A prayer service against the mosque in Moscow

Far-right activists took part in an action against the construction of a mosque near the Holy Lake in Moscow’s Kosino-Ukhtomsky municipal district on Sunday morning. Despite a general mobilisation by the far-right, no more than 1,000 people came to the event from all over Moscow.

The campaign against the mosque construction began in February 2023, when the far-right society Tsargrad [published]( an article in its channel on 27 February about the construction of ‘the largest mosque in Russia for 60,000 people’. “Tsargrad” lamented that the authorities did not hold a citywide referendum on the issue and expressed the opinion that “the very fact of the application to build such a cyclopean structure speaks not about an increase in the number of Muscovites professing Islam, but about the emergency situation with the influx of migrants into the capital.” “Tsargrad” stressed that Moscow had turned into a nationwide centre of uncontrolled migration and recalled that elections for the capital’s mayor would be held in September. “A positive decision to erect such a mosque could take away millions of votes from native Muscovites for a candidate in power,” Tsargrad concluded the publication.

The post on a channel with an audience size of 6,200 subscribers instantly splashed across far-right platforms and received 110,000 views. On 28 February, Ridus [reported]( intentions to build “the largest mosque in the country, four times the size of Christ the Saviour Cathedral” near Holy Lake. The publication states that it “categorically displeases Orthodox activists” because “a miraculous icon of St Nicholas was found in the local waters in the 19th century”. “Ridus” reached out to Kirill Kabanov, a member of Russia’s Presidential Human Rights Council, for comment; he also complained about illegal migration and the lack of a referendum. Another ultra-right-wing publication, Readovka, [joined]( the discussion and also began rocking the topic of building a “mosque for illegal migrants” for its audience.

Tsargrad society was founded by the ultra-conservative Orthodox oligarch Konstantin Malofeev. The editor-in-chief of Ridus since 2015 is Andrey “Most” Gulutin, a former drummer for the Nazi group Ganda Moskvy, who promotes a “spiritual-power agenda”. Alexey Kostylev, editor-in-chief of Ridovka, openly admitted that stories about illegal migrants were doing well and allowed him to increase his traffic.

Throughout March, media preparations for the action were underway. A petition against the construction of the mosque was launched on the platform, gathering 25 thousand signatures. Rumours about the construction of the mosque began to spread among local residents, who predictably turned out to be unhappy with such a scenario. In 2015, the Russian Orthodox Church attempted to erect a temple in Torfyanka Park in northern Moscow, at which time local residents perceived these plans as a takeover of their recreational space by a corporation alien to them. This case involved a similar conflict, but now the protests have decided to be led by the ultra-right, which framed the conflict in terms of ethnic and religious conflict.

On 15 March, the administration of Moscow’s Eastern Administrative District refused to allow the general director of the television channel Spas and TV presenter Boris Korchevnikov to hold a 400-person procession. In mid-March, a video appeared on far-right channels showing a group of far-right activists burying a pig’s head on a construction site, thereby desecrating the space for the mosque. Then, in late March, Russian mixed martial arts fighter Maxim Divnich published several articles about the mosque construction in his private Telegram channel, after which the conflict reached a new level. Divnich started to receive threats. Even the popular blogger Khasbulla Magomedov, known as Hasbik, reacted to the words of MMA fighter Maxim Divnich: “Tourist, don’t come here again. Don’t come to training camp here again,” Hasbik wrote in the comments under Divnich’s post.

The announcement of the action on 2 April was placed by the largest far-right channels, including the Pozdnyakov network, who devoted several posts to the topic at once, as well as the Rusich channel, the Russian Community ZOV, the Forty Forty and the Northern Man by the far-right rapper Misha Mavashi. On the day of the action, the ultra-right gathered near the lake, where they held a “prayer service” against the construction of the mosque, organised the collection of signatures and recorded a video. Max Divnich also took part in the rally and was joined by other Russian fighters Konstantin Yerokhin, Dmitry Aryshev and Alexei Papin. “I urge all Orthodox Christians to come to this temple, we have an obligation to defend our sacred places. Why should we allow the construction of a mosque in this place? Personally, I am against it. I am starting to be insulted: “You are a fascist, you are a Nazi”. I want to say that I have nothing against Islam, the Koran and Muslims,” said Divnich during the rally.

No official information about the construction of the mosque has been provided by any official organisation at the moment either. The capital’s Department of Construction reported that they are not building a mosque. The Moscow Committee for Architecture and Urban Planning, which develops urban planning plans for land plots and holds public hearings, did not comment on the mosque construction. It is also not entirely clear whether this is about the construction of a mosque or an “Islamic educational centre,” as one of the publications claims.