Migration, “Globalised” Islam, and the Russian State: A Case Study of Muslim Communities in Belgorod and Adygeya Regions

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In post-Soviet Russia, changing migration patterns have led to the formation of Muslim communities in new regions, and to increased contacts between Russian and foreign Muslims.  This article examines two Russian regions, Belgorod Oblast and the Republic of Adygeya, in which such post-Soviet mobility is causing political conflicts over the governance and rights of Muslim communities.  In Belgorod, regional authorities have blocked construction of a mosque for a new Muslim community.  In Adygeya, authorities seek to restrict foreign influences on local Muslims.  In both regions, officials still operate on the outdated Soviet assumption that they can contain the mobility of Islam.

Part I.     Introduction:  Migration and the Post-Soviet Islamic Revival in Russia
Migration does not just involve the movement of people.  It also entails the movement of cultures, ideas, and institutions.  While Russia’s post-Soviet Islamic revival has received extensive scholarly attention, this paper analyzes an important dimension of mosque-state relations in contemporary Russia which until now has not been fully theorised:  how changing post-Soviet patterns of migration are setting the stage for new disputes between organised Muslim communities and political authorities at both the federal and regional levels.  The article examines the effects of post-Soviet mobility on Muslim communities through two regional case studies.  Migration within Russia and into Russia from other post-Soviet states is creating new Muslim communities in regions where none have ever existed.  These new communities are increasingly demanding recognition of their Muslim institutions.  In addition, other aspects of migration—including both the recently regained right of Russian Muslims to travel abroad to Muslim countries, and liberalised entry and residence in Russia by foreign Muslims—are leading to the emergence of new community structures, methods of recruiting personnel, and ideas about Islam that conflict with those held by local Muslim hierarchies.  In short, post-Soviet migration challenges the ability of the Russian state to control Russian Islam and steer it in officially approved directions. 
Russia is a multi-ethnic state that for centuries has had a substantial Muslim minority.  At times, and in some respects, the state’s policy toward Muslim religious institutions has been encouraging.  The Russian Empire went further than other contemporary European states in creating officially supported Islamic institutions, in this respect anticipating the policies of contemporary European countries with large Muslim minorities (Crews, 2006, 88-90, 369).  For example, in the late 18th century, the Empress Catherine II commissioned a Russian translation of the Koran, authorised the opening of mosques and Muslim schools throughout her realm, and created a state-sponsored institution (the Muslim Religious Board, whose institutional descendants exist to this day) to supervise the religious affairs of her Muslim subjects (Yemelianova, 2002, 44). look : https://utoronto.academia.edu/MatthewLight

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