2016 05 04 bobrovnikov

“There is no god in the countryside
Since we go to school.
Even old Mahomet
Has fled with his koran”1
Bezbozhnik (1925, 12: 7)

For more than seventy years religious intolerance determined confessional politics and scholarship in Soviet Russia. Scholars, including Orientalists, contributed significantly to the official atheist discourse on religion, and had collaborated first with the all-Union “League of the Militant Godless”, and then, after the War, with its successor organisation, the “Knowledge Society”. In this article I will examine their important if contradictory contribution to the making of the intolerant Soviet discourse on Islam. The focus is on networks and actors of the state atheist propaganda complex, as well as on its changing language, topics and messages. Chronologically my article covers the whole period of Soviet anti-Islamic agitation from the late 1920s to the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the beginning of the 1990s. It also touches upon the important and still obscure question of ruptures and continuity between the early and late Soviet propaganda against Islam. In addition, we will discuss the relation of Soviet anti-Islamic propaganda to late imperial Orthodox missionary work on the one hand, and to post-Soviet preaching of Islam (da‘wa) by competing factions of post-socialist Muslim elites on the other.

Scholars of Islam in Godless Associations

Religion as such was considered a dangerous adversary of the state and of the foundation stone of the USSR’s confessional policy – secularism2. Already the famous decree of 23 January 1918 “On the Separation of Church from State and School from Church” proclaimed Russia a secular state, denied legal standing of all confessions, and banned all instruction of religion outside private homes. From the 1920s through the mid-1980s Soviet confessional policy swung from repression to relative tolerance, but the regime maintained a general hostility toward religion up to its very fall in 1991. The Bolsheviks feared and hated religion, and declared it was alien to the socialist polity. During the “socialist building” before the Second World War the policy was to radically exterminate religion; yet under the conditions of “developed socialism”, in the 1950s to 1980s, it was regarded as a “survival” that was expelled from public life but that was also, behind the façade, tolerated, for various domestic and international reasons. In order to honour the constitutional right to religious beliefs, and to avoid the impression that the Soviet state actively persecuted religion, the Bolsheviks charged allegedly nongovernmental social organisations with the struggle against religion.

There were two all-Union umbrella associations of this sort in Soviet Russia. The first of these was called the “League of the Militant Godless” (Soiuz voinstvuiushchikh bezbozhnikov, or SVB). The ambitious and saucy name of the League corresponded well with the style and character of antireligious propaganda in the turbulent and bloody years of interwar Soviet Russia. Its message was to supplant religion with militant atheism in towns and in the country-side; since 1929 the badges of the League members carried the slogan, “The Struggle against Religion is a Struggle for Socialism!” Nominally, the League existed for twenty-two years (1925–1947); yet the campaign against religion was already moderated on the eve of the Great Patriotic War in 1941. The most active periods of the SVB were the years of the Great Turn and the Cultural Revolution in 1929–1934, and then again in 1938–1940. In 1947 the SVB was replaced by the “All-Union Society for Promotion of Political and Scientific Knowledge” (Vsesoiuznoe obshchestvo po rasprostraneniiu politicheskikh i nauchnykh znanii); in 1963 this organisation changed its name to the short and impressive “Knowledge Society” (Obshchestvo Znanie). The latter survived the Soviet Union and still operates in post-socialist Russia. However, the society’s antireligious branch disappeared with the breakup of the USSR in 1991, an event which was followed by a substantial expansion of religiosity.

Both godless associations published a lot. Nevertheless, their history has so far attracted surprisingly little attention. As of today, there is but one solid monograph about the SVB – Daniel Peris’ book Storming the Heavens of 1998 – and not a single special study of the Knowledge Society.3 Moreover, Peris deliberately limited the scope of his investigation to propaganda against the Russian Orthodox Church and paid no attention to other confessions.4 With respect to Islam, some recent articles of the German Orientalist Michael Kemper throw a bright light upon the complicated and confused fate of Soviet anti-Islamic politics and scholarship of the first half of the twentieth century.5

However, many names, biographies and contributions of scholars who took part in written and oral agitation against Islam still remain to be established. After the Second World War some militant atheists changed their field of study, or their very job, and many attempted to forget their godless past by eliminating it from their CVs.6 In addition, a great number of godless oppressors perished, together with their victims of all confessions, during the political mass repressions from the late 1920s through the 1940s. Their names were not allowed to be mentioned in the press until the fall of the Soviet regime in 1991.

