Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

John O'Loughlin

Second Advisor

Jennifer Fluri

Third Advisor

Najeeb Jan

Fourth Advisor

Dmitrii Sidorov

Fifth Advisor

Greg Johnson


This dissertation explores the discourse and politics of citizenship and minority rights in Russia. In particular I am concerned with analyzing the ways in which Muslim minorities negotiate restrictions on religious practices in Moscow’s public spaces. I examine the challenges and experiences that Moscow’s Muslim communities face in forging public communities and, in particular, in constructing new places of worship. Religious construction projects in general and mosques in particular generate new forms of local activism in Moscow. I use qualitative methods to analyze how contestations over religious sites generate new configurations of publics in Moscow. 29 in-depth interviews with key informants provide insight as to how religious communities navigate their rapid growth within Russia’s managed democracy, while 95 street interviews of 10-20 minutes and participant observation portray the everyday experience of Muslim communities. Analyses of key texts, speeches, and documents from a myriad of sources, including national newspapers and the archives of community activist groups supplement these interviews by providing a look at the role that social, religious, and state institutions play in shaping Moscow’s religio-political geographies.

My analysis focuses on case studies, including the controversies surrounding the demolition and reopening of Moscow’s largest mosque, Cathedral Mosque and a comparative analysis of protests over mosque and Russian Orthodox church construction. A discussion of other Muslim public spaces in Moscow includes neighborhood centers and women’s groups, and the diversity of Muslim communities, practices, and spaces in the city.

The public presence and diversity of Muslims in Moscow has led to tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims and within Muslim communities. These nature of these tensions and insecurities about Muslim presence and forms of public visibility touch on issues such as protests over new mosque construction and questions over Muslim rituals in Moscow’s public life. My dissertation contributes to the political geographies of religion by studying new configurations of civil society in Moscow.