The potential of radical Islam in Tatarstan
This paper evaluates the prospects for the spread of radical Islam in the Volga-Ural region of the Russian Federation. By radical Islam the author is referring to wahhabism, whose distinguishing features he cites as an aggressive interference in the realm of politics, a strong objection to the separation of state and religion, hostility to nonMuslims, an idealisation of Islam at the time of its original emergence and a determination to use violent and armed means in the pursuit of its aims. Unlike Dagestan, Chechnya or Ingushetias the stable situation in the Volga-Ural region would seem to make the proliferation of radical Islam unlikely. However, the author claims there are other factors that could contribute to the rise of radical Islam in that relatively secularised region. The collapse of the Soviet state and the vacuum in authority from 1989 to 1994 led to an ideological crisis, prompting the peoples of the USSR to search for new ideological alternatives. The two most important actors in that period were the nationalist Tatar and Bashkort organisations and from 1992, foreign Muslim charities. The revitalisation of Islam in Tatarstan dates from the late 1980s from when it became an important tool of the Tatar nationalist movement, helping to reinforce a distinct Tatar identity.