Islamic Studies Islam in Russia
Janis Eshots
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 May 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 May 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0119


Islam in Russia has a history more than a thousand years long. It can be divided into five major periods: (1) the Khazaro-Bulgarian period (from the appearance of the first Muslim communities in what is now southeastern Russia to the Mongol invasion, c. 737–1240 CE); (2) the period of the Horde (from the foundation of the Genghis [Chingiz] Khan empire and in particular the Ulus Juchi [Golden Horde or Kipchak Khanate] to its collapse and the inclusion of its remnants into the Russian Empire, c. 1240–1550s); (3) the period of Czarist Russia (from the 1550s to 1917); (4) the Soviet period (1917–1991); and (5) the post-Soviet period (since 1991). In the early 21st century there are approximately fifteen or sixteen million “ethnic” Muslims in Russia, of which about ten million are indigenous Russian Muslims and the remaining five or six million are immigrants from other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries. The indigenous Russian Muslims are concentrated in two main areas: between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea (that is, the northern Caucasus and the adjacent territories) and in the middle of the Volga basin. The immigrant Muslims in turn reside mainly in the major Russian cities, such as Moscow—in which about three million Muslims are believed to reside—Saint Petersburg, and Novosibirsk. The majority of both the indigenous and the immigrant communities are Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi school, but most Dagestani Muslims are Shafiʿites. Less than 10 percent of the fifteen or sixteen million Muslims are practicing Muslims, the rest being Muslims by birth only. Approximately half of the citations included works cited in this bibliography are in Russian. This represents the early-21st-century situation in the field: while there are a good number of overviews and outlines available in English, more specific information concerning different periods and regions is still frequently only available in Russian. And although many websites provide some initial information on the history of Islam and the Muslim communities of Russia, few materials of scholarly interest are available online.

General Overviews

The works listed in this section as a rule are aimed at undergraduates. Elmira Akhmetova’s Islam in Russia: History and Facts should be consulted first for basic information. Bennigsen 1972 is much more informative but sometimes slightly biased and somewhat outdated. Hunter 2004 focuses on Russian state policy toward Islam, while Malashenko 1998 views the Islamic renaissance in the broader context of post-Soviet social and political processes. Zenkovsky 1967 remains indispensable for understanding the phenomenon of the so-called Turkic Islam, while Yemelianova 2002 offers a broad (though perhaps at times too broad) historical perspective.

  • Akhmetova, Elmira.Islam in Russia: History and Facts.

    A brief overview that contains the most important general facts and figures. More reliable than the relevant Wikipedia entry. Recommended for undergraduates without any previous knowledge on the subject.

  • Bennigsen, Alexandre. “The Muslims of European Russia and the Caucasus.” In Russia and Asia: Essays on the Influence of Russia on the Asian Peoples. Edited by Wayne S. Vucinich. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1972.

    An overview of Muslim nations in Russia in the 1970s, with somewhat dated evaluations. Does contain a wealth of useful facts. Recommended to undergraduate students.

  • Hunter, Shireen T. Islam in Russia: The Politics of Identity and Security. Armonk, NY: Sharpe, 2004.

    Deals with the attitudes toward Islam of Russian state and society, and in particular the attitude of post-Soviet Russia toward its Muslim neighbors and its own Muslim regions.

  • Malashenko, A. V. Islamskoye vozrozhdeniye i sovremennaya Rosiya. Moscow: Carnegie Center, 1998.

    An analysis of the revival of Islam in the context of the sociopolitical situation of Russia in the 1990s.

  • Yemelianova, Galina M. Russia and Islam: A Historical Survey. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2002.

    Begins with the examination of the Khazar-Russian contacts and provides a brief historic account of Muslim peoples of the Soviet empire and post-Soviet Russia.

  • Zenkovsky, S. A. Pan-Turkism and Islam in Russia. 3d ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1967.

    Discusses the Pan-Turkist and Muslim movements in late-19th- to early-20th-century Russia, demonstrating that they are often inseparable.

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