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The Myth of Muslim Population Growth in Russia

Reader comment on item: Predicting a Majority-Muslim Russia

Submitted by baba (India), Mar 7, 2012 at 13:56

Alexander Pope in 1709 quoted in his work, An Essay on Criticism that "A little learning is a dangerous thing ". Same thing I have to say to those pessimists who say that Russia will be a Muslim majority nation by 2050. I am hearing this sort of propaganda for some time. Quite understandably, these pessimists are unable to provide any reasonable facts to support their "findings". For the last many months, I tried to study the religious demography of Russia, hoping to find some answers to my questions. My study is not an attempt to insult well renowned research institutions like the Pew Research Center, but just a humble effort to fill some of the gaps which are present in the Western media.

The first question is how many Muslims are there in Russia. The 2002 census conducted by the Goskomstat reported a total resident population of 145,166,731 people, which included more than a million registered immigrants. Of that number, 14,416,787 (9.93%) were people who belong to "traditional Islamic" ethnic groups. This population can be broadly divided in to three groups. Of the total population, 7,227,990 (more than half) were either ethnic Tatar or Bashkir, who live in Central Russia. The North Caucassian Muslims, like the Chechens and Daghestanis comprise close to 38% of all the Russian Muslims. Immigrant Muslims like Kazakhs, Azeris and Uzbecs accounted for the remaining 12%.

There are two major arguments from the pessimists who predict an Islamic doomsday for Russia in 2050. The first is the higher Muslim birth rate. The second is the uncontrolled immigration from Muslim majority nations like Tadzhikistan and Azerbaidzhan. The first argument is valid, to some extent. For example, according to the 2002 Census, the birth rates for the Chechen-Ingush were 2.5 times higher than that for ethnic Russians. But at the same time, the birth rate for Tatars (the largest Muslim ethnic group) was 3% lower than that for the Russians. The difference in birth rate for other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups varied, from +24% for Adyghe to +97% for Kumyks. So in future, the North Caucasian component of the population is likely to grow, partly at the expense of the Tatar-Bashkir group.

If the growth rates remain at current levels, then by 2050, the Tatar-Bashkir group will account for 6.5 to 7 million people and the North Caucasian group will account for 8.5 to 9 million people. The immigrant Muslim population is likely to double to reach a figure of 3 million by 2050. So in the most pessimistic scenario, the Muslim population of Russia will reach 19 million by 2050, which should be lower than the Muslim population predicted for France for the same time-period. To reach a Muslim majority in 2050, Russia's non-Muslim population should decline to 19 million from the present 129 million figure, which I find very much impossible to attain.

Another factor to be considered here is the number of Christians among the "traditional Islamic" groups. Some of these subgroups are long established, like the Kryashens and the Nagaybaks. But the majority are recently converted, either by the Orthodox Church or by the newly arrived evangelical missions. According to religious experts in Russia such as Vyacheslav Sanin and Roman Silantyev,the number of ethnic Slavs who have converted to Islam is quite small, and is around 6,000. On theother hand, they claim that 25% each of Tatars and Adyghe, and 10% of all the Kazakhs living in Russia practice Christianity. Christians might number less among the natives of North Caucasus, but they are not absent. There are more than 2,000 evangelical Christians in Daghestan itself, continuing their practice even after the murder of Artur Suleimanov, a well known pastor. In Prokhladny, there is a famous evangelical church with a Balkar congregation. An ancient Christian Kabardian community lives to date in Mozdok. Christians might be absent in Ingushetia and Chechenya, but there are many Christian Chechens and Ingush living in other parts of Russia. Even in an Islamic nation like Kazakhstan, 3% of all the Chechens there reported their religion as Christian. Kazakhstan might be more religious tolerant compared to Chechenya, as any attempt to declare someone's religion other than Islam will bring immediate consequences in Kadyrov ruled Chechenya. Recently murdered Orthodox priest Daniel Sysoev had dozens of Chechens and other Caucasians in his congregation.

Another factor to consider here is immigration. It is true that Russia is home to a very large number of immigrants. According to the Federal Migration Agency, more than half of the 7 million immigrants living in Russia are illegal ones. Half all immigrants are from Ukraine, which is as Christian and White as Russia is. Many more are from Armenia and Moldovia, nations with hardly any Muslim population. This means that no more than one-third of Russia's immigrants are Muslims. And most importantly, unlike nations like the USA, Russia does not have birth right citizenship. That means that the majority of the immigrants and their children (if any) are going back to their home country once their stay is over. Considering the recent violence and rioting in Moscow against illegal immigration, it is unlikely that the Russian government will allow Muslim immigrants in large numbers to enter Russia.

And finally the population growth (decline) rate of ethnic Russian and other white ethnic groups. The situation in the infamous North-West Russian death belt seems completely hopeless. Especially provinces like Pskov, Leningrad, Tver, Tula.etc are going to see their population vanish almost completely within the next few generations. Quite unfortunate, as the region is home to a number of ethnic minorities like the Izhor, Vod, Tver Karelians.etc. The death rate in some of the raions reach an unbelievable 35 per 1,000 (which means one out of every 30 people are dying, per year). Off course the Russian government is trying to whitewash the entire scenario with news like "birth rate increases 30% in five years" and such. Unfortunately, since the media in Russia is also controlled by the government, the common people are having no secure sources to find out what is going on in the country. In reality, Putin and Medvedev are having no intention of either raising the birth rate or lowering the death rate. In fact, they are trying to reduce the population in order to grab more farmland and other property. In this situation it is quite commendable that population growth still occurs in the overwhelmingly ethnic Russian regions such as Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk. The ethnic German dominant areas in Altay Krai and Omsk Oblast are also showing noticeable population growth rates.

In 2010, Russian population declined by -0.17%. The decline in non-Muslim population was around -0.27%. It is likely to accelerate to -0.5% per year by 2050. Even then the non-Muslim population should number 105 million (considering at least two-third of the 6 million Slavs trapped in Central Asia will migrate to Russia). So by 2050, Russian population will be 124 million, out of which 15% will be ethnic Muslim. I just can't imagine a scenario in which Muslims become the majority in the normal set of events. If the so called "experts" claim that it is going to happen, then they should be able to provide concrete evidences to support their claim.


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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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