Reviews

This is the paperback edition of a book published in 1994, regrettably without any revision or addition. Since it focuses on the contemporary period and does not cover Xinjiang, it should be untitled Islam in Russian Central Asia in the twentieth century. After a brief overview on the history of Islam in Central Asia before the Russian conquest, chapters 2 and 3 deal with the situation of Islam during the first half of the twentieth century, before and after 1917. Relying entirely on secondary sources — almost all of them now outdated —, the authors cannot but repeat the common mistakes and the old paradigms shared by former sovietologists: the socio-cultural and political uniformity of Islam in time and space; steppe nomads introduced as “superficial” Muslims; jadids and qadimis as strictly opposed to each other, according to an invariable dialectic; the ideology of the Alash movement presented as non-existent; most importance being given to “underground Islam” under Soviet rule, and so on. Chapter 4 on Islam in the 1980s features a kind of personal testimony on this particular period, while chapter 5, dealing with Islam and politics in the 1990s, focuses on relations between Islamic movements and new Central Asian states. Though clear and informative, the arguments regarding the Islamic “renaissance” and fundamentalism remain simplistic and simply ignore the complex debates within the various religious groups. Chapter 6 on “new Moslem Central Asian states and Russia” gives some interesting perspectives but, once again, uses odd old-fashioned concepts, beginning with the very notion of “Moslem Central Asian states” — there are Muslim Central Asian societies, but not states.

Alexandre Papas, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-4.3.D-407