Reviews

This essay in local and regional history of the muftiyyat of the Buguruslan district (1994-2006), in the oblast’ of Orenburg, is proposed by the author, an excellent connoisseur of the modern history of Islam in European Russia and in Ukraine, as an illustration of the interest and productivity of local and regional scales for our understanding of Islam in present-day Russia. The author narrates in detail the story of the Buguruslan muftiyyat and of the al-Furqan Madrasa under their common creator and patron, Saudi-educated Imam Ismagyl Shangareev (b. 1956), from the creation of the muftiyyat in 1994 to the closure of the madrasa twelve years later, on the accusation of serving as a relay for the Hizb al-Tahrir and other forbidden organisations, and to Shangareev’s final exile to the United Arab Emirates. The intrigue is resituated on the long duration in the demographic history of the region, characterised by the differentiation between the Tatar-minority districts of its western part, culturally oriented towards the Volga River basin, and the Bashkir and Kazakh-minority districts of the region’s eastern part. On the short duration, the author reminds the growing pressure of Tatar, Bashkir, and Kazakh ethnic groups and organisations on the Muslim confessional institutions of this intermediary region, located between the Volga River basin, the Southern Urals, and the Central Asian Steppe. G. Kosach relates the lasting conflict between, on the first hand, the Islamic institutions newly created by Shangareev in the modest market town of Buguruslan, with overt Saudi support and contribution by local entrepreneurship, and on the other hand the pre-existing regional muftiyyat of Orenburg, backed by the region’s civil governorate. A brief biography of Shangareev allows the author to shed light on the respective influences on him of his father Kalam al-Din (the Imam of the Great Mosque of Rostov-on-the-Don until his imprisonment after his public protest against the Novocherkassk events of June 1962), and of his later education in the Islamic University of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. The author also reconstructs Shangareev’s strategy of extension of his influence towards Moscow, at the turn of the 2000s, through his direction of the Association of Russia’s Mosques and his co-chairmanship of the Council of the Muftis of Russia. Told like a detective novel, with interest in every protagonist’s viewpoint, the whole story provides an invaluable insight on many issues of institutional change within Russia’s Islam in the course of the past twenty years ― in particular on the collusions that have appeared in the course of the 1990s between Muslim-background entrepreneurship of European Russia and the personal designs of young, enterprising religious leaders with fresh Near Eastern backgrounds and connections.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-4.3.B-371