Valiulla Yakupov. Life and struggle

18 March


The YouTube channel “Huzur” posted a documentary film “Valiulla Yakupov. Life and Struggle”, produced by a third-party studio with the support of Tatmedia. The film tries to fit into a half-hour running time a story about the life path of a public and religious figure who had a great influence on the revival of Islam in Tatarstan and in Russia at all. It is impossible to restrict the heritage of Valiulla hazrat Yakupov, whose memory is kept in the hearts of Russian Muslims, to any limits. But the documentary is captivating with archival photos and videos, and what is most valuable, it contains comments from his loved ones and associates who took part in the filming.

“An erudite person - it was immediately obvious. Read a lot, - Galina Alentyeva, Yakupov’s widow, shares with the audience, - although the character is ambiguous. Quite a sarcastic person, even caustic sometimes”. Galina met Viner (real name of Valiulla) while studying at the Kazan Institute of Chemical Technology named after Kirov. In the late 1980s, a Komsomol member and graduate of a secular educational institution developed an interest to Islam. It is important to note that before this, Viner experiences a noticeable growth in ethnic self-awareness: the young man quickly masters his native Tatar language, which he initially spoke poorly - this wasn’t mentioned in the film.

On the screen there is a photo in sepia: Yakupov is participating in the picket. In his hands is a poster calling on the people's deputy to give the ruins of the restaurant to Muslims in order to build a madrasah on their basis. At the dawn of the religious revival in Kazan, there was only one mosque named after Mardzhani. These were the consequences of the atheistic propaganda of the Soviet Union. The active civic position of Viner Yakupov leads the future educator to a promising initiative - the founding of the Iman Center for Islamic Culture in 1990. In different years, “Iman” published up to twenty diverse periodicals and over a thousand titles of books and brochures in Russian, Tatar and even Old Tatar languages.

Video footage from the 90s: a little Muslim came to a table filled with books, where adult men in skullcaps gave the boy several copies. “When I was in the store (of the Iman publishing house - editor’s note) on Tukay Street, - recalls the rector of the Russian Islamic Institute, Rafik Mukhametshin, - I involuntarily witnessed how wholesalers came from all over Russia and purchased literature”. The film claims that Valiulla Yakupov became the founder of the Muslim press in post-Soviet Tatarstan. But it must be added: he also turned out to be the pioneer of Islamic publishing, television and electronic media.

“We understood this name in English, from the word “victory”, that is, “winner”, - says Damir Shagaviev, Yakupov’s comrade- in-arms, with a smile, -we called him Winner”. In 2003, Viner Yakupov changed his own name, choosing a Muslim name instead - Valiulla. In Arabic it means “God-fearing”, “devout”. Under this name Valiulla Hazrat will go down in the history of the Tatar people. “During the time that we didn’t communicate, he just transformed from a Komsomol figure into a religious one. It was Eid al-Adha. I turn on the TV and suddenly I see Viner in a turban. I didn’t even recognize him at first!” – Galina Alentyeva, Yakupov’s widow, recalls with a laugh.

Video editing and the light-colored facade of the Apanaevskaya Mosque appears before the viewer. Views of the religious building, built in the style of “Moscow” baroque and traditional Tatar architecture, are replaced by shots of shakirds rushing to classes at the Möxämmädiä madrasah. The Apanaevskaya mosque was handed over to believers in 1994, and project for the restoration of the building appeared thanks to the Ministry of Culture. Valiulla Yakupov, as the imam- khatib of the mosque, scrupulously monitored the reconstruction of the decoration and decorative elements. In addition, Valiulla Hazrat decides to revive the most famous educational institution among the Tatars of Russia at the beginning of the 20th century.

«Valiulla Hazrat is the same person as Ğalimcan Barudi, but in the new history of the Möxämmädiä madrasah. In 1993, he began renting the halls of the Lenin House of Culture (the madrasah classes were held here at first - editor's note), and then with his wisdom he was able to return the main buildings of the Möxämmädiä madrasah and revive the heritage of our ancestors. This is all thanks to Valiulla Hazrat”, Deputy Director of the Möxämmädiä madrasah Zulfat Gabdullin explains to the audience of the film. In 1997, after the emergence of a unified muftiate in the republic, Valiulla Yakupov is appointed deputy chairman of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Tatarstan.

