly suppressed by the Bolsheviks and the traditionalists who were trying to defend their convictions even though they failed to conform to the Islamic dogmas. In fact, after the reformists were wiped out, traditionalism remained for a few decades the only form of Muslim thought.

Modernization of Islam which in the Middle East and South-East Asia was necessitated by the social, economic and cultural revolution, in the Soviet Union was reduced principally (though not exclusively) to the servile attitude practiced by the clergy to the authorities and the official ideology.

The phenomenon of revivalism was almost non-existent in Russia, unlike Central Asia, where revivalists became active during the 1970s. Islamic rebirth was sparked by the Muslims` desire to live in accordance with their ethnic and religious traditions which as often as not were at variance with the classical canons of Islam. For the Russian Muslims, Islamic revival means return to these traditions. Closely associated with ethnic outlook and its accompanying norms of behavior, traditionalism became the ideology of religious revival for the majority of Russian Muslims. It is remarkable that many clergymen in various areas still demand that foreigners teaching at religious schools abstain from giving their students interpretations of Islam and Shari` a which are alien to the Tatars, Bashkirs or Caucasians. The Islamic clergy of Russia is doing all it can to protect the liberal hanafit (or, in some areas of the Caucasus, shafiit) mazhab from the more radical malikit and especially hanbalit mazhab, close to wahhabism. Some clergymen are also suspicious of the growing number of Muslims studying abroad, because "...in 4 or 5 years they will return with different thoughts and ideas. It may be difficult for them to adapt to the Russian conditions..."(57).

However, some imams and muftis including the Siberian Mufti N. Ashirov believe that the Russian Muslims should not be separated with an iron curtain from other, more stringent, mazhabs.

Being self-sufficient and confined to pragmatism, traditionalism fails to satisfy the ambitions of young revivalist politicians. Nadirshah Khachilayev, Chairman of the Union of Russian Muslims, describes the traditionalists` position as follows: "They say, `Mosques are opened, prayers are allowed, what else do you need? The Qur`an may be read, be a true Muslim, nobody prohibits you to.` That is right, but there is another truth." He continues, "The community should be given the full instead of restricted possibility to study the orders and precepts of Allah and perform all the norms of Islam. This is the natural desire of the Russian Muslims" (58).

Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of Russia`s Islamic clergy may be classified as traditionalist. They carry on their preaching based on the customary traditions and are not inclined to appeal to the values of the "classical"  revivalism which in the minds of most Russian Muslims is associated with fundamentalism and even extremism.

In the Northern Caucasus, traditionalism has close links with the deep-rooted traditions of the Sufi tarikats of Nakshbandiya and Kadiriya whose adherents constitute the core of the North Caucasian Islam. Most of the Muslims in the Northern Caucasus, on the Volga and in the Ural do not see any irreconcilable differences between their ethnic and religious traditions and customs. Sociologist Denga Khalidov, member of the Political Council of the Union of Russian Muslims, says that the traditional Islam of the Northern Caucasus and its tarikats are characterized by " ...conformism, opportunism, moderateness and passivity. Alims or leaders of this movement... justify this political behavior by the social, psychological and political circumstances, referring first of all to the 70 years of belligerent atheism" (59). This characterization almost exactly reproduces the accusations launched during the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries against the Islamic traditionalists of North Africa by their reformist opponents.

However, whatever resemblance with the situation in North Africa, in Soviet Russia traditionalism played a positive role, because it ensured the preservation and survival of Islam during the Communist rule. It provided the natural and in fact the only possible basis for the religious revival in the 1980s - first half of the 1990s. It was the traditionalist conscience that accumulated the revivalist potential which after the removal of the atheistic fetters found its expression in the religious, sociocultural and political activities of the Russian Muslims.

Revivalism became the alter ago of Islamic traditionalism. This movement was born within a small group of Muslim intellectuals, first of all secular Muslim politicians, philosophers and public figures who wanted to break loose of the restrictions imposed by the "ritualistic reconstruction of Islam", seeing a chance, unthinkable in the USSR, to determine the way for the Russian Muslims as part of both the Russian society and the Islamic world rather than simply a religious community. An attempt of self-identification within the framework of "EuroIslam" , i.e. a specific segment of European non-Christian civilization, has been made within revivalism. According to Haydar Djemal, Russian Islam can become in the future the "backbone"'  of European Islam (60).

