Reviews

Norihiro Naganawa calls for a more thorough study of Muslims' organisation and reorganisation of daily life and resources within Tatar and Bashkir mahallas after 1905, a task already pioneered by Stéphane Dudoignon, Allen Frank, and Charles Steinwedel.  The mahalla, sometimes translated unsatisfactorily by “parish” in English, was a basic religious unit comprising a community of Muslims supporting a mosque, which basically emerged as an administrative and civil unit after the foundation of the Spiritual Assembly of Orenburg in 1788.  Naganawa examines state and mahalla interactions, using official Russian administrative archives and samples of the Muslim press (essentially Waqt).  Mahallas, according to him, were not passive recipients of state reforms but centres of lively debates, which contributed directly to their transformation, despite state growing mistrust in its Muslim subjects’ loyalty.  Before 1905, mahalla personnel conducted prayers, resolved civil issues (marriage, divorce, inheritance), and registered births and deaths.  After 1905, mahallas expanded their activities further; in particular they sought to reorganise pious endowments in a more effective way and obtain support for schools from the newly created zemstvos.  Tatars and Bashkirs cleverly made use of Russian institutions to advance their religious and economic goals.  Naganawa’s argument is more about the interpenetration of mahalla organisation and Russian administrative rule than about the inner workings of mahalla daily life.  It expands on the works of Robert Crews, Daniel Brower, Robert Geraci, and Edward Lazzerini.  To better understand mahalla life from the inside, it would be worth looking into the largely untapped local histories, merchants’ correspondence, wills, and waqf documents in Kazan, Ufa, and Orenburg.

Agnès Kefeli, Arizona State University, Tempe
CER: I-3.1.C-190