After attaining a high position in the Muslim hierarchy, Valiulla Yakupov remains a selfless person, indifferent to material values. Khrushchevka in the old district of Kazan appears on the screen, and then an address sign: Zarya Street, 28. “Yes, I was shocked by his apartment - there were books everywhere: on the floor, on the shelves, on the chairs. The apartment is old, shabby, with sagging wallpaper somewhere. It means, for him it had no role at all, absolutely, - recalls Galina Alentyeva, - Of course, in everyday life he was unpretentious. That is, there is somewhere to sleep, there is something to eat, and he always told me: “You need to live modestly”.

Warm memories of Valiulla Yakupov is replaced by disturbing images: men dressed in military ammunition in the forest, instead of faces there are blurry pixels. The activities of Arab charitable foundations and organizations contributed to the penetration of Wahhabism into the vastness of Russia, the announcer ominously states. The archive of the TV channel "Russia Tatarstan" shows Valiulla Yakupov, commenting on the situation in 2004: “If these foreign missionaries had left us alone, we would have continued to live peacefully, in good competition with each other, both with the Orthodox and with representatives of other religions. We would compete only in peaceful good deeds”.

«Valiulla Hazrat, as I understand it, studied everything on his own. The literature that came into his hands was different. This included sectarian literature. He seemed to accumulate all these views within himself and tried to understand them. Sometimes from the outside it looked like going to some extreme”, says Nail Garipov, another Yakupov ally. The reality of the threat of Wahhabism became tangible after 1999, when the Chechen War began. Meanwhile, the footage of the documentary becomes frightening: operational footage of seized weapons and gloomy identikit images of extremists from Tatarstan.

“Sectarian inclinations are a spiritual aggression against our people. Our people, who profess traditional Islam, are absolutely not involved in all these extremes of Islamism. We are followers of the tolerant Hanafi Islam”, continues Valiulla Hazrat gave his speech in an archival recording of the Russia Tatarstan TV channel. There are images of extremists being detained in their makeshift headquarters. Foreign preachers left Russia with the end of the “wild 90s”, but Wahhabi ideas spread among the local Tatar clergy. Valiulla Yakupov waged a continuous ideological struggle with representatives of fundamentalist views.

“He wanted, on the one hand, to somehow make amends for the fact that, out of ignorance, he contributed to the publication of some Wahhabi books. Sometimes they were sent from Moscow, and they were distributed through “Iman” - this also happened. And in order to somehow maintain a balance, he also contributed to ensuring that as much literature as possible was translated, including anti-Wahhabi, anti-sectarian literature”, Damir Shagaviev delicately explains to the audience. «Valiulla Hazrat, of course, played a huge role in the confrontation, because he had a platform - the Iman publishing house”, confirms Rafik Mukhametshin.

Again, ominous footage of the consequences of a clash between extremists and government security forces. In 2011, a Wahhabi camp was discovered in the Nurlat region of Tatarstan. New Mufti Ildus Fayzov with the support of Valiulla Yakupov begins the process of removing adherents of Wahhabi ideas from leadership positions in the ummah. “Valiulla was involved in education, he was the head of the education department. That is, he worked at the level of ideas. His task was precisely to prove, to explain. And he was probably even a much more dangerous adversary for representatives of the radicals”, says Ildar Galiev, Head of the Anti-Terrorism Commission.

Extremist training camps filmed on a VHS camera burst into the film's outline. Three militants in black military overalls are discussing something, bending over a map. Against the background of archival footage, Ildar Galiev continues: “He perfectly understood that he was a possible, so to speak, object for violence. But he relied on Providence, somehow he wasn’t preoccupied with this, he wasn’t afraid. He knew that what was supposed to happen would happen, and wasn’t afraid to do what he did”. As a result of a vile terrorist attack on July 19, 2012, an attempt was made on Mufti Ildus Fayzov and Valiulla Yakupov. Despite the explosives going off in the car, the mufti manages to survive.

Valiulla Yakupov becomes a victim of an irreconcilable struggle against evil, to which he devoted all the last years of his life. The documentary film, despite the specific method of presenting the material (sometimes reminiscent of a crime chronicle), clearly reflects the severe trials that befell Russian society at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries. However, the film introduces Valiulla Yakupov to the audience as he will forever remain in the memory of Russian Muslims: faithful to his people and his religion, modest but proactive, decisive and resourceful, selfless, responsible, fearless and God-fearing.


Watch the film via the link 



GSV "Russia - Islamic World"

Photo: RBM RT