Islam Spreading Not Only Among Ethnic Russians But Also Among Non-Russians – OpEd


The Moscow media have long focused on the extent to which Islam is recovering among the historically Muslim peoples of Russia and on the acceptance of Islam by a limited number of ethnic Russians, but these outlets have devoted far less attention to the spread of Islam among non-Russian groups not historically linked to the faith.

And the Russian media have devoted even less attention to something that may prove to be an even greater matter of concern: the conversion to Islam of ethnic Russians who live as minorities in non-Russian areas whose dominant nationality is not Islam but of another faith and who have little contact with large Central Asian or Caucasian gastarbeiter communities.

One such nation where Islam is spreading despite its lack of deep historical roots is the Buryats where reportedly five to six members of that traditionally Buddhist people are turning to Islam every month, a trend that the imam in that TransBaikal republic says appears to be accelerating (

The portal said that despite this growth, its journalists had had some difficulty in finding Buryat Muslims to interview, but it finally identified one young man willing to talk about how he came to Islam and what it has meant for his family and friends and how it has affected his life.

Bair Dugarov, 26, was born into a Buryat Buddhist family. He became interested in Islam at the age of 15 after making friends with some neighboring Kygyz. Three years later, he lost his mother, and the only people who really helped him were members of a Muslim family who showed him that “Islam is a religion of brotherhood, genuine brotherhood.”

He decided then to accept Islam and within a year began praying five times a day and fasting at Ramadan. He no longer drinks or smokes and lives a modest life. And he says he is convinced that “Islam is the salvation of all humanity.” At the same time, he is respectful of other faiths.

Dugarov no longer goes to a dastan although he is married to a Buryat Buddhist. Whe “respects” Islam but has not accepted it “fully.” According to him, “this is her right,” although he added that he talks to her about Islam “all the time.” The couple has three children, and Dugarov says he hopes to raise them as Muslims but that that is a question for them in the future.

The 18-year-old Russian who chose to be identified only by his first name Vadim said he accepted Islam at the age of 15. He came to Islam because he fell in love with an Uzbek girl, but when he became a Muslim, his family at first was totally opposed. Now, he says, they have accepted his faith and his bride to be.

Vadim said the most important thing Islam had done for him was to make him “more patient” and “better able to understand people.” He says he “doesn’t fear death as he did because now [he] knows that there is life after death.” And he appreciates the fact that within Islam, everyone is a brother to everyone else.

Vadim says he no longer used alcohol or tobacco, but he acknowledges that he only goes to the mosque once every two weeks – except during Kurban Bayram when he fasts and prays every day there.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

One thought on “Islam Spreading Not Only Among Ethnic Russians But Also Among Non-Russians – OpEd

  • October 6, 2015 at 4:16 am

    I am not religious,but for the last 500 years of brutal western colonialism all over the world,islam has remained focussed on the fight for the rights of its people,land,and the dignity of the human being,even the chaos of the Mideast,the wars began by bush and blair..
    which has brought in arms and equipment which is dividing their communities,is not changing that fundamental right


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