Thursday, December 30, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Gets a Mufti

Paul Goble

Staunton, December 30 – Talgat Tajuddin, the head of the Central Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) based in Ufa, today appointed his first deputy, Albir Krganov, 34, who currently serves as mufti of the Chuvash Republic, to be the leader of a new MSD for Moscow and Central Russia subordinate to Tajuddin’s organization.
On the one hand, this represents the latest move in a broader campaign by Tajuddin and his backers against his rival, Ravil Gainutdin, the head of the Union of Muftis of Russia (SMR), and could set the stage for the longtime Ufa-based mufti to achieve his goal of becoming “the Muslim patriarch” of the Russian Federation.
The creation of a Central MSD is something that Tajuddin has long sought in order to bolster his claim to be the supreme mufti of the Russian Federation, and the establishment of this position, even if he does not personally occupy it, will boost his standing not only among the civil powers that be but also among many Muslim communities in that country.
And on the other, Krganov’s appointment is part of a generational change at the top of Russia’s Muslim leadership. The new Moscow mufti was not yet five years old when Tajuddin became head of the Central MSD, and unlike nearly all of the current leaders, he was trained exclusively at institutions within the Russian Federation.
A generation ago, Tajuddin was part of the youngest and last generation of Soviet Muslim leaders, and like most of its other members, he saw his position and influence dependent far less on the support of the Muslim faithful than on the backing of the state, a view that many believe continues to inform his practice and explains some of the political support he still has.
According to the Russian media, even after Krganov takes office as mufti of Moscow, he will remain head of the MSD of Chuvashia and first deputy head of the Central MSD in Ufa. But clearly most of his time, at least in the immediate future, will be devoted to convening a mejlis in the Russian capital to set up the MSD (
Krganov told Interfax that “the establishment of a muftiate of Moscow within the Central MSD of Russia is not an innovation: historically, Muslim structures [in the Russian capital] have always functioned under the jurisdiction of the Central MSD in UFA,” with the latter appointing the imams of Moscow’s mosques.
Since early 2000, the new mufti said, the Central MSD had made several attempts to create an MSD for Moscow and Moscow oblast, but it was “blocked” in its attempts by Gainutdin and his SMR, both of which enjoyed closer relations with former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.
Krganov says that at the start, the new MSD will unite “the basic part of the Islamic communities of the region,” including two mosques in the city and the Islamic Center on Kasatkin Street – although he said the Central MSD “intends to return” the building of the latter because it had been a kindergarten and Moscow needs more of them.
The new mufti said that his basic responsibilities will be “to develop a constructive dialogue with the organs of power and with the traditional religions, to build a mosque and residence of the Central MSD of Russia in the capital, to strengthen work with Muslim youth, and ‘to direct all its influence and efforts to the preservation of peace and stability” there.
An ethnic Tatar who comes from a family of imams, Krganov was born in October 1976 in the village of Chkalovskoye in the Chuvash Republic. After graduating from local schools, he attended a medrassah in Kazan, two Islamic higher schools in Ufa, the Chuvash State University and the Russian Academy of State Service in Moscow (
At the age of 15, he became the muezzin and second imam of the Central Cathedral Mosque in Shygyrdan. The following year he was named deputy imam of the Kazan Muslim organization and curator for the republics of Chuvashia, Mordvinia, and Mari El. And then in 1993 – still only 17 – he became president of the Islamic Center of the Chuvash Republic.
In May 1994, Krganov’s rapid rise continued when he was chosen mufti and head of the MSD of the Chuvash Republic. Four years later, he was named head of the department of internal affairs and external relations of Tajuddin’s Central MSD, a post that brought him into contact with Muslim leaders across the Russian Federaiton.
In November 2005, Tajuddin named him first deputy chairman of the Central MSD and plenipotentiary representative of that organization to the Russian Presidential Plenipotentiary to the Central Federal District. During his time in Chuvashia, Krganov oversaw the construction of more than 40 mosques and a medrassah and was credited with maintaining Muslim unity there.
But perhaps the most important event in his career was Krganov’s development of close ties with Vladimir Putin. On December 31, 1999, the new mufti accompanied Putin on the latter’s visit to Chechnya. Later when Putin came to Chuvashia, the Russian leader praised Krganov for maintaining good relations among that republic’s ethnic and religious groups.

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