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Russia's discomfort with its Muslim minority
January 8, 2007 1:17 AM   Subscribe

Russia's discomfort with its Muslim minority stems from a fear that the higher-than-average fertility of the Muslim population (6-10 children children per woman among Muslims vs 1.5 per woman among non-Muslims) will make the ethnic Russians of eastern-orthodox persuasion a minority within the state. [More Inside]
posted by gregb1007 (43 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Paul Goble, an expert on Islam in Russia and a research associate at the University of Tartu in Estonia says that "If nothing changes, in 30 years people of Muslim descent will definitely outnumber ethnic Russians." To stem off the tide of Muslim immigration from neighboring Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the Russian Cabinet wants to prohibit migrants from retail stalls and markets. One of such Muslim migrant-dominated markets in Moscow was recently bombed by a skinhead group.

Alexander Belov, head of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, an interest group that has held rallies, believes that non-Slavs/Muslims should be kept away from the Slavic heartland of Russian and only allowed to live in the periphery. Konstantin Romodanovsky, director of the Federal Migration Service, said that Muslim immigrants should not be allowed to turn any towns into ethnic enclaves where they would excede the number of ethnic/Slavic Russians.
posted by gregb1007 at 1:28 AM on January 8, 2007


oooh, at least there's no long-standing russ-muslim ethnic tensions to worry about here. . .
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:55 AM on January 8, 2007


Why do people argue that Muslims will be taking over Europe?

"Laziness, as always, is a good excuse. People like projecting trends unchanged indefinitely into the future--witness the recent UN prediction that by 2300 there would be a quarter-trillion humans living on Earth. Taking demographic trends and projecting them indefinitely into the future can be an entertaining past time. As the history of demographic studies has demonstrated time and time again, however, the results aren’t particularly useful as anything but historical articles.

"Europeans who use these arguments are particpating in the long-standing fear about being overwhelmed by immigrants. In The Identity of France, for instance, Braudel commented how in the early 20th century, native French were hostile to the then-current crop of immigrants--Belgians, Italians, Spanish, Poles--because of their strong Catholicism and distinctive languages. In Germany and Austria-Hungary, Poles and other Slavs served similarly as threatening spectres to Teutophone areas. Even in the United Kingdom, that European country singularly without much of a pre-Second World War history of immigration, Irish Catholic and eastern European Jewish immigration reliably created national hysterias. In all of these cases, of course, existing ethnolinguistic frontiers remained more or less intact."
posted by Ljubljana at 2:46 AM on January 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


Ljubljana, that's a fantastic article. (I'm unfamiliar with LiveJournal -- some sort of academic publication?)

The author messed up on at least one point: witness the recent UN prediction that by 2300 there would be a quarter-trillion humans living on Earth -- as the actual high scenario goes to 35 billion, which is about one-seventh of a quarter trillion, and the authors preferred a medium scenario, nearly identical to zero growth over the long term. The constant projection was used only for comparison, and only went to 130 billion anyway ("This scenario is prepared merely for illustrative purposes, since its results show that the
population dynamics it embodies are unsustainable."). I hope he isn't similarly playing with other citations.
posted by dhartung at 3:24 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


(I'm unfamiliar with LiveJournal -- some sort of academic publication?)

No, it's a free blog site. You are a master of sarcasm. I nearly fell off my chair.
posted by mkb at 3:31 AM on January 8, 2007


LJ is a blogging community/site.

Talking about "ethnolinguistic frontiers" is rather missing the point of nativistic resistance to immigration. What really matters is how daily life is changing, and from what I gather only scandinavia, with its rather draconian immigration controls, is retaining its traditional polity. Most other countries are losing their cultural homogeneity, and I can understand how that would be troubling to people in Old Europe, where national pride goes back millenia.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:31 AM on January 8, 2007


/s/millenia/centuries/
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:33 AM on January 8, 2007


Medium to high smart people are the ones that figure out that it makes sense to immigrate.

They often come from a "high breeding" culture but after a generation or so (after offspring have gone to university) they become "low breeders".

The whole article is just racist propaganda.

