Voices From Russia, Too

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Ufa… the Centre of Russian Islam

At the end of the 18th century, Tsaritsa Yekaterina Velikaya issued a decree forming the Muslim Spiritual and Legal Administration in Ufa under the leadership of a Muftiate. Since then, Ufa has been the centre of Russian Islam. In 1998, one of the most unusual and beautiful mosques, the Lala-Tulip Mosque, was built in Ufa. Granted, the appearance of the mosque is rather unusual. It’s modern, yet, at the same time, it’s still clearly understood as to its purpose. Don’t be mistaken… this is a mosque.

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Ali was our guide through the mosque-madrasah; he had an upbeat attitude and his commentary on the place was knowledgeable, that’s not to mention his infectious cheerfulness. This mosque isn’t just a place of prayer; it’s really a spiritual centre. It has an attached educational institution and dormitory with its own Muslim prayer-hall, an assembly chamber for the meetings of Muslim religious leaders, a library, and a conference area. In total, the nave of the mosque can accommodate about a thousand worshippers.

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Moreover, everyone’s welcome here, not just Muslims. All that they ask is that you respect their traditions and take off your shoes before entering the building; then, anyone can walk inside.

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The interior is more traditional than the exterior is… its decoration is clearly minimalist. Muslims believe that we shouldn’t be distracted whilst we’re at prayer, that’s why men and women pray in separate areas {that’s why Orthodox Russians, traditionally, stood in gender-segregated groups in the church during services: editor}. People take off their shoes before entering the mosque for the sake of cleanliness. The faithful kneel on the floor, and they prostrate themselves on the carpet as they pray {Orthodox Christians also use this posture of prayer: editor}.

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In 1773, Tsaritsa Yekaterina Velikaya enacted a decree establishing tolerance of religion…. “As the Almighty tolerates all faiths, languages, ​​and confessions, therefore, Her Majesty deigns that love and harmony should exist amongst all those who accept her sovereignty”. She issued this decree at a time when her realm was in turmoil. Pugachyov’s rebellion engulfed the regions of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Udmurtia, Saratov, Chelyabinsk, and Orenburg. To help put down the revolt, the Tsaritsa issued decrees ordering local authorities to reinforce the state’s authority by exercising religious tolerance.

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All mosques received legal rights; they could enclose their perimeters within fences, they could erect caravanserais, and they could organise schools. In 1788, an imperial decree established the Muslim Spiritual and Legal Administration in Ufa, under the control of a Muftiate.

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Therefore, Ufa became the centre of Russian Muslim life. Today, Ufa is the seat of the Muslim spiritual leadership for Russia and the European CIS countries. This Muslim Spiritual Administration was unique. In the normal course of events, Muslims didn’t need a centralised organisation to pray to Allah; if they didn’t understand something, they asked for a judgement from a Mullah. However, from the state’s point of view, it was a sound move, for it allowed the Spiritual Administration to order the social life of the Russian Muslims under the aegis of Russian legislation.

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People often ask, “Why is Ufa the centre of Russian Islam, why not Kazan?” The answer’s obvious… Russia conquered Kazan… Bashkortostan voluntarily joined the Russian Empire. In the eyes of the state authorities, Ufa was a more logical choice for the location of the muftiate rather than Kazan. Echoes of Ivan Grozny’s conquest of Kazan are still visible, such as the Kul Sharif Mosque in the Kazan Kremlin {Ivan Grozny’s men destroyed the original mosque during the taking of the city, the present mosque is a late 20th century replacement: editor}.

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Let’s return to our time. Today, any Muslim can come to the Lala-Tulip Mosque to ask for guidance or for an explanation of any spiritual question. At the mosque, there are special courses open to anyone where you can get an introduction to the Koran and the fundamentals of Islam. It’s also the venue for many meetings, conferences, and congresses. Each year, about a hundred people graduate from the Islamic Institute attached to the mosque. Most of its students take external correspondence courses, but there’s room for 60 students in the dormitories attached to the Institute.

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Our guide, Ali, graduated from the Institute; now, he helps out there as a form of gratitude {шакирдам is a transliteration of the Arabic shakir (“gratitude”), therefore, it seems that his gratitude has a religious element to it… it appears that he seems to view it as an obligation: editor}. His most cherished dream is to perform the Hajj to Mecca. By the way, today, most people no longer go overland to Arabia, most fly there. Despite the common perception that Islam’s rigorous, that isn’t so. For example, Muslims can divorce under their religious law, and both men and women may initiate such a move. In conclusion, as I said earlier, the architecture of the mosque is most unusual and beautiful.

17 August 2011

Тадахии зизись (Tadakhii zizis)

http://zizis.livejournal.com/179120.html

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A Photo Essay. Navy Day is “Neptune Day” in Russia

Naval honour guard. Vladivostok (Primorsky Krai. Far Eastern Federal District) RF

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Naval Infantry officer in AFV. Vladivostok (Primorsky Krai. Far Eastern Federal District) RF

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Now, would “Neptune Day” be complete without King Neptune and his court? Vladivostok (Primorsky Krai. Far Eastern Federal District) RF

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This is what the Naval Infantry does for shits n’ giggles. Ponder the fact that these bubbas ENJOY this… Vladivostok (Primorsky Krai. Far Eastern Federal District) RF

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Black Sea Fleet bugler. Sevastopol (Special City of Sevastopol) THE UKRAINE

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The Black Sea Fleet frogmen on parade. Sevastopol (Special City of Sevastopol) THE UKRAINE

