Reviews

The author reviews the Ottoman connections of Imam Mansur, a Chechen religious figure who, between 1785 and 1791, led a North Caucasian resistance movement against the Russian conquest.  Her article contains precious excerpts from Mansur’s unpublished appeals and letters to the Ottomans, as well as from correspondences between Ottoman officials on the topic of Mansur.  According to Z.G.-Y., Mansur was “probably the first Naqshbandi shaykh in the north Caucasus (105)”.  This opinion has been reiterated by historians ever since Alexandre Bennigsen’s pioneering article of 1964, and one gets the impression that it gains more and more acceptance and credibility the more it is blindly repeated by others.  In fact, his hypothesis is compelling because it draws a line connecting Mansur of late eighteenth century Chechnya and the three Imams of neighbouring Dagestan in the first half of the nineteent century, who are also often regarded as Sufi shaykhs and “Naqshbandi Imams (cf. 111, and fn. 23)”.  However, Bennigsen made it clear that he had no factual evidence for his assumption that Mansur was a Naqshbandi.  Güne-Yadcy’s correspondences do not prove this hypothesis either.  The “Naqshbandi theory” is even more deplorable because it prevents scholars from exploring alternative explanations of Mansur's religious appeal.  As Güne-Yadcy mentions herself, “people began to speak of him as of a saviour sent by God (107)”.  However, the author refrains from drawing the obvious conclusion, namely that Mansur (a name with clear eschatological connotations) proclaimed himself the Mahdi, which, by the way, would fit to the fact that his appearance occurred around 1785, corresponding to the auspicious year 1200 of the Hijra.  For a more recent debate on this question see Michael Kemper, Herrschaft, Recht und Islam in Daghestan, Wiesbaden 2005, 174-185 (where Güne-Yadcy’s article has unfortunately escaped the author’s attention).

Michael Kemper, University of Amsterdam
CER: I-3.3.B-232