Islam in Tatarstan

Islam in Tatarstan existed prior to the tenth century, but it began major growth in 922, when Bulgar ruler Almış converted to Islam.[1] This was followed by an increase in missionary activity in Volga Bulgaria. Islam remained the dominant religion through the Mongol invasion and subsequent Khanate of Kazan. In 1552, the region was finally conquered by Russia, bringing the Volga Tatars and Bashkirs on the Middle Volga into the tsardom. Under Russian rule, Islam was suppressed for many years, first during the Tsardom and Empire and later during the Soviet era. Today, Islam is a major faith in Tatarstan, adhered to by 33.8–55 percent[2][3][4][5][6] of the estimated 3.8 million population, making it one of the two dominant religions in the region, the other being Orthodox Christianity.[7]

Marat Gatin is the minister for Interaction with Religious Organizations, a Presidential department.[8]


The earliest known organized state within the boundaries of Tatarstan was Volga Bulgaria (c. 700–1238 CE). The Volga Bulgars had an advanced mercantile state with trade contacts throughout Inner Eurasia, the Middle East and the Baltic, which maintained its independence despite pressure by nations such as the Khazars, the Kievan Rus' and the Kipchaks. In 921, Bulgar ruler Almış sent an ambassador to the Caliph requesting religious instruction.[1] Islam was introduced by missionaries[9] from Baghdad around the time of Ibn Fadlan's journey in 922. Almış' conversion to Islam made Volga Bulgaria the first Muslim state in what is now Russia.

Qolsharif and his students defend their mosque during the Siege of Kazan.

The Khanate of Kazan was conquered by the troops of Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible in the 1550s, with Kazan being taken in 1552. Many of the inhabitants of Kazan were forcibly converted to Christianity while others were drowned or forced to leave Kazan.[10] Cathedrals were built in Kazan; by 1593, mosques in the area were destroyed, and the Russian government forbade their construction. This prohibition remained in place until Catherine the Great lifted it in the 18th century. The first mosque to be rebuilt under Catherine's auspices began construction in 1766 and was completed four years later.

Soviet ruleEdit

On May 27, 1920, the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was created. Under Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Union began to place restrictions on the use of the Bulgar turki language, which used a variant of Arabic script. The Bulgar turki alphabet switched to Cyrillic. The development of national culture declined significantly and religion, including Islam, in Tatarstan was severely repressed. Volga Bulgarians were forcibly renamed to Tatars (an insulting exonym for Volga Bulgarians) by Soviet decree.

The 1921–1922 famine in Tatarstan was a period of mass starvation and drought that took place in the Tatar ASSR,[11][12] in which 500,000[13] to 2,000,000[14] peasants died. The event was part of the greater Russian famine of 1921–22 that affected other parts of the USSR,[15] in which up 5,000,000 people died in total.[16][17] In 2008, the All-Russian Tatar Social Center (VTOTs) asked the United Nations to condemn the 1921-22 Tatarstan famine as a genocide of Muslim Tatars.[18][19]

According to Ruslan Kurbanov, an expert on Islam in modern Russia, Volga Bulgarians have demonstrated a very constructive and effective way of developing their religious and national identity and widening their political autonomy within Russia. In the most difficult years of post-Soviet Russia — years of deep economic crisis and two Chechen wars — Tatars demonstrated phenomenal results in the economic development of their national republic.[20]

Russian President Vladimir Putin with Mufti of Tatarstan in Kazan

Recent developmentsEdit

In September 2010, Eid al-Fitr and May 21, the day the Volga Bulgars embraced Islam, were made public holidays.[21] Despite the holiday, the Kazan Federal University decided to hold classes on Eid al-Adha. This caused students to protest, with some declaring their intention to skip class and attend mosque services.[22] Tatarstan also hosted an international Muslim film festival which screened over 70 films from 28 countries including Jordan, Afghanistan and Egypt.[citation needed] The first halal food production facility opened with foreign companies expressing their interest to expand the project in Tatarstan. The recently opened facility produces 30 halal products and employs 200 people.[23]

In 2010 and 2011 Islamic banking was introduced.[24][25][26]

Kazan held the 8th international Quran Reader's Contest from 23 to 25 November, organized by the Russian Islamic University, which is based in Kazan. Ways of facilitating modern religious education in Tatarstan were also discussed.[27]


