A Tide From Central Asia
We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. -John 9:4 (ESV)
Russia is known for its rich history, the perseverance of its people through hardships, and its architectural masterpieces. Solemn paintings of icons, vast steppes, snowy forests, or cups of steaming tea and rosy, borsch soup may come to mind when you think of Russia.
Yet the face of Russia is rapidly changing. Moscow, Russia’s capital, has the largest Muslim population of any European city. Estimates range from 400,000 Muslims to 2-3 million (illegal aliens probably number in the hundreds of thousands).
Many of Moscow’s Muslims come from the poor, former Soviet republics of Central Asia. Tajiks, Uzbeks, Afghans, Kazakhs, Tatars, and many others are coming in record numbers, looking for work of any kind. They often live together in cramped quarters and squalid conditions, saving as much as they can to send home to their families. They face beating, murder, even bombings and many are modern-day slaves to fearful, resentful and rough employers. Life in Moscow is not easy but it is sometimes far better than the bleak prospects back home.
Being away from their home country, familiar traditions, and family and cultural pressure presents new temptations for Central Asian Muslims but also a new openness to hear the truth of God’s Word. “I used to hate Russia and didn’t want to come back,” said a Muslim-background believer (MBB). After seeing the potential for reaching Muslims from his home country, he became excited about the potential for ministry. “Now I feel like Russia is my second homeland,” he says.
Outreach in Moscow
Although the Jesus film, Mary Magdalene DVD and CARS Bible (Central-Asian Russian Scriptures) are well received, there are only small numbers of believers specifically reaching out to Muslims. Since Muslims in Moscow are often immigrants, they are overwhelmed with life in such a big city, lonesome for family, and seeking friendship. It is a good moment to proclaim the Gospel to them.
- Ask God to open the hearts of Muslims in Russia.
- Pray for the translation and printing of quality Christian literature for Russian-speaking Muslims and new believers learning to walk with the Messiah.
- Pray for unity, vision and wisdom for leaders throughout Russia to take the gospel to Muslims in Russia– making disciples of them in such a way that they are encouraged, enabled and equipped to do the same.
- Pray for concrete, practical steps by Russian churches to reach out to Muslims around them.
- Pray for the discipleship of young believers. There are few congregations for those coming to the Messiah, most are Kazakh only.
Listen to the Podcast – DAY 21 – Muslims in Moscow, Russia
Background Information on Russia
Founded in the 12th century, the Principality of Muscovy, was able to emerge from over 200 years of Mongol domination (13th-15th centuries) and to gradually conquer and absorb surrounding principalities. In the early 17th century, a new Romanov Dynasty continued this policy of expansion across Siberia to the Pacific. Under PETER I (ruled 1682-1725), hegemony was extended to the Baltic Sea and the country was renamed the Russian Empire.
During the 19th century, more territorial acquisitions were made in Europe and Asia. Defeat in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 contributed to the Revolution of 1905, which resulted in the formation of a parliament and other reforms. Repeated devastating defeats of the Russian army in World War I led to widespread rioting in the major cities of the Russian Empire and to the overthrow in 1917 of the imperial household. The Communists under Vladimir LENIN seized power soon after and formed the USSR. The brutal rule of Iosif STALIN (1928-53) strengthened Communist rule and Russian dominance of the Soviet Union at a cost of tens of millions of lives.
The Soviet economy and society stagnated in the following decades until General Secretary Mikhail GORBACHEV (1985-91) introduced glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) in an attempt to modernize Communism, but his initiatives inadvertently released forces that by December 1991 splintered the USSR into Russia and 14 other independent republics. Since then, Russia has shifted its post-Soviet democratic ambitions in favor of a centralized semi-authoritarian state whose legitimacy is buttressed, in part, by carefully managed national elections, President PUTIN’s genuine popularity, and the prudent management of Russia’s windfall energy wealth. Russia has severely disabled a Chechen rebel movement, although violence still occurs throughout the North Caucasus.
The Economy of Russia
Russia has undergone significant changes since the collapse of the Soviet Union, moving from a globally-isolated, centrally-planned economy to a more market-based and globally-integrated economy. Although Russia is the worlds largest country in terms of area, its unfavorably location means much of the country lacks proper soils and climates (either too cold or too dry) for agriculture. A severe drought and fires in central Russia further reduced agricultural output. Russia’s long-term challenges include a shrinking workforce, a high level of corruption, difficulty in accessing capital for smaller, non-energy companies, and poor infrastructure in need of large investments.
Statistics on Russia
Population: 142,517,670 (July 2012 est.), World Rank #9
Life expectancy at birth: 66.46 years, World Rank #164
Ethnic Groups: Russian 79.8%, Tatar 3.8%, Ukrainian 2%, Bashkir 1.2%, Chuvash 1.1%, other or unspecified 12.1%
Religions: Russian Orthodox 15-20%, Muslim 10-15%, other Christian 2%
Languages: Russian (official), many minority languages
School Life Expectancy: 14 years