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Volume 41, Number 1January/February 1990

In This Issue

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Muslims in the USSR

Illustrated by Michael Grimsdale

Seventy-five percent of Soviet Muslims live in Central Asia, in five republics.

Uzbekistan is ten percent larger than California and ten percent smaller that Spain; it has 19,906,000 people, 70 percent of them Muslim, and most of them cotton farmers. Its capital is Tashkent, with 2,073,000 people. (Figures for this republic and others are from the January, 1989 census.)

Kazakstan, the size of Argentina and one-third the size of the United States, occupies almost one-eighth of the territory of the USSR. Heavily settled by Russians and Ukrainians to provide labor for "virgin" wheatlands, new industries and the Soviet space program, only half of its 16,538,000 people – 1,128,000 of them living in the capital, Alma Ata – are Muslims.

Tajikstan, the size of Wisconsin – a little larger than Greece – has 5,112,000 inhabitants, of whom 17 percent are Muslims. The capital, Dushanbe, has 595,000.

Kirgizia is larger that Syria and Lebanon combined. Its 4,291,000 people are mainly mountain pastoralists and only 55 percent are Muslim – one third of the Kirgiz having fled to China in 1916 following and unsuccessful revolt against Russian colonization of their best grazing lands. Frunze, the capital, has more that 616,000 inhabitants.

Turkmenia, twice the size of the United Kingdom and about as large as Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas together, has a population of 3,534,000 people, 70 percent of them Muslim. Its capital, Ashkabad, is a city of 389,000.

A sixth Muslim republic, Axerbaijan – west of the Caspian Sea – has a population of 6,921,000 people, 80 percent of whom are Muslim. The capital, Baku, is the fifth-largest city in the Soviet Union, its 1,700,000 people swelled by oil workers of more that 100 Soviet nationalities.

Another four to five million Karachay and Balkar Muslims live in the North Caucasus, within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.

Still more Muslims, including about 5,000,000 Tatars and some 2,000,000 Bashkirs, live along the bank of the Volga River and in the Ural Mountains.

Other Tatar Muslims, deported by Stalin from their Crimean homeland in World War II, are now mainly settled around Kazan in central Russia. They number about 400,000.

This article appeared on pages 4-5 of the January/February 1990 print edition of Saudi Aramco World.


Check the Public Affairs Digital Image Archive for January/February 1990 images.