The mosque in Ivje, Grodno Region

The small town Ivje scattered on vast extensions of the Grodno region is informally called not only the Belarusian Istanbul but also the Tartar capital of Belarus. It is due to the fact that there is a well-preserved Islamic sanctuary where believers not only fr om Ivje but also from nearby locations come on numerous holidays. The mosque in Ivje hardly seats all willing persons in those days when Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha. Not only Tatars but also Azerbaijani and Uzbeks come here to pray. It is curious that Ivje is populously called the Belarusian Rio de Janeiro thanks to the statue of Christ installed on the hill near a local church and resembling the famous Brazilian attraction.

The Tatars have been living in the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania since the XIV century when upon an initiative of Prince Vitovt, the Tatars were invited to the territory of the state in order they could defend the vast borders of the large-scaled state as the Tatars were considered to be mighty warriors. The Tatars had given a good account of themselves at the Battle of Grunewald violently fighting for the Grand Duchy of Lithuania against militant Crusaders. Over long years, the Tatars have taken root in the territory of Belarus and they ceased to be considered strangers in the eyes of ordinary Belarusians. Despite the fact that some Belarusian traditions and customs have been adopted by the Tatars, they have preserved their Muslim faith. Nowadays there are almost five hundred Tatars.

On account of the fact that the Tatar population lived in Ivje, they were allowed to have their own sanctuary. In 1882, the mosque was constructed in Ivje by using the funds of the Catholic Elvira Zamoyskaya. Some years later, a minaret of the mosque was constructed with the resources of the Tatars that had immigrated to the USA. Some features of Art Nouveaux became the gem of its architectural appearance. The splendid sanctuary is painted green and has a quadrangular shape; it is divided into two premises for people of different sexes.

Ivje mosque was afraid of neither military conflicts, nor natural disasters, nor time often merciless to many cultural monuments. It has withstood bloodthirsty wars, and it was the only functioning Muslim sanctuary in the territory of Belarus during the Soviet period. During the Soviet period, the mosque was led by a spiritual leader Imam – a modest man wearing poor and discreet clothes. So, local Communists did not close the mosque because they thought that Imam presented no danger to the Soviet Ideology. Interestingly, the mosque is located in Sovetskaya Street in Ivje.

These days, the mosque continues functioning because Ivje is a wonderful town of Belarus wh ere Muslims, Catholics, Jews and Orthodox Christians coexist peacefully. The mosque is inscribed on the List of the Historical and Cultural Heritage of Belarus and brings together not only believers but also numerous tourists that come to take a look at the sanctuary left intact.