Reviews

Under a general title, this very well-informed essay in fact summarises the material of previous studies by the same authors on the history of the Muslim Fraction at the State Duma of Russia, between its initial organisation under the impetus of a deputy from the Southern Caucasus, ‘Ali-Mardan Topchibashi, and the drastic reduction of its representation within the Fourth Duma elected in 1912.  The authors notably underline: the political weakness of the Muslim Fraction after the participants in the Vyborg Appeal were declared ineligible; the difficulties it faced for finding alliances—especially with the Polish Kolo, mainly preoccupied with its own autonomy inside the empire, and for this reason loyal to the Tsarist power—; its heterogeneous ethnic and social composition (to be put in perspective with the absolute dominance of Tatar and Azerbaijani deputies, and of members of three estates: the nobility, peasantry, and religious personnel); the Muslim deputies’ low education level in the two first Dumas (compensated in part only by Topchibashi’s superactivity in the margins of the parliament); their low level of direct or indirect participation in the elaboration of laws, or their complete lack of influence on the debates (e.g., on the choice of the day off for employees of commercial enterprises, or on the government’s migration policy).  The article’s last paragraphs are devoted to the participation of the deputies of the Muslim Fraction in the discussions on the undone reform of the central religious institutions of the Muslims of the Russian Empire (the Muftiate and the Spiritual Assembly), and to the role played by the journal Mir Islama [“The World of Islam”], created in 1912 on an initiative taken two years earlier by the Stolypin government, for the diffusion of information on the current state of affairs among the Muslims of Russia and abroad (the authors shed light on the tensions between the redaction composed of specialists of Oriental studies under the leadership of V. V. Bartol’d, and the officials of the Ministry of the Interior).  If one can deplore that, on such an important issue like the relations between the state and Islam in the eventful last decades of the Tsarist period, the authors have chosen to focus on such a limited amount of aspects, the reader can only be pleased by the detailed and precise data provided on the basis of a wide range of primary sources, both narrative and documentary.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-3.2.C-213