Thursday, September 27, 2018

70 Percent of Hajis from Russia This Year were Daghestanis

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 26 – Daghestan has always been the deemed most Muslim region in the Russian Federation, but this year has brought fresh evidence of that. The republic was allocated 8600 haj slots for 2018, out of the 20,500 the Saudis gave Russia, gained 1,000 more become of demand, but in the end sent 14,000 – or 70 percent of all Russian hajis in 2018.

            Daghestanis presumably were able to do so by using slots allocated for Muslims in other regions of the country but not used by these places, a reflection of the economic difficulties Russia is suffering, the relatively lower costs of making the haj from the southernmost republic, and perhaps declining interest elsewhere (

            This pattern may also reflect the fact that Daghestanis were more willing than Muslims in other places in Russia to accept aid from foreign sources, something that some regional governments have cracked down on lest it be accompanied by the influence of outsiders on their Islamic communities.

            The Daghestani figures are striking because the population of that republic is just over three million, about two percent of the population of the Russian Federation and less than 15 percent than the total number of Muslims in that country and because of the ability of Daghestanis to gain access to slots allocated to others.

            Up until a decade or so ago, far more Daghestani faithful and Muslims from other regions in Russia went on the haj than even the Saudis allocated, in some cases sending as many as 40,000 a year, with neither Moscow nor Mecca enforcing the rules given what Russian Muslims said was “pent-up demand” from Soviet times when few Muslims could make the pilgrimage.

            Now, both the Russian and the Saudi authorities have tightened controls over the hajis, the first to limit the influence of radical Muslims on their own Islamic communities and the latter to prevent the facilities in and around Mecca from being overwhelmed, especially at a time when the Saudis are rebuilding many facilities in that holy city.

            The allocation of haj slots is a two-step process. First, the Saudi authorities allocate country totals on the basis of one slot for every 1,000 Muslims; and then mixed government-religious commission in each of them allocate them by regions.  In Russia, Daghestan has always been given a disproportionate share of slots but has always sought to gain additional ones.

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