Political ideology. In Russia, Islamism—that is, the political ideology that, for Muslims, Islam and politics are inseparable— exists in a variety of forms. In its most extreme manifestation, Islamists advocate the institution of sharia (Islamic law) and support a jihad (holy war) to purge traditionally Muslim areas of Russians and other nonbelievers. For many, the ultimate goal is the establishment of a Eurasian caliphate that would stretch from western China to Anatolia. Such groups embrace a strict, Saudi-influenced form of Islam, often called Wahhabism (vakhabizm) by Russian authorities. Many adherents of Islamism were deeply influenced by exposure to the mujahideen during the Soviet-Afghan War or to the teachings of clerics from the Middle East who were allowed to proselytize in Russia during the early Yeltsin era. This radical ideology is most prevalent in Chechnya, though it has found some adherents in other parts of the North Caucasus, particularly in the wake of the first Chechen War. In the Volga-Ural region, Islamism is much more pragmatic. Among Tatars and Bashkirs, there is a range of Islamist politics, from neo-Jadidism, which seeks to modernize Islam for the 21st century, to anticolonial movements that employ Islam as a tool for rallying Muslim minorities against the presence of ethnic Russians in the region.
   Under perestroika, a number of cultural organizations were formed to revive Islamic identity across the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), including the Union of Muslims of Russia, Ittifaq (Tatar: “Union”), Nur (“Light”), and the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) among others; by 1991, many of these had turned themselves into full-fledged political parties. Due to the structure of the new political system in the Russian Federation, none of these organizations was able to achieve traction on the national level; however, they have influenced policy in the Muslim republics, particularly Tatarstan, but also Bashkortostan, Adygeya, Karachay-Cherkessiya, Kabardino-Balkariya, Ingushetiya, and Dagestan. Responding to a proliferation of jihadi terrorism in the late 1990s, Vladimir Putin pursued a multipronged strategy to weaken Islamism in the Russian Federation. At the regional level, Putin has given carte blanche to the republican leadership to deal with the Islamist “problem.” In the North Caucasus, security service personnel often track mosque attendance and sometimes detain worshippers who visit “suspect” mosques or those who demonstrate outward signs of Wahhabism (including bearded men and veiled women). Putin has also attempted to marginalize more radical Islamic leaders, such as Ravil Gaynutdin, in favor of those who actively condemn Wahhabism and other “alien” forms of Islam.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.


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