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.
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 the Russian Federation had about one hundred registered mosques, in 1956, 949, in 1986, 189, in 1991, 870. Raul Tukhvatullin says in Nezavisimaya Gazeta that in 1995 there were 5 thousand mosques in Russia.
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, 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, 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), 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.
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. By 2000, Moscow will probably have seven mosques.
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…