Islam arrived in the Volga-Ural region a little over a thousand years ago. The Bulgars of Chan Almas had officially accepted Islam on 16 Muharram 310 (16 May 922). Approximately 70 years before the Russians adopted Christianity as their official religion, Islam had been recognized as the state religion by the then Turkic Bulgar state. The Tatars and Bashkirs, the Muslim people of the Volga-Ural region, were the first to fall under Russian domination 433 years ago [1552 C.E.] and were heavily suppressed by the Orthodox Russians. Mosques were destroyed or converted into Orthodox churches, and the Russian Orthodox church forcibly baptized Muslims. In the year 1756, eighty percent of all mosques in the province (gubirna) of Kazan were destroyed.
After Catherine II's reforms in 1780, the Muslims began reproducing mainly religious literature and distributing it among the population. During the first year of the Bolshevik revolution (1917), the Soviet government promised the Muslim workers freedom of religion and practice of their manners and customs without restrictions. However, after gaining power, the Soviet government broke all promises - religious leaders were persecuted, religious institutions were closed, religious education was not permitted. This was followed by anti-religious propaganda by the "Union of Militant Atheists." During World War II, the Soviet government revised its policy of persecution against religion and Islam. But after the war in 1953 Chrushvhov continued with administrative and psychological attacks under the motto "back to Lenin."
The Muslim population of the Soviet Union is between 45 and 50 million, making it the sixth largest in the world (1980 data). The majority of the Soviet Muslims are of Turkic ethnic origin. They live in the Volga-Ural region, Northern Caucasus, Central Asia and other parts of the Soviet Union. There are approximately 6.5 million Tartar and Bashkir Muslims in the Volga-Ural region. I... (more)