Where did the two godless associations recruit academic volunteers to “storm the heavens”? What kinds of task did they set them? The League of the Militant Godless and the Knowledge Society conducted anti-religious propaganda at the grassroots level. If the Soviet official statistics can be trusted, both organisations involved huge masses of the Soviet population. Just seven years after its creation, in 1931, the SVB claimed 5.5 million members, 2 million more than the Communist Party itself.7 It declined to 2 million in 1938 but rose again to 3.5 million in 1941. The Knowledge Society had fewer members but was also a mass organisation: in January 1962 it numbered more than 1.1 million members, and this grew to about 2.5 million by the beginning of 1972.8

And yet, the number of trained Orientalists who joined the SVB can be counted on the fingers of one hand. In order to attract scholarly contributors to their struggle against Islam, the militant atheists had to turn to the Komsomol youth – persons from the generations of the 1890s and the 1900s who graduated from higher schools in the early Soviet years. In the late 1920s and the 1930s these were young, aggressive and ambitious scholars, professors and administrators. Their alma maters were often the new educational institutions established by the Soviets in the 1920s. The “forges for godless cadres” were the Moscow Institute of Orientology (Moskovskii institut vostokovedeniia, MIV, 1921–1954), the Institute of the Red Professorship (Institut krasnoi professury, IKP), the Communist University of Toilers of the Orient (Kommunisticheskii universitet trudiashchikhsia Vostoka, KUTV, set up in 1921) in Moscow, as well as the Oriental Pedagogical Institute (Vostochnyi pedagogicheskii institut, VPI) that emerged in 1922 in Kazan under the patronage of Kazan University’s Faculty of Social Sciences.9 The eminent Soviet Arabist Evgenii Beliaev (1895–1964) and his colleague, the Turkologist Nikolai Smirnov (1896–1983), both graduated from MIV in 1922 and 1924, respectively. Both entered the League of the Militant Godless and produced many contributions about Islam for the association’s atheist popular science editions.10 The Kazakh communist politician and historian Sandzhar Asfendiarov (1889–1938) directed MIV in 1927–1928.11 Among the graduates of the IKP one should mention Arshaluis Arsharuni (1896–1985) and Hadzhi Gabidullin (1897–1940) who collaborated with the SVB in its struggle against “Islamic sectarians” and what was then labelled as pan-Islamist and pan-Turkist movements. The Tatar communist Mirsaid Sultan-Galiev (1892–1940) taught at the KUTV from 1921. In that year he published instructions on the “Methods of Anti-Religious Propaganda among Muslims.”12 Another eminent scholar on this list was the specialist in Marxist philosophy and pre-modern anti-religious movements, Valentin Ditiakin (1896–1956), who lectured at the VPI in Kazan.

