Muslim nationalities in Russia are growing quite rapidly from year to year, around 60 times faster than the Russian in average. These nationalities take up 20% of the total populations of the nation. From that percentage, around three million live in Moscow. Did you know, because of how massive the size of Russia is, the diversity of ethnicity is inevitable and the nation actually consists of all-Russian and non-Russian people. The latter live in the republics like Ingushetia, Chechnya, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachayevo-Cherkessia, Bashkortostan and Tatarstan. Some of these Islamic republics have quite dark histories against the Russian government. The radicals once made them places to avoid at all cost because they were once war zones. But, Muslims in Moscow always promote peace and the true color of their religion. That’s why the report has proven that Moscow’s Muslims that occupy 25% of the city commit fewer crimes and only make 3% of the police list compared to other residents.
To serve the Muslim community, the city has allowed four mosques to be built. They are Moscow Cathedral Mosque, Old Mosque, Memorial Mosque and Yardyam Mosque. In this article, though, we will take a closer look at 4 brief facts about Moscow Cathedral Mosque.
1. One of the biggest mosques in Russia
Moscow Cathedral Mosque can accommodate around ten thousand prayers which makes it the biggest mosque in Moscow and one of the three largest in Russia. The other two biggest mosques are The Heart of Chechnya in Grozny and the Grand Mosque in Makhachkala, Dagestan. The Cathedral Mosque is a massive six-story building with seven elevators and occupies 19,000 square meters of land. The main dome that sparks gold under the sun is 46 meters tall with 27 meters in diameter.
2. It is a new old mosque
Does this confuse you? Read on to find out why it is called so. Architect Nikolay Zhukov designed and constructed the original mosque in 1904 and it was more famous as the Tatar Mosque because the majority of the congregation came from Tatars ethnicity. In 2008, the mosque was included in the list of the nation’s cultural heritage but, sadly, the status was revoked by the end of the year. Thus, in September 11, 2011 it got demolished because it has no protection from the government. The Tatar Mosque was then completely gone. But then architect IlyasTazhiyev planned to reconstruct the old mosque by re-assembling the stones from the previous building. However, this plan was dismissed in 2009 by the Council of Muftis – Russia’s religious group that represents the Russian Muslim community – and they took over the reconstruction of the mosque. The new mosque stands exactly on the same spot where the old one was, only the qibla’, or the direction toward Mecca, has been corrected as the old one was deviated for several degrees.
3. An exclusive mosque
Despite Vladimir Putin’s political and religious view issues against beliefs in Russia, he stepped up and was present at the inauguration of the Moscow Cathedral Mosque on September 23, 2015. He was there together with the President of Turkey – Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Palestinian leader – Mahmoud Abbas and local Muslim leaders. That day was taken as a positive sign for the nation’s religious future and peace among the diversity of beliefs. The Moscow Cathedral Mosque was hoped to be a space where different views could melt together. This was not a high hope considering the construction had cost around $170 million entirely from global private donations including from Mahmoud Abbas ($25,000) and Suleiman Kerimov a Dagestan-born billionaire who donated $100 million for the cause. The elements for the Moscow Cathedral Mosque were made exclusively, like the pulpit for the imam, minarets, stained glass, and Russian ornaments that decorate the mosque. Most of these elements were made in Turkey, including the marble ornament, a mihrab – the niche pointing to the direction of Mecca, also the chandelier in the main hall. It is a very beautiful and grand mosque indeed.
4. A symbolic place
The design of the new mosque was very thoroughly thought of by architects Ilias Tažieva and Alexei Kolenteeva. The two minarets symbolize the friendship and unity of the Russian and Tartar people, with the height reaches more than 70 meters and the shape resembles the famous leaning tower of Kazan Kremlin. The golden main dome is covered by 12 tons of gold leaf to respect the Orthodox “golden-domed Moscow”. The architecture of the mosque adopts the Byzantine style. All in all, Moscow Cathedral Mosque really wants to be a bridge between all-Russian and non-Russian, non-Muslims and Muslims as well as promote the possibility for different beliefs and ethnicity to coexist peacefully.
The Moscow Cathedral Mosque might be huge and grand, but the Council of Muftis insist that four mosques in Moscow is not sufficient to accommodate the whole Muslim community in the city, especially during the big holy days where all would gather in available mosques. If any of the days happen to fall during winter, then it is going to be greatly uncomfortable for the prayers to worship outside just because the mosque can’t contain them. But the Russian government stay firm with the opinion that four mosques are enough. There is obviously a strain despite the aim of the Moscow Cathedral Mosque to calm this issue down.
Moscow is the capital of the nation which also becomes the center of domestic and international migration. This makes the city a melting pot with multi ethnicity and religious, which most happens to be Islam. The native Muscovites can’t always openly accept this, and that’s why the strain will always exist. But hopefully the 4 brief facts about Moscow Cathedral Mosque above could help you to see how peaceful it can actually be for Muslim and non-Muslim to live together in Moscow.