Unlike the Middle East, contemporary revivalism does not have deep philosophic or cultural roots in Russia, where Islamic thought has existed in the conditions of severe censorship and its rare proponents have been deprived of systematic contacts with their foreign counterparts. To some extent, revivalism has been transplanted to Russia from abroad under the influence of foreign theologians and politicians, first of all Arabs and Iranians. Russian revivalists do not and can not include figures comparable to the Egyptian philosopher Said Kutb, Pakistani thinker Abul A'la Maududi or Iranian theologians. Revivalism in Russia has somewhat artificial nature.

Nevertheless, it would be wrong to say that it is altogether alien to Russian Islam. However specific it may be, Russian Islam is still part of Islamic civilization like the Islam of Morocco or Indonesia. Its marginal status in geographic and, until recently, cultural and political terms does not deprive it of the legacy of Muslim history and tradition related to the activities of the Prophet Muhammad and the righteous Caliphs and other ages of the classical Islamic culture and philosophy. Ismail-bey Gasprinsky and Mirsaid Sultan-Galiyev whose influence reached the Middle East may be cited in this connection. It is known that the first president of independent Algeria Ahmed Ben Bella was attracted to the ideas of M. Sultan-Galiyev in the 1950s-60's.

The Russian version of Islamic revivalism is an original conglomerate of calls for the return to the "true Islam"  of the Prophet` s times, emphasis on the unity of secular and spiritual principles in Islam (whose culmination is the assertion of the unity of religion and politics, one of the "trump cards"  of Islamism), mystic (Sufi and quasi-Sufi) speculations and... traditionalism. After all, the practical revival of Islam is effected first of all by the traditionalists.

The aim pursued by Islamic revivalism is not the creation of an Islamic state on Russian soil (though sometimes statements are made to the effect that the optimal way of Russia`s recovery would be its Islamization which would be gradually effected as a result of the Muslims`  higher birthrate compared to other religions and the conversion to Islam of some minorities on the Volga and later the Slavs). Its aim is to create conditions in the society where each Russian Muslim could follow the Islamic way of life. This was said in the program of the Party of Islamic Revival and the documents of the Supreme Coordination Council of the Muftiyyats. "We should try to make our life in all its aspects conform to the Islamic law,"  N. Ashirov was saying (61).

According to the interpretation proposed by Haydar Djemal, the most consistent revivalist and at the same time mystic who is the best connoisseur of the Islamic philosophical tradition, "..Islam is not a religion of dogmatic ritual, inertia or archaism... Islam is the doctrine of the Prophets, carrying on the spiritual avant-guard of Abraham, Moses and Jesus" (62). G. Djemal appeals to an integral picture of the Islamic life and the Islamic spirit, extrapolating it onto the Russian society, its history, traditions and contemporary condition. He tries to employ Eurasian ideas, though he himself admits that they are "almost exhausted"  (63). Islamic revival is envisioned by Djemal in two aspects, as a purely Islamic process taking place within communities where radical religious ideas are dominant or at least very active and as a Russian-wide phenomenon where breakthrough is impossible without a spiritual recovery in which Islam as the most perfect final monotheistic religion of the world is destined to play a special role.

Unlike foreign Islam, where the conflict between traditionalism and revivalism has often been and still is rather acute, their adherents in post-Soviet Russia have usually been tolerant to each other, trying not to put too much emphasis on their differences. However, by the mid-1990s the conflict became evident. These age-long differences are especially conspicuous in the Northern Caucasus where in some cases they take the form of clashes between members of religious fraternities and "fundamentalists" or "wahhabis" . In 1995-1997 in the capital Makhachkala and other places in Daghestan six antifundamentalist protests took place. The biggest one in May 1997 in the Daghestani village Chabanmakhi included hostage taking and cost lives of a few people on both sides (64).

Revivalism, often identified (both by its partisans and opponents) with fundamentalism, and traditionalism are two Islamic ideologies which are only beginning their competition for the Muslims` minds and souls. They are so closely related that often a religious authority or politician associated with fundamentalist revivalists may be just as well qualified as a traditionalist. On the other hand, clerics declaring that their principal aim is the preservation of religious traditions suppressed by the Soviets call for Islam` s purification and political involvement. As an illustration may be given the opinion of Ahmadqadi Akhtayev, chairman (amir) of the Party of Islamic Revival associated with fundamentalism, "Sufi must be politician!"(65).

Finally, a few words should be said about Islamic reformism. In contemporary Russia, it does not enjoy the authority or influence it had in the Middle East during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The nascent market economy (analogous to capitalism brought to the East by the Europeans) encourages the Russian Muslim community to rethink the traditional ideas of social progress, public justice and dialogue between civilizations. This challenge is met equally well by traditionalism and revivalism, the latter in some cases using the concepts of reformism like the combination of the reconstruction of an ideal Islamic society with its integration into the context of international development. Invocations of Islam` s reformist past including such authorities as Muhammad Abdo or Jamaladdin Afghani are rare and mostly superfluous.

