Moscow Mayor, Sergey Sobyanin, has faced intense criticism from Russia's Muslim minority after he ordered, on April 5, that a major mosque, planned to be built in the center of the city, should be moved to a smaller, more distant location. Moscow, in 2015, was estimated to have 1.5 million Muslim inhabitants from a total city population of nearly 12 million, a number that has likely only grown in recent years,.

 The dispute, over the Mosque's location, highlights increased tensions with Muslims who often complain of being treated as second-class citizens in Russia. Well known Russian Muslims, including Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, MMA fighters, and others, expressed the view that the decision to shift the mosque was further indication of the lack of respect that Muslims receive from the Christian majority. 

 It is unclear exactly how many Muslims currently live in Russia, with estimates ranging from 6 - 10% of the total population, which would equate to between 8,400,000 - 14,000,000 devotees

 A video, that recently went viral on social media, showed what appeared to be tens of thousands Islamists congregating and filling the streets of Moscow to pray at Eid.

 The changing demographic is also seen in the Russian military. The rise in the recruitment of Central Asians has led to a significant shift in the ranks of enlisted troopsRadio Liberty earlier reported that 80%, of those killed during the war in Ukraine from Russia's Astrakhan Region, were ethnic Kazakhs, although ethnic Kazakhs make up a mere 16% of the total population of the region. Other reports show that Buryat Mongols, who are typically Buddhist, and North Caucasus Muslims disproportionately feature in figures of those Killed in Action (KIA) in Ukraine.

 In an earlier interview with Kyiv Post, Kimberly St Julian Varnon an expert on ethnic relations and minorities in the former Soviet Union said that "for Putin there is a calculation: 'Who is expendable?' and 'Whose expendability is worth documenting?' That is why for the Russians, there is less concern for calculating the number of war dead from those who they have calculated as being 'more expendable.' The Kremlin is not taking people from Moscow or St Petersburg. Moreover, Putin wants to keep the military in-check."

 St Julian Varnon continued, stating that she was not surprised that Russia is sending ethnic minorities to the war at a higher rate than ethnic Russians as she sees it in the context of empire and colonialism. In imperial Russian and European imperial history, empires always did the same thing. This is exactly what empires historically do – they send the colonial troops first."

 The tension in the Russian military has boiled over a number of times, including last year when up to 22 Russian soldiers were killed, allegedly, by two Tajik recruits who felt that their commander had insulted Islam.

 Moscow, likely the largest Muslim city in Europe, continues to see demographic change - something that will forever change Russia in the generations that come.

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Comments (3)
Sean Anderson
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Ignorant writer! Istanbul, with 18 million inhabitants, is both Europe’s largest city and the largest Muslim city in Europe!

Stone WhiteKiller
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@Sean Anderson, I think Istanbul is part of the middle east, last time I heard...

Doris Bronson
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@Stone WhiteKiller, look at an atlas! Last time I checked the main part of Istanbul was in Europe.
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islam doesn't play well with others.
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A couple of 'likely's, an 'unclear', an 'appeared to be', and a cliche quote from an obscure expert on a bygone era.

It is likely that ISW's daily op-eds have set the new standard for what appears to pass as journalism, though it is unclear why anyone bothered to write this piece so completely bereft of any facts. The last fifteen months don't exactly pass as 'slow news days', after all.