Islam is the second largest religion in Russia. Russian people also consider it as a traditional religion. As Russia makes Islam as the second largest religion in the country, that explains why there are a lot of mosques in Russia. There are currently 8,000 mosques in Russia. There are 3 famous mosques in Moscow, Russia.
Islam first came to Russia in the mid of 7th century AD. It was when Islam tried to conquer Persia. Following the conquest, Islam entered Caucasus region. Russia later incorporated the region as part of the country. The first Russians that become Muslim were Dagestani people. They converted to Moslems after Arabian people conquered it in 8th century. Later, the first Muslim state in Russia was Volga Bulgaria. Then, most of European and Caucasian Turkic people converted to Moslems.
As capital city in Russia, Moscow has less than 300,000 permanent residents of Islam believers, according to 2010 census. However, some estimates mention that Moscow has around 1 million Moslems with nearly 1.5 million Muslim migrant workers. With such number of people, Moscow has several mosques. Three of them are famous.
1. Memorial Mosque
Memorial Mosque is on Poklonnaya Hill. Moscow Government and Spiritual Directorate of the Muslims of European Russia (SDMER) initiated the construction of the building in 1995 – 1997. In 11 March 1195, they placed the first stone that read, “In memory of perished Muslim soldiers during the Great Patriotic War – the sons and the daughters of our multinational Motherland the Memorial Mosque will be erected on initiative of Moscow Government and Spiritual Directorate of the Muslims of Central European Russia.”
Famous Moscow architect Iliyas Tajiev led the construction. The mosque have some unique touch in exterior. Those unique exterior came from various architectural schools of Muslim East in Tatar, Uzbek, and Caucasian. The building became one of the most beautiful architectures in the city. Ceremonial opening of the Memorial Mosque was in September 6th, 1997.
The completely built mosque consists of imams’ rooms and study classes. Those rooms are under its hall. Moslem communities and students in Islamic-based schools carry out their activities by the mosque.
2. Moscow Cathedral Mosque
This building, that stands on plot of land in Vypolzov Lane, is the second oldest and largest mosque in Russia. It was also the largest mosque in Russia. Its minarets are 72 meters tall and the central dome is 46 meters high. Architect Nikolai Alekseyevich Zhukov led the construction of this building in 1904. The mosque that people see today is 20 times wider than the old building.
The new building can occupy 10,000 people because it has seven elevators and air conditioning. Moreover, the building has facilities for disabled people.
After the construction finished in 1904, Russian government demolished the building in 2011. The act provoked an outcry from surrounding people. Coordinator of Arkhnadzor Rustam Rakhmatullin described it as “an act of barbarism exacerbated by administrative arbitrariness.” Several organizations and Muslim leaders accused Russian Council of Muftis of unlawful actions and “the destruction of historical heritage.” However, the Council of Muftis said that reconstruction was a necessary step. The council argued that the old building had partially caved in and was no longer safe.
It required $170 million to reconstruct the mosque. The fund came from donates, such as Russian businessman and senator Suleyman Kerimov in memory of his father. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas also donated $26,000 on behalf of Palestinian children. During the reconstruction, architects covered the dome and pavilions with 12 kg of gold leaf. The reconstruction finished on September 23, 2015. Russia president Vladimir Putih re-opened the mosque. Turkey President Recep Tayeb Erdogan and Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas attended the re-opening ceremony.
With such massive size, however, the number of mosque still cannot accommodate the growing number of Moslems in Russia. People still need around an hour or even an hour a half to go to the mosque.
3. Old Mosque of Moscow
The Old Mosque was built in 1823. The construction of the mosque was to replace an earlier private mosque. Fire destroyed the private mosque in 1812. The mosque is in Bolshaya Tatarskaya street in Zamoskvorechye. The Tatars once lived in the area.
Tatar merchant Nasarbai Hashalov owned the land. The Tsarist authorities allowed the construction of a “Muslim house of prayer” under certain conditions.
Those conditions were: 1) the building should not be called as a “mosque” and 2) its facade should not significantly differ from nearby houses. The people agreed with those conditions. Thus, the construction began.
The initial mosque did not have cupola nor minaret. People added the exteriors in 1880. Following the construction, people had since built Islamic-based schools from 1915 for Moslem children to learn.
However, the Soviets shut down the mosque in 1939. In addition to shutting down the main building, they destroyed the minaret. They also got rid of the last imam of the mosque. Activities of worshipping in the mosque did not start until 1993. At that year, people rebuilt the destroyed minaret.