On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a message of greetings to the participants and guests of the 2022 Kazan Global Youth Summit as it opened in Kazan. The event was hosted by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
“Islamic states have been our traditional partners in addressing many topical issues on the regional and global agenda, in attempts to build a more just and democratic world order,” Putin said in his short address. “It is significant that young people are getting more actively involved in this constructive and comprehensive cooperation.”
The Kazan Global Youth Summit is organized for young Muslim people to keep them informed and facilitate interaction with other regions and cultures.
Putin is strongly aligned with the Russian Orthodox Church, which supports him in his war in Ukraine. But he has both domestic and foreign interests in allying with Islam. Russia has the largest Muslim population in Europe, numbering approximately 14 million or roughly 10% of the total population. Recognized under the law and by Russian political leaders as one of Russia’s traditional religions, Islam is a part of Russian historical heritage and is subsidized by the Russian government. The position of Islam as a major Russian religion, alongside Orthodox Christianity, dates from the time of Catherine the Great, who sponsored Islamic clerics and scholarship. President Putin consolidated this trend, subsidizing the creation of mosques and Islamic education, which he called an “integral part of Russia’s cultural code,” encouraging immigration from Muslim-majority former Soviet bloc states, and condemning the anti-Muslim hate speech.
Last month, Gazprom, a Russian state-owned multinational energy corporation, and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) signed a $40 billion memorandum of understanding (MoU) that would enable the two countries to dominate the world market for natural gas and set the prices. In addition to the gas deal, Putin acquired drones for use in Ukraine from Iran. Intelligence organizations in many countries have speculated that, in return, Russia will help facilitate an Iranian nuclear weapons program.
As Europe and America unite in sanctions against Russia, Putin is actively courting allies and trading partners. So when Putin traveled to Iran to finalize the gas and drone deals, he also visited Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.