The Bolgarian Academy’s opening: thanks to Alisher Usmanov for ''education like in Stanford''

But the current financing of the academy is still under question

The Bolgarian Academy’s opening: thanks to Alisher Usmanov for ''education like in Stanford'' Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

The opening ceremony of the Islamic Academy in Bolgar, the first academic organisation of this kind in Russia, has recently been held in Tatarstan. The correspondent of Realnoe Vremya, who attended the historical event for the Muslims in Russia along with federal and regional officials and spiritual figures, learnt about the plans of the academy, its problems and unexpected support from the federal centre. However, only verbally for now.

Student cards delivery ceremony

The ''unofficial'' part of the opening ceremony of the Bolgarian Islamic Academy began with the student cards delivery ceremony to the first students. In total, the academy received 75 applications from enrollees, 36 out of whom successfully passed the exams. There are also 15 enrollees, who are in Hajj now, who have not taken their exams yet. For them, the exam will take place on 12 September.

Two high officials of the academy, the president Kamil Iskhakov and the rector Rafik Mukhametshin, accompanied the students to ''the world of knowledge''. They wished them good luck in the Muslim education.

The official part of the opening ceremony took place a little later on the street near the entrance to the building, where there gathered Muslim leaders, federal and regional officials. From the stage they were welcomed by the large delegation from the federal government — Presidential Envoy of the Volga Federal District Mikhail Babich, the head of the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs Igor Barinov, deputy head of the management of internal policy at the Presidential Administration of Russia Mikhail Belousov.

The ''unofficial'' part of the opening ceremony of the Bolgarian Islamic Academy began with the student cards delivery ceremony to the first students

Tatarstan was represented by President of the Republic Rustam Minnikhanov, State Advisor of Tatarstan Mintimer Shaimiev, Prime Minister of Tatarstan Aleksey Pesoshin, Chairperson of the State Council of Tatarstan Farid Mukhametshin, the rector of the academy Rafik Mukhametshin, as well as Chairperson of Tatarstan Muslim Spiritual Board Kamil Samigullin and Metropolitan of Kazan and Tatarstan Feofan. The opening ceremony was attended by Chairman of the Central Muslim Spiritual Board Talgat khazrat Tadzhuddin and Chairperson of the Council of muftis of Russia of the MSB of Russia Ravil khazrat Gainutdin.

Paying no attention to the bad weather, the speakers were saying much and with inspiration, their speeches came down to big expectations from the new and unique in Russia such educational institution. According to Mikhail Babich, over the last year alone 500 people went from the Volga Region District to study abroad, over the last five years – 3,500. It is expected that the academy will give an opportunity to educate spiritual activists in out country according to the traditional norms of Islam, will be the support in the fight against religious extremism and radicalism.

Alisher Usmanov financed the most part of the construction of the White Mosque. Photo: Timur Rakhmatullin

A Muslim Stanford

The head of educational management of the Bolgarian Islamic Academy Aleksey Petrov, who previously worked as deputy head of Kirovsky and Moscovsky rayons for education, told the correspondent of Realnoe Vremya about the regional structure of the academy: Dagestan is represented by nine people, Bashkortostan – by four people. Another two people came from Astarakhan and Penza. Besides, in the academy there will study four students from Tajikistan, who already obtained Russian citizenship. Other students are from Tatarstan.

In total, the building is designed for 150 students. It is expected that in the academy there will study about 70 people.

Doctoral students will come for lectures, Master's Degree students for all their 3-year education will reside in the academy. In addition to free education, it is provided the base scholarship at 3,000 rubles with possible growth depending on grades up to 10,000 rubles. According to Petrov, in the near future at the academy, there will be built two sports grounds. The speaker compares it to Oxford and Stanford, which are also located far from the city and have developed infrastructure.

It has already been said a lot about foreign lecturers. They are three for now. Basic Islamic disciplines will be given by Ismail Bubul, a former mufti of Palestine, who for the last ten years have worked in Cairo. Another famous lecturer, Professor As-Saadi from Jordan, who is from the inner circle of the former president of Iraq. As well as Khmadella Safti. Besides, it is planned that 10-12 foreign lectures will come to give lectures for one month.

Large burden will lie on the shoulders of Rafik Mukhametshin. Photo:

''Unfortunately, we are forced to attract many foreign professors. There is a gap between our level of education due to our almost 80-year atheist life,'' said the president of the academy Kamil Iskhakov.

''We won't be able to organise educational process with the support of the region, contributors and benefactors alone''

The question of financing of the academy is still open – it is not a budget organisation. According to Iskhakov, the academy is seeking funds and working with the Ministry of Finance of Russia.

Later it emerged that the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs can support the academy. According to the head of the agency Igor Barinov, there should be a systematic support from the government.

''We understand that with the support of the region, contributors and benefactors alone we can't organise the educational process at the level that we aimed at. There should be the systematic support from the federal government,'' considers Barinov.

The question of financing of the academy is still open – it is not a budget organisation

An important issue he considers the level of Islamic education under the condition that it is accompanied by good secular education.

''Here we together with the Ministry of Education are ready to participate and provide support,'' concluded the speaker.

We will remind that the leadership of the academy plans to graduate their students with two diplomas – of religious and state standards. According to Rafik Mukhametshin, by next academic year the issue is to be resolved positively.

By Mariya Gorozhaninova