A Finnish national newspaper quotes a report from the Ministry of Defence in Helsinki, saying the profound demographic changes since the fall of the Soviet Union are having an increasing influence on Russia’s domestic and foreign policy.
Author Eeva Nikkilä-Kiipula, quotes a government report in the newspaper Aamulehti which claims Muslims are seriously changing the essential character of the Russian population. According to a report, these changes already represent a serious challenge to Russian internal stability and domestic policy.
The last 20 years have seen important demographic changes in Russia. At the beginning of the 1990s, 149 million Russians lived in the country. By 2007 the total was seven million less. Numbers are diminishing by approximately 400,000 per year.
The situation is completely different in areas with a Muslim majority. There the population is growing. Average life-expectancy is considerably higher than in traditional Russian areas. If demographic growth continues in the same way, by 2015 the majority of Russian army conscripts will be Muslims. Five years later 20% of all Russians will be Muslims. By mid-century, a majority of the Russian population will be Muslim.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the self-confidence and identity of Russia’s 20 million Muslims has risen dramatically. In 1991 there were 300 mosques in the country. By 2007 there were over 8000. Most new mosques were built with foreign money, mainly from Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey.
The 60 Islamic schools in Russia today educate approximately 50,000 pupils. There was not one Islamic school in 1991.
The areas heavily populated with Muslims include Volga-Ural, Baskaroshtan, Tatarstan, North-Caucasus, and the Carelian republic, where three percent of the population are Muslim–20,000 in all. The impact of Muslims on Russian internal and foreign policy has been clear for some time, and is growing. Russia is already an observer-member in the Organization of Muslim Countries (OIC).
Footnote: Finland itself, and Helsinki in particular, has been having difficulties with its own immigrant Muslim population in recent years, with indigenous unrest and civil disturbances.