Polar Islam: Russian Islamic Communities in the Far North

As migrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia settle in Russia’s Far North cities, a new Islam is emerging in territories that were never part of its historical realm. The notion of “Polar Islam” captures the birth and structuring of Muslim communities in Russia’s Arctic cities as not only a byproduct of labor migration flows to Russia’s industrial towns, but also a new feature of Arctic urban culture and its growing multicultural environment. The blossoming of this Polar Islam confirms that Islam is no longer geographically segregated in its traditional regions, such as the North Caucasus and the Volga-Urals; it has spread to all of the country’s big cities.

Marlene Laruelle, Ph.D., is Director and Research Professor at the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies ( IERES ), GW. Dr. Laruelle is also a Co-Director of PONARS (Program on New Approaches to Research and Security in Eurasia) and Director of GW’s Central Asia Program. Her research explores the transformations of nationalist and conservative ideologies in Russia and nationhood construction in Central Asia, as well as the development of Russia’s Arctic regions. Two of her books will be out in late 2020: Is Russia Fascist? Unraveling Propaganda East and West (Cornell University Press) and Memory Politics and the Russian Civil War. Red versus Whites (Bloomsbury).

Akhmet Yarlykapov is a Senior Research Fellow at Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO-University), Center for Caucasian Studies and Regional Security. He is currently researching Islam and ethnic cultures, modern Islamic movements, ethno-political and ethno-confessional conflicts in the North Caucasus. He is also doing field research in Muslim communities of the Asian part of Russia, including the Russian North. He is an author of Islam Among Steppe Nogais in 20-th Century , Moscow, Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences, 2008 (in Russian).

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