The Muslim Question and Russian Imperial Governance

The Muslim Question and Russian Imperial Governance

The Muslim Question and Russian Imperial Governance

The Muslim Question and Russian Imperial Governance

Synopsis

From the time of the Crimean War through the fall of the Tsar, the question of what to do about the Russian empire's large Muslim population was a highly contested issue among educated Russians both inside and outside the government. As formulated in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Muslim Question comprised a complex set of ideas and concerns that centered on the problems of reimagining and governing the tremendously diverse Russian empire in the face of the challenges presented by the modernizing world. Basing her analysis on extensive research in archival and primary sources, Elena I. Campbell reconstructs the issues, debates, and personalities that shaped the development of Russian policies toward the empire's Muslims and the impact of the Muslim Question on the modernizing path that Russia would follow.

Excerpt

This study is an inquiry into Russian thinking about what was historically known as the “Muslim Question”—in Russian, Musul’manskii vopros. Although Russian tsars had ruled over Muslim subjects as early as the sixteenth century, the “Muslim Question” emerged only in the second half of the nineteenth century and became a highly contested issue among educated Russians, both outside and within the government. During the last decade of the tsarist regime, it also became the subject of state policy. While recent studies have examined imperial Russia’s Muslim communities as well as government policies toward Islam, the “Muslim Question” itself has never been carefully explored. It has, therefore, not been clear under which circumstances the question was formulated, let alone how this issue was understood by the educated Russian public and government officials, or what specific solutions they brought to bear upon it. What role did the debate on the “Muslim Question” play in the development of Russian policies toward Islam? Why did the issue remain contested and unresolved until the very end of the empire?

This book attempts to address these questions by taking the notion of the “Muslim Question” itself as an object of historical analysis. Since the concept was used by historical actors in late imperial Russia, I will henceforth refer to it as a historical term without quotation marks surrounding it. As articulated in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Muslim Question comprised a complex set of ideas and concerns that centered on the problems of reimagining and governing the tremendously diverse Russian empire in the face of challenges presented by the modernizing world. I suggest that in order to understand Russian policy toward Islam and especially Russians’ views of and anxieties about Muslims after the Crimean War (1853–1856), we need to view the subject not only within the framework of Western European orientalist discourse and colonial practice but also within the larger context of a modernizing imperial society. Approached in this way, the Muslim Question also sheds light on the nature, possibilities, and consequences of state-sponsored reform in late imperial Russia. Focusing on the fundamental problem of “what to do about the Muslims” foregrounds the importance of the specific contexts of the empire—including the interaction of those contexts— within which the state’s ambitious attempts to rebuild the Russian social and political structures took shape.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.