Membership in the League of the Militant Godless provided scholars with significant career advantages. Contributors to SVB publications were granted scholarly degrees without having to defend their dissertations, just on the basis of works published with the help of the SVB. In this way Smirnov became a Ph.D. (kandidat nauk) in history in November 1935, and Gabidullin obtained the same degree in December of that year.13 Other activists of the SVB made breathtaking careers without any academic degrees. Nikolai Matorin (1898–1936) first studied Egyptology at the Faculty of History and Philology of Petrograd University under the supervision of Professor Turaev. He entered the university in 1917 but in the same year was drafted for military service. He joined the Communist Party in 1919 and became Zinov’ev’s secretary in 1922. The subsequent ups and downs in his career depended much on his personal acquaintance with this influential “Red Mayor” of Petrograd. Despite the fact that he had not graduated from higher school, Matorin lectured at Petrograd University and institutes in 1922–1926, specializing in the ethnography of religious beliefs and the methodology of anti-religious agitation. The defeat of Zinov’ev’s faction at the Fourteenth Congress of the Bolshevik Party in December 1925 led to Matorin’s exile to Pskov and then to Kazan, where he became deputy chairman of the Tataria’s SVB Central Council. Meanwhile, he studied pagan cults among the Muslim peoples in the Volga region. In 1928 Matorin returned to Leningrad, where he succeeded in becoming deputy chairman at the Institute for the Study of the Peoples of the USSR, and then, in 1930, director of the famous ethnographic museum, the Kunstkamera. At the same time he headed the Leningrad Province Council of the League of the Militant Godless, where he was charged with providing the scientific basis for the mass repression of “Sectarians,” Orthodox Christians and Muslims. Finally, in 1934–1936, he fell victim to a new wave of political repression.14 Another striking example of a high-ranking militant atheist without a scholarly degree was the infamous Liutsian Klimovich (1907–1989), who fought against Islam for about sixty years, from 1927 to the mid-1980s. He held no top-level posts but remained a leading expert on Islam in the League of the Militant Godless and the Knowledge Society.15

For the purpose of “atheist Islamology,” the League of the Militant Godless also engaged “bourgeois experts” who had previously worked in the Tsarist administration of the borderlands. One of those was Mikhail Tomara (1868–1936?), ex-mayor of Sukhumi, bank officer and financial administrator at large. Tomara was given the opportunity to teach at KUTV, and he collaborated with the Communist International and the SVB. In particular, he participated in the scholarly discussion of the class nature and social basis of early Islam that was initiated by the journal Atheist in 1930.16 Another expert, Asfendiarov, was a military doctor by profession who had graduated from the Military Medical Academy in St. Petersburg in 1912.17 But the majority of scholars engaged in militant atheist activities of the SVB were not trained Orientalists or former imperial officials but ethnographers, such as mentioned above Nikolai Matorin.

The scope of Islamic studies was broadened over the years, and activities shifted from the investigation of written texts in literary Oriental languages to ideological work with living people and museum collections. In other words, classical “philological Orientalism”, as Edward Said put it,18 in activities of the Soviet godless associations was reduced to a more sociological approach to Islam and Muslim societies. We know that in the early 1930s, the SVB “ordered” ethnographers through the Presidium of the Soviet Academy of Sciences to produce a lexicon of “Religious Beliefs of the Peoples of the USSR.”19

After the Second World War an important shift occurred in the organisation of atheist propaganda: “amateur” militant atheism was replaced by a professional scientific atheism. For the first time this term appeared in the resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union “On Grave Shortcomings in the Scientific Atheist Propaganda and Measures to Improve Them,” which was issued in 1954. In response to the resolution, in 1959 a new discipline was introduced into the curricula of higher education, the “foundations of scientific atheism.” To coordinate the work of educators, scholars and propagandists, in 1964 the Central Committee of the CPSU set up an Institute of Scientific Atheism (Institut nauchnogo ateizma, INA) at the Academy of Social Sciences in Moscow. Twice a year the Institute published Voprosy nauchnogo ateizma (Questions of Scientific Atheism), with a print-run of 25,000 copies. Some former members of the SVB, among them Valentin Ditiakin and Liutsian Klimovich, continued to publish their works at the publishers of the Knowledge Society.20 These veterans, however, were now playing second fiddle. In the 1960s–1980s scientific atheism became the field of study for trained philosophers from provincial pedagogical institutes and universities, including Magomed Abdullaev, Mikhail Vagabov, Serazhutdin Gadzhiev and Irshad Makatov in Daghestan, Vakha Gadaev in Checheno-Ingushetia, and Iurii Petrash in Uzbekistan.21 Individual ethnographers worked for the Knowledge Society as well. The Moscow Institute of Ethnography had a small department on the history of religion and atheism; one of its research fellows, Vladimir Basilov (1937–1998), had previously worked at the Institute of Scientific Atheism (1964–1967) and then became an expert on the cult of Muslim saints in Central Asia. Academic Orientalists were allowed to study Islam only outside the Soviet Union. The Moscow Institute of Orientology was closed in 1954, and replaced by the Institute of Oriental Studies in the framework of the Academy of Sciences (IVAN). The Leningrad branch of IVAN, which comprised disciples of the famous academician Krachkovskii, continued to do research on Oriental medieval texts, but the IVAN’s center in Moscow concentrated on the study of contemporary political Islam and the ideology of modern Muslim national movements abroad.22 The Knowledge Society popularised ethnographic and Orientalist works on foreign Islam and the cult of saints for its lecturers.

