2007-04-10 12:05:00

20Mln Muslims in Russia and mass conversion of ethnic Russians are myths - expert

Moscow, April 10, Interfax - The often-claimed proportion of Russian citizens belonging to the Muslim faith is overestimated, the Russian islamologist Roman Silantyev thinks.

'The most widespread estimation of 20 million Muslims is unrealistic,' Silantyev said as he presented his new book on Russian Islam in Moscow.

The number of Russian Muslims is 'the most serious myth' about Islam in today's Russia, where no verifiable data has been available so far.

Silantyev said he met estimations between 5 and 50 million Muslims in Russia.

In the same time the number of ethnic Muslims in Russia is more or less known and estimated to be 14.5 million, Silantyev said. Yet surveys say that there are only 7 to 9 million people who adhere to the Islamic faith in Russia.

Another popular myth is a mass conversion of ethnic Russian to Islam, he added.

'Less than 3,000 ethnic Russian have converted to Islam for the last 15 years,' Silantyev said.

According to the researcher, for the same period almost 2 million ethic Muslims have become Orthodox Christians for the same period. Over 400 Russian Orthodox clergy belong to traditionally Muslim ethnic groups, 20 percent of Tatars are Christian, and 70 percent of interfaith marriages result in the Muslim spouse conversion to Christianity.