Monday, January 26, 2015

Orthodox Churches Rapidly Giving Way to Mosques in Russia’s North Caucasus

Paul Goble


            Staunton, January 26 – The Russian Orthodox metropolitanate of Stavropol and Nevinnomyssk says that over the last 20 years, some 6,000 mosques have been built in that region for its six million Muslims while only 600 churches have been erected for its three million Russian speakers.


That means there is now one mosque for every 1000 Muslim residents but only one for every 5,000 Russian ones, an imbalance that is increasing as a result of Russian flight, the growth of the Muslim population, and both financial and personnel problems, and a trend that gives every sign of continuing and even increasing in the future.


            Svetlana Bolotnikova of “Kavkazskaya politika” cites this report at the beginning of her report on relations between the two communities, pointedly noting that mosques are growing “like mushrooms” after a spring rain but that Orthodox churches are rising “only slowly like oaks” over many years (


            In many places, there are no problems, but in others, there are and on both sides. Many Cossacks are unhappy with the fact that in places where before 1917, there were Orthodox churches for them, there are no such churches now, even though there are often mosques for each ethnic group; and neither Moscow nor republic officials have been prepared to help build them.


            And many Muslims have been angered not only by the opposition of many Russians to the construction of mosques in cities of the North Caucasus where there are now large numbers of the followers of Islam but also by the fact that the Orthodox typically see the absence of mosques in Moscow and elsewhere as something entirely natural.


            The main reason there aren’t any churches being built is that there are no congregants. In many places, where there was once a thriving Russian community. Now, there are only a handful of people left, and thus there is no one to build one. And Russians say that building a church will do nothing to halt of reverse that trend.


            In addition, there are too few Orthodox priests available. “Far from all of them want to go to Daghestan and Chechnya,” according to a spokesman for the Makhachkala bishopric. A regional seminary might help, but there is little interest now in organizing one – and it would have an impact only many years from now when there will be even fewer Russians.




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