Reviews

The present volume, yet the shortest of the rich “Islam in Russia” Collection launched in 2007 by the Logos Publishing House, deals with Islam in present-day Republic of Bashkortostan, in the Western Urals region of Russia. Two historical chapters precede a third one on the present situation of Islam in Bashkortostan. The first chapter is on the history of Islam in Bashkir land from the eighth century CE to the late nineteenth century, with sections on the penetration of Islam among Bashkirs in the tenth to thirteenth centuries; on the development of Islam in the Urals within the Golden Horde and its successor states; on Islam and the legal situation of the Bashkirs in the Russian Empire from the sixteenth to the late nineteenth century, with special sections on Islam among the Finno-Ugric populations of Bashkortostan (interestingly, there is no word in the whole book for the significant Tatar population of the Republic), on the mosques, madrasas, and waqfs of Bashkortostan (exclusively based on Russian and Soviet secondary sources, including notorious antireligious authors and activists like L. Klimovich). A very short chapter (pp. 44-50) deals with the whole twentieth century, notably through the role of the Spiritual Board of Ufa and of its publications. The book’s most substantial part is made of the third chapter, with notations on the organisations of “parishes (prikhody)” and their religious personnel since 1991; with statistical data of the author’s about the relatively low level of religiosity of Bashkir believers, and low education level of a majority of the local religious personnel. The section of religious education is a plea for Ufa as a major academic centre, and the one on Islam and politics a defence of the Rakhimov Administration. A section full of haughtiness on present-date imams and Sufis active in Bashkortostan is followed by the usual paragraphs on alternative political organisations like the Hizb al-Tahrir, which is tackled by the author through articles of the local press. Unfortunately, the energy spent by the author for suggesting the originality of Bashkir Islam and its loyalty to the Russian state ― in the line of the collection, even if this line more subtly promoted by its other volumes ― brings her to deliberately ignore a number of aspects of Islamic practice and thought in the Urals, be them linked either with the presence of a relative Tatar majority, or with many currents and trends coming from regions of the world of Islam outside the former USSR. Very few things are said in this volume on the very content of Islamic religious practice in past and present Bashkortostan, the author giving the strange impression to have built her whole work in absolute ignorance of the religious literature produced for centuries in the Urals, and without approaching the religious personnel of Islam and Sufism, if only with extreme reluctance.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-4.3.B-362