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Short history of Muslims and mosques of Minsk

The history of Minsk Muslims through the centuries and a short tour of the incredible brand new Cathedral mosque in Minsk all in the following report.

Minsk has always been a multinational city.

Tatars started to settle on its outskirts at the beginning of the 16th century. Since then the North-West of Minsk had been called Tatarskaya slabada or Tatarskaye pradmescie, which means Tatars' Suburb.

It was placed within present-day Dzimitrava, Mielnikayte and Zaslauskaya streets and a part of Pieramozcau avenue. At the same time, the first Tatar mosque appeared on the territory of the Resurrection Orthodox church.

Valyancina Karotkina, tour guide:
It was a wooden mosque. According to Muslim tradition, it had separate areas for men and women inside. The interior was quite modest. As Quran forbids images of people and animals, there were lots of ornamental paintings and Quranic verses on the walls. The outside of the mosque was quite simple too.

It was a one-storied wooden house with a pyramidal roof.

Though, some of the traditions were not observed, in particular, there was no minaret.

This mosque was the main shrine of Tatars in Minsk up to the beginning of the 20th century.

In 1890, the local authorities allowed building a new stone cathedral mosque. Muslims had been raising money for 10 years and

in 1900 the old wooden mosque was dismantled. The fragments of it were taken home by believers as relics.

Two years later, there was a wondrous Byzantine style cathedral mosque built on the site of the former temple (today there is Yubileynaya hotel).

The new mosque was notable for its refined and yet modest architecture which made the shrine one of the most outstanding buildings in Minsk.

In particular, it had a big central dome and a tall multi-storeyed minaret.

Valyancina Karotkina, tour guide:
There was a secular newspaper Minsky Listok (the Minsk Leaflet) under the Russian Empire. It published a big article on the opening of the mosque. The journalists wrote it was one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Indeed, it was a long-awaited event for Minsk Muslims.

But the life of the new mosque was short.

In the 1930s, the shrine was rebuilt according to the anti-religious policy of the Soviet state. In 1961, the former mosque was ruined. Eight years later, a hotel was built there.

Valyancina Karotkina, tour guide:
To be exact, there is not the hotel itself, but its recreation area, with a restaurant and a fountain on the former site of the mosque. At the end of the 1980s, the city lost the last remnants of Tatars' suburb when

the old cemetery was transformed into gardens.

Since then many years have passed, but Belarusian Muslims didn't lose hope to build a new mosque. Now their dream has come true.

The new astonishingly beautiful Cathedral mosque has been built near the former site of Muslim cemetery on the crossing of Ihnatsenki and Hrybajedava streets.

The brand new architectural gem of Minsk can be seen from Pieramozhcau avenue.

The interior is no less impressive. There is a library, a room for meetings and classes and several small guest rooms on the ground floor.

Elena Ivashchenko, teacher of Islam basics of Minsk Cathedral mosque:
Here we have a kitchen. As you might know, Muslims have one obligatory month of fasting called Ramadan. What is more, there is a non-obligatory fasting throughout the year. Muslims try to observe it, if it’s possible, on Mondays and Thursdays. Fasting ends with a sunset.

To finish fasting, Muslims should have a meal, that’s why we need a kitchen here.

Muslims gather in the mosque and cook together various dishes, as Muslims come to Belarus from different countries. Thus we cook Turkish pilaf as well as Georgian khachapuri. Everyone brings something new.

The necessary part of any mosque is the room for the ritual purification before the prayer, for men and for women separately. Next, the believers enter the prayer hall with an ornamented dome. The walls are decorated with Quranic quotes.

Zarif Zudin, imam of Minsk Cathedral mosque:
The quotes are beautiful, because they are based on handwriting. It’s one of the essential parts of our traditional interior decoration.

The prayer hall is designed to host more than 700 believers. Here they have everything needed for a prayer.

Zarif Zudin, imam of Minsk Cathedral mosque:
Prayers take place five times a day.

Women are not forbidden to enter mosques. Men and women can pray together under the guidance of a prayer leader, imam. 

On Friday, we have a holiday preaching and a prayer together. All halls are full of Muslims then. Imam leads the prayer. The ceremony takes about an hour and a half.

Half a century later, Minsk Muslims regained their shrine. So, the history of Minsk Cathedral mosque continues in the new building.

The new Cathedral mosque in Minsk