This article is a general overview of Islam in present-day Azerbaijan, the unique former Soviet republic of the Caucasus with a Shiite demographic majority. After an introduction on the history of Islam in the region since its appearance in the seventh-eighth centuries, the author deals with the management of Islam by the Soviet regime, before explaining the struggles for influence that can be observed in independent Azerbaijan between Shiite and Sunni overseas powers. Even if the transformations in the religious field since 1991 have indisputably allowed Shiite Islam to gain new influence, especially through the circulation of books published in Iran and translated in Azerbaijani or through Iranian support to the new Islamic University of Baku, Turkish economic and cultural presence in the country remains a key feature of the past two decades. The author points out, in particular, the growing influence of the Turkish Department of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) which has been sending imams to the Caucasus, supporting the construction of mosques, offering grants for religious studies in Turkey, etc. The presence of the Nurcu movement and the activity of Naqshbandi master Osman Nuri Topbaş are also evoked through the opening of schools, the foundation of mosques and charitable organisations. The influence of the Nurcu movement is particularly significant through the circulation of its newspaper Zaman and the broadcasting of its television and radio channels. The lack of decisive progression of Shiite Islam is explained as the result of a series of diplomatic disagreements with Iran. Even if this general introduction casts a useful light on the long neglected history and present situation of Shiite Islam in modern-day Azerbaijan, the article remains descriptive and does not take into account a number of underground aspects of the recent evolution of Shiite Islam. The reader may also regret the absence of demographic and cartographic explanations. (Russian version: “Sud’by shiizma v postsovetskom Azerbaidzhane,” Etnograficheskoe obozrenie 2006/2: 75-87.)

Denis Hermann, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-4.2.B-342