Kazakhstan, Islam in
This Central Asian republic is bordered by Russia, the Caspian Sea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and China. Major ethnic groups are Kazakhs (46 percent) and Russians (34.7 percent), with Ukrainian, German, Uzbek, and Tatar minorities. Forty-seven percent of the population is Muslim, 44 percent Russian Orthodox, and 9 percent other; Sufi orders such as the Naqshbandi have grown since independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991 . Catherine the Great introduced Sunni Islam to the Kazakh territories in an effort to pacify pastoral nomads. Soviet rule severely repressed most religious activity but had little effect on rural practices. After independence, many mosques and religious schools opened, financed in part by Saudis, Turks, and local believers. The republic's constitution ( 1993 ) specifically guarantees freedom of religious worship and forbids adoption of a state religion; Islamic holy days are not state holidays.
See also Central Asia, Islam in