June 5, 2024 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1769

The Significance Of 'The XV Russia – Islamic World: KazanForum 2024'

June 5, 2024 | By Tufail Ahmad*
Russia | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1769

At this year's KazanForum 2024 – which is held annually in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan in the Russian Federation – major international events were organized to promote economic ties between Russia and the Islamic world. Such Islamic events included Halal Expo, Halal Market, Modest Fashion Day, and business meetings involving trade and Islamic finance. Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency (AA) was named the global communication partner for the forum.

Launched in 2009, the KazanForum seeks to forge cooperation in the field of trade relations, foreign direct investments, discussion of issues of the Islamic financial system, and Islamic cultural and religious linkages between Russia and the Islamic world.[1] In 2023, the KazanForum was granted a federal status through a decree issued by President Vladimir Putin. The forum is only among three events that enjoy the federal status in the Russian Federation, the other two being the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok and the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

It has now emerged as a major international event forging economic ties between Russia and the 57 member-states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and other countries. The KazanForum, held this year on May 14-19, is aimed at promoting the development of Islamic financial institutions in Russia and worldwide, focusing on joint international projects and programs, according to a report carried by Anadolu Agency.[2]

Delegates from 87 countries participated at the KazanForum 2024

The Islamic Significance Of Tatarstan

The KazanForum 2024 brought together more than 1,000 Islamic religious scholars from over 70 Russian regions, including the Donetsk People's Republic, according to an official report.[3]

Marat Khusnullin, the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia and head of the organizing committee of KazanForum 2024, told the delegates: "I would like to thank the Muslim clergy representatives, who have arrived in Kazan from across all Russia, as well as the leadership of the Republic of Tatarstan, for joining efforts to contribute to the sustainable development of the Russian statehood."[4] He added: "[I]n this difficult time of drastic challenges, we should take every effort to enhance interethnic communication and inter-faith dialogue in order to preserve our large country's cultural diversity, traditional values, ​​and unity of the nation."[5]

Rustam Minnikhanov, the head of the Republic of Tatarstan, told ambassadors from Islamic world who attended the forum: "The Republic of Tatarstan is one of the most industrially developed regions of Russia and one of the most innovative regions of our country as well... Russia and the countries of the OIC interact on the basis of the well-balanced approaches to a number of problems in the modern world."[6]

In a message to the participants, President Vladimir Putin underlined the importance of the annual event, stating: "Tatarstan is once again clearly demonstrating its abundant potential and strong commitment to progress in various areas. The region's achievements in the economy, social sphere, science, and culture are truly impressive and serve as tangible proof of the significant contribution that Russian Muslims, and people from all ethnic groups living in the Republic, make to developing the Fatherland, strengthening its sovereignty and influence in the world, and ensuring stability and harmony in our society."[7]

According to the Russian government, the XV Russia-Islamic World: KazanForum 2024 saw delegations from 87 countries, 20,495 participants, 870 media representatives, 153 sessions and 885 speakers.[8] Delegations from around the world participated at the platform, focusing their attention on cooperation, mainly with Islamic and Arab nations.

Iranian Ambassador To Moscow Kazem Jalali: "The Creation Of A New Single Currency... Is What Russia And Iran Are Working On"

Speaking at a Halal Expo of Iran at the forum, Afghan Taliban's Minister of Industry and Trade Nouruddin Azizi announced that Afghanistan will raise the volume of its bilateral trade with Iran to $10 billion.[9] The Taliban delegation led by Nouruddin Azizi also held bilateral meeting with Oleg Korobchenko, the deputy prime minister of the Republic of Tatarstan. According to an official statement issued by the Islamic Emirate, the meeting with Korobchenko discussed bilateral trade and investments in Afghanistan's mining sector.[10] Azizi also held a bilateral meeting with Kazem Jalali, Iran's ambassador to Moscow, and invited Iranian companies to invest in Afghanistan.[11]

Addressing a press event at the KazanForum, ambassador Kazem Jalali noted a "golden age" between Iran and Russia.[12] He said that Iran, as a new member of BRICS, is also "conducting large-scale work in BRICS" and "the creation of a new single currency within the framework of the association is what Russia and Iran are working on."[13] The Iranian envoy said that the United States uses the dollar to create restrictions, and therefore the use of national currencies in mutual settlements is on the agenda, adding: "More than 60% of bilateral trade is in rubles and rials."[14]

Afghan Taliban members (right) attend the KazanForum 2024

A special meeting on Russia-Iran relations was also held, which was attended by Russian Federation officials and Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Ali Bagheri Kani. The meeting was also addressed by Kazem Jalali, the Iranian ambassador, who advocated promotion of tourism between the two countries. Proposing direct flights between cites of Iran and Russia, Jalali said that Iranian cities of Shiraz, Isfahan, Rasht, and Tabriz, have the potential to establish direct flights to boost bilateral tourism with Russia.[15]

Delegation from countries participating at the forum held bilateral discussions and signed agreements to promote economic ties and Islamic finance. Abdullah Al-Saleh, UAE's Deputy Minister of Economy, was quoted as saying that regional cooperation was being forged with Russian companies investing in projects in seaports, services, high-tech, industry, tourism, medicines, and renewable energy sources, among others.[16] The volume of trade between Russia and the UAE could exceed nine billion dollars, he added.[17]