Research on Islam published by the Society had the character of applied propaganda, just like the booklets and pamphlets produced earlier by its predecessor, the SVB. From the late 1920s, members of the SVB participated in the collection of statistical data on closed and still functioning mosques and prayer houses in the countryside. In 1923–1930s, the Komsomol functionaries periodically consulted with Orientalists from MIV on manners and customs of Muslim peoples, with the aim of organizing anti-religious carnivals on the days of religious festivals, such as uraza bayram; the so-called “Komsomol bayram” was meant to parody and humiliate obstinate believers. After the Second World War ethnographers helped district and village soviets to introduce new Soviet festivals, such as the First Furrow Day,23 to replace the Muslim feasts with a new Soviet labour culture. As Nikolai Smirnov put it, “the scholarship of Islam as well as any other religion in our country serves the task to overcome this harmful survival in the mentality and life of the toilers, to propagate a scientific materialist world-view and to provide a communist upbringing for the Soviet people.”24 Forms of propaganda work included public anti-religious lectures, Sunday and people’s universities, as well as exhibitions, broadcasting and documentaries devoted to major religious festivals and ceremonies. The Knowledge Society inherited from the SVB its science and atheism museums, the first of which had been established in Leningrad in 1931.25 In addition, there were Houses of Scientific Atheism in Moscow, Frunze (today Bishkek) and Tashkent.

One should, however, not overestimate the importance of Orientalist scholarship in the political struggle against religion in the Soviet Union. Before and after the revolution of 1917 the Muslim question played a marginal role in Russia. The major targets of the League of the Militant Godless were not Islam but the Russian Orthodox Church and Christian sectarians.26 For instance, out of eighty-one booklets published by the atheist publishers in 1929–1930, just two related to Islam and Muslims. In the Knowledge Society all atheist activities were relegated to a single department of this association. It is noteworthy that there was but one philosopher among eight Soviet chairmen of the Society, the academician Mark Mitin (1956–1960), whose specialty was the criticism of bourgeois philosophy. The other seven chairmen represented natural and applied technical sciences, such as physics (Sergei Vavilov, 1947–1951, and Nikolai Basov, 1978–1990), nuclear and chemical physics (Nikolai Semenov, 1960–1963), biochemistry (Alexander Oparin, 1951–1956), engineering (Vladimir Kirillin, 1963–1966, and Konstantin Frolov, 1990–1995), and mechanics (Ivan Artobolevsky, 1966–1977).27 The journal The Militant Atheist, published in Baku in the Azerbaijani language, and the Union-wide Science and Life (Nauka i zhizn’) were not produced in the same high numbers as the earlier weekly Bezbozhnik.

