This synthetic historical study focuses on the sociological change in Russia’s Islam in the course of the nineteenth century ― the rich private financers of Muslim confessional institutions taking the lead over local imams, while prominent Sufi shaykhs emerge as alternative authorities thanks to their control of wider trans-regional networks of disciples. In parallel, growing concurrence between local communities for the quest of financial resources lead to increasing inner divisions among the body of the mullahs and ‘ulama. From the viewpoint of the revival of madrasa teaching in the Volga-Ural region of Russia during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the author properly underlines the pioneering role played by institutions located not in the main cities and suburbs of Kazan or Orenburg, but in rural areas of, respectively, the Volga (in Qishqar for instance) and Ural (in Sterlibash) regions ― before the prominence of great urban madrasas in the last decades of the nineteenth century. (The latter’s position in history, however, is downplayed by the author, who forgets about the influence of the Kazan’s madrasas and intellectual circles as soon as the 1860s in the whole Volga River basin.) More generally speaking, the author underlines the role played by reformed madrasas in the education of several generations of the Muslim-background intellectual élite of the Volga-Ural region, including almost all the prominent writers of the first half of the Soviet period. Distinct paragraphs are devoted to the waqfs (through the role of trusteeships and the policy of the Milli Idare in 1917); to the evolution of the notion of millat (with insistence on the initial role of the creation of the Muslim Spiritual Assembly of Orenburg in 1788 in the formation of the modern Tatar nation); and to the history of this Assembly (with paragraphs on its attempts for escaping the control of governorate administrations, and the attempts by the Muslim modernist élite of the Volga-Ural region to take its control after 1905).
Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris