KAZAN, Russia — A string of violent attacks by Islamic militants has shattered this city’s reputation as a citadel of religious tolerance and unnerved federal officials in Moscow, who have worked for decades to prevent the spread of radical Islam out of the southern borderlands and into places like this city 500 miles east of Moscow.
Rescue workers in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, examining the bombed car of the city’s chief mufti, who survived the attack.
The New York Times
Kazan has had a reputation as a citadel of religious tolerance.
Officials have long sought to contain Islamic fervor in the Caucasus to the south while insisting that places like the republic of Tatarstan, where Kazan is the capital, were different, representing a moderate “Russian Islam,” said Aleksei Malashenko, the co-chairman of the Carnegie Moscow Center’s religion, society and security program.
But that comfortable assumption began to crumble just before the start of Ramadan in late July, when a senior cleric in charge of education was shot outside his apartment building on Zarya Street. Roughly an hour later, the city’s chief mufti survived a bomb attack that demolished his Toyota Land Cruiser. A previously unheard-of group, the mujahedeen of Tatarstan, claimed responsibility.
On Sunday, a car carrying three men, an automatic rifle and Islamic pamphlets blew up in Zelenodolsk, about a half-hour west of Kazan, in what the authorities described as the inadvertent detonation of a homemade explosive. “That radical direction exists in Tatarstan,” Mr. Malashenko said. “And it’s dangerous.”
The apparent rise of Islamic militancy could have far-ranging effects on foreign and domestic policy, as the Kremlin increasingly looks for ways to promote moderate Islam and quash radical movements at home and abroad.