Reviews

Unfortunately deprived of illustrations, this substantial article evokes the history of city-planning and architecture in the Middle-Volga region since the adoption of Islam by the Bulghar elite in the tenth century CE.  First, the author surveys the evolutions of urban practices, through the development of the cities of Biliyar in the Bulghar period (early tenth-early twelfth centuries), Bulghar within the Ulus of Jöchi (thirteenth-fourteenth centuries) and Kazan as the capital of the homonymous khanate (mid-fourteenth to mid-sixteen centuries)—with insights on the history of defence construction and of wooden, then brick-and-stone mosques.  Successive external influences, first from the world of Islam, second from the Russian Empire, are traced through the initial adoption of the hypostyle plan of mosques from the Abbasid model of Baghdad—which was also that of pre-Mongol worship architecture in Central Asia—, of the Russian rococo, then classical styles for mosques and madrasas constructed from the late eighteenth century onwards, with paragraphs on the development of a ‘neo-Bulghar’ style by Russian architects for their Muslim clients after the lift, in 1840, of the ban of styles other than the European classical one in public construction.  The last third of the text is devoted to the history of village planning and architecture in the centuries following the Russian conquest; their permanent change is reconstructed through a rich documentary basis, which allows the author a subtle evocation of the growing impact of demographic growth, urbanisation and industrialisation since the early nineteenth century.  The forced resettlement of Muslim populations towards segregated suburbs (slobody) and villages from the mid-sixteenth to the early nineteenth century is evoked through its impact on the overall valuation of Islam in these areas as a cement of socialisation and collective identification, expressed mainly in the private sphere, e.g. through the genre segregation in private housing (between ‘male’ and ‘female’ parts), and through the new symbolic capital conveyed by furniture and inner decoration.  Insisting on the still embryonic character of archaeological surveys and on the paucity of textual sources besides Arabic geographers, as far as pre-modern periods are concerned, the author remains too often constrained to hypotheses, notably on the reconstruction of the styles of many disappeared public buildings—her fashionable allegations as to Ottoman influences on several monuments destroyed in the course of history remaining totally undocumented.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-4.3-360