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Russia: Golden Horde Tatars & the Middle Volga Spanning over eleven time zones and two continents, Russia is the largest country in the world with an array of rivers such as the mighty Volga, forests and towering mountains and a rich and at times tumultuous history stretching back centuries, the Land of the Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Tsars, Lenin and Stalin is a truly fascinating place to explore. Islam entered Russia via the Caucasus over a thousand years ago and Muslims now make up nearly 20% of the population with the majority strategically placed in the Volga-Ural (Kazan) region and Caucasus as well as significant populations in Moscow and other major cities. The River Volga has symbolic meaning in Russian culture and is often referred to as Volga-Matushka (Mother Volga) in Russian literature and folklore. Islamic rule peaked under Sultan Muhammad Öz Beg, Khan of the Golden Horde, and once upon a time, even Moscow was under the dawlah of Amir Timur (Tamerlane). Unlike other Muslim minorities in Europe, Russian Muslims are not considered foreign immigrants but natives who form an integral part of Russian society. During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Russia won 23 gold medals, 10 of which were obtained by indigenous Muslim athletes! Whether you’re in the Muslim republics of the Volga-Ural Basin, the Caucasus or one of the country’s great cities, our travel to Russia is a unique opportunity to get acquainted with its history, culture, art, food and the current state of Islam and Muslims in Russia. 3