This monumental work surveys the periodicals published by Muslim émigrés from the Russian empire in Istanbul in the years preceding the First World War. The Russian Muslim émigré press was short-lived—it emerged only after the Constitutional Revolution of 1908 in the Ottoman Empire, and ended rather abruptly with the outbreak of war in 1914—but it lay at the crossroads of a number of crucial intellectual currents in a period of considerable turmoil. The imperial order was at its height and the notion that both the Russian and the Ottoman Empires would soon cease to exist inconceivable. Muslim émigrés from the Russian empire wrote with the assumptions of a world that was about to pass away. These assumptions tell us a lot about that world and about what changed with its passing.
While scholars have often referred to these periodicals in a number of contexts, V. Adam provides the first detailed study of them. The book is based on a close reading of the periodicals themselves, and the text develops through detailed analysis of selected articles and themes that appear on their pages. In chapter 3, V. Adam provides the basic bibliographical information on the newspapers and magazines involved and their editors and contributors, both Russian and Ottoman. The majority of the authors were from the Volga basin, and it is the concerns of the older, European Muslim populations of the Russian Empire that predominated. The one exception was Bukhara, which featured to a considerable extent in the years 1909-1911, when debates over the fate of new-method schools, bloody sectarian riots between Sunnis and Shiites, and talk in Russia of annexation provided material for extensive commentary.
The core of the book, however, is the 170-page long chapter 5, in which V. Adam describes the main themes and topoi that concerned these periodicals and their editors. The tone of these magazines was, of course, anti-Russian, and warnings of the “Russian threat” fill their pages. Authors warned of the missionaries, but were also wary of the “new missionaries” of liberal or leftist parties, whom they saw as materialists (dehrî) and hence as even more dangerous. Contributors discussed the “creeping Russification” of Muslim populations (especially through schools), called attention to various coercive measures of the Russian authorities, including censorship, and responded to what they saw as the Islamophobia of the Russian-language press. But they also criticised the state of affairs in Muslim societies themselves. The authors involved were reformist and modernist, and the usual themes of Jadid reform show up here too: the inadequacy of traditional schools, criticisms of the uneducated mullah and the false “saints”, and the credulous victims of both. The émigré press was, however, equally critical of reformers it deemed too radical, those whose modernism carried them too far and brought them too close to becoming dehrî themselves. Its positioning vis-à-vis Ottoman society was also multifaceted: Writers envied the fact that the Ottomans had sovereignty, but also scolded them for not being more interested in (and solicitous of) other Turkic populations of the world. This important insight provides a useful corrective to the still widely accepted notion of pan-Islamism and pan-Turkism being the result of Ottoman machinations. Indeed, V. Adam points out that pan-Islamism and pan-Turkism were not considered to be mutually exclusive, and the lines between the two ideas cross and interweave constantly in this period.
Adam also pays attention to the echo the émigré had in the Muslim press of the Russian Empire, which had come into its own after the revolution of 1905. The near monopoly enjoyed by Tercüman was a thing of the past, as a number of newspapers emerged and created a single public space “from St. Petersburg to Baku and from Bahçesaray to Tomsk.” There was a lot of overlap between the émigré press and the press back in Russia, as articles were often reprinted or commented upon by newspapers in Russia, although these latter were, needless to say, not inimical to the Russian state. V. Adam has done a great deal of research with Russian Turkic newspapers as well, and is able to draw out patterns of borrowing and influence between Ottoman and Russian periodicals. Work in Russia’s Historical State Archives (RIGA) in St. Petersburg, allows a wonderful account of the Russian reactions to this émigré press. Chapter 7 contains an outline of the workings of Russian censorship of the Ottoman press, and of Russian countermeasures, such as an attempt to influence the press in Istanbul and Cairo. The book concludes with 8 appendices containing documents from RIGA, including a list of all Ottoman publications proscribed in the Russian empire.
This book is a major contribution to our understanding of the intellectual history of the Turkic and Muslim world at a very crucial period in its history. No discussion of pan-Islamism or pan-Turkism in the future will be complete without reference to it.