Tanju Bilgiç, the Turkish ambassador to Moscow, was one of the Islamic envoys who spoke at the KazanForum 2024. The ambassador told the delegates that Turkey has invested "more than $2.5 billion in Tatarstan" and added that bilateral trade with Russia is expected to rise to $100 billion from around 56 billion in 2023, with a third of Turkish investments going to the Tatarstan region.[18] At another event, the Malaysian delegation witnessed the signing of an agreement between the University of Malaya and the Kazan Federal University (KFU) to promote Islamic finance.[19] Over the past few decades, Malaysia has been at the forefront of promoting disciplines such as Islamic sociology and Islamic finance.

Some of the major events at KazanForum 2024 included the Modest Fashion Show, Halal Expo, and Halal Market. Manjulakshmi Bharathan, a Qatar-based fashion designer who does not appear to be Muslim by her name, was honored with the Halal Business Woman award for contributions in the development of halal business and halal products industry. "I was awarded for my achievements in building a business based on Islamic principles and bringing changes to the lifestyle of the people through sustainability in fashion," she said.[20]

The Strategic Significance Of KazanForum

On the eve of the 2023 KazanForum, a Eurasian website commented on the strategic significance of the annual event for Russia, stating: "Islamic countries are the Kremlin's strategic target. Moscow has orchestrated a foreign policy to improve the connection between the Russian market and the Islamic world."[21] It added: "Being able to leverage a significant Muslim minority (about 12-15% of the Russian population is Muslim), the Kremlin might strengthen ties with the countries of the Arab-Muslim world and counter not only the effect of Western economic sanctions but also the presence of European and U.S. companies in the Middle East and Africa."[22]

Speaking at the plenary session of KazanForum 2024, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia for Construction and Regional Development Marat Khusnullin said: "Russian President Vladimir Putin is interested in consolidating Russian relations with the Islamic world, as agreements were signed to extend the road between Kazan and Moscow and the road was shortened by six hours."[23]

Noting that a number of agreements with Iran regarding land and railway transport were signed, aimed at promoting regional cooperation, Marat Khusnullin also said that Turkmenistan is building a road toward Iran and Kazakhstan, while Tehran supplies its products via railways. "We are developing roads between Kazakhstan and Afghanistan and access to the Caspian Sea, and we are also conducting cooperation with the Gulf countries," he added.[24]

According to a report, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Government Alexei Overchuk emphasized the importance of the KazanForum in promoting regional cooperation, stating: "90 percent of trade with member states of the Eurasian Economic Union is conducted in national currencies, and the Russian economy grew by 3.6 percent. But most importantly, the economy of countries that maintain close relations with Russia has also grown... These include Kazakhstan at 5.1 percent, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan at more than six percent, and Tajikistan 8.3."[25]

Tatarstan Prime Minister Alexey Pesoshin, in his speech at the opening of the forum and the Russia Halal Expo, noted the growth in Russia-OIC economic relations, saying: "The Islamic world has always been and remains one of Russia's most important partners in the world. In recent years, these relations have grown steadily and strongly. The trade turnover between Russia and the OIC countries has grown by 37% and amounted to more than $156bn."[26] The  KazanForum appears to be effective in the Central Asian region, but is an important step for Russia's outreach in the Islamic world.

Following are photos from the Modest Fashion Show and the Halal Market which were part of the KazanForum 2024 (Images courtesy: 

A model walks the ramp at the Modest Fashion Show

Butchers selling meat at Kazan Halal Market

A model walks the ramp at the Modest Fashion Show

A view of the Kazan Halal Market

A mannequin displaying Islamic fashion garments (image: Sputnik)

Sellers at the Kazan Halal Market, part of KazanForum 2024

Visitors at the Kazan Halal Market

A schedule of events at the Modest Fashion Shaw

Some delegates at the KazanForum

Participants from Tatarstan at the KazanForum 2024 (image: Sputnik)

* Tufail Ahmad is Senior Fellow at MEMRI.


[1] (Russia), accessed June 2, 2024.

[2] (Russia), May 13, 2024.

[3] (Russia), May 18, 2024.

[4] (Russia), May 18, 2024.

[5] (Russia), May 18, 2024.

[6] (Greece), May 16, 2024.

[7] (Russia), accessed June 2, 2024.

[8], May 21, 2024.

[9] (Afghanistan),  May 18, 2024.

[10] (Afghanistan),  May 18, 2024.

[11], May 17, 2024.

[12], May 18, 2024.

[13], May 18, 2024.

[14], May 18, 2024.

[15] (Iran), May 18, 2024.

[16] (Egypt), May 20, 2024.

[17] (Egypt), May 20, 2024.

[18] (Greece), May 16, 2024.

[19], May 16, 2024.

[20] (Qatar), May 23, 2024.

[21], May 17, 2023.

[22], May 17, 2023.

[23] (Egypt), May 20, 2024.

[24] (Egypt), May 20, 2024.

[25] (Egypt), May 20, 2024.

[26] (Qatar), May 16, 2024.

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