Policy Memos

Overcounting Russia's Muslims: Implications for Security and Society

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Russia’s top Muslim officials, Russian prime minister and former president Vladimir Putin, and Russian and American scholars all typically put the number of Muslim believers in Russia at around 15 to 20 million. Henry Kissinger, in a July 2008 opinion piece in the Washington Post, claimed that Russia has 25 million Muslims. These estimates are significantly inflated and unsubstantiated. The demographic base of Muslim communities in Russia is, on the whole, significantly weaker and also more fragmented. The best available census and survey data strongly suggest that the number of Muslim believers in Russia is unlikely to be more than 11 million (see Table 1). Most of these self-identified Muslims rarely attend religious services or perform religious rituals. While these results are based on census data from 2002, the likelihood that the number of Muslims in Russia has increased is statistically insignificant. [...]

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About the author

Professor of Political Science
San Diego State University