Thursday, August 23, 2007

Window on Eurasia: Russia to Have Muslim Majority by 2050, Putin Advisor Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, August 23 – More than half of the population of the Russian Federation in 2050 will consist of Muslims, a trend that means Moscow must devote even more attention to its relations with the Islamic world in the future than it has in the past, according to an expert-advisor to the Administration of President Vladimir Putin.
In an interview posted online yesterday, Vladimir Dergachyov said differences in growth rates of Christian and Muslim groups in Russia along with the arrival of Muslim immigrants from abroad will boost the percentage of Muslims there from 10 percent now to 50 percent by 2050 (
He told the Russian Orthodox online journal “Stoletiye” that many Russian political figures still fail to appreciate that increasingly important reality and thus fail to support or even openly question the efforts Putin and the Russian foreign ministry have made to develop ties with Muslim countries.
Dergachyov was especially critical of the Russian business community whose leaders have failed to promote business ties with Muslim states. He suggested that this reflected their lack of knowledge about opportunities, caution about getting involved in an unstable part of the world, and an apparent effort to “ignore” Putin’s instructions.
But, he continued, given the reality that the Russian Federation itself will be a Muslim country within two generations, Russian businesses must get involved with the Muslim world now rather than remain fearful of it. Indeed, he concluded, “the expression ‘Islamic danger’ [must not be] in our lexicon.”
Although many experts have predicted that Muslims will form a majority of the Russian population sometime in this century, Dergachyov’s prediction on this issue stands out not only because of his proximity to the center of Russian power but also for three other reasons.
First, he made it not to a Muslim audience but to an Orthodox audience, not the group likely to be happiest about this change. Second, he indicated that he did not see this development as a tragedy but rather as one that provides the Russian Federation with certain potential advantages given the rise of the Islamic world.
And third, Dergachyov made it crystal clear that he backs the Kremlin’s policy of expanding political ties with Islamic states now both bilaterally and through the Organization of Islamic Countries, where Russia is already an observer, and economic relations with these countries as well.
While many in Moscow are certain to disagree with his predictions and the policies he advocates, Dergachyov’s position guarantees that he reflects a significant faction within the Kremlin hierarchy, one that likely cannot be ignored by other groups both inside the Russian government and beyond.

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