Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Russianization of Services in Tatar Mosques Sparking Sharp Debate

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 12 – As recently as the end of Soviet times, the mosques of Moscow conducted services in Tatar because that was the language of the dominant Muslim community in the Russian capital, with the mosques there shifting to the use of Russian only when the influx of immigrants from Central Asian republics made that a requirement.

            In Tatarstan itself, until the last decade or so, the services in almost all mosques were in Tatar; but there too, that has begun to change with many mosques, especially in urban areas, already shifting to Russian or at a minimum offering simultaneous Russian translations of the Tatar service.

            This shift has sparked a sharp debate on a telegram channel, with some saying spreading the faith is more important than the language used and others insisting that this shift in language in the mosques will help kill off Tatar and destroy the nation as well as the faith (

            Those who welcome or at least don’t oppose the shift from Tatar to Russian say that many of the faithful are either Russians or Tatars who no longer use Tatar regularly and that it should not be the job of the mosque to promote the national language but rather to maintain and spread Islam.

            But those who oppose this trend argue that unless the mosques continue to use Tatar, they will be helping Moscow destroy the Tatar language and the Tatar nation and even that the shift to Russian will lead to a shift to Christianity and to an even more rapid destruction of the Tatar nation.

             Among the most interesting suggestions of those who oppose the Russianization of Muslim services in Tatarstan is that Kazan should insist that Tatar should again be written in the Arabic script as it was before 1917, something that would make it easier for Tatars to learn Arabic and would defend them against Russianization more generally.

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