In this well-written and well-informed study, the author, one of the best specialists of Islam in present-day Azerbaijan, tackles the emergence of an anti-Sunni discourse in the country in the late 1990s, in connection with the Sunni “revival” of these years, permitted notably by a combination of Turkish and Arabic influences. Making a short history of the term “Wahhabi,” the author remarks that it was already used in the USSR in the late 1980s ― in fact, in the immediate aftermath of the 1979 Revolution in Iran―, and that it has been adopted since then by a wide range of post-Soviet states for the designation of every kind of “non-traditional” religious thought and practice. Insisting on the role of the Iranian influence in the diffusion of this polemic denomination (especially through the intermediary of the Tövbä pro-Iranian Shiite Mosque in Baku), the author reminds the role of the international pressures exerted by Russia and by the USA, in 1999-2001, for more decisive engagement of Azerbaijan in the struggle against “terrorist” organisations on its territory. As elsewhere in the southern periphery of the former USSR in the same years, the late 1990s and 2000s have been consequently marked by a series of campaigns, on national and regional levels, against “real as well as imagined people and groups.” In the early 2000s in particular, a press campaign was launched against the Sunni mosques of Baku. The last paragraphs of the article are devoted to the overall perceptions of the term “Wahhabi” among the Azerbaijani population, in particular through lasting associations with the Chechen resistance movement of the 1990s.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-4.2.B-347