Seite drucken. Seite weiterempfehlen.

Participation and marginalization of Muslims from Central Asia in Russia

Coordination: Sophie Roche


Several million migrants from Central Asia migrate to Russia every year remaining there for a few months, years or even settle there. They work in the building sector, in public services and businesses primarily, but also as doctors, lawyers, teachers and any other job. Russia’s declining workforce depends on these “Gastarbeiters”. Also the Central Asian countries relay on these migrants in order to reduce the pressure on the stagnating job market in the region. In Russia Central Asian Muslim migrants enter a society which has a Muslim population. Russia’s Muslim population today is about 20 million, which includes the Muslim populations of the Volga-Ural region as well as of the North Caucasus. With the exception of the Kazakhs, the orientation of Central Asians (both Persian-speakers and Turkic-speakers) towards the north rather than the Islamic south and west is, historically speaking, a new phenomenon that started in the eighteenth century and became more pronounced in the twentieth century. During the Soviet period, educational migration between Russia and Central Asia was twofold: Central Asian students went to Russia for higher education in secular topics, while Russian Muslims moved south for religious education. For instance, the Grand Mufti of Russia, Ravil Gaynutdin, received his religious training at the Mir-i Arab Madrassa in Bukhara, one of the main Islamic centers in the Russian-speaking world and the most honorable place to receive religious education.

Today’s Russia hosts around 6,000 mosques for about 20 million officially self-identified Muslims –migrants excluded. Many of these mosques are headed by Tajik, Chechen, or Tatar imom qotib (prayer leaders). But Moscow, with two million Muslim residents and up to two million more migrant workers, has only four mosques, and the municipal authorities have repeatedly dismissed all efforts to build more, despite an urgent need. Moscow’s mosques are overcrowded and every Friday several roads around the religious buildings have to be closed during prayer hours. One of the reasons advanced by the municipal authorities for not building mosques is that the majority of their attendants are migrants, not Russian citizens. Central Asian migrants are often forgotten from the general picture of Islam in Russia, even though they constitute a growing part of the Muslims of Russia. Indeed, many migrants became religious practitioners while in Russia and have organized their travel to the Muslim world via Russia. Based on ethnographic research in Moscow among migrants from Central Asia since 2010, this project explores the role of Islam among these migrants and their relationships to Russia and its various populations.

Public Lectures:

'The Moscow Cathedral Mosque in the Life of Migrants from Central Asia', Central Asia Program, The George Washington University, February 21, 2017, 4:30pm to 6pm


Report on the talk in Russian

'Muslim and Migrant in Moscow: Bazaar Workers from Tajikistan' Workshop organized by Mustafa Tuna: 'Preserving Culture at the Fringes in Authoritarian States', at the Centre for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies, Duke University, February 15, 2017, 2pm to 5:15pm


‚Marginalisierungsprozesse und Integrationsstrategien zentralasiatischer Migranten in Russland: Eine ethnographische Sicht auf die Rolle des Islam unter Migranten in Moskau.‘ (Marginalization and integration processes of Central Asian Migrants in Russia: An ethnographic view on the role of Islam among Migrants in Moscow) Symposium: ‚Muslime, Radikale und Islamophobie in der Russischen Föderation.‘ Österreichische Orient-Gesellschaft Hammer-Purgstall, Informationszentrum für Zentralasien und Südkaukasien, Vienna, 30 Mai 2016

‘Migrants from Central Asia in the Field of Islam in Russia.’ Conference on Islam in Russia, Davis Centre, Harvard, 15-16 October 2016.

‚Migranten aus Zentralasien im Islamischen Kontext Russlands’ (migrants from Central Asia within the Islamic context of Russia). Organized by Prof. Bert Fragner, Österreichische Orient-Gesellschaft, Vienna, 3 December 2015.

Coming, going, staying, leaving: (im)mobility of migrants and Islam on the move. (French/English), IISMM, 2 March 2015

Situating the migrants of Central Asia within contemporary Russia's religious politics. IISMM, 9 March 2015

Key note speaker ‘The role of Islam in the lives of Central Asian migrants in Moscow’, at International Research Conference: The World of Islam: History, Society, Culture, Moscow, 23 December 2014

‘Political identity building and religious consciousness among Tajik migrants in Russia.’ Workshop: ‘The Central Asian migrant experience in Turkey and Russia: Comparing political subjectivities, diaspora politics, and citizen-state relations.’ Boğaziçi University, Turkey, 15-17 January 2014

Autorités virtuelles: la socialisation de jeunes Tadjiks en Russie à travers les réseaux sociaux et les conditions de travail. Séminaire: “Histoire et anthropologie des islams du Nord”, organized by Anne Ducloux, Stéphane Dudoignon, Frédérique Longuet-Marx, Alexandre Papas, Thierry Zarcone, IISMM, 5 May 2014

Les identités et pratiques religieuses des migrants d’Asie Centrale en Russie. Colloquium: "Passé, présent, avenir de l’islam en Russie: Entre la recherche et le discours public” (Past, Present, Future of Islam in Russia: Between Research and Public Discourse), at FMSH, 22 April 2013.