Reviews

Dzhamil’ Mukhametshin is a specialist in Tatar epigraphy, manuscripts and coins in the well-known Bulghar Museum near Kazan (Tatarstan). The present monograph is a result of his continuous research works in thirteenth to twentieth-century Volga Tatar epigraphy. First, Dzh. Mukhametshin reviews Russian and Tatar scholarship since the eighteenth century. So doing, he concludes on the primary interest of regional and chronological criteria in his classification of a huge number of sources with Tatar and Arabic inscriptions (about 900 tombs). On the origin of the Bulghar epigraphic tradition, Dzh. Mukhametshin underlined its ties with the Turkic world, though denying a decisive impact to influences from Central Asia, the Crimea and the Caucasus (pp. 17-9). To the author’s eyes two traditions, Bulghar and Tatar, have been prospering in the region, and they symbolise the cultural, political and psychological continuity of vernacular Muslims populations. The special interest of the book lies in the terminology of inscriptions. It is unfortunate that, in this matter, the author has been following the Soviet habit of neglecting features of Islamic culture. He stresses well, in particular, the existence of such titles as khwaja, ishan, shaykh and others (p.42), but without comparison of these data with their appearances and comments in other kinds of written sources. This is even more regrettable that this religious nomenclature can show instrumental in the reconstruction — still to be made — of the early history of Islam in the region. In the book’s appendixes, the reader can find three maps suggesting the quantitative prevalence of Tatar tombs in the Volga-Ural region from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century; a list of graveyards with inscriptions; several tables including one with the epigraphic material from ancient Bulghar; and the variants of ornament and illustrations. This work is based on the unique sources collected in large expeditions, and long cabinet works. It will no doubt show useful to linguists and historians, and will take place in the rich tradition of Tatar epigraphic scholarship, in the wake of more renown works by Garun Iusupov or Marsel’ Akhmetzianov.

Alfrid Bustanov, University of Amsterdam
CER: II-3.2.B-161