- Moscow’s Muslim community counts some two million people.
- There are 6 big mosques and over 100 Muslim prayer houses in Moscow.
- The Tatar Quarter emerged in the 15th and 16th centuries, settled by the Tatars and other Asian peoples (now Bolshaya Tatarskaya Street).
- In 1773, Catherine the Great launched a policy of religion tolerance and Islam was recognized as the legitimate religion of the Tatars and Bashkirs.
- Moscow’s central mosque is the Cathedral Mosque on Mira Avenue. One of the largest mosques in Europe, it accommodates 10,000 people.
- The Memorial Mosque on Poklonnaya Gora is part of the vast Victory Park complex.
The Muslim community is one of the most numerous communities in Moscow, with two million people in total. There are six major mosques and over one hundred places of worship. The Cathedral MosqueRussian: Sobornaya mechet or Соборная мечеть located on Mira AvenueRussian: Prospekt Mira or Проспект Мира is the main meeting place for Muslim people in the city, and the former Tatar QuarterRussian: Tatarskaya sloboda or Татарская слобода in ZamoskvorechyeRussian: Замоскворечье District is one of the major historic Islamic neigbourhoods, with an Old MosqueRussian: Istoricheskaya mechet or Историческая мечеть and a Tatar Cultural CentreRussian: Tatarskiy kulturnyi tsentr or Татарский культурный центр. Many street names are also either TatarTurkic-speaking people living in Asia and Europe or Oriental in origin.
THE ORIGINS OF THE MOSCOW MUSLIM COMMUNITY
The history of Muslim people in Moscow goes back to the times of the Golden Hordea Mongol and later Turkicized khanate established in the 13th century and originating as the northwestern sector of the Mongol Empire, which recognized Islam as the official state religion in 1312. The Moscow principality knew many years of Mongol occupation, and this certainly did not fail to encourage the integration of Islamic culture into Russian life. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Tatars and other Eastern peoples settled mostly in the Tatar Quarter (B. Tatarskaya StreetRussian: Bolshaya Tatarskaya ulitsa or Большая Татарская улица) in the Zamoskvorechye District. The neighbouring Ordynskaya QuarterRussian: Ordynskaya sloboda or Ордынская слобода (Ordynsky Blind AlleyRussian: Ordynskiy tupik or Ордынский тупик, Ordynka StreetRussian: ulitsa Ordynka or улица Ордынка) was also home to many Muslim people. Many other names in the historic centre of Moscow have Tatar origins, such as Tolmachyovsky LaneRussian: Tolmachyovskiy pereulok or Толмачевский переулок (‘tolmach’ meaning ‘interpreter’), the BalchugRussian: Балчуг marshland (from Tatar ‘dirt’) or Krymsky ValRussian: Крымский вал, a street inhabited by migrants from the Crimean Khanatea Turkic vassal state of the Ottoman Empire from 1478 to 1774, the longest-lived of the Turkic khanates that succeeded the empire of the Golden Horde. The cemetery where the first Muslim people were buried was located next to Krymsky Val Street, and the so-called Tatar courtRussian: Tatarskiy dvor or Татарский двор, the official residence of the envoys of the Golden Horde, was located on the Kremlin’s premises until the mid-14th century.
Many Tatar noblemen later converted to Orthodox Christianity and became the ancestors of Russian noble families, such as the Mansurovs, the Saburovs, the Godunovs, the Aksakovs and the Yusupovs. Legend has it that the Yusupovs traced their origins back to Yusuf, a ruler of the Nogai Hordea confederation of about eighteen Turkic and Mongol tribes that occupied the Pontic-Caspian steppe, while they themselves maintained that their ancestor was none other than “Abubekir who ruled all Muslims after Mahomet” (Abu-Bakr was the father-in-law of the prophet Muhammad). The Yusupov PalaceRussian: Palaty Yusupovyh or Палаты Юсуповых, located at 21 B. Kharitonyevsky LaneRussian: Bolshoy Kharitonevskiy pereulok or Большой Харитоньевский переулок, still exists today. The Yusupovs’ family crest with Islamic symbols can still be seen on the palace gate.
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THE FIRST MOSQUES
Empress Catherine the GreatEmpress of Russia from 1762 until 1796, the country's longest-ruling female leader and its most renowned issued a decree which allowed the freedom to follow any and all religions in 1773. As a result, Islam was recognized as the religion of the Tatars and Bashkirsa Turkic people indigenous to Bashkortostan, extending on both sides of the Ural Mountains, and all restrictions on mosque construction were lifted. Moscow’s first mosque, located in the Tatar Quarter, is believed to have been built in 1782 near the house of Simeney who worked as a translator at Prince Sultan Murza’s Foreign BoardRussian: Inostrannaya kollegiya knyazya Sultan-murzy or Иностранная коллегия князя Султан-мурзы . The mosque burnt down in the fire of 1812during the war between the Russian Empire and Napoleonic France on the territory of Russia in 1812. The well-preserved Old Mosque (28, Bolshaya Tatarskaya Street) was built in response to insistent requests by the Spiritual Directorate of the Muslim People to recognize the outstanding role that the Tatars and Bashkirs had played in the war against Napoleon. The first wooden mosque, built in 1823, was located on the land owned by merchant Nazarbay Khashalov and looked like a typical Moscow building. The minaret designed by architect Dmitry Pevnitsky was only added 1880, as soon as the official request to do so was granted. The reconstruction of the mosque in 1914 turned it into a two-storey stone building complete with an orphanage and a madrasa.
