Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Russian State has Lost the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Russia’s Muslims, ‘Novaya Gazeta’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 29 – The editors of Moscow’s Novaya gazeta decided several years ago to investigate the value systems of the three most Muslim republics in the North Caucasus – Daghestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya – in order to determine which sources of influence are most important for people there, the paper’s Olga Bobrova says.

            In order to make the study more scientific, the editor continues in a report published yesterday, the paper included in its team  two prominent researchers on the region, Denis Sokolov and Akhmet Yarlukapov, as well as a group of sociologists from the TSIRKON polling agency (

            “However, already in the course of work, it became evident to us,” Bobrova says, “that the tendencies we had uncovered were typical not only for the republics of the North Caucasus but also for the rest of Russia, for the Middle Volga, for Siberia and for the millionaire cities.” Indeed, for anywhere there are groups of Muslims.

            What the study is talking about then, she continues, is “the future of Russia.

            The researchers interviewed 147 residents of the three republics, asking them questions about their attitudes toward practices of daily life ranging from the consumption of alcohol to polygamy and from respect for Islamic organizations as opposed to the secular institutions of the Russian government.

            The group operated on the assumption that everyone in the region was affected by three value systems – adat, the traditional rules of societies there; shariat, the more formal laws of Islam; and secular law – with some age cohorts more affected by or loyal to one than others, Bobrova says.

            In addition to many intriguing specific findings such as the desire to keep guns in households, opposition to alcohol, and support for polygamy especially among the young, the paper reached two overarching conclusions: those normative systems based in Islam have greater influence than do civic institutions, and young people are the chief promoters of that trend.

                These findings, Bobrova says, “have colossal significant for the state.” In essence, they mean that before our eyes, the state has measured its forces against another normative system; and it has lost out to it.” Ever fewer Muslims look to the state and its institutions; and ever more look to Islam and its.

            “It is interesting,” she says, “that processes analogous to those which are taking place in the Caucasus are occurring in other regions … where Muslims are represented in large numbers. Small Tatar cities, Volga villages, and suburbs of large Russian cities are turning to Islam. People are donning the hijab and enrolling in Arabic language courses in the medrassah.”

            Even more worrisome for some Russians, “in these courses,” the journalist says, “you encounter an enormous number of ethnic Russian converts.  Similar processes are typical for prisons as well: The Russian zone is rapidly being Islamicized. And this is all one phenomenon: people are losing faith in the government and search for a more reliable jurisdiction.”

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