Polemics between traditionalists and revivalists may become more active in the near future as young graduates return from foreign Islamic institutes. Both camps may acquire new spiritual authorities.

After the initial spurt, the pace of Islamic revival has slowed down. It is quite natural, for the period when it was determined statistically by the number of new mosques, madaaris, parties and religious events has ended. Till the late 1990s, the process of Islamic revival was extensive. Neither was it accompanied by the growth of prestige of true Islamic scholarship, according to Islamic law specialist L. Syukiyaynen (66). The philosophy of Islamic revival in Russia is still in the process of gestation.

Its proponents' principal task may be the reinstatement of religion in the minds of people with "Islamic"  family names and the conscious assimilation of Islam by the younger generations of the Tatars, Chechens, Avarians and Bashkirs...


1. Malashenko A.V. Christianity and Islam in Russia: Dialogue Begins // Business and Politics. - 1997. - No. 1 - P. 49.

2. Relations between the State and the Church in Russia (Experience of the Past and Contemporary Condition). - M., 1996. - P. 82.

3. Metaphrasis. - 1997. - Issue 4-5. - May. - P. 33.

4. Time. - 1996. - May 27.

5. Pchelintsev A. Religion and Human Rights // Religion and Human Rights. - M., 1996. - P. 7.

6. Presentation of Ravil Gaynutdin at the Conference on Democracy and the Destiny of Islam in Russia, 1 July, 1996. - Interfax. - 1996. - 1 July.

7. Vorontsova L.M., Filatov S.B. Religion, Democracy, Authoritarianism // Polis. - 1993. - No. 3. - P. 144.

8. Musina R. Islam and Interethnic Relations in Contemporary Tatarstan // Iman Nury. - 1996. - No. 4. - P. 51.

9. Contribution to the Russian Statehood: Interview with Sheik Ravil Gaynutdin, Mufti for the Central European Region of Russia // VIP. - 1996. - No. 17.


11. Mikhaylov G. Islam in Russia // Yermakov I., Mikulsky Dm. Islam in Russia and Middle Asia. - M., 1993. - P. 18-19.

12. Tukhvatullin R. For who will the Muslims Vote? // Nezavisimaya Gaz. - 1996. - 1 June.

13. Yunusova A.B. Islam in Bashkortostan: History, Condition and Prospects for Development: Doctor Dissertation (History) / Russian Presidential Academy of Civil Service. - M., 1997. - P. 295.

14.Chto Pochem? [Irkutsk]. - 1996. - 10 September.

15. Izvestiya Mordovii. - 1996. - 30 May.

16. The same company is planning to reconstruct the Orthodox church of Sts. Peter and Paul.

17. Trud. - 1997. - 23 January.

18. Islam Minbare. - 1995. - No. 7. - July. - P. 2.

19. Mikhaylov G. Op. cit. - P. 18.

21. Nezavisimaya Gaz. - 1996. - 20 March.

22. Yana Suz = New Word [Moscow]. - 1994. - October-November.

23. See the interview with Ravil Gaynutdin, "True Fundamentalism Should not be Feared" (Mosk. Komsomolets. - 1993. - 20 July).

24. Contribution to the Russian Statehood: Interview with Sheik Ravil Gaynutdin, Mufti for the Central European Region of Russia // VIP. - 1996. - 13 April.

25. Nezavisimaya Gaz. - 1992. - 22 September.

26. Mubarak Faritov in his article "For who will the Muslims Vote?"  (Nezavisimaya Gaz. - 1996. - 1 June) mentions 50+ Islamic education institutions. Marat Murtazin, President of the High College of Islamic Theology, in his presentation at the Moscow 850th Anniversary Symposium gave the figure 100.

27. Nezavisimaya Gaz. - 1996. - 1 June.

28. Ros. Gaz. - 1996. - 19 April.

29. The Islamic Institute in Ufa has 60 students from Tatarstan, Chuvashia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and other areas; in 1997 it moved into a new building specially constructed for it in the district Sipaylovo.

30. Islam Minbare. - 1997. - No. 6. - June.

31. Skakunov E.I. with participation of Zorin V.Yu. and Turonok S.G. Chechen Conflict // Mezhdunar. Issled. - 1996. - 10. - P. 29.

32. Islamic News [Makhachkala]. - 1992. - 28 August.

33. Tatar-inform. - 1997. - 23 August.

34. Abu Hanifa (c. 699-767): famous Arab theologian and legal scholar, founder of hanafism, one of the four leading Islamic schools of law.

