Reviews

Focusing on central Russia, the Volga region, Crimea, and Transcaucasia, this well-edited book, based on the regional Muslim press of 1917 and on a selection of Tatar and Turkish secondary sources, examines the development of Muslim-background feminism in Russia during the short but decisive period of time from February to November 1917. The author briefly tackles this movement’s historical connections with feminism as it developed since the late nineteenth century within Russian society, with very few allusions to parallel movements in the more central lands of the world of Islam. He then depicts the participation of Muslim female activists in the venue of a series of congresses during the revolutionary year ― notably in the All-Russian Congress of Muslim Women on April 24-27 in Kazan, and in the treatment of the ‘women question’ in the All-Russian Muslim Congress of Moscow in early May of the same year. These chapters cast light of a limited amount of still poorly documented prominent writers and orators like Fatima Qul-Ahmetova at the Moscow Congress. At the same time, their relations with prominent Muslim reformist thinkers and activists of the time like Musa Bigi, ‘Ayyaz Ishaqi and others are still waiting for clarification. S. F. Faizov also evokes the opposition of diverse segments of Russia’s Muslim public opinions to the rise of this movement ― notably by numerous imams in the columns of the famous clerical journal Din wa ma‘ishat, but also coming from social groups like the “populace (qara guruh)” and the military. Conversely, he explains the successive impacts of the inter-revolution period, notably during the congresses held in Kazan in summer 1917. The text is followed by an appendix consisting of a list of names of feminist activists in 1917, preceded by a list of female protagonists of the schooling movement and of militants of the promotion of women’s right from the late nineteenth century to the Bolshevik takeover. Each name of these lists is followed by life dates when available, and by mention of the nature of each personage’s contribution to the history of Muslim feminism. Indeed the concentration of the narrative of the year 1917 deprives the volume of chronological depth, especially on the gestation and development of the ‘women question’ (khatun-qiz mas’alasi) in varied Muslim-peopled regions of the Russian Empire, with substantial differences between Baku and Kazan or Ufa for instance, from the end of the nineteenth century onwards. Conversely, the research avenue of a sociological and intellectual continuity between the late Tsarist emancipation movements and those developed in the USSR during the early and late 1920s has also been neglected (on this aspect, regarding Central Asia, see notably the wider chronological framework adopted by Marianne Kamp, The New Woman in Uzbekistan: Islam, Modernity, and Unveiling under Communism, Seattle – London: University of Washington Press ― reviewed infra in No. 541). At the same time, this book by S. F. Faizov proposes an interesting pioneering study on a still understudied aspect of the history of Muslim populations of the Russian Empire and early Soviet Union. It remains to be hoped that in a predictable future its postulates will be developed and enlarged, notably through the inclusion of a considerable amount of public archival sources unfortunately let aside of the documentation of this volume.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-3.2.C-176