Monday, September 29, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Could the Muslims of Kaliningrad Trigger a Maidan in the Russian Exclave?

Paul Goble


            Staunton, September 29 – The 100,000-strong Muslim community of Kaliningrad is running out of options in the Russian legal system to secure land for the construction of a mosque in that Russian exclave and consequently will now appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, according to their lawyer Dagir Khasavov.


            But meanwhile, continuing opposition by regional officials to a mosque, Irshat Khisamov, head of the Muslim community in the oblast, says, is having “an extremely negative” impact on the members of his community. And many of them believe the governor there wants “a Maidan like the one in Ukraine” (


            Up to now, Khisamov said, he and his fellow Muslim leaders have worked to restrain their parishioners, but he told, “you will understand that this is not our question alone. There are more than 100,000 Muslims here, and each has a stone in his heart” because there is no mosque.


            “When things explode as they will we cannot say,” he continued, “and we will continue to read homilies about the friendship of the peoples, but if each holds a stone in his heart, then it is difficult to restrain” the faithful. And by implication, the longer the Russian authorities deny the Muslims their rights, the harder that is going to be.


            The Kaliningrad mosque case has been a complicated one, but at each stage, the Muslims have lost. Their lawyer says that they are going through the motions of a final appeal to the Russian Supreme Court but “our faith in the Russian court system has been reduced to a minimum … Muslims are hostages of the intolerance of the region’s Orthodox leadership.”


            When a Kaliningrad court first blocked the construction of the mosque in April of this year, it declared that all the documents that the Muslims had earlier received permitting the construction of a mosque were invalid and that they must stop work immediately. At that time, Khasavov called the court’s decision “a gift to the radical wing of Islam” (


            The Kaliningrad Muslims then sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking him to intervene on their behalf given that they have been trying to gain final approval for a mosque in the capital of their oblast for 21 years (


            In their appeal to the Kremlin leader, they also asked him to “remove from office those who are sowing hostility between the two confessions and between the fraternal peoples of Russia.” Apparently, Putin has not done anything in response, and now the situation in Kaliningrad may be on the brink of an explosion few saw coming.

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