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There’s a whole lotta clean innocent fun on “Neptune Day”, too! parts unknown (no details given)

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Navy vets whoop it up. Kazan (Republic of Tatarstan. Volga Federal District) RF

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The Naval Infantry show off their martial arts skills… wanna rumble? Kazan (Republic of Tatarstan. Volga Federal District) RF

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Thursday, 19 May 2011

A Photo Essay. The City of Kazan: A Meeting Place of Faiths

Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan in the Russian Federation, is a place where Christianity and Islam co-exist… and have co-existed in peace since the conquest of the city by Tsar Ivan Grozny in the 16th century. 49 percent of the population is Russian, 48 percent is Tatar, with the remainder being Chuvash, Ukrainian, Azeri, and Jewish. Most people follow either Sunni Islam or Orthodox Christianity; a small minority are Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, or Jewish.

The unique thing about the Kazan Kremlin is that Russian and Tatar monuments, and Orthodox Christian churches and Muslim mosques, stand here in close vicinity. This is a symbol of the fact that these two peoples (Russians and Tatars), who fought one another in the past, are united in the present. The Kazan Kremlin is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Religous tolerance in Kazan is of long standing…

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Tower of the Saviour in the Kazan Kremlin…

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The Qol-Şärif Mosque is the largest and the most beautiful mosque in Kazan, being named after Khan Qolşärif, who died in battle, fighting the Russians. It opened in 2005, during the celebration of the Millennium of the City. The mosque complex also includes a hall, library, and Islamic Museum. 

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People of all different confessions are welcome to visit the mosque complex. The floor is covered with Persian carpets, presented by the Iranian government as a gift to the Tatar people. Besides that, the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also presented gifts and money for the new mosque.

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Kazan students at a New Year’s Party at the Qol-Şärif Mosque complex, with the theme “The Ship of the Desert” (could that be why the kids all have toy stuffed camels?). As always, it’s the people…

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Annunciation Cathedral was the first Orthodox Christian church built in the Kazan Kremlin after the Russian conquest of the khanate. The first edifice, a modest wooden church, was later replaced by a stone building, which has been rebuilt many times over the years.

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The most important religious relic enshrined in the Cathedral of the Annunciation is an 18th century copy of the wonder-working icon of the Mother of God “of Kazan”.

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Catholic Church of the Holy Cross in Kazan…

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The dragon Zilant is the official symbol of Kazan, but the legends about him are contradictory. According to one version, the dragon was a good and kind creature that protected the city and the local people. However, another version says that he was very nasty, and that he was a pest. After the Tatars burnt his nest, he decided to take revenge. This  legend relates that he lives in the waters of the lake to this day, killing people from time to time.

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Legend has it that Tsar Ivan Grozny’s servants built the Suyumbike Tower centuries ago, as a gift for a beautiful Kazan queen named Suyumbike, who refused to marry the Tsar and threw herself down from the tower, instead.

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The Märcani Mosque dates from the times of Tsaritsa Yekaterina Veliki, and was built using the donations of the local Muslim population. It’s the oldest active mosque in Tatarstan, and it was the only mosque in Kazan that remained open throughout the entire Soviet period.

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The wonder-working icon of the Mother of God “of Kazan” was discovered in the city in 1579. The original was stolen in 1904, and it was never recovered, but an 18th century copy was returned to Kazan as a gift from John Paul II Wojtyła, the Pope of Rome. That icon is now enshrined in the Annunciation Cathedral in the Kazan Kremlin. 

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Kazan is a major city of over a million inhabitants… it even has an underground metro… this is the Prospekt Pobedy (Victory Prospect) station.

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Metro train coming into the aboveground Ametyovo Station

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Kazan State University (KGU)

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Here’s a proper way to end it all… “The Church of All Religions”…  the ensemble includes elements from the Orthodox , Muslim , Jewish , and Buddhist faiths (the traditional religions of Russia). This isn’t a “church”, it’s a private venture of the philanthropist Ildar Khanov.

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This is my response to the hatred and intolerance spewed out by the konvertsy, especially the oddball cult-like coterie surrounding Jonas Paffhausen. Trust me, Muslims and Orthodox Christians have lived in peace for centuries, not only in Russia, but in Iran, Iraq, the Lebanon, and Syria as well. When there have been problems in the recent past, most can be traced to Western interference. For instance, in Iraq, the persecution of the local Christians are a direct result of the effects of the brainless and unnecessary American invasion. The konvertsy spew out a venomous and rancid intolerance towards Muslims, secularists, leftists, and homosexuals that’s unknown in the grounded Church. We do NOT share the convictions of the American Radical Right… we do NOT agree with Randall Terry… we do NOT hold the prejudices of the unwashed Bubba Sectarians. We DO live in peace with all people of good will… as the example of Kazan shows us. We DO support social justice… as the statements of His Holiness prove (and we’ve never forgotten how the Communists stood tall for the Church against the hirelings of the American right-wingers in the Nasty ’90s). We DO show oikonomia towards all sorts of “different” people (that doesn’t mean that we approve of sin… it means that we’re cognizant of the fallen world). We’re Christ’s Church… and we take that seriously. As for the others… the less said, the better.

You can have tolerance shown by the peoples of Kazan… or you can have the robotic and cultish HOOMie lock-step brainwashing of Paffhausen and those like him. I’ve chosen… so should you. Chose well… your eternal destiny DOES depend on it.

BMD

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