A mosque is not just a word or a place. This is the home of the Almighty. Translated from Arabic, a mosque is a place of worship, a Muslim devotional architectural facility. Each nation practicing Islam builds their unique mosques, different not only by geographical location and language of preaching, but also by architectural delights, enchanting with ancient traditional ornaments and inimitable beauty of design. Today we offer you to walk through Tatar mosques of Russia, appreciate their scale and feel their centuries-old history.
Nurdi Kamal mosque is located in Norilsk. It is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the northernmost mosque in the world. The construction began in late 1993. The money for the construction was provided by Mukhtad Bekmeyev, a Tatar. The name “Nurdi Kamal” was given in honor of his parents – father Nuritdin and mother Gaynikamal. The mosque was opened in 1998.
The mosque was created in accordance with the individual design, which gives it “Norilsk flavor”. The building is painted blue, while the domes and the minarets are golden. The facets of the structure are divided by white decorative columns and each facet has four rectangular windows, the upper parts of the windows are triangular with a white border. The lower room is used as a madrasah.
Interestingly, instead of the traditional rounded shape of minarets, it is quadrangular in Norilsk. This makes it better able to retain heat and increase stability against strong winds. The mosque is shaped like a star. The prayer hall is round and the minaret is 30 meters high. The mosque has 2 floors. The cult structure stands, like many other buildings in Norilsk, on piles. They are used because at a small depth from the surface the permafrost begins, which goes down for 300-500 meters.
The Irkutsk Cathedral mosque is the main mosque in Irkutsk, the spiritual center of the Baikal Muftiate, which traditionally unites the Tatar-Bashkir community of the city and region.
If we refer to history, we will find out that emergence of the first free Muslim migrants in the Irkutsk guberniya was recorded by official sources at the beginning of the XIX century. According to the census of 1835, up to 350 of them had lived in Irkutsk. In the late XIX – early XX centuries a large number of Muslims came there from the European part of Russia, joining the stream of migrants as part of the policy of Siberian development and peasant reforms. They were mostly Tatars and Bashkirs from the Volga and Ural regions – Kazan, Orenburg, Ufa and Perm guberniyas.
The number of residents of Irkutsk and its suburbs practicing Islam was constantly growing. There was an urgent need to build mosques. For this purpose, brothers Zaiduilla and Shaykhulla Shafigullin donated their land and some structures on Salamatovskaya Street (K. Liebknecht) in 1897. In the summer of the same year, the mosque was opened and the adhan was heard from the minaret for the first time in Irkutsk.
The Irkutsk mosque became a place of social and educational life of believers. Here a library and a school for Muslim children were established; a shelter for orphans and disabled people and a canteen for the poor were opened; mutual aid was organized, guberniya meetings and holidays were held. Mullah Garikh Baimuratov was the first imam of the district.
The small wooden building could not meet the needs of the Muslims in Irkutsk. Therefore, fundraising for the construction of a stone building began immediately. By 1905 the construction of a new mosque building had been finished and Irkutsk was adorned with an expressive architectural structure with a high minaret. The Irkutsk mosque was considered as one of the best in Russia.
The Irkutsk cathedral mosque is included in the list of cultural heritage monuments of federal significance. It is notable for the fact that it was not closed during the Soviet period of Russian history and stopped functioning only during the Great Patriotic war.
The Kazarovo mosque is located in the very center of Tyumen in the territory of the former Kazarovo village, which has long been a part of the city.
The first mention of the mosque dates back to 1820 by historians. Archival documents state that the wooden mosque was built by Tauletbak Abdutsalimovich Mapparov, a Bukharan, in the “Kazarovo Yurts”.
Six decades later, the wooden building had fallen into disrepair. In this regard, in 1885, it was decided to rebuild the mosque from scratch. Bibichamal Apsalyamova, a resident of the Bukhara village of Yembayevo, undertook the work. She built it entirely at her own expense, with the full approval of the Tyumen guberniya administration, since the local residents were not able to fund the event, and there were no other mosques in the area. It is possible that a well-known philanthropist from Yembayevo, Nigmatulla Karmyshakov-Seydukov, was also financially involved in its construction. According to rumors, it was him who built the mosque.
