Russian Muslims: Religious Leaven in a Secular Society
Gradirovski, Sergei, Esipova, Neli, Harvard International Review
Islam in Russia is full of surprises. It suffered serious human and institutional losses during periods of extreme intolerance. In the nineteenth century, for example, Tsarist Russia rested on "orthodoxy, autocracy, populism"--the three "root essences" of Russian society put forth by Count Sergey Uvarov, the president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in 1833. Muslims in the North Caucasus region at times resisted two of those pillars--adherence to the Russian Orthodox Church and submission to Russian rule--and suffered persecution for their resistance. Under the Soviet Union's cult of militant atheism all religions were suppressed, and Islam was certainly no exception. The character of Islam in Russia has been affected for centuries by its close proximity to Slavic and Finno-Ugric cultures. But despite such challenges, the faith has survived in Russia, and its tenacity speaks to the devotion of the country's Muslim communities.
For the first time in 2007, the Gallup Poll provided a rare look at Russia's estimated 15 to 20 million Muslims. Gallup asked respondents in Russia: "Do you consider yourself to be religious, or not?" Those responding affirmatively were then asked for their religious affiliation. In addition to the national sample, supplementary interviews were conducted in two regions, Dagestan and Tatarstan, with high concentrations of Muslim residents. The resulting sample contained a total of 673 Russian Muslims.
Do Russian Muslims Adhere to Islamic traditions?
Perhaps the most obvious question regarding Muslims in Russia is the degree to which they adhere to traditional Islamic beliefs and practices in an environment where religious expression has been suppressed for so long. Gallup asked Muslim respondents about four of the five "pillars" of Islam, the five ritual practices considered the duty of every Muslim.
1. Namaz. About half of Russians identifying as Muslims (49 percent) say they never perform namaz, the ritual prayer in supplication to Allah. Among young Russian Muslim--those aged between 15 and 24--this number reaches two-thirds (66 percent). These figures are notable in light of the fact that calling oneself a Muslim and never performing namaz would be nonsensical in the Middle East or any other region of the Islamic world.
On the other hand, many Russians would be astonished by the fact that as many as 16 percent of Muslims living in the country perform namaz five times a day exactly as commanded, a difficult requirement for anyone involved in the mad rhythm of modern life. Furthermore, half (50 percent) of Russian Muslims feel it is necessary to create areas for namaz in public places and establishments, such as train stations, airports, universities, and institutes.
2. Shahadah. Just over half of Russian Muslims (54 percent) were able to correctly complete the Sha-hadab, the ritual Muslim declaration of faith, once the interviewer …
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Publication information: Article title: Russian Muslims: Religious Leaven in a Secular Society. Contributors: Gradirovski, Sergei - Author, Esipova, Neli - Author. Journal title: Harvard International Review. Volume: 30. Issue: 1 Publication date: Spring 2008. Page number: 58+. © 1999 Harvard International Relations Council, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group.
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