By Paul Goble
Over the last 33 years, Mufti Talgat Tajuddin says, 7500 mosques, seven Islamic universities and the Bulgar Islamic Academy have been opened in the Russian Federation, a dramatic increase given that in 1989, there were only 340 mosques and two Islamic training centers in the entire USSR. About half of them were in the RSFSR.
The head of the Central Muslim Spiritual Directorate of the Muslims of Russia who sometimes styles himself the Supreme Mufti of Russia but whose opponents refer to him as the drunken mufti because of his proclivity for drink also says that this was a triumph not only for Muslims but for Russia (interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=79131).
Tajuddin adds in this regard that this record of mosque construction in the Russian Federation, along with the growth of the number of churches and synagogues and the references in the Russian Constitution to God, shows conclusively that atheism has outlived itself and is in Russia at least now dead.
There is no reason to doubt Tajuddin’s statistic, but he does not address an important aspect of this figure. Many mosques in Russia have been built by wealthy Russian Muslims in the villages of their birth as a form of memorial. They exist on paper and in fact, but there are few if any services in them.
Thus, the number of what the Soviets would have called “working” mosques is almost certainly far less than the 7600-odd the mufti refers to. And at the same time, they are highly concentrated with most of them in Daghestan and other republics of the North Caucasus and a lesser number in the Middle Volga region.