Reviews

Introduced by historical paragraphs on the history of the Northwest Caucasus from antiquity to our times, through the region’s conversion to Islam from the fourteenth century onwards, this substantial and well-argued article notably mentions the ‘Sharia movement’ of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries among the Kabards, for the instauration of Islamic law against the tribal customary law supported by Russia, and the failure of Shamil’s nayibs to raise a Muslim resistance movement against Russia in Cherkessia. The author evokes fro this period of time the lasting superposition of varied religious practices corresponding with the social stratification of Adyghe society, and the role of the predominant tribal ethical code (adygag‘e) in the adoption of the Islamic norms of good behaviour. Her historical survey continues with mention of the main turning points of the colonial and Soviet periods: the judiciary reform of the late 1860s and early 1870s (with dominance of customary law and participation of qadis for issues of marriage and of inheritance), the Islamicisation movement of the 1880s-1910s (with participation of former Cherkess migrants established in Syria and in Anatolia), the policy implemented by the Union of Federated Mountaineers in 1917-20 (with uphold status of the Sharia courts, and election of qadis and imams), the creation of the Cherkess Autonomous Region in 1922 (with concomitant liquidation of Sharia courts), the May 1924 circular of the Oriental Section of the OGPU (commanding the suppression of Muslim religious schools in the USSR except Turkistan, Dagestan and Ajaria), the four congresses of the religious personnel of Islam in 1922-5 (with election of a Sharia Council [Shariatskii Sovet] in 1922 as an intermediary between the Soviet power and the Muslim believers), the replacement of Arabic by Latin alphabet for Adyghe language from 1923 onwards, and by the Cyrillic script as for 1937. Typically of an overwhelming majority of works on Islam in the former USSR, the Soviet period is purely and simply skipped as a mere parenthesis, and the author endeavours to calculate the impact of the changes of the 1920 on the current situation. As far as the last two decades are concerned, the article focuses on the role of former Adyghe migrants, especially those established in Kosovo during the late Ottoman period, in the revitalisation of Islamic institutions since the early 1990s, and on their open conflicts with local religious personnel and civil administration. The growing role of Islam as a component of collective Adyghe identity is also mentioned, with the new development among the youth of aspiration for a restoration of Great Cherkessia. The author also warns her readership of the growing danger of confrontation between Muslim and Orthodox Christian believers, even after the creation in April 2005 of an Inter-Religious Council (Mezhreligioznyi sovet). She also denounces the growing audience of “non-traditional” religions (a post-Soviet metonymy for the designation of Protestant denominations) and of “radical” Islamic organisations and trends (among which are mentioned the Nurcu, introduced here as a “sect,” and their successive attempts of settlement in 1994 and 2002). However, the author also criticises local and regional power institutions for their construction ex nihilo of an Islamic threat after the Nalchik events of 2005, and she vilifies those experts on ‘Wahhabism’ who, through their publications, have provided the police with an ideological tool for systematic repression against religious activists in general, against numbers of migrants repatriating from the Near East in particular.

The Redaction
CER: II-4.3.C-394