Vladikavkaz is the capital of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, Russia. It is situated on the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains by the Terek River. According to 2010 census, there are 311,693 people residing in the city – making it one of the most populous cities in the North Caucasus. The majority of the populations are Eastern Orthodox Christians, the second predominant religion is Uatsdin – a neo-pagan movement, and the rest follows the teaching of Islam, Protestantism, Armeninan Orthodoxy and other beliefs. The number of Muslims in the whole North Ossetia-Alania is about 15%.
Islam entered the republic through the Kabardians in the 17th century, and even though it is a minor belief in the North Ossetia-Alania, there is a large mosque built in Vladikavkaz to serve the Muslims there. Here are 6 breathtaking facts about Mukhtarov Mosque in the capital of Ossetia, Russia.
1. Named after a millionaire
A lot of mosques in Russia are named after important people like the Kul Sharif Mosque in Kazan Kremlin, Akhmad Kadyrov in Grozny, and also this Mukhtarov Mosque in Vladikavkaz. Murtuza Mukhtarov was an Azerbaijani oil industrialist who financed the construction of the mosque from 1900 to 1908. It took 80 thousand Rubles for the whole project. He was also the owner of Mukhtarov Palace in Baku. Naturally, the mosque was then named after him to honor his goodwill.
2. A symbol of affection
Murtuza Mukhtarov built the mosque as a way to express Azerbaijani Muslims’ love towards Ossetian Muslims. Personally, Mukhtarov decided to build the mosque in Vladikavkaz because it was the place where he met the woman who then became his wife. It was Lisa Tuganov, the daughter of General Hamby Tuganova that he married in Vladikavkaz and then brought to live in Baku, Azerbaijan.
3. A pictureque mosque
Mukhtarov Mosque is situated on the left bank of the Terek River with beautiful backdrop of the Caucasus Mountains. Jozef Plosko was the architect behind the mosque. He designed it by adopting the style of mosques in Cairo, Egypt also the infamous Al-Azhar. Opened for public on October 14, 1908, the Mukhtarov Mosque was made of white limestone brought all the way from the suburbs of Baku. The amazing location and architectural design of the mosque has put it on the list of seven most beautiful mosques in Russia.
4. A Sunni mosque
There are two major branches of Islam the world are familiar with; Sunni and Shia. Mukhtarov Mosque serves the Sunni Muslim community and this branch is known for its peaceful way to maintain the good image of Islam and spread the right facts about the religion people often wrongly learn about. Some people also call this mosque as Sunnnitskaya or the Sunni Mosque to remember the service Tatar Muslims have given to the worshipping place. There had been there at the front line to defend the mosque during the Soviet era and they are also the ones who keep the mosque alive by providing Islamic services at the mosque to the community in Vladikavkaz namely madrasa and civil paperwork for Muslims.
5. Shut down during the Soviet Union Era
Just like any other worshipping places in Russia, Muhktarov Mosque also got banned from serving any religious practice during the Soviet Union time. The city council decided to destroy the mosque in 1934 but the commander of the 25th Tatar Company, Y.I. Betkenev, ordered his men to protect the building. This fight succeeded and the authorities gave in and granted the status of architectural monument to the mosque.
6. A mix of different styles
Jozeph Ploshko really thought through about the design of the mosque that it represents many kinds of elements into one. Mukhtarov Mosque has two minarets and a dome; all decorated to look like a classic Russian castle. But the exterior of the building highlights the Egyptian glory just as much, starting from the shape of the windows, the color pattern, and arches or horseshoe spread around the building. The wide garden in front of the mosque represents the Moscow’s Red Square as well as the Bronze Horseman in Saint Petersburg as a way to identify it as a part of Russia. The mosque was built in an angle that makes it possible to stand in front of the Caucasus Mountains that symbolize the Vladikavkaz. The interior of the mosque is colorfully decorated, from carved wood, tiles to floral plasters. The decorations fill the whole prayer space up to the inside of the dome. On the corners of the walls are embossed calligraphy of verses from the Qur’an. The pulpit and niche are made of marble and the second floor balcony is used for women to pray. Even though this mosque is not so large in size, but the beauty of the exterior and facade’s ornaments make the mosque a pride to the Muslims in North Ossetia.
The Mukhtarov Mosque is always consistently reconstructed and maintained. This proves how much the building matters not only to the Ossetian Muslims but also Ossetian in general. The mosque is more than just a worshipping space but also a pride to the republic as a historic landmark. The minarets can easily be seen by the river when you visit the town. It’s beautiful in every season and that’s why tourists come and visit the mosque to take pictures, sometimes to go through an appointed tour.
Vladikavkaz is a city in Russia that not many foreign tourists go to. But after reading the 6 breathtaking facts about Mukhtarov Mosque above, hopefully you would put the town in your itinerary for when you visit Russia next time. Islam has been growing in the nation and it makes Muslim travelers more at ease visiting it since it won’t be too hard to find a place to pray or dine halal food.