The centre of the spiritual life of the Nizhny Novgorod Muslim community marked its 100th anniversary in 2015. This redbrick mosque with fancy white window trimmings stands on a high bank of the Volga, its silvery minaret towering over the river.
It is the oldest surviving Islamic landmark in the city, but it was not the first to be built. The Fairground Mosque, built in 1817, was. The Fairground Mosque fell into dereliction and was pulled down even before the 1917 Revolution. The Cathedral Mosque did not operate as a mosque between 1938 and 1988. It was a hospital during the 1941-1945 war. Once returned to the Muslim community, the mosque was restored complete with its dome. As many as 5000 parishioners gather inside the mosque on Muslim holidays.
The Cathedral Mosque runs a medrese school, a publishing house, some youth organizations and charities. It also houses the Muslim Spiritual Authority of the Nizhny Novgorod Region.
Most of the members of the local Muslim community are ethnic Tatars, who are the second largest ethnic group in Nizhny Novgorod, making up around 2% of the city’s population. Tatars lived on the plains in the south-east of today’s Nizhny Novgorod Region as long ago as the 15th century. Some evidence suggests that Tatars hailing from these parts make up as much as 40% of Moscow’s Tatar community. The spiritual leaders of Islam. in Russia speak highly of Nizhny Novgorod Muslims and their contribution towards the conservation of the traditions of Islam. They note in particular that it was in Nizhny Novgorod that the very first All-Russian Convention of Muslims was held semi-legally in 1905, where for the first time voices were heard saying it was high time to put Islam. on an equal footing with Orthodox Christianity in Russia.
The mosque complex stands to double in size in the next few years. The official permit has been received to build the Nizhny Novgorod Muslim Cultural Centre on mosque grounds, which will incorporate an Islamic institute and a library.