The Roots of Atheist Scholarship in Orthodox Missionary Propaganda

Both godless associations had a very ambiguous attitude to scholarship on Islam. On the one hand, there was a cult of knowledge, especially of the sciences which were considered a powerful instrument for Communist construction in the Soviet Union. On the other hand, militant and scientific atheists were very distrustful of past and present “bourgeois scholars” of Islam whom they considered natural enemies of Soviet power, society and scholarship. During the mass repression of the 1920s–1930s some Komsomol activists from the SVB helped the OGPU-NKVD political police in their “hunt” for the “vermin” (vrediteli) in Islamic studies. “It is absurd to think that a vermin armed with ‘scholarly’ glasses must be feared less than his associate who uses gas or any other deadly mask,” one militant atheist wrote in 1930.28 In 1931 the Communist Party functionary and historian of Central Asia, Mikhail Tsvibak (Zwieback, 1899–1937) initiated the persecution of the academic school head by the eminent Orientalist Vasilii Barthold (1869–1930). This resulted in the arrest of eleven university professors, known as bartol’dovtsy, who were already in exile in Tashkent.29 During the public campaign against what was called “rootless cosmopolitanism”(bezrodnyi kosmopolitizm) at the end of the 1940s, Liutsian Klimovich launched an attack on the academician Ignatii Krachkovskii and his school in Leningrad.30 At the same time, however, the militant and scientific atheists needed the Orientalists as providers of knowledge; Klimovich himself, for instance, referred to Aleksandr Semenov – who was from Barthold’s school – as the recognised authority on the Isma‘ilis in Central Asia.31 Barthold’s own works were especially highly appreciated in Soviet atheist scholarship. As Nikolai Smirnov put it in 1954, Barthold’s works “had not lost their importance to date and remained the key handbook for any scholar who studies Islam.”32

Even more striking is the interest of Soviet militant and scientific atheists in the missionary denunciators of Islam of the Tsarist era. The more they attacked pre-revolutionary Orthodox missionaries as “accomplices of the colonial tsarist rule, of the black-hundredists [chernosotentsy] and the reactionaries,” the more they followed them in the choice of their topics, in their language, and in their general approach to Islam in Russia. It is noteworthy that from a list of 159 pre-Soviet studies that Beliaev compiled and annotated for use by the SVB propagandists, 39 titles belonged to Orthodox missionary scholarship.33 In 1954 Nikolai Smirnov acknowledged that “there are some interesting pieces among the literature on Islam published by the Orthodox missions,” especially those devoted to “sectarians” (a term which, in Smirnov’s missionary parlance, meant Sufism and movements which developed out of Islam).34 Liutsian Klimovich and Moscow ethnographer Sergei Tokarev obtained their knowledge of Islam from missionary studies; Smirnov even accused Klimovich of “being tied to the chariot of missionaries who had denounced Islam.”35 In fact, in his atheist leaflets of the 1920s, Klimovich often quoted implicitly from little-known Orthodox missionary experts on Islam, such as N. Bogoliubovskii and Ia. Koblov.36 It is also easy to detect in Klimovich’s book Contents of the Qur’an (1930), in a chapter entitled “The Qur’an and the foundations of Christianity,” that message, thematic repertoire and the very style reveal a direct influence of the Russian missionary tradition.37 At the same time, Klimovich himself attacked his opponents, including Mikhail Tomara, for doing “missionary work” and playing into the hands of the “reactionary Muslim clergy” when they justified some early Islamic regulations.38 Similarly, Klimovich accused Professor Valentin Ditiakin of uncritical borrowing from Christian “missionary apologetics” when at one point Ditiakin stated that Islam ranked lower than Christianity.39

In contrast to pre-Soviet Orientalists and some Orthodox missionaries, like Nikolai Il’minskii and Gordii Sablukov, militant and scientific atheists did not have a good command of foreign and Oriental languages, with a few exceptions. While it seems that Klimovich and Ditiakin did read literature in French and German, their successors among scientific atheists relied in their writings exclusively on Russian-language literature of the imperial and Soviet periods. They thus depended on modern scholarly translations of those Islamic normative texts that they referred to for propagandist ends. That is why Kobetskii, chairman of the Department of Nationalities of the League of the Militant Godless, ordered Beliaev, one of the few atheists with a professional training in Oriental and Western languages, to compose his famous “reader” of extracts from original Muslim sources and Western Orientalist scholarship on the origin of Islam.40 Atheist propaganda preferred the old missionary Russian translation of the Qur’an that Gordii Sablukov from the Kazan Ecclesiastical Academy had produced at the end of the nineteenth century; a new Russian translation from Arabic, by Academician Krachkovskii, was published only in 1963, after his death. Leningrad Orientalists from Krachkovskii’s school never used Sablukov’s translation, given its inappropriate Orthodox allusions and its intricate, archaic style. Evgenii Beliaev shared this view. As he put it in 1931, “reading the Qur’an in Sablukov’s translation will bore to death even a very cheerful reader.”41 Nevertheless, most scientific atheists – including Klimovich – went on quoting the Qur’an from Sablukov’s translation, in the 1960s, and even into the mid-1980s.42

