This year, Vladimir Putin said a weighty word in two long-standing discussions, giving his point of view on the strength of the Orthodox and the Muslim communities in Russia. When on a visit to Mount Athos, he described Russia as an Orthodox power and stated that the number of Orthodox Christians in it is about 130 million. A month before it, in a talk with the King of Jordan, the head of the state assessed the number of Russia’s Muslims as 16 million, though he had given another figure, namely, 20 million, in August 2003. In all appearances, the downward correction was made after the data of the 2002 National Census were published, giving 14,5 million as the number of ethnic Muslims in Russia.
At his meeting this week with the Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, President Putin made an additional correction, saying that there were over 15 million followers of Islam living in Russia. Quite probably, this statement by the president will help to stop numerous speculations about the number of Russia’s Muslims, which is estimated by some Islamic researchers and religious leaders to be from 35 to 50 million.
Summing up the presidential statements, it is possible to conclude that the authorities in Russia regard it as an Orthodox poly-confessional and multinational power which, due to a noticeable proportion of the Islamic population, can be also regarded as part of the Islamic world and a stronghold of the Muslim religion. Perhaps, this, seemingly paradoxical, combination is the precise reflection of Russia’s nature.