Saturday, June 1, 2024

Will Russia Follow China and De-Arabize Architecture of Its Mosques?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 29 – Beijing has completed its five year plan to Sinicize all the remaining Muslim mosques on its territory, replacing traditional Arabic domes and modifying minarets with Chinese pagodas, a move that opponents say threatens the faith and the ethnicity of minorities in China but one that Moscow may very well copy given Putin’s “turn to the east.”

            In recent years, Beijing has closed ever more of the mosques on its territory, human rights groups say ( But it has also worked to transform those remaining and make them more “Chinese” ( and

            This two-pronged approach now appears to have attracted attention in Russia (; and thus it is entirely possible that Moscow, given Putin’s much-ballyhooed “turn to the east” and desire to unify everything inside Russia to his "Russian world" will copy Beijing’s policies and insist on the Russification of mosques.

            In the short term, that could lead to demands that mosques in Moscow and other major cities redesign their exterior, something that would make them less prominent on the landscapes of those places and thus less infuriating to Russians who don’t want to be reminded of just how many Muslims now live among them.

            But in the longer term, such an effort just as is clearly the case in China, is likely to be used by the Kremlin to undermine the influence of Islam inside the current borders of the Russian Federation and thus threaten the survival of nations there whose peoples adhere to that faith.

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