What is already evident is the continuity of late imperial and Soviet atheist Oriental studies with regard to the applied missionary approach to Islam, and in connection with political fears of Islam. Just like their missionary predecessors, the militant and later scientific atheists saw Russia and the “World of Islam” as natural antagonists that face each other in opposition. In both cases Orientalists became missionaries, agitating either for Orthodoxy or atheism. In other words, Soviet atheists took over the position of Orthodox missionaries aiming not at observation but at “denunciation” (oblichenie) and unmasking (razoblachenie) of Islam in the way pre-Soviet Kazan Orientalists had done. Thus Klimovich defined the goal of his 1929 book, The Contents of the Qur’an, as “to equip anti-religious propagandists with a systematic elementary knowledge of the Qur’an and expose its inner contradictions.”43 If we replace “anti-religious” by “anti-Islamic” or “counter-Muhammadan”, any Orthodox missionary of the nineteenth and early twentieth century would have eagerly supported this goal.

The Soviet successors of missionary Oriental studies also reproduced the latter’s misleading repertoire of Orientalist notions dating back to the age of colonial empires. Such terms as “clergy” (dukhovenstvo), “parish” (prikhod) and “holy war” (jihad) were taken from the dictionary of the Russian Orthodox Church of the imperial Synod period, and placed into an Islamic context. This terminology makes most “scientific” atheist writings – even those from the end of the Soviet period – seem very much out of date. Thus booklets of late Soviet philosophers about the foundations, past and present of Islam are full of questionable terms as “sectarians” (sektanty); this term is used, in a very confusing manner, for a multitude of realities, from religious movements that branched off from Islam (like the Isma‘ilis and the Baha’is) to adherents of Sufi brotherhoods, and to the religious legal schools in mainstream Sunni Islam (madhabs).44 Late Soviet ethnographers were no more scrupulous in borrowing from the vast body of pre-revolutionary missionary works of the “counter-Muhammadan” orientation. An interesting case in point is the textbook on ethnography of religions written in 1963 by Sergei Tokarev: despite the fervent scientific atheism of the whole study, the author involuntary introduces numerous Christian Orthodox allusions when he explains Islamic realities in Christian terms. For instance, Tokarev translates the eschatological image of the Mahdi – who, according to a widely held Muslim belief, will rule before the end of the World – as “the messiah in Islam” and “the Savior.” Furthermore, he attacks the “Muslim clergy” as exploiters and finds in “orthodox Islam” an “ecclesiastical literature in Arabic” and even a “Muslim Church” based on “vaquf property granted by the Caliphate state.”45 In Russian academic scholarship of Islam, all of these improper missionary notions had already been rejected in the nineteenth century.

Militant and scientific atheism was not only fundamentally ignorant but also genuinely afraid of Islam. Its adherents were especially fearful of the heterodoxy of popular cults “inspired by religious fanatics” who could not be controlled and challenged an “orthodox” Islam supervised by the state. Also, militant atheists from the SVB inherited from Orthodox missionaries a number of permanent phobias relating to the alleged Islamic threats to Russia from abroad. Paradoxically, most of these fears appeared to be of foreign origin. Thus, the influence of French Orientalist patterns is reflected in the terminology, especially in a number of “-isms” (“pan-Islamism,” “pan-Turkism,” and similar notions) that Orthodox missionaries and atheists alike constantly referred to. One of these fearful terms was “Muridism,” which was meant to comprise the Sufi networks that continued to function under Soviet rule in the North Caucasus, Central Asia and, to some extent, in the Volga region. “Muridism” became the object of study and denunciation in works of Nikolai Smirnov, Irshad Makatov and some philosophers. To a large degree, their studies were based on pre-revolutionary Russian observers who were not familiar with Sufism but who were warning about the “religious fanaticism” in backward Muslim borderlands of the country. Often this “fanaticism” was ascribed to local or foreign Islamic emissaries. To adopt this perspective meant to return to pre-revolutionary fears of Islam, as projected by missionary denunciators. Interestingly, Orthodox missionaries also used to blame Islam for its “fatalism” which prevented Muslim believers from social progress. The only difference was that in the Soviet times believers of all confessions were included in the dangerous category of “religious fanatics.”46

