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the Northern Black Sea Region
 
The arrival of Islam in the northern shores of the Black Sea took place with some delay. The inhabitants of the region were not familiar with Iranian or Arab Muslims and their contact with Islam was through the Turks. In the 5th century AH (11th cen. AD), the steppes of northern Black Sea region were the realm of nomadic Turkic tribes, especially the Kipchak, who, none the less, lacked access to the coastal areas.
The spread of Islam in the northern shores of the Black Sea and the Crimean Peninsula began with the invasion of the Seljuk Turks, in the first half of the 7th century AH (13th cen. AD). The Seljuk sultan, `Ala’ al-Din Kayqubad (616 – 633 AH / 1219 – 1236 AD), began his offensive with an attack on the city of Sughdaq (Sudaq), located in the southern part of the Crimean Peninsula, on the shores of the Black Sea. Abu ’l-Fad, quoting Ibn Sa`id, notes that the people of Sudaq were of various religious affiliations, with Christianity as the predominant creed.
Upon his conquest of Sudaq, Hisam al-Din Amir Chupan raised above his head a copy of the Holy Qur’an placed in a golden tray and a mu’azzin announced the call to prayer atop a high platform. The Turkish conquerors destroyed the Christian belfry and erected a mosque in a span of two weeks, with its own judge and preacher. The spread of Islam in the northern regions of the Black Sea initiated from the east (the Volga and central Asian region) by the Saljuks, and from the south (through the Mediterranean) by the Egyptians. The major phase of Islamization of the region began in the days of the Mongols, with the spread of the religion among the Golden Horde.
In the 7th – 8th centuries AH (13th – 14th centuries AD), a major rivalry broke out between the Muslims and the Christians of the northern Black Sea region. The empire of the Golden Horde was under the influence of Islam from early on. In the 8th century AH (14th cen. AD), Islam was made the official religion by Sultan Muhammad, known as Uzbek Khan. In 686 AH (1287 AD), Islamic culture began to reach the northern shores of the Black Sea from Egypt. It is speculated that the Egyptian Muslims found their way into Crimea and the northern shores of the Black Sea through sea routes. In 686 AH (1287 AD), the Egyptians hired an architect, with a 2,000-dinar fund, to construct a mosque in the city of Qirim (Sulghat), located in the Crimean Peninsula. The remains of the mosque built by the Egyptians still stand today. Its architectural design is distinct from the mosque built by the Uzbeks. In 713 AH (1313 AD), Uzbek Khan, a member of the Golden Horde, erected another mosque in the city. The city was destroyed in the reign of Manguli Garay, the khan of Crimea (9th cen. AH / 15th cen. AD), who was a descendent of Juji. With the coming to power of the Ottomans, in 880 AH (1475 AD), the name of the old city of Qirim came to be applied to the entire peninsula. From this date forward, the history of Crimea came to assume an Islamic orientation. In 1197 AH (1783 AD), during the reign of Catherine the Great, Crimea was occupied by Russian troops and made a part of the Russian territory. Following the annexation of Crimea, the Muslims were given the freedom to practice their religion. Crimea was appointed its own mufti, who was subordinate to the mufti of Tatars in the vicinity of the Volga. In 1198 – 1206 AH / 1784 – 1792 AD, the province of Crimea was renamed Tavri, with its capital of Aq Masjid. The city had been previously burned by the Russians, in 1149 AH (1736 AD), hence its future name of Simferopol. The Muslim leadership of Crimea and northern Black Sea region remained strong even after the annexation of the territory by the Russians. The Ottoman shaykh al-Islam continued to preside over the religious hierarchy of the region. In fact, religious sermons in the mosques were, for long, given in the name of the Ottoman sultan.
None the less, from the early years of the Russian sovereignty, the best and most fertile lands of the area were confiscated by the Russian aristocracy, leaving the native Muslims (Tatars) with arid, barren tracts. This resulted in the mass migration of the Tatars, a million of whom left for Asia Minor in the period 1197 – 1331 AH (1783 – 1913 AD). A hundred years after the Russian takeover of Crimea, its Tatar population dwindled to a mere 200 thousand. In the aftermath of the German withdrawal from the Soviet Union, in 1944, 194,111 Tatars were forced into exile based on the trumped-up charge of treason and collaboration with the Germans. Forty-six percent of these exiles lost their lives on their way to Siberia, the Ural, Kazakhstan and central Asia. In 1967, they were rehabilitated, but, deprived of their possessions, many no longer had the option of returning to their homeland. In 1946, Russian and Ukrainian immigrants took over the place of the Tatars. Mosques were demolished and toponyms were changed. The number of Crimean Tatars is estimated at some 500 thousand people, a large majority of whom live in Tashkent and Samarqand. The Crimean Tatars are the followers of Hanafite school. Those who have returned to their homeland adhere to the religious authority in Ufa, while others follow the authority of religious center for central Asia and Kazakhstan, in Tashkent.
 
* source: Reza , Enayat Allah "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 , pp.553
 
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