Spotlight on Russia
Expected Growth of Russia’s Muslim Population
Russia has the largest Muslim population in absolute numbers in all of Europe. The number of Muslims in Russia is projected to increase from about 16.4 million in 2010 to about 18.6 million in 2030. The Muslim share of the country’s population is expected to increase from 11.7% in 2010 to 14.4% in 2030.
The growth rate for the Muslim population in the Russian Federation is projected to be 0.6% annually over the next two decades. By contrast, Russia’s non-Muslim population is expected to shrink by an average of 0.6% annually over the same 20-year period.
Several factors contribute to the projected growth of Russia’s Muslim population. For instance, Muslim women generally have more children than other women in Russia (an estimated 2.3 children per woman, compared with a national average of fewer than 1.5 children per woman).1 Higher Muslim fertility is directly related to the fact that Muslim women marry in larger numbers and divorce less often than other women in Russia. This means they spend longer periods of their lives in unions where childbearing is more likely. And although the abortion rate in Russia is still among the highest in the world, research suggests that Muslim women have fewer abortions on average than other women in Russia. 2
Another reason the Muslim population in Russia is expected to increase is that nearly half of the country’s Muslims are under age 30, according to an analysis of data from Russia’s 2002 census. By comparison, about 40% of ethnic Russians are in this age group. Nearly a quarter of Russia’sMuslims (22.8%) are under age 15, compared with roughly one-in-six ethnic Russians (15.9%). 3
On the older end of the age spectrum, about 27% of Russia’s Muslims are age 45 and older, compared with about 38% of ethnic Russians. And 13.1% of Muslims in Russia are age 60 and older, compared with nearly a fifth of the ethnic Russian population (19.1%).
The Muslim population in Russia is geographically concentrated in a few regions. As of 2009, four-in-five Muslims in Russia resided in two of the seven federal districts, the Volga and Southern districts. Among the 89 sub-regions of Russia in 2009, Muslims were concentrated in five traditionally Muslim homelands: Dagestan (16.3% of all Muslims), Bashkortostan (14.6%), Tatarstan (13.5%), Chechnya (7.4%) and Kabardino- Balkaria (4.7%). Smaller numbers of Muslims lived in three other Muslim homelands: Ingushetia (3.0% of all Muslims), Karachaevo-Cherkessia (1.9%) and Adygea (0.8%). Altogether, about two-thirds of all Muslims in Russia (62.3%) resided in one of the traditionally Muslim homelands.
Moscow has become a migration magnet for people from elsewhere in Russia, as well as beyond Russia. More than 600,000 Muslims reside in Moscow (3.7% of all Muslims in Russia) and an additional 517,000 live in the oil-rich Tyumen region (3.0%), which borders Kazakhstan to the south.
1 The fertility rate estimate for Muslims is based on an analysis of the number of children ever born to Muslim women in Russia ages 40-49. (return to text)
2 By some estimates, 45% of all pregnancies in Russia end in abortion. Some researchers suggest that the rate among Muslims is significantly lower. See Judyth Twigg, “Differential Demographics: Russia’s Muslim and Slavic Populations,” PON ARS Policy Memo No. 388, December 2005. (return to text)
3 The Russian census did not ask about people’s religious affiliation, but it did ask about their ethnicity, which is highly correlated with religious identity in Russia. Of the 184 ethnic groups identified in the 2002 Russian census, 56 are predominantly Muslim. Two Muslim groups with homelands along the Volga River, the Tatars and Bashkirs, make up nearly half of the Muslims in Russia. The Tatars represent about a third of Russia’s Muslim population, while the Bashkirs make up about a tenth (11%). Chechens are the third-largest ethnic Muslim group, accounting for about 10% of Russia’s Muslims. Some other significant ethnic Muslim groups either have populations concentrated in the Caucasus or have homelands outside of Russia (e.g., Kazakhs, Azeris, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Turkmen and Kyrgyz). Most of the ethnic groups classified as Muslim are quite small, making up less than 1% of the total Muslim population in Russia. While ethnicity and religion are closely related in Russia, they are not identical. An analysis by Pew Forum staff of data from the 2004 Russia Generations and Gender Survey, carried out by the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe, suggests that more than 5% of people with traditionally Muslim ethnicities (or whose native language is traditionally considered a Muslim language) are Christian. Even larger percentages indicate they have no religion. At the same time, ethnicities not generally counted as Muslim also include people who identify themselves as Muslims. For instance, 0.1% of ethnic Russians, including those who list Russian as their native language, identified as Muslim in the 2004 Generations and Gender Survey. (return to text)