Problems of regimental imams in Russia

  • Central Muslim Spiritual Directorate of Russia
  • 08.Sep ‘20
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On August 26, was held a round table called “Military clergy: History, modernity, development prospects” at the Spiritual and Educational Center at the Main Church of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. This round table attended representatives of Russian Orthodox Church, Jewish communities of Russia and the Central Spiritual Directorate of Muslims represented by Chairman of the Central Spiritual Administration of Muslims, the Supreme Mufti of Russia Talgat Tadzhuddin and the rector of the Russian Islamic University in Ufa Artur Suleymanov. What was curious about this event is that the entire Russian ummah, which is organizationally very diverse, was represented only by the Central Spiritual Directorate of Muslims. And it was no coincidence.

Today, the Armed Forces of Russian Federation comprises 267 members of the military clergy with a salary of 25 thousand rubles. However, this number of regimental priests is clearly not enough, especially taking into account the number of imams. According to the latest data from 2018, the number of military clergy amounted to 149 members, 146 of them were Orthodox priests, 2 were imams and 1 was a lama. This suggests that there is a huge shortage of Muslim military clergy, let alone clerics of other confessions – Judaism and Buddhism.

One of the reasons of the small number is associated with the lack of trained personnel of young or mature age.

Talgat Tadzhuddin began to train military clergy in Ufa at the Russian Islamic University only in 2012. When the first recruitment was made. In September 2015, the RII CSDM released the first batch of 6 regimental imams.

However, even regimental imams who were trained at the RII CSDM, there are very few of them, are faced in practice with the fact that it is difficult for them to work directly with the military so although the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation has a corresponding order for enrolling military clergy in the staffing table, but the employment of one or another regimental imam depends on the personal sympathy of local commanders and their understanding of the importance of religious nourishment for Muslim employees.

Now only two of the graduates of the RIU CSDM are working in the army: Ali hazrat Shamshetdinov as assistant commander for the work with believing military personnel in the 31st Airborne Brigade based in Ulyanovsk, and Ildar hazrat Sindikayev, assistant of the head of the department for the work with believing military servicemen of the Southern Military District of the Armed Forces of the RF, located in Rostov-on-Don.

These are these two regimental imams who are on the staff of the Armed Forces of Russian Federation. One may see that it is not a lot. Moreover, they work in those regions where there are muftiates under the jurisdiction of the Central Muslim Council, and this is amid the centrifugal trends that swept all federal muftiates, means that the geography of employment of Talgat Tajutdin’s graduates will narrow.

The main problem that the institute of Muslim military clergy faces today is the lack of methodological recommendations of high quality for working with Muslim military personnel in the Armed Forces of Russian Federation. While they are absent, the initiative, e.g. in the form of organizing halal meals for the military personnel or the functioning of mosques and prayer rooms on the territory of one or another army unit, still remains at the personal discretion of the leadership of one or another military unit or military school.

Why, then, do the representatives of Russian army see themselves as the partners for organizing the institution of military clergy only in the CSDM and do not consider other muftiates? This happens due to the fact that the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of Russia, of all the muftis, has personal relations only with Talgat Tadzhutdin: only Talgat Hazrat was awarded a personal audience with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, and Putin and Medvedev, while being a president, came only to his residence in Ufa. The Army Command focuses on their chief, and that is why the CSDM, which is the only muftiat that trains regimental imams in their Islamic university, will be the only partner of the Armed Forces of Russian Federation for a long time to come.

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