A spate of research activities on the North Caucasian resistance wars against the Russian Tsardom can be observed in recent years within the Western scientific community. This is due in part to the fact that after the abolition of the Soviet Union in 1991, access to local archive materials has been granted not only to formerly Soviet researcher, but also to their Western colleagues. Local writings of Mountaineers, primarily from Dagestan, who own a remarkable abundance of material written in Arabic, have been boosting the interest to treat the lengthy Caucasian Wars of the nineteenth century, its formation as well as its actors from a new and hitherto rarely known perspective. The present monograph by Clemens P. Sidorko is a PhD-thesis. The author discusses in this study the history of the North Caucasian jihad movements from the eighteenth century until 1859. He focuses on the development and functionalities of the resistance movement led by the three Imams of Dagestan Ghazi Muhammad (1829-1832), Hamza Bek (1832-1834), and Shamil (1834-1859), and on the Imamate.
The basis for Cl. P. Sidorko’s research has been a tripartite questionnaire which can be summarised as follows (pp. ix-x): (1) To what extent can jihad be seen as a reaction to (Russian) colonialism? To what extent did it stem from internal developments of the Muslim people of the North-Eastern Caucasus? To what extent was the struggle of the Imams of Dagestan in the nineteenth century linked with earlier forms of resistance against foreign aggressors? (2) How manifests/appears the Islamic dimension of the resistance? What was the role of the Sufi order of the Naqsbandiyya-Khalidiyya? (3) How did jihad and Imamate work in practice (for example concerning the social background of participants, the military, administrative, social and economic organisation)? What kind of reaction is to observe among the population regarding the “new order” of the Imams? How was the everyday life in Shamil’s state? To answer these research questions, the author has been applying, within “a generally inductive approach,” a multiplicity of methods (xviii). He primarily claims a critical handling of sources. The work includes also methods of event, structure and cultural history. Furthermore, it incorporates “life world and network oriented” theories (xviii).
The starting point of his investigation is a “comprehensive examination,” as extensive as possible, of “all sources” and their critical discussion as well as their interpretation (x). Here, the author puts ― as he stresses ― the emphasis on testimonials and descriptions of the native Muslims (e.g., personal testimonials, reports of contemporary witnesses, as well as later historical writings with traditional character, xix). Almost all of these primary sources are used in the printed version, in Arabic (the lingua-franca of the pre-Tsarist Dagestan) and/or in their Russian translation. In addition to Caucasian sources, the author extensively uses Russian material (e.g., military files, documents of the colonial administration, eyewitness reports and information of contemporary witnesses) as well as contemporary reports (among others, by European travellers). He also integrates investigations on history, Islamic studies and ethnography (xxvii).
Following the detailed introduction, the monograph is divided into eleven chapters (with numerous subchapters) and an epilogue. At the end, it is equipped with a bibliography, a register and three general maps. Furthermore, the PhD-thesis is enriched with illustrations (documents, photographs, maps, etc.). Chapters I and II describe the topographic, geopolitical, ethnic and social particularities of the Northern Caucasus (1-30) and demonstrate the historical developments and political change in the region from the sixteenth century to the late seventeenth century (31-44). The third chapter deals with “resistance traditions before the nineteenth century (45-86).” First, the author presents traditional patterns of defence of the Caucasian people – “raid” and “resistance with religious background,” i.e. jihad against foreign aggressors. Here, the relevance of networks in the Caucasus is emphasised as well. The author illustrates the religiously legitimised defence in the North Caucasus on the basis of two case studies from the eighteenth century: the revolt of Hajji Da‘ud (1719-28) against the Safavid Empire (58-70) and the resistance by Shaykh Mansur against the Russian Empire (1784-91, pp. 70-86). By means of his critical choice and consideration of the primary literature, the author succeeds to demonstrate and evaluate in a sophisticated way both events, which were often considered as the precursors to the nineteenth-century “Murid movement.” He comes to the conclusion that the religious element of the jihad of Hajji Da‘ud patterned the form rather than the content (85). In contrast, the aim of Mansur was proselytism and a deepening of religious thoughts; his movement resembled rather a “religious revivalism (85).” The author cannot find any indications of Sufi elements in both defences.