If a country does not want low paid and exploited "guest workers" then it is fairly easy to prevent businesses from employing them.

However businesses influence governments to the extent that "guest workers" are not only allowed but they are also marginalized to the point that they are easily exploited.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 4:14 AM on January 8, 2007


Russian skinheads, eh? I wonder if they're at all related to these Pamyat types.

I understand the "they're outbreeding us" thing has been worrying in certain Israeli circles as well. Maybe the way to co-opt those pesky Palestinians into acquiescence is to make them all solidly middle class?
posted by pax digita at 5:25 AM on January 8, 2007


If a country does not want low paid and exploited "guest workers" then it is fairly easy to prevent businesses from employing them.

The fact that "guest workers" willingly immigrate and voluntarily take on jobs in their new country should be a pretty big clue that exploitation means nothing.

Western guilt over "exploitation" of immigrant workers, and indeed those elsewhere, is just another ugly branch on the tree of racism - one that says those jobs are demeaning, no decent person should have to do them while conveniently forgetting the entire employment history of their own cultures.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 5:27 AM on January 8, 2007


Um, you don't have to tell dhartung what LJ is. It's called impugning the source.

And speaking of great sources: The original article from this FPP first appeared in the quality newspaper The Washington Times last November, causing lively debate on sites like Stormfront. (See their thread on more reasons why we're all getting overrun by a tidal wave of a swarm of Muslims.)
posted by Ljubljana at 5:29 AM on January 8, 2007


It's interesting that the countries of Europe would be accused of harboring some sort of over-zealous national pride because of a desire to stave off immigrants. I guess we'll never know about the national pride of the countries from which these immigrants are leaving, since no one seems bothered enough to immigrate there. Do Mexicans have no national pride? Do North Africans have no national pride? What a silly thing to try to quantitate. No one complains of Europeans moving en masse to a country and having 10 children per family because it's not something they do - therefore there's no comparison in terms of ethnicity or nationality in regards to immigration. If you are mad at how a country handles a large influx of immigrants, remember that the country the immigrants are coming from also shares some of the blame - for having a poor economy, or no security, or political persecution, or whatever. What policy should these countries adopt? Should they have no policy at all? If they do have an immigration policy, should they enfore it?
posted by billysumday at 5:45 AM on January 8, 2007


MonkeySaltedNuts: if you're referring to the livejournal article, it is anti-racist, hardly racist propaganda.

Additionally, Europe does not need reminding that it has two countries within its folds that are majority Muslim: Albania and Bosnia. Also, much of Iberian culture today has very strong and significant Muslim roots. The same is true of Malta and Sicily. Europe also needs not to be reminded that it has a virulently ugly history with racism ... as it becomes increasingly acceptable to be racist against Muslims, Europe's troubles will mount until a situation might occur in some country, where the Muslims are attacked en masse. But that will likely only happen if European Muslims start doing well economically and financially threaten non-Muslim Europeans.

Russia is a different matter altogether. They seem to be undergoing a particularly ugly racist period. Many African students have been killed in St. Petersburg for being dark-skinned. Africans routinely face police harrassment, racist verbal attacks ... and the government does not bother to intervene, which it must start doing. Any person of color who visits Moscow or St. Petersburg is warned not to walk alone at night for fear of skinhead attacks ... I know Indians in Moscow who complain about the open and flagrant racism.

Without government intervention and prominent Russians like Marat and Dinara Safin, who are ethnically Muslim, adopting a more public role in advocating inter-religious/ethnic integration, the lot of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities willl get worse.
posted by Azaadistani at 5:48 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Maybe the Russians should consult with Virgil Goode about some possible solutions to this problem!
posted by papakwanz at 6:14 AM on January 8, 2007


