Saturday, October 2, 2010

History of Muslims in Ukraine

While ethnic Ukrainians are predominantly Orthodox and Uniate Christians, Muslims have lived in the territory that makes up the modern Ukraine today for centuries. Muslim settlement in the country is concentrated in the country's southern half, particularly in Crimea, although there were colonies of Lipka Tatars in other regions such as Volhynia and Podolia.
The Crimean Khanate was established by the Crimean Tatars in the 15th century. These people were formed from the Turkic-speaking descendants of both Turkic and non-Turkic peoples who had settled in Eastern Europe as early as the 7th century.

The Khanate soon lost its sovereignty and fell under the influence of the Ottoman Empire on behalf of which it was ruled by the local tributary rulers with significant degree of autonomy. In 15th-18th centuries, Crimean Tatars frequently raided Eastern Slavic lands to capture slaves, enslaving an estimated 3 million people, predominantly Ukrainians. The influence of Russia in the area, initially small, was growing slowly and in the late 18th century after the series of the Russo-Turkish Wars the territory was annexed by the Russian Empire.

The Crimean Tatars were Sunnis and the Mufti was regarded as the highest religious figure. All communities were led by and represented before others by local imams.

The Crimean Khanate had Bakhchisaray as its capital. In the 18th century, when it was conquered by Russia, there were at least 18 mosques in the capital and several madrassas. The Russian Empire began persecuting the Muslim population and nearly 160,000 Tatars were forced to leave Crimea.

For the Muslims who stayed, there were conflicts in ideology among those who adhered to conservative form of religion, the moderates, and those who subscribed to liberal and Western ideology.

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