A closer look at nineteenth-century jihad movements is provided from the fourth chapter onwards. The historical descriptions of Russian colonialism, its military actions in the Caucasus, as well as the reactions of the local population (uprisings in Dagestan in 1818-20 and 1823; in Chechnya in 1822-30) are detailed (pp. 87-107). According to the author, the failure of these resistance struggles were mainly due to the fact that, compared with the methods and means of the Russian colonial power, the traditional North Caucasian structures of defence were insufficient (107). At this point of time, the common Islamic faith as a long term uniting factor of the resistance (jihad) cannot yet be discovered. This took place only with the involvement of the Naqshbandiyya-Khalidiyya into the jihad after 1829, on the initiative of Ghazi Muhammad. A specific feature of this Sufi network is its function as a “pacemaker of anti-colonial movements in many areas of the Islamic world (114).” The history of the Naqshbandiyya, as well as the foundation of its Khalidiyya branch in the nineteenth century, is portrayed in rather general terms (chap. 4/3). Interesting and of particular relevance for the events in nineteenth-century Caucasus is the observation that within the Naqshbandiyya-Khalidiyya, which is popular for its political activities, there also existed a “quietist” and “absolutely apolitical” wing (114). Especially, the North Caucasus serves, according to the author, as a model case for these “bipolar developments” of the Khalidiyya. The spread of the Sufi order in the North Caucasus is subject of the next section. The earliest known affiliation to the Khalidiyya in the region occurred with Isma‘il al-Kurdamiri, who spread the teachings from Shirwan after receiving an initiation into the tariqa in the 1820s by Shaykh Khalid. The author fails to offer a persuasive and differentiated presentation of Ismail al-Kurdamiri, who played a key role in the transfer of the Khalidiyya from the Near East to the Caucasus. The literature used for this purpose is sparse and it is quoted with rare critique (114). Unfortunately, the author considers neither any biographical works, nor newer research literature (e.g., Abu-Manneh in: Daghestan and the World of Islam, 2006).
The principal reason for the quick expansion of the tariqa, which reached Dagestan via Muhammad al-Yaraghi and his pupil Jamal ad-Din al-Gazigumuqi is, according to Cl. P. Sidorko, the fact that the Naqshbandiyya-Khalidiyya addressed all segments of the population, not only the scholars (119). Chapters 5 to 7 deal with the emergence and the process of jihad under the auspices of the Imams Ghazi Muhammad (5), Hamza Bek (6) and Shamil (7). The author describes the military events up to the beginning of the Crimea War in 1853, and sheds light on the social, spiritual and religious aspects of this resistance movement, which began in Dagestan in 1829 and expanded to Chechnya in 1840. Following the analysis of the Russian and Dagestani sources concerning the Imamate of Ghazi Muhammad (1829-1832), the author states that with the call for jihad the first Imam aimed to implement the shari‘a as a normative system instead of the local customary law (‘adat, p. 132). The role of the Naqshbandiyya-Khalidiyya at the beginning and during the jihad movement is discussed very controversially in research literature (e.g., Zelkina 2000, Knysh 2002, Kemper 2002). In this respect, Cl. P. Sidorko holds a position similar to Kemper’s, who already argued against a political overvaluation (cf. Kemper, 2002, 2005) of the Naqshbandiyya in the Caucasus. Cl. P. Sidorko proves that the Naqshbandiyya shaykhs, in particular Muhammad al-Yaraghi, were not the spiritual originators of Ghazi Muhammad’s jihad and they did not use their Sufi-network as an organisational platform for his religious struggle (433). The author regards the Naqsbandiyya-Khalidiyya in the North-Eastern Caucasus in the 1830s as a social factor, a spiritual movement, which was connected with the jihad only indirectly. The jihad arose merely from the “idea of a dissident shaykh” (here: Ghazi Muhammad), who linked up with the tariqa network (160). “Not because of their ideology or political doctrine, but (merely) because of their organisational structure, the Naqsbandiyya-Khalidiyya grew to be the most important backup for the first imam (160).”