Just to make an important point clear for those who did not read the linked article: the situation in Russia is not comparable to those in France, England, and so on, because the Muslim population in Russia has been there as long as the "Russian" one (Russian is hardly an objective term in this context), and Islam is older than Orthodoxy in the region (in fact, historical tradition has it that Kievan princes sought instruction in Islam from Khwarezm in the tenth century, and Vladimir of Kiev chose Christianity over Islam in 986 because "undergoing circumcision and neither eating pork nor drinking wine were disagreeable to him"). Russians complaining about Moslems in Russia is like Americans complaining about Hispanics in America: they were here before you were, sucker.
posted by languagehat at 6:21 AM on January 8, 2007 [4 favorites]


True enough, languagehat, but the demographics have been changing-- the simple fact that there were Hispanics in the US, and Muslims in Russia, a long time ago doesn't mean that they have been a large, continuous presence. I'd argue they've been culturally and politically peripheral.
posted by ibmcginty at 6:38 AM on January 8, 2007


languagehat, all that you have written sounds quite logical, but that's not how Russians view the situation.

They conceive of the Muslims who are century-old natives to the area in the same that wealthy new residents of a former run-down area think of the poor minority left over from the pre-gentrification era. Yes this was your humble poor town, but since we yuppies moved on, we own it and we want you to get out.
posted by gregb1007 at 6:39 AM on January 8, 2007


Sounds to me like them "ethnic Russians" need to get fuckin'.
posted by Citizen Premier at 6:40 AM on January 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


Citizen Premier, that'll happen exactly when the US gives the Louisiana Purchase back to the French, and California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas back to Mexico ;-)
posted by gregb1007 at 6:47 AM on January 8, 2007


I hypothesise that undesired children could quite easily be turned into a high-protein slurry that could serve as insulation for unheated houses and as a nutritious snack.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 7:54 AM on January 8, 2007


I will happily have sex with many young Russian women to help with this problem. Email in profile.
posted by Falconetti at 8:05 AM on January 8, 2007


doesn't mean that they have been a large, continuous presence.

But they have been, in both cases. Being ignored by the ruling culture does not actually make people vanish.

I'd argue they've been culturally and politically peripheral.

Well, yeah, duh, in terms of the ruling culture. That's what happens when (in gregb's excellent analogy) "wealthy new residents of a former run-down area" deal with "the poor minority left over from the pre-gentrification era." What's your point? That because the Russians piss on the Muslims, we should too, just out of solidarity?

that's not how Russians view the situation.


Well, duh. But I though MeFites might find a different view helpful.
posted by languagehat at 8:18 AM on January 8, 2007


What's your point? That because the Russians piss on the Muslims, we should too, just out of solidarity?

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Your point, to which I was responding, was that there's nothing new about the situations of Muslims in Russia and Hispanics in the US. This is both false and meaningless.

Russians who perceive a larger Muslim presence are not just making it up out of thin air. There has been demographic change in the past 20 years. If you want to assume some exaggeration at this site, that's fine, but the statement that "Since 1989, Russia's Muslim population has increased by 40 percent to about 25 million self-identified Muslims" has some grounding in demographic fact.

This DOES NOT (repeat, DOES NOT) mean that anything that Russian nationalists say about what to do about it is just peachy.

And Vladimir of Kiev met with some Muslim clerics sometime before the Crusades happened. That's super. What's your point? That it's only wrong for Russians to piss on the Muslims because the Muslims got to that patch of the earth first?
posted by ibmcginty at 8:48 AM on January 8, 2007


Your point, to which I was responding, was that there's nothing new about the situations of Muslims in Russia and Hispanics in the US.

No, that's as much a caricature of my position as my "pissing" suggestion was of yours. My point was that (to quote my actual words, as I don't know how to make it any clearer) the situation in Russia is not comparable to those in France, England, and so on, because the Muslim population in Russia has been there as long as the "Russian" one (Russian is hardly an objective term in this context), and Islam is older than Orthodoxy in the region. I did not say, nor do I believe, that "there's nothing new about the situation." I do think it's ignorant and unhelpful to talk about the situation as if it were analogous to that in Western Europe, namely a bunch of damn immigrants coming in and causing trouble (to put it as an outraged local might). The history was purely for context. I did not say, nor do I believe, that "it's only wrong for Russians to piss on the Muslims because the Muslims got to that patch of the earth first." I think it's wrong for the Russians to piss on the Muslims no matter what, but I think the history is relevant. If you don't, congratulations! You're a good American!
posted by languagehat at 9:55 AM on January 8, 2007


Azaadistani: Europe also needs not to be reminded that it has a virulently ugly history with racism ... as it becomes increasingly acceptable to be racist against Muslims

Don't you mean "culturalist?" Or do you think Europe would be happy with a burgeoning subculture of white Muslims?

