The key to consolidating all-civil identity in preserving ethnic and cultural, interethnic and interreligious harmony in Russia

24 October 2022


On 19-21 May 2022, the Republic of Tatarstan hosted the XIII International Economic Summit ‘Russia – Islamic World: KazanSummit2022’ and a meeting of the Strategic Vision Group ‘Russia – Islamic World’, which were given special significance by the extensive celebration in Russia of the 1100th anniversary of the adoption of Islam by the Volga Bulgars.

The main guideline for shaping the reports and discussions at the forum included the conceptual provisions contained in the welcoming addresses to the participants by President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, Chairman of the Federation Council Valentina Matvienko, as well as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and their warm congratulations on the 1100th anniversary of the official adoption of Islam by the Volga Bulgars. It is an important event for the Russian Muslim Ummah, which has become an organic and integral part of the Russian civilization.

The President of Russia stressed in his message that ‘the adoption of Islam by Volga Bulgaria became one of the milestones in the history of our Motherland, had a significant impact on the formation as a multi-confessional state and played a significant role in forming a united and cohesive multinational people of Russia. For centuries, Russian Muslims have been significantly contributing to the development of the country. Their bright achievements in various fields are an integral part of our richest historical, scientific, cultural and spiritual heritage’.

The meeting of the Group of Strategic Vision ‘Russia – Islamic World’ was devoted to the discussion of ‘Russian Experience of Preserving Ethic and Cultural, Interethnic and Interreligious Harmony – a Guarantee of Consolidating All-Civil Identity’.

In the current Strategy of State National Policy of the Russian federation until 2025, approved by Presidential Decree on 6 December 2018, the provision on the content of Russian civil identity is based on preservation and development of the Russian cultural dominant characteristic of all peoples inhabiting the Russian Federation and the cultural (civilizational) code, which encapsulates, among others, such fundamental universal principles as respect for the original historical and national traditions of our peoples and integration of their best achievements into a single Russian culture.

Regular economic summits and meeting of the Strategic and meetings of the Strategic Vision Group in Russia and abroad demonstrate that they are rightly regarded as leading economic and spiritual-humanitarian platforms where issues of expanding trade and economic cooperation and consolidating inter-civilizational and interreligious dialogue between the Russian Federation and Muslim member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The attractiveness of these forums is evidenced by the fact that more than 6 thousand representatives of government agencies, international and national organizations from 64 countries around the world and 59 Russian regions took part in them in Tatarstan in May of this year: members of the Group from Russia, Egypt, Bahrain, Iran, Indonesia, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, the UAE, Pakistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Türkiye, Tajikistan, Tunisia and other countries, representatives of such influential international organizations as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the World Islamic League, the World Council of Muslim Communities, senior officials from Russia and foreign states, influential clerics, well-known experts, as well as over 30 foreign ambassadors of OIC member states accredited in Moscow. Active participants included Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, Special Representative of the Russian Foreign Minister for Interaction with Organizations of Muslim States, Relations with the OIC and other Muslim Organizations Konstantin Shuvalov, the Federation Council Delegation headed by Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs Grigory Karasin and representatives of other Russian state bodies and public organizations.

The topic proposed for discussion aroused broad interest among the participants of the Group’s meeting. Most of the speakers focused on the problems of inter-civilizational interaction in the Russia – Islamic World – West ‘triangle’. Almost all the participants of the meeting predictably took into account the specifics of the current international situation and paid considerable attention to their assessments of the foreign policy steps taken by Russia in recent months, including the special military operation in Ukraine. The foreign guests taking part in the Group’s meeting were constructive and reasonable.

In describing the current situation, members of the Group highlighted the destructiveness of the policy pursued in recent years by Western countries (particularly the United States). Many of them pointed out, both in public statements and in personal conversations, that this policy is characterized by a disregard for international law and a commitment to neo-colonial approaches that show clear signs of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia.

