The first legislative act that officially considered the question of the existence of Muslim prayer houses on the territory of the Russian state was a decree of July 18, 1593. Tsar Fedor Ioannovich addressed him to Kazan governors Vorotynsky, Vyazemsky, and clerks Osorin and Karpov.
This is, in fact, a response to the letter of the Kazan Metropolitan Hermogenes, about the new baptisms – residents of the former Kazan Khanate, who for one reason or another accepted Orthodoxy. He complained that “… many of the bad Tatar customs of the newly-baptized are being kept shamelessly … and of course they have fallen behind the Christian faith.” He also pointed out that if, after the capture of Kazan for 40 years, there was no mosque in the Tatar settlement, the only place where Muslims were allowed to live, “they have now been taught to close the mosque. Just like a bow shoot.
The decree provided for a number of measures to approve the newly baptized in the Orthodox faith and the destruction of all mosques in Kazan and its environs. The execution of this order was assigned primarily to the governor.
Basically, these were mosques that were located in villages where Muslims and newly baptized lived together, and this was done “so that there should be no temptation to those newly baptized from the Mohammedans.”
It is worth noting that in the countryside, in the places of compact residence of Muslims, the mosques are preserved.
Over time, this decree ceased to be strictly enforced and the process of building mosques without prior notice without notice to the authorities continued.
The seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries were rich in various turbulent events in the history of the Russian state and the process that began, although slow but steady secularization of the ruling class, pushed aside the question of the baptism of the Gentiles, but by the 40s of the eighteenth century it rose with new force.
Thus, in 1741, the head of the Novokreshchensk Affairs Office, Archimandrite Dmitry Sechenov, notified the Synod of the cases of the transfer of Chuvash villages to Islam by whole villages and the construction of mosques in them, and among other things he called for the demolition of all the newly built mosques.
On November 19, 1742, following the footsteps of this message, the Senate issued a decree that said: “… All newly built in the Kazan Province are restrained by the restraining orders of the mosque … to break and continue to build not to allow.”
In places of compact residence of Muslims “far from the newly educated”, mosques were to be registered and their future was to be determined by the provincial offices along with the diocesan hierarchs.
According to the information set forth in the Senate decree of June 22, 1744, according to this decree, 418 mosques of 536 were demolished in Kazan province alone.
According to other sources in the Siberian province in pursuance of this decree, 98 out of 133 mosques were demolished, in Astrakhan — 29 out of 40. (data of the Senate decree dated August 23, 1756)
In 1744, the authorities somewhat softened their demands. Realizing that “if they, the Tatars, all their mosques break something from that is nothing else that can follow, just one thing to them, the Tatars, in their law is an insult.”
The senate also had to take into account the international factor: “… And from that it couldn’t reach the disclosure to such places where people of Greek confession live in Mohammedans, in other states, and God’s churches were built, and there wouldn’t be any oppression to those churches …”
According to this decree, “in Kazan, in Tatar settlement, for Tatar, the Mohammedan law, tell them to build, if all are broken, only two mosques … In the provinces, where Mohammedans have residence in special villages, in which there is no Russian or newly baptized residence, but … according to the census of the male gender of souls, it is written no less than from 200 to 300 souls … The governors are in common with diocesan bishops to build the Tatar mosques, where the old ones are broken, allow them … ”.
By decree of August 23, 1756, the construction of a mosque in the village was forbidden if there were more than one-tenth of the population in it.
With the accession to the throne of Catherine II, the situation radically changed: in 1767 the construction of mosques in Siberia was allotted for consideration by the Siberian governor.
In the same year, when the Tatars visited the empress of Kazan, the Tatars asked her to build a mosque within the city, and she gave oral permission to do so.
However, this caused opposition from the Orthodox clergy.
The answer to this conflict was the “Decree of the Synod on the tolerance of all religions and the prohibition of the bishops to enter into various matters relating to the faiths of other faiths and to building prayer houses according to their law, providing all these secular authorities” dated June 17, 1773.
“The Charter of the Provost or the Police” dated 1782 clarified that the police should exercise control over the construction of prayer buildings in the cities.
After the establishment of the “Spiritual assembly of the Mohammedan law” in Ufa on April 20, 1789, and in accordance with the decree of April 8, 1801, prior to the consideration of petitions for the construction of mosques, the provincial authorities had to receive the opinion of the Spiritual Assembly.
In the nominal royal decree of May 31, 1829 “On the construction of mosques in Tatar villages, according to the attached exemplary plan and facade”, the basic requirements that should have been met during the construction of Muslim religious buildings were specified. Only one mosque could be built in the village, regardless of the number of its inhabitants, but provided that no less than 200 male Muslim souls lived.
Mosque “Mardzhani” became the first stone Muslim temple in Kazan province
In 1857, in the “Charter of Construction”, which was also one of the laws of the Russian Empire, Article 262 stipulated that a mosque could be erected in a multi-confessional village without considering the number of Christians and Muslims, but only does not represent the “danger of temptation in faith.” According to the General Provincial Institutions, this “danger” was to be determined by the local authorities, but at the same time they were required to coordinate their decision with the Orthodox diocesan authorities.
In 1862, the rule of approval was abolished by a decree of the emperor, and civil authority began to single-handedly resolve issues of construction of non-Orthodox churches, but in 1885, initiated by the Procurator-General of the Synod, K.P. Pobedonostsev at the highest command of October 10, the old order was restored.
The law of December 15, 1886 established a new standard for the construction of mosques in populated areas – the presence of 200 male Muslims who actually live in it and not just listed on audit lists.
The possibility of building mosques in populated areas with a mixed Muslim-Orthodox population was maintained, but again only “if this does not cause a temptation in faith for Christians living together with the Mohammedans . ”
The degree of “temptation” was again determined by the local authorities together with local Orthodox hierarchs.
There was a punishment for the illegal construction of mosques without the permission of the local administration – a fine. Its amount was determined by the “Penalty and Corrections Penal Code” of 200 rubles. In addition, an illegally constructed religious building could be moved to another place or closed.
In general, the legislation on the construction of mosques existed before the October Revolution of 1917.
In Soviet times, new mosques were not built. On the contrary, already existing mosque buildings were seized for economic needs. Many mosque buildings were destroyed.
As an exception, after the devastating earthquakes in Tashkent and on the territory of Uzbekistan, several world-famous ancient mosques were restored, which were architectural monuments.
By January 1, 1970, on the territory of the USSR only 1% of Muslim religious buildings from among those existing before the revolution acted for their intended purpose.
The situation changed only in the years of perestroika, when local authorities began issuing permits for the construction of religious buildings in areas densely populated by Muslims.