Kazan, the capital of the Russian Republic of Tatarstan is often thought of as a symbol of conservative multiculturalism, something distinct from the radical forced acculturation which has caused social tensions in Europe and the United States.
In the Kazan Kremlin (citadel), the Qolşärif Mosque stands within close proximity to the Annunciation Orthodox Cathedral as well as the Kazan Kreml’ House church. This is often seen as a symbol representing peace between Islam and Christianity.
President Putin has visited Kazan where he has spoken at the Russia-Islamic World Conference. Putin sent an address to the conference which read
“Today, many Islamic nations face serious challenges, such as the escalation of terrorism and militant extremism, sharp increases in ethnic and religious controversies, of economic and social problems. I would like to emphasise that the Islamic world can fully count on support and assistance from the Russian side.
I am confident that together we can do a lot to strengthen international security and stability, to build a fair, democratic world order that would be free from any form of intolerance, discrimination and dictatorship imposed by force”.
Russian opposition leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, one of the only Russian politicians who speaks Turkish, delivered similar remarks at a conference on Russia and Islam in 2014
Even the modern Communist Party of the Russian Federation, under the leadership of Gennady Zyuganov has embraced the idea of religious ecumenicism.
As I previously wrote,
“Russia suffered a profound spiritual crisis in the 1990s at every level, both theoretically and practically. The internal stability and prosperity afforded by the Putin years has given Russia a sense of peace and has allowed Russia to return to its heritage as the largest Orthodox Christian state in the world.
As such, some would say Russia has a duty to defend fellow Christians. But Russian foreign policy is articulated differently. Russia defends its allies against aggression, but the fact remains that in doing so, Russia is by default, living up to its tradition as a defender of faith. But it is not just the Orthodox faith Russia is defending.
Russia is defending Muslims throughout the world at a time when western wars of aggression target Islamic populations and when western politicians like Geert Wilders lambaste Islam in the most disparaging terms.
Russia must make it clear to a Muslim world bombarded by western and Saudi propaganda, that it is a more honest defender of Islam than any major power on earth. It is able to say so because of its record of legality in foreign affairs and also because of a Christian tradition that Europe and to a large extent, America has entirely forsaken”.
The importance of Russia in solving the political, spiritual and other long term crises in the Islamic world cannot be overstated. Many of these crises are the products of post-colonial realities which have in recent decades been augmented by neo-colonial meddling by western powers.
It is clear from their support of jihdaists in Syria, that western powers would rather see a weak Islamic world in the grip of savages, rather than strong, tolerant, secular governments such as the one in Damascus that the west has tried and continues to try so hard to destabilise and destroy.
Russia by contrast favours a model of complete independence for Arab states and countries in the wider Islamic world and furthermore, Russia seeks partnership with countries whose constitutions whether secular (like Syria) or theocratic (like Iran), defend and protect religious minorities, particularly Christians.
Russia favours balance and it is only through further positive engagement with the wider Islamic world, including Russia’s vast Muslim communities, that Russia will be able to achieve this.