The new wooden mosque was erected on a stone foundation. The Tobolsk guberniya building commission approved the design of the building and obliged the district police department to monitor the progress of the construction. The residents of Kazarovo (there lived 75 men and 65 women in 1882) undertook to maintain the clergy, heat and repair the new mosque.
In the 1920-s, the mosque was converted into a school, which is now General Secondary School №52. In the 1960-s, the building lost its minaret. The new mosque was solemnly opened in 2001. It was built not so far from the old building.
Orenburg, Tatarskaya Kargala village
Contrary to popular belief, the oldest surviving Tatar mosque is located not far from Orenburg, in the village of Tatarskaya Kargala.
The Kush Manara mosque was built by Tatar merchants in 1749 at the expense of the merchant Magdi Kaisarov and his son Muhammad-Rahim. Erected from stone, it consists of two floors with a domed roof and two minarets flanking the entrance. During the Soviet time, the mosque suffered a lot: two minarets were destroyed and the building was closed. In the post-war years, believers were allowed to return the mosque, and a wooden minaret was built in place of the destroyed one. The mosque is currently undergoing restoration of its historical appearance.
The Khan’s mosque in Kasimov is a monument of Tatar religious architecture and dates back to the turn of the XVIII-XIX centuries. It is a two-storey building with a classicist dome with a two-storey minaret in the form of a low cylinder under a lancet dome placed on a massive base. The building has been used as a museum since the 1930-s. Closer to the Oka river there is Shahghali’s Mausoleum.
According to legends, the mosque was built by the first ruler of the Kasim Khanate, Tsarevich Kasim in the XV century. Other sources state that, for instance, according to the work of the court chronicler of Khan Uraz-Muhammed Kadyr-Ali bi, it was built by Shah-Ali Khan, that is in the middle of the XVI century. Only the stone minaret has survived from the ancient building. The brick mosque building was destroyed in 1702 by order of Peter the Great, who, according to local legends, mistook the mosque for a church while sailing along Oka and crossed himself onto it.
In 1768, by the permission and nominal decree of Catherine II, a one-storeyed mosque building the old foundation close to the old minaret (apparently, preserved as a watchtower) by the efforts of Bektemir seid and his son Burkhan seid Shakulov, Ibrahim murza Chanyshev and others.
On the wall of the mosque above the door there is a stone with an inscription in old Tatar. The text says: “In 1182 (1768), this mosque was built in Rabi al-Awwal (June-July): Bektemir seid, Burkhan seid, Ibrahim murza Chanyshev, Abdulla murza, Musa seid, Mustafa seid, Suleiman murza, Temir-Bulat seid, Yusuf murza Chanyshev, Murtaza seid, Muhammed seid, Ibrahim Murza Maksyutov, Yakub murza, Musa murza Devletgildeev, Yusuf murza, Ibrahim murza Maksyutov, Mustafa murza, Temir-Bulat seid Shakulov”.
In 1835, the one-storey building was built by the efforts of Burkhan Bektemirovich’s son and grandson, Salikh seid and his son Hamza seid Shakulov, with a second storey of brick. Since 1938, the local history museum has been located in the mosque. In November 2013, by decision of the Arbitration Court of Ryazan Region, the mosque was transferred to the possession of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of the European part of Russia.
The cathedral Ak-Mosque (White Mosque) is the oldest surviving Muslim mosque in Astrakhan. The wooden White Mosque in Astrakhan was reported in 1777 by academician S. G. Gmelin, and later, in 1809, by researcher I. V. Ravinsky. He wrote that it was the main Tatar mosque in the city, as it was “the largest and best constructed”, and furthermore, “Tatar principal mosques are always called white”.
