Universiteto Str. 5, 2734 Vilnius, Lithuania, tel/fax: +370 2 68 72 56, e-mail: <>

Draft project
Islam in Eastern and Central Europe:

Reconciliation of past, present and future

In the past few decades there has been much concern followed by extensive talk of the situation of Islam in Europe. There have been numerous political actions and ever growing academic research aimed at dealing with the presence of Islam in Europe. However, most of what has been said and done has happened in Western Europe and applies almost exclusively to it, while Eastern Europe has been left out or marginalized at best. To certain extent, this separation of the continent to Eastern and Western is justified: Eastern Europe for a half of the century had been closed to the world, therefore the processes that took place in Western part were non-existent in the Eastern: there have been only a few immigrants to Eastern Europe from Muslim countries, only a handful of Eastern Europeans had converted to Islam and connections with Muslim lands were of a low level.

However, the political division of Europe and its created antagonism between the two blocs have expired. Parts of former Eastern Europe seek to unite with the Western Europe (first of all in economic and political sense), whereas parts tend to keep their old guardian. Nonetheless, the whole of Europe has been open to outside influences, if not always political, then certainly cultural and religious. Virtually all European states have come to face immigration, and especially from Muslim lands. On the one hand, it seems that Eastern Europe is just following the Western counterpart in respect of becoming aware of the presence of Islam in particular country and consequently having to deal with it. On the other hand, however, Eastern European situation is peculiar Islam has been a part of its very existence. This, first of all, applies to the South-Eastern end of the continent which for longer or shorter time had been ruled by Muslims. In Central and North-Eastern Europe Islam has never been a dominant, let alone ruling, system; despite that, it has been an integral part of some of Eastern European lands, namely Lithuania, Poland, Western and Southern Russia, Ukraine, and White Russia. Muslims settled in these lands between 14th and 16th centuries and since have been living and contributing to the coloring of local cultures.

History of Muslims in separate Eastern European countries has been studied to some depths. Recent conflicts in Balkans prompted a fresh wave of interest in the region and especially in situation of Islam and Muslims there. Still, most of the recent scholarly production is mostly portraying the issue from political perspectives. Unfortunately, there seems to have been no widely available results of a comprehensive research including all or several Eastern European countries and covering historical and contemporary presence of Islam in this part of the continent.

It is an intention of the Center of Oriental Studies (COS) of Vilnius University, Lithuania, to initiate an international project on the presence of Islam in Eastern and Central Europe. The research is intended as a broad interdisciplinary activity involving sociologists, politologists, philosophers, anthropologists, historians, and area scholars. The research would cover historical aspects of Muslim presence in Eastern and Central Europe but would mainly be concerned with the contemporary situation. The immigration and integration of Muslims into hosting societies, conversions to Islam among indigenous peoples, relations of historical Muslim communities with newcomers (immigrants and converts), Islamic education and practice of Sharia would all be focal points of the research.

The COS invites scholars from Eastern and Central European universities to react to this proposal with comments and suggestions on interest in such a research and need for it. Further conceptualization, scope and funding of the project would be developed based on interests of participating parties.

The coordinating person can be reached under:

Egdunas Racius
Center of Oriental Studies
Vilnius University
Universiteto 5
2734 Vilnius

or by:

phone/fax: (370) 2 687256

Web Master: <Herman De Ley>