Middle Volga Muslim fighters for ‘Russian world’ in Donbas divided on its meaning, Suleymanov says

Russian mercenaries drive on an armoured personnel carrier in Slaviansk, Ukraine

Russian mercenaries drive on an armoured personnel carrier in Slaviansk, Ukraine 

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Muslims from Russia’s Middle Volga region who went to fight for the “DNR” and “LNR” in Ukraine were motivated by their sense of belonging to the Russian world Vladimir Putin has talked so much about, according to Rais Suleymanov, editor of Musulmansky mir and someone long rumored to be close to Russia’s security agencies.

But in a preservation to the 12th Congress of Anthropologists and Ethnologists of Russia in Izhevsk this week, the often controversial specialist on Islam in Russia says that those Muslims who went defined the concept of “’the Russian world’” in two very different ways.

“For one group of Muslim volunteers,” Suleymanov says, “the ideology of ‘the Russian world’ was conceived as a return to a model of the Soviet Union, to be sure in a renewed format (the conception of ‘USSR 2.0’) and the war in the Donbas was seen as a struggle with fascism.” Thus, these Muslim volunteers had “Soviet ideological convictions.”

According to the speaker, “the second group of Muslim volunteers from the Middle Volga view ‘the Russian world’ as the reunification with Russia of territories populated by ethnic Rusisans, the ideal for whom is the Russian Empire, and the battle in the Donbas is seen as a Russian irredenta.”

Suleymanov says that “for the majority of Muslim volunteers from the Middle Volga is characteristic a double ethnic identity: while not denying their Tatar or Bashkir origin, they consider themselves [ethnic] Russians and such self-identification peacefully exists in their consciousness.”

Many of those who did choose to volunteer, however, chose to do so in order to escape from their everyday life and to change it, something that affected their own “self-assessment and gave rise to a sense of serving a noble goal and being useful,” he argues.

Intriguingly, Suleymanov says that “Muslim volunteers from the Middle Volga have not always remained Muslims. Some of them decide that their Russianness means they must become Orthodox or neo-paganist. Which of these they actually chose, he says, depended on what the Russian volunteers around them practiced.

The reason that they could change their religious affiliation, he argues, is “their own weak Muslim religiosity, the influence of their military comrades, and the emotional boost from participating in ‘the Russian spring.’” Nonetheless, Suleymanov acknowledges, many Tatar mercenaries have remained Muslim.

Some of them, he says, inscribed their weapons with the words “Allah is With US!” “In their understanding,” he argues, “the Muslims of Russia, fighting for Novorossiya are fighting for the interests of Russia where traditional Islam is triumphing over anti-Russian directions of radical tendencies of foreign Islam.”

Suleymanov’s argument is one that many in Moscow security community would find congenial, but the sample size for his conclusions was very small. Some Tatars and Bashkirs did in fact go to the Donbas to fight for Moscow’s agenda, but their number was too small to make sweeping conclusion about the attitudes of Muslims, Tatars, or anyone else.


Edited by: A. N.

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  1. Avatar veth says:

    This year more than 11 thousand people leave schools in the occupied peninsula

    According to the statement of the Kremlin-controlled “Minister of Education, Science and Youth of the Crimea” Natalia Goncharova, 47% of Crimean graduates decided not to pass the Unified State Exam of neighboring Russia. Goncharova shared the information in the air of the “Sputnik in Crimea” radio on May 24.

    “This year the graduates are more serious and more risky, I may say so. Here 53% chose to pass a Unified State Exam. This suggests that, having received certificates, they are absolutely equal with other graduates of the Russian Federation,” she noted.
    Earlier, this year the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine allocated quotas for the Crimean entrants for state education in educational centers “Crimea – Ukraine”.

  2. Avatar Turtler says:

    What are the chances this will have any effect whatsoever on the Useful Idjiots arguing that Putin is some kind of Guardian of the West, Protector of Judeo-Christian values, and Defender of the Faith?

    Ok, how about the chowderheads that insist that the Donbas War is totes a Ukrainian Civil War that just so happens to have Russian artillery fire over the border?

    Probably the same chances of Patriarch Kirill becoming a Christian.

    Well, if they want to die, I have confidence that there are a lot of brave Ukrainian men and women who are prepared to help.

    (Also on an unrelated note, you guys might find This interesting. http://www.trevorloudon.com/2017/04/watch-trailer-coming-april-28-americaundersiege-soviet-islam-video/

    It mostly touches on the Kremlin’s ties with bona fide Islamists- totalitarian Muslim Theocrats- rather than secular Muslim Soviet fanboys like the article talks about, but it does touch upon Chechnya and Kadyrov recruiting cannonfodder for the invasion of the Donbas.

    I have a few caveats about it- in particular I think it underplays the independence of goons like Iran- but ya can judge for yourself.)

    1. Avatar veth says:

      For Russians fascism is an religion.