Based on a variety of documents from the State Central Archive of Uzbekistan and on articles of the official Russian-language press of Turkistan, this article offers an overview of Russia’s attempts at establishing its control and taxation of the Central Asian pilgrims to Mecca during the last decades of the Tsarist period. After numerous historians (most notably Selim Deringil in Turkey), the author shows to which extent the passport policy of the Russian consular administration re-oriented the pilgrimage flux from the Multan – Bombay – Jeddah itinerary to the Russian railway and steamship lines of the Caspian Sea, of the Caucasus and of the Black Sea. So doing, Russia was increasing its political control on the hajj, as well as its capacity to make it fiscally beneficial.
This rather classical historical study is followed by several more original contributions on the many issues linked with the practice and narrative of hajj and ziyarat in contemporary Central Asia. The first of these contributions deals with the significant question of local ziyarat as a ‘minor hajj’ (Larina Elena, Naumova Ol’ga, “Palomnichestvo v Iuzhnyi Kazakhstan kak ‘malyi khadzh’ u rossiiskikh kazakhov [The Pilgrimage to Southern Kazakhstan as a ‘Minor Hajj’ among Russia’s Kazakhs],” ibid., 114-8). In the context of rapid economic and social differentiation within Kazakh society, the authors of this study in qualitative sociology cast light on the difference of perception of, respectively, the hajj, seen as a canonical obligation and an indication of wealth, and the ziyarat, perceived as the answer to a spiritual need. They notably insist on the role played by female healers in the attendance of a growing number of Islamic and Islamised holy graves in Southern Kazakhstan (in the cities of Turkistan, Suzak, Taraz. . .), and the role played by the growing pilgrimage itineraries and infrastructures in the consolidation of Kazakh national identity.
For the Fergana Valley, an elementary typology of holy places in given with short evocation of the rituals implemented by pilgrims (Abdulakhatov Nodirdzhon, “Kul’t mazarov i ikh rol’ v obshchestve (po materialam sviatykh mest Ferganskoi doliny) [The Cult of Mazars and Its Role in Society (through the Case of the Holy Places of the Fergana Valley)],” ibid., 119-25). Based on a bibliography that is a little dated, this study classically refers to “survivals” of pre-Islamic religious systems for explaining the permanence of religious and magical practice in and around mazars in the Fergana Valley. More interestingly, a last article on the role of ziyarat in the Everyday Life of the Karakalpaks sheds light on the impact of the professionalisation of holy place wardens ― shïyïqshïs, a term explained by the author through the addition Turkic suffix ‘shï’ to the Arabic word shaykh, though an adaptation of Persian chiraqchi should perhaps not be excluded ― during the Soviet period (Karlybaev Makset, “Rol’ ziiarat v povsednevnoi zhizni Karakalpakov,” 126-32). The author also examines four holy places of Karakalpakistan: the respective graves of Mazlum Khan Sulu in Khojeili; of Shibli Ata thirty km north of Nukus; of Sultan Uways Baba one hundred and fifteen km north of Nukus; and of Jantemir Ishan between Kungrat and Muinak. The common point of these holy places in their dedication to early founding figureheads of Islam and Sufism, endowed with many holy graves in Central Asia (Shibli Nu‘mani, Uways Qarani) or to legendary figures of the local oral tradition (Mazlum [or Nazlym] Khan, the heroine of a lyrical epics, and Jantemir Khan, a protector of the local population against the raids of the Turkmens). Unfortunately, in this study as well as in the most part of literature on religious practice in the former USSR, the Soviet period is considered a mere parenthesis characterised exclusively by an overall escheat of many holy places, without interest in the deep qualitative transformations of this period of time, nor in its considerable contribution to modern-day hagiographic processes generally speaking (notably through the appearance of a new generation of holy graves).