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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mosque Planned in Estonia

TALLINN, Estonia - Officials on Monday announced plans for the construction of a large mosque in the capital of this ex-Soviet republic, which they say will be Estonia's first and the largest in northern Europe.

The country's tiny Azerbaijani community is taking the lead in raising the estimated 50 million to 100 million kroons ($3 million to $6 million) needed to build the mosque, usually the focus of religious life for followers of Islam.

Estonia, which regained independence after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, has just a few thousand Muslims, mostly people who immigrated from former Soviet republics in Central Asia, like Azerbaijan, during Moscow rule.

Most of Estonia's 1.4 million population are Lutheran or Russian Orthodox, though all forms of religious practice were officially outlawed during the Baltic state's 50 years under Soviet occupation.

Tallinn Mayor Juri Mois said the new mosque would add to the diversity of the capital, now dominated by several new skyscrapers and hundreds of merchant houses built in the Middle Ages.

"A mosque would enrich our city's outward appearance and make it more attractive to tourists," Mois said in a news release. He said the project would also pump large amounts of money into the local economy.

Officials didn't say when final approval for the project would be given or how soon construction could begin.

Habib Guliyev, a leader of Estonia's Azerbaijani community, told the Baltic News Service that current draft plans for the Tallinn mosque were modeled after a mosque in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, in the southern Caucasus.

He said he hoped the mosque would serve the Islamic community in the 10 countries around the Baltic Sea, saying it would be the larger than any mosque in the region, including several in nearby Sweden and Finland.

"The purpose of the project is to make peace between followers of the Islamic faith," he was quoted as saying, adding that the Estonian mosque would welcome adherents of both major branches of Islam, Shiites and Sunni.