Paul Goble

Muslim Russia

It turns out that “Ikramuddin Khan” is the pseudonym of Vadim Sidorov, a Muslim convert also known as Kharum ar-Rushi, head of the National Organization of Russian Muslims.

Many commentators in the West tend to forget that Russia has a steadily growing number of ethnic Russian converts to Islam. Specialist observers have documented the trend, however: in 2007, Paul Goble quoted a figure as large as 20,000, and by now the numbers are likely to be even higher. Daniel Pipes has a useful and interesting survey of the subject on his website, where he quotes President Dmitry Medvedev as saying:

“Russia is a multi-national and multi-confessional country. Russian Muslims have enough respect and influence. Muslim foundations are making an important contribution to promoting peace in society, providing spiritual and moral education for many people, as well as fighting extremism and xenophobia. There are 182 ethnic groups living in Russia, and 57 of them claim Islam as their main religion. This figure speaks for itself.”

It does indeed.

Why is Ukraine not Russia?

Paul Goble, translating and quoting Moscow commentator Igor Yakovenko, in the Georgian Daily: Ukraine is Escaping the Past but Russia is Not, Moscow Analyst Says:

Russia remains trapped in the grip of a desire to build “a new empire,” but “the chances for the realization of this project are not simply small. They are equal to zero. They do not exist.” Russia could play a role if it was willing to accept the status of a junior partner to the US, Europe or China, but Russians are not prepared to do this.

They are not prepared to give up their “messianic goals” or to recognize that Europe has moved beyond zero-sum politics, in which there are clear winners and losers, into a system in which all participants must take away something positive. Russians remain convinced that any victory for them requires a defeat for others, and vice versa.

Moscow has “bought Schroeder, made friends with Berlusconi, purchased wholesale and retail experts and politicians in Eastern Europe, Western Europe and the United States.” But this has not brought Russia happiness, because Russia is not in a position to achieve its messianic goal of a new empire.

This then, Yakovenko argues, is “the main distinction of Russia and Ukraine.” Russia continues to think that it is an empire, to celebrate its size and power as the main things. But Ukraine is rapidly moving toward an acceptance of the reality that it is a second-tier country that must cooperate with others in a European fashion in order to survive and flourish.