Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Daghestani Muslims Continue to Dominate Haj Contingent from Russian Federation

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 21 – Since the end of Soviet times, more than a third of a million Muslims from Russia have made the haj to Mecca (, but nearly three-quarters of these have come from Daghestan, even though that republic’s faithful form less than ten percent of the total number of Muslims in that country.

            Last year, 70 percent of Russian hajis were Daghestanis. This year, Daghestani dominance continues, although their share has fallen to 50 percent of the Russian quota of 20,500 (   

            Daghestan has long been known as the most Muslim region in the Russian Federation, and so it is not surprising that its faithful lead in this regard, except for one thing. That North Caucasus republic is one of the poorest in the country, and the cost of making the haj has juped because the Saudis now require hajis fly rather than take buses.

            Indeed, it is likely that cost rather than a cooling of religious fervor explains the decline in the number of Daghestani hajis from over 14,000 in 2018 to 10,000 this year.  But other regions have had no difficulty in using the slots that Daghestan has not: Chechnya, for example, is sending 2600 of its Muslims to Mecca this year.

            The number of hajis from these two republics overwhelms the numbers coming from all other Muslim regions, including elsewhere in the North Caucasus, a reminder if one is needed not only that the North Caucasus is the most Islamic area of Russia but also that it is not homogeneous in that regard either.

            Daghestan and Chechnya are very “Muslim” while the other republics are much less so, with the share of active Muslims in this area declining in percentage terms from the east to the west, with Daghestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia being the most and the Circassian areas to the west being the least. 

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