This book constitutes a complex study of the setting up and development of modern Tatar historiography in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The author’s core idea is that a global orientation of research was elaborated during that specific period of time. This orientation’s designer, and at the same time that of modern historiography among the Tatars, is to the author’s eyes Shihab al-Din al-Marjani. F. Shakurov puts forward two ideas for supporting this assessment: (1) Marjani’s treatise Mustafadh al-akhbar was the first ‘Tatar’ historical study based upon the critical analysis of varied primary sources; (2) this work did determine the content of Tatar historical works during a long period of time, all united by common goals and approaches to the interpretation of the past. The author calls this tendency “Jadid historiography,” and characterises it by an overall orientation towards a national revival of the Tatars, through a limited amount of common postulates (like the creation of a specific history for the Tatars; the study of the history of Islam from a reformist viewpoint; the elaboration of methods for modern historiography).
The setting up and development of modern Tatar historiography are dated by the author from the immediate aftermath of the first revolution of Russia in 1905. This does not prevent F. Shakurov to devote a short chapter to the appearance of this historiography much before this date: doesn’t he evoke the historical representations of the “Tatars” in the ancient times (!) and in the Middle Age—considering, for instance, that the “History of Bulghar” (1058-9/1164) by Ya‘qub b. Nu‘man attests of the existence of a “scientific” historical school in the Bulghar Confederation? At the same time, F. Shakurov does not show very much interested in the work of chroniclers in the Ulus of Jöchi (thirteenth-fifteenth centuries) or in the Khanate of Kazan (fourteenth-sixteenth century). In a short chapter on Tatar historical literature in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, he remembers a limited amount of specific historical works written in the aftermath of the collapse of the Khanate of Kazan: an unknown work by Qadir ‘Ali Bek, a scribe from the Khanate of Qasimov, continuing Rasihd al-Din’s Jami‘ al-tawarikh, the dastans collected in the Daftar-i Chingiz-nama (seventeenth century), the Ta’rikh-i Bulghariyya by Hisam al-Din Muslimi (late eighteenth – early nineteenth centuries), and the Tawarikh-i Bulghariyya by Taj al-Din Yalchigul (1805). However, F. Shakurov denounces the lack of systematisation in these pre-modern works constructed on the “popular” memory and the “feudal” historiography.
So in F. Shakurov’s eyes it is the appearance, in 1885, of Marjani’s Mustafadh al-akhbar that has opened a new era in the history of Tatar historiography, with its insistence on “objective” analysis based on the comparative analysis of different primary sources. The author provides a short characterisation of each historical work of Marjani’s (unfortunately through the works of other researchers: U. Usmanov, D. Iskhakov, M. Iusupov, N. Garaeva, A. Khalidov, A. Iuzeev, Yu. Schamiloglu, etc.). He also assesses the contribution of nineteenth-century historians closer to the University of Kazan, like Qayyum Nasiri, M. Aitov, Kh. Amirkhanov, I. Khal’fin, Kh. Faizkhanov, etc. The bulk of his work is nevertheless devoted to the historians of the ‘Jadid’ trend of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, represented in the book by such different authors as Riza al-Din Fakhr al-Din, ‘Abd-Allah Battal, Hadi Atlasi, Zaki Walidi, etc. In the period comprised between the two revolutions of Russia, the study of national history became the main goal of Tatar historiographers. For F. Shakurov, this was related with the national consolidation of the Tatars, of which history writing would became a key element: the historical science was then invited to confirm the idea of an ethnic identity and unity of the ‘Tatars’, and to determine the latter’s place among the other peoples of the Volga-Ural region of Russia. For this reason the author deals at length in this chapter on the debates about the choice of an ethnic denomination in the public debates of the early twentieth century—admixing his own (necessarily retrospective) personal views with the analysis of factual material.
F. Shakurov shows how the ethnicity of the Turkic and Muslim populations of the Volga-Ural region was demonstrated by Tatar historians in the wake of Marjani’s pioneering work, as the expression of prevailing views in the local society. The question of the choice of an ethnic denomination is tackled through the rejection of the term “Muslim” for his lack of ethnic content, and through the debates around the terms “Turk” and “Tatar” in the journal Shura in 1911-12. F. Shakurov sees Marjani’s influence in the final choice of the ‘Tatar’ denomination, as well as that of Qayyum Nasiri’s works on the national literary language. As to the reasons of the diffusion of Turkism in the early twentieth-century Middle Volga region, the author sees it in the need for resistance against the Russification policy of the Tsarist administration, and in the growing interest of the public in an idealised version of national history. As to the development of historical studies on the Russo-Tatar relations, the author properly stresses the weigh of censorship on their weak development until a very late date, and the official character of apologies of Russo-Tatar friendships that were published at great many during the celebrations of the Tercentenary of the Romanov dynasty in 1913. The Tatar historiography of Islam and of Russia is analysed through a limited amount of samples, as well as the textbook literature elaborated in the very first decades of the twentieth century. The historiography of the revolutionary movement is represented by publications of the years 1905-7—notably through Tang Yulduzi, the journal of the Tatar SRs, and works by the young Tatar intelligentsia. Beside Marjani’s legacy, the book also gives room to prominent authors of the early twentieth century, like Yusuf Aqchura, founded on the ideas of the nineteenth-century European positivism. In all, the volume offers a useful global study on the emergence of modern Tatar historiography, if based on a lot of well-known and well-studied facts, and on the works of other scholars.