Religious leaders as actors in the production of Islamic spaces in Tomsk

Smetanin F.A.



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The purpose of this paper is to determine the degree of influence of mosques and spiritual leaders, as centers of the “Muslim” religious realm, on the development and distribution of the network infrastructure labeled as “Islamic” and, in a broader sense, of the “Islamic” urban space. The research hypothesis is that religious leaders constitute an informal mechanism of including food courts, shops, and other urban locations in the religious realm. Particular attention is paid to the activities of the religious leaders in integrating social and economic infrastructure into religious networks by distinguishing it as “halal” and “correct”, as well as to the specifics of consumption of goods and services. The work is based on the materials obtained in the course of observation of the spaces of Tomsk marked as “Islamic”. Semi-formalized interviews with the imams and parishioners of the Red and White Cathedral Mosques conducted by the author in 2018–2021 were used. As a result of the study, it was found that there is an “Islamic” identified infrastructure in Tomsk, in the creation and editing of which imams are actively involved. The “nodes” of this infrastructure are mosques, which at certain points in time become not only religious centers, but also connecting networks for promotion of “halal” goods, food and services. Religious leaders, primarily imams of the mosques, facilitate the development of trade, educational, entertainment and other networks which are peripheral to the mosques. The mosque and the imam representing it act as a source of legitimation for these economic networks. The network becomes part of the “Islamic” urban space, while the direct participation of the imam in its activities becomes an important informal marker of integration of a fragment of the infrastructure into the religious network. In addition, competition between the religious communities of the two mosques in Tomsk leads to expansion of “Muslim” networks in the city. Also, the spread of the “Islamic” infrastructure is facilitated by the growing demand for “halal” goods and services from outside the religious realm: among non-Muslims, “halal” is turning into a brand of “environmentally friendly” product.

Keywords: Tomsk, Islam, mosque, social networks, religious field, urban infrastructure.


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Accepted: 03.03.2021

Article is published: 15.06.2022


Smetanin F.A., Tomsk State University, prosp. Lenina, 34, korp. 3, Tomsk, 634050, Russian Federation, E-mail:,