Reviews

The present collection of articles gathers the contributions to an international symposium held at Hokkaido University (Slavic Research Centre) in 2005.  Japanese scholars have been very active in the field of Central Eurasian studies, though most of their monographs are not accessible to Western scholars who lack proficiency in Japanese language.  Conference volumes like the one under review therefore provide a most welcome opportunity to get acquainted with their works, interests, and approaches.  They also testify to the Japanese scholars’ continuous efforts at cooperation with Russian, Central Asian, and Western colleagues in the field.  Most convenient is also the fact that all articles of this book are also available online, and for free (http://src-h.slav.hokudai.ac.jp/coe21/publish/no14_ses/contents.html).

The historical dimension of the volume reaches back to the late nineteenth century, when a new generation of Turkistani intellectuals engaged in defining the place of Central Asian Muslims in the Russian Empire.  Komatsu Hisao, in his contribution, shows that according to the historians Ta’ib (d. 1905) and Sami (d. 1907) the Russian Empire allowed the observance of Islamic law and practice, and should therefore be regarded as Dar al-Islam.  They denounced the leader of the anti-Russian uprising of 1898 in Andijan (in the Fergana valley), Dukchi Ishan, as an ignorant Sufi, and claimed that from an Islamic viewpoint there was no need for a rebellion.  Mahmud Behbudi (d. 1919) later developed this idea further into a proposal for a Turkistani shaykh al-islam as a safeguard of Turkistani cultural autonomy within the Russian Empire.  This study nicely matches Robert D. Crew’s recent book, published after the Hokkaido conference (For Prophet and Tsar: Islam and Empire in Russia and Central Asia, Cambridge, MA – London, 2006—reviewed in supra 187).  The Muslim intellectuals’ discourse on school reform in the Volga-Urals region of Russia is discussed by Naganawa Norihiro; fencing off the central attempts, by the Ministry of Education, to eliminate Muslim schools, secularised Muslims were at the same time trying to benefit from the opportunities for educational modernisation provided by the regional self-government boards (zemstvos), and searching for ways how to include Jadidi Muslim maktabs into the Russian zemstvo school system (especially in Ufa province).  Here again, accommodation with the situation under Russian rule and the seizing of opportunities granted by Russia’s modernisation, is the pervasive theme.

At the same time, Russian Imperial attitudes towards Muslims and the Russian “civilising mission” differed little from Western ‘Orientalism’.  This becomes patent in Margaret Dikovitskaya’s contribution on the representation of Central Asians by nineteenth century Russian photographers (with 24 coloured plates).  In the splendid albums produced by photographer Prokudin-Gorskii in 1905-1915, attributes like “backward”, “uneducated” and “superstitious” are assigned to the particular “typified” races of Central Asia.  The topic of ‘Orientalism’ is also underlying Uyama Tomohiko’s contribution on the “particularist” structure of the Russian Empire in Asia:  The author provides a detailed analysis of the failed Russian Christianisation policy in Central Asia as well as of the history of imperial military conscription in the region, which led to a major Muslim uprising in 1916.  The Muslim intellectuals’ search for opportunities within the changing state also continued after 1917, though under very different circumstances.  Adeeb Khalid, in his contribution to the volume, depicts how Muslims of the reformist (Jadidi) trend, like Damulla Ikram and Sharif-Jan Makhdum Sadr-i Ziya in what is today Uzbekistan, later became supporters of the Bolsheviks in Central Asia; in the 1920s-30s, however, they were gradually pushed out of public and political life and repressed, to be replaced by Soviet-educated intellectuals who were not tainted by any Islamic credentials.  In Kazakhstan, by contrast, the former Alash Orda movement’s intellectuals were anti-Bolshevik from the beginning, and Mambet Koigeldiev’s study shows the determination of the Communist Party in Kazakhstan to subdue and eliminate all “Kazakh nationalists,” which was achieved by 1930.  In the subsequent years, almost half of the population of the country perished from famines and direct persecution.  Two articles deal with the fate of nations that were deported under Stalin.  Elza-Bair Guchinova’s contribution is based on memories about the Kalmyks’ abhorrent treatment during the deportation and at their new place of dwelling in Siberia, while Hanya Shiro compares the efforts of Crimean Tatars, Meskh Turks, and Soviet Germans at obtaining rehabilitation during the Brezhnev era; Hanya Sh., among other things, describes the regime’s policy of using carrots and sticks to undermine the quest of the national groups' activists for rehabilitation and return.  A late plan for providing the Germans with an autonomous territory in Kazakhstan failed in 1979, due to resistance among Kazakhs.

Ashirbek Muminov’s contribution discusses the “underground” system of Islamic education in Uzbekistan during the Soviet period; as his material shows, a clear line between “legal” and “illegal” scholars can hardly be drawn.  Many of the “official” Muslim clergy in the two Soviet madrasas of Uzbekistan were students or adherents of “underground” scholars.  Strikingly, the Soviets were especially lenient to a certain “fundamentalist” trend among the underground ‘ulama, which the atheist government hoped to use in its struggle against “superstition” and popular Islam—a marriage of convenience between Islamic modernisers and the Soviet empire that invites comparisons with the accommodation trend among late-nineteenth century Turkistani intellectuals studied by Komatsu in this volume.  Five more contributions deal with post-Soviet developments that also include the Caucasus.  George Sanikidze studies the confrontation between “local” (traditionalist, Sufi-oriented) and “imported” (fundamentalist) Islam in the Pankisi Gorge of Georgia, which, for a while, became a retreat for Chechen rebels.  Dosym Satpaev offers an (unfortunately rather sketchy) analysis of the various political and economic factions and “clans” vying for influence on the current president of Kazakhstan, and Alexander Makarov describes constitutional debates on presidential power in Armenia after 1991.  Sergey Golunov studies the (failing) state policies to suppress drug trafficking from Afghanistan to the West, North, and East across the long Kazakh-Russian border; in particular, he draws our attention to the huge involvement not only of Central Asians but also of the local communities at the border, as well as to the Russian mafias in the booming drug markets in oil-producing Siberia.  While these studies are based on particular case studies, the issues they deal with are relevant to other post-Soviet states as well.  Finally, Oka Natsuko studies the situation of Uighurs and Uzbeks living in Kazakhstan.  As the author shows, the presence of cross-border minorities and “trans-nationalism” has so far not led to conflicts over the precarious Soviet-made republican borders.  Rather, it seems that both Uzbeks and Uighurs are aware of the opportunities they enjoy in their host country, and the Uighurs in Kazakhstan, while reinforcing their links to their compatriots in China, are not voicing open demands for a Uighur state.

The editor has selected interesting contributions of very good quality, although some of them would have benefited from another proof reading.  Altogether, the volume makes a strong argument for regarding post-Soviet Central Eurasia as a coherent entity—a region thoroughly shaped by Islamic, Tsarist, Soviet, and post-Soviet experiences.

Michael Kemper, University of Amsterdam
CER: I-3.1.D-193