УДК 393.05



The Cult of Saints Among the Tatars of the Republic of Mordovia: Content and Transformation

Agishev R. R.



Introduction. The issues of transformation of the cult of Muslim saints in a multi-ethnic region are a significant scientific problem, the solution of which makes it possible to shed light on the development of Islamic practices far from the traditional centers of the spread of Islam.

Materials and methods. The results of field studies were used: semi-formalized interview (2019, n = 47), in-depth interview (2019 — 2020, n = 23), participant observation (2019 — 2021). The term “Muslim saints” in this study refers to the actually existing inhabitants of the region sacralized in the people’s memory — avliya, who were distinguished by a special degree of piety, righteousness, supernatural spiritual or physical abilities, and were associated with Islam by local residents.

Results and discussion. This article attempts to reconstruct the image of the saints among the Tatars of the Republic of Mordovia and the special ritual of veneration that has developed around them. The criterion of sacralization was a righteous life and ascetic service for the benefit of the local community of believers. Due to the anti-religious struggle of the Soviet state during the 20th century and the processes of the Islamic revival of the late 80s — early 90s of the 20th century, the existence of the cult of Muslim saints in the region practically ceased. At present, an ambiguous, often negative, attitude towards avliya is recorded on the part of the Muslim clergy of the Republic, who, as a rule, deny the existence of such figures in the history of the region.

Conclusion. It is concluded that the cult of Muslim saints among the Tatars of the region was predominantly local (rural) in nature and did not spread beyond the local community, and the saints acted as patrons of the village. The life of Muslim righteous among the local Tatars remains a little-studied problem that can highlight the features of the development of “folk” Islam in the Republic of Mordovia.

Keywords: avliya, Muslim saints, cult, Islam, syncretism, Sufism, Tatars

For citation: Agishev RR. The Cult of Saints Among the Tatars of the Republic of Mordovia: Content and Transformation. Bulletin of the Research Institute of the Humanities by the Government of the Republic of Mordovia. 2023;15(1):201—211. EDN LDULFA



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Information about the author:

Ruslan R. Agishev, leading Researcher of the Department of Monitoring Legal Processes of the Scientific Center for Socio-Economic Monitoring (39A Bogdan Khmelnitsky Str., Saransk 430005, Russia), candidate of Historical Sciences, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0179-8336, agishev2019@gmail.com


Conflict of interest: the author declare no conflict of interest.


The author read and approved the final version of the manuscript.


The article was submitted 27.10.2022; approved after reviewing 25.11.2022; accepted for publication 01.12.2022.