I ask because I want to expel our Evangelical droves there and amputate them from American politics altogether. Do you think the French will take a shine to Jerry Falwell?
posted by kid ichorous at 10:17 AM on January 8, 2007


"Endangered" societies could sterilize minorities and other "undesirables." (Precedent.)

As for Muslims in Russia, maybe the Russians should go back where they came from.
posted by davy at 10:18 AM on January 8, 2007


languagehat-- Really, it's quite a narrow matter over which we're quibbling-- how large a presence have Muslims had in Russia in the past few hundred years. Right now, the proportion of Muslims in Russia is growing rapidly. They have deeper roots than they do in Germany and London, but it's not clear to me how much this matters-- that is, how much the average Russian has been aware of their presence.

I think that most Russian Muslims were of minority ethnicity, and lived in enclaves where the had little impact on Russian society as a whole, and that today, there is a huge increase in cross-religious interaction.

I'm open to the view that Muslims have long been a prominent, widely known group in Russian society, but the anecdote you brought up was insufficient to prove your point. That an important king of Rus sent emissaries to Muslims in 968 really doesn't mean anything about the presence of Muslims in Russia in the past 50, 100, or 200 years. It'd be as if an Irish king in 800 met with Moorish leaders-- it has no resonance in Ireland today.

This article notes that "unlike Muslim minorities in Western Europe, most Russian Muslims represent native people of what is now Russia, who inhabited their land for over a millennium." It also suggests that Russian Muslims' reacquaintance with their faith is leading to a uniquely European, non-fundamentalist Islam.
posted by ibmcginty at 11:00 AM on January 8, 2007


Falconetti writes "I will happily have sex with many young Russian women to help with this problem."

We'll be needing the results of a semen analysis, genetic risk factors test and statement of ethnicity and religion before we can accept your application.
posted by Mitheral at 11:09 AM on January 8, 2007


Ljubljana - I think I'm just going to link to that everytime I hear some ridiculous crypto-racist "brown hordes" argument.
posted by Artw at 11:22 AM on January 8, 2007


Muslim societies are renowned for their tolerance, compassion, and fairness.

If one were to go through the article and replace "Muslims" with "right-to-life Christians", would we see so much compassion for the underdog?
posted by Brown Jenkin at 11:41 AM on January 8, 2007


All political correctness aside, I think the idea of Muslims overbreeding is is alarming, in the same way that fanatic Christians overbreeding is alarming. The world doesn't need any more of either.
posted by Liquidwolf at 11:44 AM on January 8, 2007


Um, you don't have to tell dhartung what LJ is. It's called impugning the source.

Nah, it's just having a little fun at insomnia_lj's expense. I was feeling punchy this morning. Anyway...

Part of the demographic problem for Russia is that suddenly, they're just Russia -- not Russia + Ukraine + Belarus + Baltics. I bet that makes the numbers jump! Also, it isn't just the raw numbers, either. Prior to 1991 there was an implicit Soviet culture that all ethnic groups were to assimilate towards. Even after glasnost opened up religious expression, there was at least this "we're all in this socialist state together" vibe. Artyom Borovik wrote of this in The Hidden War, how Russians could feel solidarity with Afghans and what they expected out of the war. Indeed, a lesser aim of the war was to bind the Islamic underbelly of Russia more closely to the state.

But since the Soviet dissolution there has been a series of events that have collectively highlighted the differences. Most prominent, of course, is Chechnya and the connected terrorism. As the minority grows and continues to be denied political power this will only be more of a problem. I do not know how Putin's shadow oligarch elite balances racially, but I do know it's heavily dominated by his St. Petersburg pals, so it seems likely to reflect the nationalist view rather than an expansionist one.

