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How Islam Spread to Russia

This video and article was based on excellent research by Elmira Akhmetova. The full article can be read here.

According to early Arab sources, Islam first entered the territory of modern Russia in the seventh century.

In 737 C.E. the Muslim army achieved a victory over the Khazar Kingdom, the strongest military power in the region.

The army was led by general Marwan, who later became Marwan II the last caliph of the Umayyad dynasty.

With the success of Marwan II, the Northern Caucasus, as well as the lower Volga region became a part of the Umayyad Empire.

The first autonomous Muslim region in Russia was the Bulghar Kingdom in the Middle Volga region.

The ruler of the Bulghar, Bin Salki Belekvar, requested the Abbasid caliph, al-Muqtadir, to dispatch Islamic scholars to teach Islam.

This autonomous state existed from the eighth century until its invasion by the Mongols in 1236 C.E.

The next wave of the spread of Islam in Russia took place during the “Golden Horde” province of the Chenghizid Empire.

Under the rule of Uzbek Khan (1312-42), Islam became the official religion of the entire kingdom ran by the Volga Bulghar.

The territories of Christian subjects, such as the Russians, Armenians, Circassians and Crimean Greeks paid the “jizyah”.

These vassal states were never forced into the Golden Horde and were able to preserve their religion under Muslim rule.

But the political status of Islam was due to be reversed drastically in the region by the mid-sixteenth century.

The newly-established mighty Russian state under the Ivan IV (the Terrible), invaded the Kazan and Astra khan states.

Over the next three centuries, Russia expanded into Muslim-inhabited lands of Siberia, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

In 1859, Muslims of Dagestan lost their country to Tsarist Russia after 34 years of resistance under Imam Shamil (1797-1871).

The Russian victory had a devastating impact on Caucasian Muslims. Thousands were deported to Siberia.

Hundreds of thousands more were forced to flee to the Ottoman Empire.

Russia’s conquest of Central Asia was completed in 1885. By the 20th century, Russia had over 14 million Muslims.

From then on, Muslims were faced with coercive Christianization and Russification, which was central to Moscow’s policy.

Unknown to many, Islam has a long history in Russia. Today there remains16-20 million Muslims in Russia.

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