Saturday, November 15, 2014

Window on Eurasia: One Tajik Migrant Worker in Five in Russia Ready to Support Jihad, Survey Finds

Paul Goble


            Staunton, November 15 – Nearly one Tajik migrant worker in five now in Russia – 18 percent -- is ready to support a jihad financially or in other ways, a reflection of the fact that 48 percent of them say that they have become more interested in Islam since leaving their homeland, according to a poll conducted by the Sharq Research Center.


            Between May and August of this year, sociologists from that Tajik polling firm interviewed 725 Tajik citizens now living in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Yekaterinburg. Of these, 61 percent were seasonal workers, with the rest being a more settled diaspora, some of whose members had been in Russia for a long time (


            The investigators found that 100 percent of the Tajik gastarbeiters said they were Muslims, although only about half – 48 percent – say their prayers five times a day and only 31 percent visit a mosque each week. But the sociologists who conducted the service say that understates the role of Islam in their lives.


            Mosques in Russia, they suggest, “have become the main institution for the adaptation of Tajiks in Russia, a place for immigrants to share information and provide mutual support. But these mosques are also the occasion for Tajiks to become more religious than they were in their homeland and more affected by broader changes in the world of Islam.


            The Sharq survey found that 48 percent of those it surveyed have shifted away from the traditional understanding of the faith they had at home and become closer to “global Islam,” including its more radical elements.  This last shift is especially important not only for the Tajiks but also for the Russians among whom they live.


            Sharq sociologists say that “18 percent of the migrants from Tajikistan are certain that struggling for the faith is justified” and say that even if they do not take direct part in jihadist activities because of their family responsibilities, they “are prepared to finance a jihad” by others.


            Given that some estimates put the number of Tajiks in Russia as high as two million, that means that there are more than a third of a million who are sympathetic to and ready to support financially or in other ways jihadist activities, a finding that will do nothing to calm the worries of the Russian government or the Russian people about the presence of such people there.


            These findings cast doubt on a statement this week by Sergey Lisovsky, a United Russia senator from Kurgan oblast who serves on the Federation Council’s commission on cooperation between Russia and Tajikistan. He declared that “Tajikistan up to now considers itself part of our country, not in terms of territory but at the level of common interests and culture” (


            The Sharq findings suggest that many Tajiks and perhaps even more Russians would reject that notion out of hand.

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