chapter  2
17 Pages

Russian discourses and approaches to Islam and Islamism


Russia has had a long and intensive engagement with Islam and with the Muslim world. Exceptionally for a European country, the Russian state was forged through the repression and conquest of Muslim political entities and through the incorporation of a signifi cant Muslim minority as a part of its indigenous population. Muslim Tatars have over 400 years of living and coexisting within the Russian state. The subsequent imperial expansion of the Russian state incorporated further substantial Muslim communities, most notably in the Caucasus and Central Asia. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 signifi cantly reduced the formal territorial control exercised by Moscow, but the legacies of imperial expansion remain evident in the restive Muslim communities of the North Caucasus and in the large-scale migration of Central Asian Muslims into postSoviet Russia. 1 In terms of external politics, Russia has had a similarly intense and complex engagement with the Muslim world. Imperial Russia fought three major wars with the Ottoman Empire and there were over three centuries of confl ict and imperial competition in the Near and Middle East. The Soviet Union continued this tradition, seeking to play a powerful and active role in the Middle East which would diminish or usurp US and Western infl uence in the region. 2 In the end, it was Muslim resistance through the struggle of the mujahidin in Afghanistan which played a key role in the collapse of the Soviet Union.