Islam is the majority faith in Tatarstan.[7] In 1990, there were only 100 mosques but that number, rose to well over 1000 by 2004. As of January 1, 2008, as many as 1398 religious organizations were registered in Tatarstan, of which 1055 are Muslim. Many of the Muslims in Tatarstan are practicing.[28] Increased religiousness has been evident among Muslims and interfaith relations remain very strong.[29][30][31][32][33]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Azade-Ayse Rolich, The Volga Tatars, 1986, page 11. Richard Frye, Ibn Fadlan's Journey to Russia, 2005, page 44 gives 16 May 922 for the first meeting with the ruler. This seems to be the official date of the conversion.
  2. ^ Malashenko, Alexey. "Islamic Challenges to Russia, From the Caucasus to the Volga and the Urals". Carnegie Moscow Center. Retrieved 9 February 2022.
  3. ^ Balkind, Nicole (19 March 2019). "A Model Republic? Trust and Authoritarianism on Tatarstan's Road to Autonomy". University of North Carolina – via Carolina Digital Repository.
  4. ^ "Arena: Atlas of Religions and Nationalities in Russia". Sreda, 2012.
  5. ^ 2012 Arena Atlas Religion Maps. "Ogonek", № 34 (5243), 27/08/2012. Retrieved 21/04/2017. Archived.
  6. ^ "History, culture, religion". Retrieved 9 February 2022.
  7. ^ a b "Population". Retrieved 25 December 2020.
  8. ^ "Personnel Directory - Marat Gatin". Official Tatarstan. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  9. ^ Tatarstan Parliament Introduces New Islam Holiday
  10. ^ Faller, Helen M. (2011). Nation, Language, Islam: Tatarstan's Sovereignty Movement. Central European University Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-963-9776-84-5.
  11. ^ Mizelle 2002, p. 18.
  12. ^ Werth, Nicolas; Panné, Jean-Louis; Paczkowski, Andrzej; Bartosek, Karel; Margolin, Jean-Louis (October 1999), Courtois, Stéphane (ed.), The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression, Harvard University Press, pp. 92–97, 116–21, ISBN 978-0-674-07608-2
  13. ^ Dronin & Bellinger 2005, p. 98.
  14. ^ Mizelle 2002, p. 281.
  15. ^ Millar 2004, p. 56.
  16. ^ Millar 2004, p. 270.
  17. ^ Haven, Cynthia (4 April 2011). "How the U.S. saved a starving Soviet Russia: PBS film highlights Stanford scholar's research on the 1921-23 famine". Stanford News Service. Archived from the original on 30 January 2012. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  18. ^ Globe, Paul (6 November 2008). "Tatar Nationalists Ask UN to condemn 1921 famine as genocide". Homin Ukraini. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  19. ^ Chaudet, Didier (June 2009). "When the Bear Confronts the Crescent: Russia and the Jihadist Issue" (PDF). The China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly. Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program. 7 (2): 49.
  20. ^ Tatarstan:Smooth Islamization Sprinkled with Blood
  21. ^ "Holiday Commemorating Arrival of Islam in Russia Ratified in Tatarstan". Archived from the original on 30 September 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
  22. ^ "Students In Tatarstan Want Muslim Holiday Observed". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  23. ^ "Halal Food Facility Opens In Tatarstan". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  24. ^ "President of the Republic of Tatarstan". Archived from the original on 15 April 2012.
  25. ^
  26. ^ "漯河爸幌建材有限公司". Archived from the original on 2 May 2021. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Programme four - Tatarstan". Inside Putin's Russia. BBC. 2003. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  29. ^ "National and Religious Revival in Tatarstan". 31 January 2021. Archived from the original on 24 April 2012. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  30. ^ "Islamic leader: Increased religiosity hasn't cut share of marriages between Muslims and Christians in Tatarstan - Jun. 29, 2010". KyivPost. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  31. ^ "Friends and neighbours: religious harmony in Tatarstan?". openDemocracy. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  32. ^ "RUSSIA: The Rebirth of Islam in Tatarstan". Chris Kutschera. 20 March 2017. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  33. ^ Gorenburg, Dmitry (22 November 2010). "Radical Islamism on the Rise in Tatarstan?". Atlantic Sentinel. Retrieved 10 October 2020.


External linksEdit