Then there's the unmentioned (in that article) growth of Asian guest workers in Siberia and the broad exodus of ethnic Russians from the Eastern provinces. There's a very real possibility that the farther reaches of the old Russian Empire will face increasing sectarian and ethnic detachment from the European Russians in Moscow.
posted by dhartung at 12:07 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


A pointer to a "new" Islam.

And dhartung, maybe it's better if the Russians returned Siberia to the Siberians.
posted by davy at 1:44 PM on January 8, 2007


It's only fitting. Russia is just uncomfortable with about every other minority that is contained within its borders. There are so many indigenous people in there who have never been Russian, but have just had the misfortune to have their land annexed. Until "Russia" can russify everyone, I doubt they'll be happy.
posted by taursir at 2:11 PM on January 8, 2007


it's not clear to me how much this matters-- that is, how much the average Russian has been aware of their presence.

Huh? Is that your definition of "how much this matters"—"how much the average Russian has been aware of their presence"? Personally, I find that completely irrelevant; to me it matters because it's true, and because the Muslims themselves are well aware of it. The ignorance, willed or otherwise, of large numbers of Russians is beside the point. (And I think even "the average Russian" is aware that the Volga was a Muslim region before the Russians took it over, considering that "the conquest of Kazan" is as much a part of Russian song, story, and historical painting as, say, Washington crossing the Delaware is in America.)

I'm open to the view that Muslims have long been a prominent, widely known group in Russian society, but the anecdote you brought up was insufficient to prove your point. That an important king of Rus sent emissaries to Muslims in 968 really doesn't mean anything about the presence of Muslims in Russia in the past 50, 100, or 200 years.

Of course not, and that wasn't why I brought it up; I was showing the antiquity of the Muslim presence. I'm not about to write a feature-length essay here breaking down the complex Muslim histories involved; the Muslims of the Caucasus have nothing to do with the Muslims of Central Asia, which in turn have little to do with the Muslims of the Volga region (the Tatars are the best-known group here) or of Siberia. I can give you some titles to read if you want to investigate this enormously interesting subject, but failing that, you can take my word for their continuing presence and relevance or not. All I can tell you is that I'm not pulling it out of my ass.

Muslim societies are renowned for their tolerance, compassion, and fairness.


Wow, at first I thought this was someone with unusual historical insight. Then I realized it was just a troll.
posted by languagehat at 3:13 PM on January 8, 2007


All political correctness aside, I think the idea of Muslims overbreeding is is alarming, in the same way that fanatic Christians overbreeding is alarming. The world doesn't need any more of either.

Amen to that. It's amazing how the idea of "demographics threats" have turned the idea of creating new lives because you have a lot of love to give and the resources available to raise said child into the idea of breeding like mad so the other races/ethnicities/religions don't "win" the numbers contest. So much for the marketplace of ideas when indoctrinating your own progeny is so much easier.

This attitude, combined with the feedback mechanism that prompts other groups who perceive themselves to be in danger demographically to follow suit, and the backwards attitude of many mainstream religions towards sex and birth control, is destroying the planet. I don't think that it will get better until we recognize that ideas should be valued on their own merits, and get over our senseless taboo against picking and choosing the best aspects of different traditions as a basis to live one's life, rather than orthodoxy and inherited religion/culture. This is the right way to do multicultralism, not as some misguided "shore up our numbers" breeding contest. Not all problems can be solved by more fucking.
posted by SBMike at 3:18 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Is that your definition of "how much this matters"—"how much the average Russian has been aware of their presence"? Personally, I find that completely irrelevant; to me it matters because it's true, and because the Muslims themselves are well aware of it. The ignorance, willed or otherwise, of large numbers of Russians is beside the point.

In the context of a discussion about ethnic Russian hostility towards Russian Muslims, of course it matters to which degree Russians feel Muslim presence to be a new development. Argue that it's an exaggerated or unwarranted feeling on the part of Russians, if you like, but it's legitimate to question how prominent, numerous, and widespread Muslim presence has been in Russia.

