How Rustam Minnikhanov and Elvira Nabiullina return Tatar minaret to Russian North

Realnoe Vremya’s interview with head of the Tatar community in Arkhangelsk about the opening of the mosque whose restoration was invested by Yegorov and Mistakhov

How Rustam Minnikhanov and Elvira Nabiullina return Tatar minaret to Russian North Photo: Press service of the Russian Muslim Spiritual Directorate

Nur Islam mosque was going to open in Arkhangelsk on 3 February. The building was reconstructed in the house of the worship erected in 1905. Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov and Chairman of the Russian Muslim Spiritual Directorate Ravil Gainutdinov were going to open ''Allah's house''. It's curious that officials of the Zelenodolsk shipbuilding factory named after Gorky, Ak Bars holding and even chairwoman of the Russian Central Bank Elvira Nabiullina made their contribution to the mosque's revival. In an interview with Realnoe Vremya, Chairman of the Tatar National and Cultural Autonomy of Arkhangelsk Oblast Rim Kalimullin told about the new building in detail.

Uneasy fate of ''Allah's house''

Mr Kalimullin, could you tell first when this mosque was built?

The Mohammedan mosque that was built by representatives of the Tatar community opened on 26 August 1905. The building of madrasah survived next to the mosque. The buildings are located in the Tatar region. Tatar merchants lived nearby. Our Tatars – natives of Kazan and the Urals – had their own shops here. They delivered flour, cereals, sugar, tea here. They took fish, fur they exchanged from coast dwellers. At that moment, local Tatars had quite good commercial and economic relations. The community was quite strong. In addition, our ancestors lived in peace with everybody. In the early 20 th century, 200 Tatars turned to the Arkhangelsk governor with a letter in which they asked to build a mosque – permission was obtained. And they built the mosque on their own. Nowadays the mosque was reconstructed according to the historical project that was found in archives. We thank the fate that this project conserved. I'm also grateful to the locals who saved all drawings and Tatar ancestors who made this project up. The reconstructed mosque is 111 years. This place is sacred.

''The Mohammedan mosque that was built by representatives of the Tatar community opened on 26 August 1905. The building of madrasah survived next to the mosque.'' Photo: nurislam29.ru

I've heard that Elvira Nabiullina is implicated in the reconstruction…

Mrs Nabiullina played a key role in returning the Muslims their historical place. When she was the minister of economic development of the Russian Federation, all Federal Agency for State Property Management obeyed the Ministry of Economic Development. After I turned to Nabiullina, people from her departments appeared and asked to give historical documents proving there had been a mosque there. I provided all documentation we had. And the problem was solved rapidly in our favour. The land, though it's federal, historically belonged to Muslims. And the mosque here was called Nur Islam. Thank God, we reconstructed the mosque in 2017.

Before that, I, chairman of the Tatar National and Cultural Autonomy of Arkhangelsk Oblast, had been fighting for the mosque for 10 years. Then we started to reconstruct it. Almost everything was ready. But fire was set to it in 2014. It was probably a warning to me. But I didn't take a step back. And as Tatars say, go for it! We started to reconstruct it again. Most High, for whom I'm very thankful, gave me such a mission – to revive our historical mosque. Such good people who supported us were next to me.

I thank Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov, general sponsor – Director General of Ak Bars holding Ivan Yegorov and Director General of the Zelenodolsk shipbuilding factory named after Gorky Renat Mistakhov. Sheikh Ravil Gainutdinov rendered big support. They helped to restore and build this Mohammedan temple. Now it's the northernmost mosque in Northwestern Federal District.

I also express a special gratitude to Governor of Arkhangelsk Oblast Igor Orlov, it became possible to finish the job we started a long time ago with his support.

Rim Kalimullin: ''There will be a big festive day for all Muslims living in Arkhangelsk and Arkhangelsk Oblast. Only Arkhangelsk has 10,000 Muslims of different origin.'' Photo: region29.ru

And we will officially open in on 3 February, God willing. The delegation will be very big: Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov with his aides, Chairman of the Russian Muslim Spiritual Directorate, Council of Muftis of Russia Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin will come. So there will be a big festive day for all Muslims living in Arkhangelsk and Arkhangelsk Oblast. Only Arkhangelsk has 10,000 Muslims of different origin.

What's the agenda of Minnikhanov and Gainutdin in the city?

A visit to the government of Arkhangelsk Oblast. The main goal is to open the Mohammedan mosque with believers, Tatars.

In Gainutdin's ''eparchy''

How many praying people can it accommodate?

100 people can pray inside at the same time, while 500 people can be on its territory outside. It is a total of 600 praying people. It's a two-storeyed wooden mosque. The second floor is designed for women.

Are there any mosques in the region except Arkhangelsk?

It's the only mosque, in the city centre. There aren't any other mosques, only houses of worship.

Why did you decide to subject the mosque to the jurisdiction of the Russian Muslim Spiritual Directorate, not the Central Muslim Spiritual Directorate of Talgat Tadzhuddin?

Yes, we will obey the Russian Muslim Spiritual Directorate. I've always sympathised with Chairman of the Russian Muslim Spiritual Directorate and Council of Muftis of Russia Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin and respected him a lot. He has very attractive qualities linked with belief in his business, word in promotion and development of Islamic culture. He actively helped us in reconstructing the mosque. He is a very respected person not only in Russia but also abroad. For me, he will always remain an authoritative mufti who is worth the deepest respect and trust.

100 people can pray inside at the same time, while 500 people can be on its territory outside. It is a total of 600 praying people. It's a two-storeyed wooden mosque. The second floor is designed for women

Northern Tatars

You already mentioned Tatar merchants of the early past century. When did Tatars appear in Arkhangelsk first?

In the 18 th century. About 40 Tatars came here to the military post by Peter the Great's order. This is why some of the today's Tatars are descendants of those militants. And then Tatars from Kazan, the Urals (from modern-day Bashkiria) started to come by the early 20th century. Their number was bigger year after year.

Mr Kalimullin, how did you come to Arkhangelsk?

I came by appointment during my student years. I remained to work and live here. I was born in Bashkiria. But my ancestors are from Tatarstan. Very Arkhangelsk has 3,500 Tatars, Arkhangelsk Oblast – 7,800. Apart from the regional centre, they live in Severodvinsk, Novodvinsk and other cities.

Who else besides the Tatars account for the Muslim community of the city?

Bashkirs, Chechens, Dagestanis, Tajiks, Uzbeks. Although many Azerbaijanis are Shias, but we don't divide them, they are the same Muslims as we are.

Is Tatarstan business present in the region?

Yes, 15 petrol stations of Tatneft work here, there is Tatarstan-Arkhangelsk commercial house, which was created on the basis of commercial and economic agreements between the Republic of Tatarstan and Arkhangelsk Oblast. Tatarstan products are also sold here well on the basis of the same agreement.

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By Timur Rakhmatullin. Photo: Courtesy of Press service of the Russian Muslim Spiritual Directorate