The Middle East in Transition: Studies in Contemporary History

By Walter Z. Laqueur | Go to book overview

RECENT SOVIET ATTITUDES TOWARDS ISLAM

by GEOFFREY WHEELER

THE ACTIVE INTEREST in the Middle East and South Asian Affairs which the Soviet Union has been developing during the past two years is calculated to bring it in much closer contact with the free Muslim world than ever before. In addition to extending all-Union political and commercial relations with the independent countries of the East, there are clear indications that the Soviet government intends to use the Muslim republics of the Union both as a kind of cultural bridge between Russia and the Middle East, and also as a shop window to demonstrate the effectiveness of Soviet methods in under-developed countries. The present policy is far more ambitious than previous ones and requires tact and judgment which have been lacking in former Soviet approaches to Eastern countries.

The object of the present brief study is to consider the nature of the latest Soviet tactics and how they are affecting or likely to affect the Soviet attitude to Islam and the Islamic way of life.

The classic policy of the Stalin era towards the Muslim world assumed that the ruling classes and the clergy must be fundamentally hostile to the Soviet Union and irrevocably sold to Western imperialism. A corollary to this was the conviction that only the proletariat -- virtually non-existent in the Middle East -- and the peasantry could safely be regarded as anti-imperialist. Another feature of Soviet policy before 1953 was the segregation of the six Muslim republics of the Union from their co-religionists in the Middle East. For a short period after the Revolution, plans existed for the fusion of the Muslims of Russia with those of the outside world. But the rapid development of internal opposition to the

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