I've seen nothing to dispell the idea that the Muslim presence in Russia, while longstanding, was limited in number and reach.

Lest you once again become confused, let me stress again that even if they all just materialized yesterday, they still do not deserve to be pissed upon.

Washington crossing the Delaware to fight the Hessians has zero impact on Americans' views of the English or the Germans. Is the history you refer to the same for the Russians vis-a-vis the Muslims?

I can give you some titles to read

I'd be pleased to hear your recommendations for info sources on the demography and social impact of Muslim populations in Russia in the past few centuries.
posted by ibmcginty at 4:53 PM on January 8, 2007


There's good information in these, among others:

Central Asia, 130 years of Russian dominance: a historical overview by Edward Allworth
Islamic peoples of the Soviet Union by Shirin Akiner
After the USSR: ethnicity, nationalism and politics in the Commonwealth of Independent States by Anatoly M. Khazanov
Central Asia and the Caucasus after the Soviet Union by Mohiaddin Mesbahi
National identity and ethnicity in Russia and the new states of Eurasia by Roman Szporluk
The nationalities question in the post-Soviet states by Graham Smith
The Central Asian republics: fragments of empire magnets of wealth by Charles Undeland

As for how Russians feel, frankly I don't find that a very interesting subject, since it's pretty much the same as how all dominant cultures feel about "threatening" demographic developments: OMG the uncultured unwashed alien heathens are taking over and breeding us into the ground! You can find variants of this in just about every Western country (very much including the US, with regard to the Irish, the Italians, the Jews, various Eastern European types, Latin Americans, and of course always and forever the blacks). When I was in the Soviet Union I had people come up to me (the enemy, lest we forget, in the great all-encompassing Cold War) and confidentially tell me we white people needed to get past our differences and unite against the Yellow Peril from the East. Facts are irrelevant to such people; it's all about irrational fears and perceptions.
posted by languagehat at 5:07 PM on January 8, 2007


Thanks, languagehat.

The content of the Russians' reactionary feelings is, as you point out, quite uninteresting.

The intensity of those feelings, though, will be based in part on how "new" they perceive the Muslim presence to be.
posted by ibmcginty at 6:01 PM on January 8, 2007


To quote the SF Chronicle article, "This fall, four Russian regions introduced mandatory classes in Orthodox Christianity in all schools."

See? Them Russkis don't lock God out of THEIR schools, praise Jesus! It's just too bad they're the wrong kind of Christians, when they should be tonguing snakes & all.

And languagehat, Long Live the High Yellah Peril!
posted by davy at 7:05 PM on January 8, 2007


So, tell me: Who told the Russians this was a problem? (Which is to say, who benefits politically/economically from promoting this as a problem?)

Folks is folks. Most folks feel that way. They may be wary of the stranger, but once they see the stranger eats, shits, and loves their kids, just like everyone else, it's cool--Until some schmuck comes along and declares a Problem.

Come on, lets be really honest liberals here, people. This kind of shit is nearly always about somebody, perhaps a religious nut, making bank by promoting fear.

Did Germans have much a problem with Jews before Hitler told them to have one? From my readings, I gather it's mostly not. Yea, they were different, but WTF, big deal. Maybe I wouldn't want my sister to marry one, but hey, they're smart folks, and make great college professors. So long as they keep the Ordnung, they're German enough for most folks.
posted by Goofyy at 1:16 AM on January 9, 2007


It's amazing how the idea of "demographics threats" have turned the idea of creating new lives because you have a lot of love to give and the resources available to raise said child into the idea of breeding like mad so the other races/ethnicities/religions don't "win" the numbers contest.

You have it backwards. The majority of human history has been a numbers contest.
posted by Krrrlson at 1:33 AM on January 9, 2007


Wow, at first I thought this was someone with unusual historical insight.

It was.

Then I realized it was just a troll.

Asking tough questions makes you a troll? I'll remember that the next time I get pulled over for speeding.

"You aware of how fast you were going?"
"Beat it, troll!"
posted by Brown Jenkin at 8:26 AM on January 9, 2007


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