Vienna, February 21 – Despite earlier failures and tough economic times, a group of Muslim entrepreneurs this week launched a glossy new journal for Muslim women in Russia that one Moscow commentator has called “the Muslim variant of Cosmopolitan” and that at the very least reflects the rise of media outlets directed at that country’s Islamic community..
Yesterday, Chaskor.ru’s Anatasiya Alekseyeva said that the 54-page magazine, “Musulmanka” (“The Muslim Woman’) (musulmanka.ru/), comes on the heels of “Golobushka” (www.media-atlas.ru/news/?id=25925), a journal directed at the same audience which closed after only one issue (www.chaskor.ru/p.php?id=3705).
The new magazine, which costs 100 rubles (2.80 US dollars) per issue, went on sale in Moscow last Sunday, but its organizers plan to distribute it to Muslim communities in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Daghestan, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Ukraine, thus suggesting it may have a better business plan than did “Golobushka.”
The first issue as summarized on the magazine’s website and by Alekseyeva features articles about both Islamic issues like “The Role of Women in Islam” and topics more typical of women’s magazines like “Health, Sport and Beauty,” “Fashion and Style,” and “Travel and Recipes.”
One Moscow Muslim woman, however, told Alekseyeva that she was not sure she would become a reader. On the one hand, she said, if she had a question about the faith, she would turn to the imam of her parish. And on the other, she noted that as a journalist she was aware of how “superficial” such journals often are.
But at the same time, this woman added, she is “a Muslim woman of the capital city, and perhaps girls in the regions will find it interesting.” And she added that it is also possible that “Musulmanka” will find a readership also among “those who live in Moscow’s closed ethnic communities.”
Whether “Musulmanka” proves to be a successful venture or not remains to be seen – given the other publications in Russia and elsewhere which are cutting back or closing because of the economic crisis, the outcome is anything but guaranteed. But Alekseyeva said the magazine’s launch is important for another reason.
It calls attention to the rise of print publications directed at Muslims in addition to the increasing presence of Muslim sites and Living Journal pages on the Internet. Since the end of the Soviet Union, print publications directed at Muslims have developed even more rapidly than the media market as a whole.
Initially, most of these newspapers and magazines were produced and distributed either by individual parishes or by particular Muslim spiritual directorates (MSDs) and printed in editions of 999 or less. That meant that they did not have to register with the government, but it also meant that they fell below the radar screen even of Russian and Western specialists.
Indeed, many writers on Islam in Russia have said that Muslims there have turned to the Internet as their primary vehicle for communication. That is true as far as it goes. There are hundreds of Islam-related sites on the RU.Net, and Muslims have taken an active interest in establishing a presence on the Living Journal (“ZhZh”).
Alekseyeva points to several of the most frequently visited Living Journal pages: community.livejournal.com/musulmankam,community.livejournal.com/muslims_today/,
community.livejournal.com/islamicworld/, community.livejournal.com/ru_muslim/ and community.livejournal.com/islamic_economy/.
But over the last decade, Russia’s Muslims have created an increasingly dense network of print publications, some based on the MSDs but many designed to appeal not to members of a group of parishes but to larger groups, such as theologians, bankers, the young or even Muslims serving in the military.
Most of these have not attracted much attention except when they have their own websites or get in trouble with officialdom, and like all other publications, not all of them have survived Russia’s economic rollercoaster ride. But as Alekseyeva said, “Musulmanka” suggests that the Muslim media is rapidly coming of age, even if few outside the faith have noticed.