Thursday, June 13, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Russia’s Muslims Happier, More Observant, but Less Trusting than Followers of Other Faiths, Study Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 13 – Muslims in the Russian Federation tend to be happier than their Christian counterparts, more observant of the requirements of their religion, but less trusting of other people, according to research recently published by in the “Atlas of Religions and Nationalities of Russia.”

            That volume, available online at, contains a wealth of information about Russian believers and non-believers. This week, on the occasion of the Day of Russia, offers a summary of some of its most intriguing findings about “Muslims in the Russian Milieu” (

            According to the atlas, Muslims form 6.5 percent of the population, the fourth largest “religious” group after Orthodox Christians (41 percent), believers who are not affiliated with any religion (25 percent), and atheists (13 percent).  None of the other 13 religious faiths the atlas included had more than 1.2 percent of the Russianpoplation.

            The studies on which the atlas was compiled found that a “significantly” greater share of Muslims than in other groups who “considered that religion is important” and who observed the specific requirements of their faith.  Moreover, these studies found, “Muslims are ‘happy people’ who want to have many children.”

            Russia’s Muslims “live primarily in rural areas and have secondary educations.  Much more rarely, they live in major cities with populations between 500,000 and one million.” They do not have major problems with immigrant groups. And they “distrust Patriarch Kirill,” because he is “the leader of another religious confession.”

            Forty-two percent of Muslims observe the requirements of their faith, five percent more than Russian Orthodox. Fifty-five percent of Muslims identify themselves as happy, more than any other group. But only 23 percent of the followers of Islam say they trust others, far fewer than the number of Protestants and Orthodox who make such a declaration.

            Eleven to twelve percent of Muslims are ready to open a business, a figure equal to that of the Buddhists, greater than the Orthodox Christians but must less than the Protestants (30 percent) and Jews (20 percent).  Only 11 percent of Muslims want to leave Russia, fewer than among the Protestants, Jews, Catholics and atheists.

            Tatars form 39 percent of Russia’s indigenous Muslims, Avars nine percent, Bashkirs six percent and Kazakhs five percent, with other North Caucasian and Siberian peoples trailing behind. What is striking, suggests, is that most of them identify as Muslims in general rather than as members of Sunni or Shiite trends.
            Fifty-five percent of Tatars identify as Muslims in general, with only three percent saying they are specifically Sunni. Among Bashkirs, there is a similar pattern, 43 percent and six percent, as there is among Kazakhs, with 54 percent identify as Muslims in general and only seven percent saying they are specifically Sunni.

            Among the Avars, the situation is different. Only 24 percent of them identify as Muslims in general, while 66 percent say they are Sunni, perhaps a reflection of the higher level of religious education in the North Caucasus, the site suggests.

            These statistics, the site continues, suggest two conclusions. On the one hand, “Russia’s Muslims have significant positive potential,” but on the other, “this potential is not yet being realized as a social level.”  Consequently there is a need to move in that direction as quickly and comprehensively as possible

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