35. Due to the lack of Muslim teachers, representatives of other religions and even atheists are sometimes invited to teach at such centers. In 1992-1993, the author lectured on the history of Islam for Muslims. However, subsequently I abandoned this work, since I found it inappropriate to present the history of Islam from the Muslim point of view. The situation seemed quite ambiguous, as if a Muslim carried on Orthodox Christian propaganda among Slavs.

36. Islamic News. - 1992. - 14 May.

37. Moscow News. - 1991. - 19 December.

38. Zargishev M. With Allah``s Help along the Path of the Qur` anic Truth // Nezavisimaya Gaz. - 1993. - 2 April.

39. Kudryavtsev A.V. Islam in the Northern Caucasus // Post-Soviet Islamic space... - P. 159.

40. Izvestiya Tatarstana [Kazan]. - 1993. - 10 July.

41. Appendix to the Union of Russian Muslims`  Letter No. 76 of 20 March, 1996 (the author` s archive).

42. Islamic News. - 1991. - No. 6-7. - P. 2.

43. The Qur` an does not Shoot // Moscow News. - 1993. - 4 April.

44. Gadzhiyev M. Editor` s Report and Explanation for Pious Readers // Islamic News. - 1992. - No. 1. - February. - P. 6.

45. Nezavisimaya Gaz. - 1996. - 17 August.

46. Al-Qods. - 1993. - March.

47. Islam and Society [Ufa]. - 1994. - No. 10.

48. Address to Leaders of Religious, Public and National Organizations // Muslim Herald. - 1995. - April. - P. 1.

49. Islam Minbare. - 1997. - No. 4. - April.

50. Muslim Herald [Saratov]. - 1991. - No. 6. - P. 4.

51. Gaynutdin R. How to Become Muslim? // Al-Qods. - 1993. - March.

52. Islam and its False Representations: Interview with Ravil Gaynutdin // Lit. Gaz. - 1997. - 12 February.


54. Mukhametshin R.M. Dynamics of the Islamic Factor in the Tatars` Opinion during the 16th-20th Centuries (Historical and Sociological Essay) // Contemporary Ethnic Processes in the Republic of Tatarstan. - Kazan, 1994. - P. 112.

55. Ibid.

56. An attempt to analyze this phenomenon in the Arab countries was made by the author in the book: Malashenko V.V. In Search of an Alternative. - M.: Nauka, 1990.

57.Lit. Gaz. - 1997. - 12 February.

58. Khachilayev N. Reformism is Necessary // NG-religions. - 1997. - 24 July.

59. NG-religions. - 1997. - 24 July.

60. H. Djemal said this at the presentation of the Supreme Coordination Center of the Muftiyyats in April 1994 (the author` s shorthand record).

61. Address of the Executive Committee of the Muftiyyats to Leaders of Islamic Organizations (the author` s archive).

62. This statement of H. Djemal was printed on the back cover of the magazine At-Tauhid edited by him (1994. - No. 1).

63. Islam and Patriotism // Den. - No. 26 (54). - P. 4.

64.Network of Ethnological Monitoring and Early Conflict Prevention: Bulletin. - M., May 1997. - P. 28-31.

65. Akhtayev A. Sufi Must be Politician! // At-Tauhid. - 1994. - No. 1. - P. 15.

66. Syukiyaynen L.R. Does Russia Need an Islamic Legal Culture? // Post-Soviet Islamic Space... - P. 119.

Author: A.V. Malashenko;

All news

October 15, 2019 15:44

  • Law enforcers begin searching activists' houses in Rostov-on-Don and Krasnodar

    Searches in a case against the Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF) have been started in 30 regions of Russia, including at homes of an employee of the oppositionist Alexei Navalny's office in Rostov-on-Don and Yana Antonova, the former coordinator of the Krasnodar branch of the Open Russia (recognized in Russia as undesirable organization).

October 15, 2019 15:40

October 15, 2019 11:25

October 15, 2019 11:15

  • Azerbaijan angry at Russian MP's statement at NKR forum

    The Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has reacted negatively to the words of Konstantin Zatulin, a Russian State Duma MP, that "conscience and justice" in the Karabakh conflict are on the Armenian side. The Union of Azerbaijanis in Russia has also condemned Zatulin's statement.

October 15, 2019 08:58

  • Football fans rally in protest at Dutch Embassy in Baku

    Azerbaijani football fans are outraged by the refereeing of a Euro-2020 qualifying match by the Dutch referee, Dennis Higler. The referee had unjustly deprived the Azerbaijani national team of one goal and judged a defeat instead of a draw, the protesters are sure.

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