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Located on a historical crossroad of different civilizations, Ukraine today is a home for people of different nationalities, cultures, and religious beliefs. Though the vast majority of Ukrainian citizens identify with Orthodox Christianity (up to 70%), all religions are afforded equal opportunities to flourish without discrimination, and all individuals are empowered to practice their beliefs freely, fostering a diverse and inclusive society.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, together with Ukrainian Muslim soldiers, leaders of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, and representatives of the Muslim clergy, took part in the Iftar, a dinner held during the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims. April 2023.
Photo: Presidential Office of Ukraine

Muslim population in Ukraine

Ukraine’s Muslim population is estimated to range from several hundred thousand to 2 million people. According to the survey conducted by the Ukrainian Centre for Economic and Political Studies named after Olexander Razumkov, 0.9% of respondents in Ukraine identified as Muslims in 2010.

Today, the exact numbers are almost impossible to obtain: the majority of Muslim communities in Ukraine have lived in the east of the country and in Crimea, areas that have been under Russian attack and temporary occupation since 2014. Though many have been forced to move by the threat of ethnic and religious persecution, a large part of Ukraine’s Muslim population remains in those regions.

Muslim communities in Ukraine

While the majority of Muslims in Ukraine are Crimean Tatars, the indigenous people of the Crimean peninsula, there are also Volga Tatars, Turks, and individuals from Central Asia, the North Caucasus, Azerbaijan, and Arab countries, who have embraced Islam and become part of the Ukrainian population, as well as those who have converted to Islam. Sunni Islam predominates in Ukraine overall.

Since 1991, several Muslim organizations have emerged in Ukraine. These include the Religious Administration of Muslims of Ukraine “Ummah”, the Association of Muslims of Ukraine, the Religious Administration of Muslims of Crimea, and the All-Ukrainian Association of Social Organizations “Alraid”.

More than 30 Muslim organizations and communities created and signed the Ukrainian Muslims Charter (2016) and the Ukrainian Muslims Social Conception (2017). These documents declare the basic principles for Muslim organizations to interact with each other and with the state, covering legislation and issues such as public health, education, language, and others.

Mosques in Ukraine

There are over 300 mosques and prayer houses in Ukraine, along with 90 Muslim weekend schools and 7 Islamic universities. They are predominantly situated in regions with the highest Muslim population in Ukraine, such as Crimea, the Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kherson regions, as well as major regional centers like Kyiv, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, and Dnipro.

The Ar-Rahma Mosque serves as the main mosque in Kyiv, the capital city of Ukraine, accommodating up to 3,000 people simultaneously. Its construction, lasting from 1996 to 2012, covered an area of 3,200 square meters. The volcanic tuff used for its decorative embellishments was transported from Azerbaijan, while the prayer hall carpets, spanning over 1000 square meters, were sourced from Türkiye.

Mosques, like other religious buildings in Ukraine, have not been spared from Russian attacks. For instance, the mosque honoring Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his wife Roxelana in Mariupol faced such an assault. On March 12, 2022, the Russian army fired heavy artillery at the mosque. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, during the shelling, 86 Turkish citizens, including 34 children, sought refuge in the mosque. Due to the complete blockade of Mariupol by Russian troops, the fate of the people and the extent of the destruction remain unknown.

Muslims Defending Ukraine in the Armed Forces

Since the onset of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, several thousand Ukrainian Muslims have enlisted in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. According to the Ministry of Defence, approximately every fourth battalion currently includes Muslims who are fighting for the freedom and independence of Ukraine.

Photo from Serhii (Murad) Putilin, Head of the Department of Military Chaplaincy of Muslims of Ukraine, an Officer of the Department for interaction with religious organizations of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

There are also predominantly Muslim battalions, such as the Crimean Battalion formed by Crimean Tatars and the Chechen “Sheikh Mansur” Battalion, both established in 2014 by volunteers. As with any major religion, Muslim chaplains provide support during their service. 

Read more: “Defending the Homeland is a Sacred Duty”: Stories of Muslims in the Armed Forces of Ukraine