According to Cl. P. Sidorko the coincidence of two factors was decisive for the success of this jihad movement: the aspiration to establish the shari‘a as an universal norm in the Caucasus, and the appearance of the dynamic Khalidiyya, which worked as a kind of catalyst. Nevertheless, more important is the fact that the jihad movement was able to survive even after the death of its first leader Ghazi Muhammad (162). An assessment of the historical dimension of Hamza Bek’s Imamate (1832-4) is difficult because of the rarity of the source materials. According to Cl. P. Sidorko, the most important result of Hamza Bek’s imamate was that, in this period of time, elements of the Dagestani tradition were increasingly adopted by the jihad movement (182). Particularly, the organisational basis for Shamil’s state has been laid here. The author presents the history of the third Imam, Shamil, in three segments: his rise (1834-9), the zenith of his power (in 1840-5), and consolidation and the beginning stagnation (1846-53). From chapter VIII onwards, the structures of the Imamate built up by Shamil are analysed. The author examines the systems of administration, military, justice, finances, domestic policy and foreign affairs as well as their gradual development on the basis of contemporary Russian and Caucasian sources. Here, he also discusses on the question of how much in Shamil’s state was deduced from shari‘a and fiqh, and in which areas local traditions were still present (329). He finds out that the concept of the state, as well as the organisation of jurisdiction, financial system and public order were based, primarily, on the shari‘a and its interpretation (329). On the other hand, the administration, the military and estate issues were based on local or Near Eastern traditions (329). Nevertheless, Shamil took over some of his important administrative reforms as well as innovations in the military sector from the Ottoman Empire (331). However, the substantial part of the state organisation can be traced back to his own efforts and to works of his personnel, especially Shaykh Jamal ad-Din, Hajji Yusuf and Murtada ‘Ali al-Uradi (332). Chapter 9 examines the way of life in the Imamate and treats the question of how the population perceived the third Imam’s new order. Shamil’s measures implied a deep intervention in the existing political and social forms of organisation, but this intervention was least perceived on the municipal level.
Chapter 10 identifies the actors of the jihad movement within the population (“Who were the ‘Murids’?”). Shamil’s jihad movement’s great range of allegiance is grasped by a structural, social and ethnic inspection. With the colourful panorama of exemplary officials’ biographies, the author shows that in the jihad movement and in the Imamate the most different society segments of the North Eastern Caucasus were represented (374-98). The composition of the power élite was undergoing continual changes. There was no “feudalisation” of the system and the position of the power élite (the nuwwab) was based on achievement. Subsequently, the author examines the role of “the real Murids” within the state system (chap. 10/3) and illustrates in a persuasive manner the ambivalent relation between the jihad movement and the Naqshbandiyya-Khalidiyya (399-404). According to the author, the Naqshbandiyya-Khalidiyya took a firm place in Shamil’s state and was permanently present in the everyday life (403). At the tariqa’s command was a wide clientele whose majority, nevertheless, might have been rather mere sympathisers than real Murids. The Sufi order was in no time the driving force of the jihad or the resistance war against the Russian Empire. In contrast to the ‘ulama and the uzd (free peasants in Dagestan), Naqshbandi Sufis cannot be identified as belonging to an independent category within the action network of jihad and Imamate (404). The decay of the Imamate and the causes thereof are investigated in the monograph’s last chapter (405-29). In the epilogue, the author summarises the findings of his analysis.
He emphasises the importance of the jihad movement of the Dagestani Imams for Caucasus and its position within the anti-colonial resistance of the nineteenth century Islamic world (430). He confirms and complements the theses, first developed by Nikki R. Keddie, for the rise and success of the “jihad movements (430).” The book has been compiled with special diligence. The structure is systematic. On account of the length of the book, it would have been helpful and readily comprehensible for the reader if the author had summarised consequently the most important points of his statements at the end of each chapter. Cl. P. Sidorko remains loyal to his title “jihad in the Caucasus:” Throughout the whole book he analyses the jihad movements of North Caucasian people. Unfortunately, he does not always meet his own demand of critical discussion and interpretation of all sources (e.g., al-Kurdamiri). Indeed, local Caucasian source material makes up an important part of the literature used for the present investigation, but mostly in or with its Russian translation. Therefore, the main emphasis concerning the sources is put on Russian written literature. One should bear in mind that the present PhD-thesis was accepted in the field of Eastern European History.
Probably, for the first time such a comprehensive and detailed study about Shamil’s state has been provided. In this part, the analysis of the Imamate from different perspectives is outstanding and allows the state of research to advance considerably. The author also manages to show the background and the internal coherence between the North Caucasian jihad movements. The studies about Hajji Da‘ud and Shaykh Mansur extend the present knowledge of these important personalities for the jihad of the eighteenth century. The role of the Naqshbandiyya-Khalidiyya at the beginning and during the jihad of the three Imams of the nineteenth century had already been analysed in detail by Michael Kemper (2005). It is particularly regrettable that Cl. P. Sidorko was not able to consider this recent research literature (Kemper 2005, Abu-Manneh 2006) in his work. It remains to be said that, undoubtedly, a monumental work has been realised, which impresses with its volume and depth.