During the USSR anti-religious campaign of the 1930s, Islamic clergy were repressed alongside other religious figures. Imam A. Shamsutdinov was purged and the mosque on Bolshaya Tatarskaya Street was shut down, and was repurposed into a military enlistment office in Soviet times. The mosque resumed its original function in 1993. A monument to the Tatar poet Musa Djalil has been erected next to the mosque.
Muslim entrepreneurs of high standing settled in Moscow in the early 20th century, one of them being oilman Shamsi Asadullaev from Baku, Azerbaijan. In 1913, he donated his mansion in Zamoskvorechye (8, Tatarsky LaneRussian: Tatarskiy pereulok or Татарский переулок) to Moscow’s Muslim community. This building was the spiritual centre of Muslim people in Moscow until it was shut down in the 1930s. In the 1990s, the building was returned to its original custodians and it now houses the Tatar Cultural Centre.
THE CATHEDRAL MOSQUE
The Cathedral Mosque, located on Mira Avenue (7, Vypolzov LaneRussian: Vypolzov pereulok or Выползов переулок) is the main mosque of Moscow. The original structure, funded by Tatar merchant Salikh Yerzin, was built on this site in 1904 according to the design of Nikolay Zhukov. S. Bakirov and Kh. Akbulatov purchased the plot of land for construction. The first religious services took place in the Cathedral Mosque in 1904. It is the only mosque in Moscow and the European part of Russia which was not shut down during the Soviet period. B. Alimov, A. Fattakhetdinov, R. Gaynutdin and I. Alyautdinov are some of the leaders of the Moscow Cathedral Mosque. In 1994, a Mejlis took place in Moscow, attended by Muslim representatives from Central Russia who decided to create the Islamic Centre of Moscow and the Moscow OblastRussian: islamskiy tsentr Moskvy i Moskovskoy oblasti or исламский центр Москвы и Московской области on the premises of the Cathedral Mosque. It comprises the Ismailiya madrasaRussian: medrese «Ismailiya» or медресе «Исмаилия», a college for higher Islamic educationRussian: vyisshiy islamskiy kolledzh or высший исламский колледж and Koran classes. The Spiritual Directorate of the Muslims of European RussiaRussian: Duhovnoe upravlenie musulman Tsentralno-evropeyskogo regiona or Духовное управление мусульман Центрально-европейского региона has been established, and sheikh Rawil Gaynetdin has been appointed mufti.
Today, the Moscow Cathedral Mosque is the official residence of the Russian Council of MuftisRussian: Sovet muftiev Rossii or Совет муфтиев России. As of now, the Cathedral Mosque is one of the largest mosques in Europe. Upon the completion of major reconstruction works in 2015, it now has the capacity to admit approximately ten thousand worshippers. Its minarets are over 70 metres high. Not much has been left of the original building, however. Presidents of Russia and Turkey and delegations from Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian Territories, Azerbaijan and other countries participated in the inauguration of the newly renovated Cathedral Mosque. Religious services held at the Cathedral Mosque attract much more worshippers than it can hold, therefore during big religious celebrations, worshippers conduct salah outside the mosque as well as inside.
THE MEMORIAL MOSQUE
The Memorial Mosque on Poklonnaya GoraRussian: Memorialnaya mechet na Poklonnoy gore or Мемориальная мечеть на Поклонной горе (2B, Minskaya StreetRussian: Minskaya ulitsa or Минская улица, from 1995 to 1997) is part of the vast Victory ParkRussian: park Pobedy or парк Победы complex dedicated to the Russian victory over the Nazis during World War II. Along with the Memorial Mosque, the complex comprises the Museum of the Great Patriotic WarRussian: muzey Velikoy Otechestvennoy voyny or музей Великой Отечественной войны, the Holocaust Memorial SynagogueRussian: Memorialnaya sinagoga or Мемориальная синагога, the Orthodox St. George ChurchRussian: pravoslavnyi khram sv. Georgiya or православный храм св. Георгия and numerous sculptures. The construction of this mosque, funded by Moscow patron of arts Faiz Gilmanov, is a tribute to the Muslim people who participated in the war. The mosque, built according to the design of architect Ilyas Tazhiyev in a mixed Tatar and Caucasian style, features one 60-metre-high minaret and belongs to the Jameh Mosque type.
THE DANILOV MUSLIM CEMETERY
The Danilov Muslim CemeteryRussian: Danilovskoe musulmanskoe kladbische or Даниловское мусульманское кладбище, which is the main Muslim cemetery in Moscow, is located at 10, 2nd Roshchinsky LaneRussian: 2-oy Roschinskiy proezd or 2-ой Рощинский проезд. Like the nearby Christian cemetery, it was founded in the late 17thcentury. Until 1956, it is only here that the Muslim people of Moscow were allowed to be buried in accordance with Islamic rites. Later, special plots started to be allotted in other cemeteries, too. Many Muslims who left important traces in the history of Russia and Moscow were buried here, including Kh. Ageyev, Imam of the mosque on Bolshaya Tatarskaya Street, patron of arts S. Yerzin, merchants Vergazov, Shirinsky and Devishev, the Olympic champion Sh. Safin, dancer M. Esambaev and writer M. Maksud.
Muslim celebrations held in present-day Moscow are steadily growing in scale, the most important of these being Eid al-Adha. In 2016, over 90,000 Muslim worshippers gathered around the Cathedral Mosque to celebrate this religious holiday. On that day, traffic was re-routed so that worshippers had enough space to pray and move safely. Moscow authorities had arranged ten more venues for worshippers to conduct salah. Eid al-Fitr is another religious holiday widely celebrated in Moscow. It marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. This holiday is officially declared a public holiday in some of Russia’s republics.