In 1810, the wooden Ak-Mosque was rebuilt in stone at the expense of merchant David Izmailov. A beautiful minaret was added to the mosque building. The mosque was surrounded by a wooden fence at first, and then by a stone one. The Imams of the White Mosque were representatives of the Khojaev family, who were also considered Tatars of Bukhara court during the XIX and early XX centuries. Khojaev Imams took active part in the public life of Astrakhan’s Muslims. Before the revolution, a maktab and a madrasah operated within the Ak-Mosque.
In 1930, the Ak-Mosque was closed and the building operated as a kindergarten. Only in 1992, the mosque was returned to believers. In 1997, the only madrasah in the region, the Islamic Institute “Haji-Tarkhan”, was opened within the White Mosque. With the beginning of restoration works in the mosque, the madrasah was moved to the building next to the Black Mosque.
The Nizhniy Novgorod Cathedral Mosque is the main mosque of Nizhniy Novgorod, located on the Kazanskaya Embankment. It was opened in 1915 and accommodates up to 5000 worshippers.
In 1908, the Muslim community of Nizhniy Novgorod set up the “Committee for the Construction of a Mohammedan Mosque” in the upper part of Nizhniy Novgorod. In 1910, the Committee gained the official permission to build a mosque, and already in the summer of 1913, the foundation was laid. The solemn opening of the mosque took place two years later – on March 20, 1915. The mosque was headed by Shakhimardan Ilyasov. From 1933 to 1938 Sagman Iskhakov fulfilled the Imam duties.
In 1938, it was closed. In 1988, after numerous petitions and appeals by Muslims to the highest authorities of the country, the Cathedral Mosque was returned to believers. However, the building required considerable reconstruction: there was no minaret and dome.
Thanks to the activists of the Muslim community, the solemn opening of the renewed Cathedral Mosque and the emplacement of the crescent on the minaret took place on June 30, 1991. The mosque became a real spiritual center for Muslims of Nizhniy Novgorod region: a Sunday school (Ihsan Mektebe since 2003) was opened there, and in 1994, the building of Mahinur madrasah was constructed.
During its almost century-long history, the Nizhniy Novgorod Cathedral Mosque, in addition to its direct purpose, served as a venue for scientific conferences, “round tables”, congresses and forums. Now it is also a meeting place for Muslim youth of Nizhniy Novgorod.
In 2008, the Government of the Russian Federation gave the Nizhny Novgorod Cathedral Mosque on the Kazanskaya Embankment the status of a historical and cultural monument. A government decree ordered Rosokhrankultura, together with the government of Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, to include this object in the Unified State Register of Cultural Heritage Objects of the Peoples of the Russian Federation.
At the beginning of the century, there was a large and rich Muslim community in Chita. A whole Tatar Sloboda was located in the area of Lenskaya and Krasnoyarskaya Streets. In 1904-1907, with their joint efforts, the believers built a mosque, one of the best buildings in Chita, in which beauty and durability, as befits a place where the Almighty is prayed to, merged into one.
The two-storey red brick building is erected on a strip rubble trench foundation and is built according to the traditional “minaret on the roof” scheme for Tatar mosques. The elongated tower of the octahedral minaret is topped by an onion-shaped cupola. The southern facade of the building is adjoined by a five-sided mihrab. The walls of the ground floor, mihrab and partition between the windows of the first floor are rusticated (relief masonry). The cornice of the main building, the mihrab and the minaret is decorated with an arched belt.
A Mohammedan society and a Russian-Tatar school were established at the mosque. The mosque is in the historical center of the city and is the only surviving architectural example of Muslim religious buildings in Transbaikal.
During the USSR, the mosque was used as a hall of residence, and during the Great Patriotic War it was closed. In 1992, the mosque building was given to the Chita Muslim community. Now a school of Tatar has been opened at the Cathedral Mosque in Chita and regular prayers are held.
Photo: Creative Commons