It was stated that both in foreign and domestic Western policies in recent centuries the Islamic world has been primarily a victim. Attention was drawn to the perniciousness of American actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and other Asian and African countries.
The participants of the discussions particularly highlighted the need to step up joint action against terrorism and to combine efforts in combating extremist ideology, and expressed a generally positive assessment of Russia’s efforts in this area, including the development of relations between Russia and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

From the participants of the discussion’s perspective, the negative role of the West is contrasted by Moscow’s joint productive steps with OIC member states. In cooperation with key regional states, Russia has managed to achieve significant progress in resolving the conflict in Syria, played a positive role in Libya and continues to contribute to a just resolution of the Palestinian problem.
In discussing issues of inter-civilizational interaction in the modern world, the participants of the meeting (including foreign ones) drew attention to the existence of serious grounds for singling out Russia as a distinctive state-civilization, whose essential features do not coincide with the Western idea of nation states. The civilizational nature of the Russian statehood was a source of misunderstanding and latent confrontation between Russia and Europe over the centuries, which had always perceived Russia as ‘its imperfect copy’. The discourse on Russia’s civilizational identity, which has been increasingly clear over the past decade and a half, is based on the ideas of multi-ethnicity and multi-confessionalism, in which Russian culture and adherence to convectional religions (primarily Orthodox and Islam) are seen as pivotal elements of civilizational unity.

Another crucial element of Russian national identity is a commitment to traditional values, which are contrasted with the ultra-liberal values of the modern West. Such an analysis of Russian civilization, proposed by a number of foreign members of the Group and supported by the majority of the participants of the meeting, led them to conclude that the Russian state-civilization and the Islamic world were historically close.

It was stressed that the difference between Russia and Western countries, manifesting themselves in a dialogue of culture and civilization, are fundamental, but this does not mean abandoning the establishment of constructive cooperation between representatives of different peoples, cultures and religions in the modern world.

International experts stated that the period of the unipolar world order is coming to an end. A multipolar development model (or models) is taking shape. At the same time, the fundamentals of established international relations are changing.

Discussing the prospects for relations between Russia and the states of the Islamic world, the meeting participants also drew attention to the fact that the new economic and geopolitical situation makes it particularly important to work towards bringing the two civilizational communities closer together and creates conditions for intensifying both political, humanitarian and trade and economic relations. In this regard, from the point of view of the foreign representatives of the Group, special attention should have paid to the broad opportunities for developing ties between Muslim states and Russia, as a state very close to the Islamic world, and for strengthening inter-regional cooperation with the subjects of the Russian Federation, in which more than 20 million Muslims live.
The meeting of the Group of Strategic Vision ‘Russia – Islamic World’ held in Kazan demonstrated to the international community the positive experience of the Russian Federation in preserving ethno-cultural diversity, interethnic and interreligious harmony, strength and depth of the Russian all-civil identity and the commitment of its citizens to the basic values of Russian society.

Valentina Matvienko, Chairman of the Federation Council, congratulating the Chairman of the Strategic Vision Group ‘Russia – Islamic World’, President of the Republic of Tatarstan on the successful holding of the XIII International Economic Summit ‘Russia – Islamic World: KazanSummit 2022’ and the meeting of the Strategic Vision Group in Kazan, noted that ‘the activities of the  Group of Strategic Vision ‘Russia – Islamic World’ contribute greatly to consolidating the dialogue between our country and the OIC countries, establishing links between representatives of different peoples, religions and cultures. The high level of relations between the Russian federation and the OIC countries is confirmed, in particular, by the constructive and balanced position of the Muslim states in the aggravating international situation. I believe that the intensification of joint work will serve to further consolidate our country’s authority in the international community.

Much of what was said at the Group meeting, including the wishes of the country’s leadership as set out in their messages to the meeting participants, can be successfully implemented if we continue to have an ongoing dialogue with our partners and listen to each other’s views. Only then can we ultimately create opportunities to strengthen cooperation among more like-minded Arab and Muslim countries.

The priorities of the Group of Strategic Vision ‘Russia – Islamic World’ continue to be the global agenda: preserving multi-confessional and ethno-culturalism in society, protecting traditional values, deepening humanitarian cooperation, developing youth ties, and improving information cooperation. The Group continues to act as the leading international platform for public diplomacy for discussion and dialogue on the problems of the modern world.

The year 2023 will mark the 20th anniversary of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Malaysia and his announcement of Russia’s intention to join the Organization of the Islamic Conference (now the Organization of Islamic Cooperation) as an observer. The Group is currently considering holding a retreat in Kuala Lumpur to mark the occasion.



GSV "Russia - Islamic World"

Photo: Federation Council

Author: Farit Mukhametshin, , Deputy Chairman and Coordinator of the Group of strategic vision "Russia - Islamic World", Doctor of Political Science