Saturday, October 22, 2022

Kremlin Using Special but Potentially Dangerous Ideological Messages to Get Muslims to Fight for Russian World, Sidorov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 20 – Economic desperation and the power of republic heads does not explain the readiness of many people from Muslim republics in the Russian Federation to join the Russian army and fight for Putin’s “Russian world” in Ukraine, Kharun-Vadim Sidorov says. Also playing a role is the special messaging the Kremlin is directing at thiusing s population.

            The Prague-based specialist on Russia’s Islamic community says that it has been widely recognized that soldiers from Muslim republics form an outsized part of the Russian military action in Ukraine but that most people blame either the economic problems many there face or the authoritarian means their leaders use to make themselves look good.

            Those factors are no doubt critical, Sidorov acknowledges, but he says the Kremlin has also been “using Islamic heroes” to recruit soldiers from among the Muslim population and that some leaders of the Islamic community of Russia have helped the Russian authorities in doing so (

            But the use of such heroes is not only problematic for some Russians but even within the Muslim community and perhaps especially for the Kremlin if men from Muslim regions and backgrounds take the messages such heroes send that are at odds with the messages the Kremlin would like.

            In Bashkortostan, for example, the authorities have played up three heroes from the national past. One of them, Minigali Shaymuratov, a Soviet general who died in the Donbass during World War II, is perfect in his combination of Bashkir national and Russian centralist traditions.

            But the two others for whom Bashkir units have been named are not unproblematic, having taken positions against the Soviet state at one point or another. Thus using them now could easily backfire on Moscow if Bashkirs drawn to the colors by them decide to follow their lead rather than the lead the Russian authorities want.

            Related to the use of Muslim heroes from the past is the role of Muslim leaders today in promoting the use of such people for Moscow’s benefit. According to Sidorov, what one can see is something that could be called “Muslim Sergianism,” a reference to Patriarch Sergiy’s agreement to recognize the Soviet state in 1927 in an effort to preserve Orthodoxy in Russia.

            Again and again across Russia and especially since the start of Putin’s war in Ukraine, Muslim leaders in Russia with pasts that suggest they have been at odds with the Kremlin earlier have sought to demonstrate their loyalty in order to protect their flocks in much the same way Sergiy did.

            As in his case, Sidorov says, “the alternative to this” for Muslim leaders in Putin’s Russia could be one of three unattractive options -- “facing repression, going underground or leaving the country.”

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