Muslims in Ukraine

Muslims in Ukraine have

  • 391 communities
  • 372 ministers
  • 151 mosques
  • 6 mosques are being built

Historically, Crimea was the center of the spread of Islam in Ukraine. In the middle of the 15th century the Crimean Tatar Khanate was established there. It soon was reduced to a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire. The Crimean Tatars were Sunnites, the mufti was the highest spiritual figure, and religious communities were headed by imams. In the capital of the khanate, Bakhchisarai, in the 18th century there were 18 mosques and numerous educational establishments. After the Russian Empire invaded Crimea, it began to persecute the Muslim population of the peninsula. As a result, over 161,000 Muslims left Crimea in the second half of the 19th century. At the same time, a controversy arose among the Muslim population of the peninsula between conservative followers of dogmatic Islam and reformers who were adherents of European culture.

In 1917, Muslims made up one third of the Crimean population and 11% of the residents of cities.

During World War II, the entire Tatar population in Crimea fell victims to Stalin's oppressive policies. In May 1944 they were accused of being Nazi collaborators and 188, 626 Tatars were deported en masse to Central Asia and other lands of the Soviet Union. Many died of disease and malnutrition. Although a 1967 Soviet decree removed the charges against Crimean Tatars, the Soviet government did nothing to facilitate their resettlement in Crimea and to make reparations for lost lives and confiscated property.

Since Ukrainian independence, the Crimean Tatars have begun to return to Ukraine. Today there are Muslim communities of various ethnic origins in all regions of Ukraine. They form three structures: the Spiritual Direction of the Muslims of Ukraine, the Spiritual Center of the Muslim Communities of Ukraine and the Spiritual Direction of the Muslims of Crimea. A small number of Muslim communities do not belong to any of these organizations.

The Spiritual Direction of the Muslims of Crimea (SDMC) was established in 1991 and comprises approximately 70% of all government-registered Muslim communities in Ukraine. It is considered the spiritual center of the Crimean Tatars. The SDMC runs its own spiritual school, publishes its own literature and a newspaper, “Hidiaet,” in the Tatar language. The direction is headed by Mufti Kirim Esende.

The Spiritual Direction of the Muslims of Ukraine (SDMU) was established in 1992 in Kyiv, and in 1994 the first congress was held, at which a presidium of the direction was set up and Tamin Achmed Mohammed Mutach was elected mufti. The direction seeks to unite Muslims of different nationalities, regardless of their cultural differences. The SDMU has representative offices in 10 regions and has the second-largest number of Muslim communities in Ukraine. It runs the Islamic Institute in Kyiv and publishes a Russian-language newspaper, “Minaret.”

The Spiritual Center of the Muslim Communities of Ukraine was established on the basis of the Independent Spiritual Direction of the Muslims of Ukraine, registered in 1994. The center is comprised of Muslim communities of predominantly Tatar nationality in 12 regions. It is known as a national-religious organization. Its directing body is based in Donetsk, where there is also an Islamic cultural centre. Rashid Brahin was elected head of the presidium. In 1997 the center founded the Party of Muslims of Ukraine.

Since the early 1990s, Ukrainian Muslims have been seeking to unite and coordinate their actions. Therefore, they tried repeatedly to hold a large scale representative congress of Ukrainian Muslims. This goal remains unfulfilled.

The establishment of cultural centers was another way to institutionalize the Muslim community. The first such center was registered in Kyiv in 1991. Charitable associations and foundations became widespread, of which the best known most are the CAAR Foundation, Al-Bushra, and Life after Chornobyl. The Interregional Association of Public Organizations, Arraid, deserves special attention. It is a confederation of 11 organizations from various regions of Ukraine.


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