Of course, there were not only continuities but also ruptures between missionary and atheist “Islamology.” Atheist criticism of Islam reflected the changed confessional policy under the Soviets. It was also embedded in general slogans and topoi relating to different periods of the socialist building and the Cold War, such as class character of religion, Islam’s relation to feudal patriarchal survivals, the emancipation of women in the Muslim East, the campaigns for general literacy, the national liberation of the Third World and the struggle for peace in the World. Christian rhetoric was gradually supplanted by the new Soviet Marxist dictionary. At the same time, new topics and slogans, elaborated by scientific atheists in the late Soviet time, often correlated to concepts that their militant predecessors of the 1920s to 1940s had borrowed from Orthodox missionaries. These continuities and ruptures are presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Main topics of the denunciation of Islam in missionary and atheist scholarship

Orthodox mission before 1917

Militant atheism, 1920s–1940s

Scientific atheism, 1950–1980

Legendary origin of Muhammad’s biography

Class character of Islam; denial of Muhammad’s existence

Feudal nature of Islam; its patriarchal survivals

Inner contradictions of the Qur’an

Contradictions of the Qur’an, its exploiting class character

Unscientific character of the Qur’an and its contradictions

Superiority of Orthodox Christianity to Islamic faith

Superiority of freethinking to Islam

Superiority of modern science to Islam

Backwardness of marriage and family law according to sharia

Women’s exploitation and social inequality in Islam

Emancipation of Muslim women in the USSR

Ignorance and trickery in the cult of Muslim saints

Denunciation of the cult of Muslim saints

Harmful religious survivals in the cult of Muslim saints

Muridism and sectarians undermine Russian power in the Muslim East

Counter-revolutionary ties of Muridism and sectarians in Russia and abroad

Muridism and sectarians opposed to Orthodox Islam and Soviet legislation

Islamic threats to Russia: pan-Islamism and pan-Turkism

Counter-revolutionary Muslim clergy and imperialist threat

Muslim clergy in anti-Soviet politics of imperialism

In their anti-Islamic propaganda, scientific atheists creatively combined the repertoire of the missionary tradition with recent findings of Soviet scholarship. A good illustration of this phenomenon is the case of Mountain Daghestan, where the medieval Arab conquerors became popular Muslim saints. As is well-known, Russian missionaries from the Society for the Restoration of Orthodoxy in the Caucasus (1860–1917) considered the Caucasian mountaineers “weakly Islamised” by “foreigners” in the Middle Ages. They claimed that the local indigenous tradition was still based on ancient Christianity, which the local population had embraced by the tenth century A.D.; and it was this “authentic” religious tradition that the missionaries hoped to “restore” in the mountains.47 When the atheist philosopher Irshad Makatov analysed this interpretation, he painted the image of a greedy Muslim clergy who, as he claimed, deified the Arab conquerors to fleece the ignorant believers by collecting their donations at holy places, such as the ziyarats devoted to Shaykh Sulayman and Shalbuz on the top of Shalbuzdag Mountain in Southern Daghestan. To Makatov, the Arab warriors so revered by the benighted Muslims were but cruel foreign conquerors whom mountaineers had fought against for several centuries, as Soviet historians revealed. Here Makatov referred to oral traditions of the Arab conquest, presenting the Arabs as a medieval foreign intervention against the freedom and national independence of the mountaineers. Second, Makatov denied the historical existence of Shaykh Sulayman – the person worshiped on the top of Mount Shalbuzdag. He pointed out that the Arabic inscriptions in this holy place (pir) date only from the end of the eighteenth century, and not from the Arab conquest in the eighth century, nor from “700 years ago” (as the local legend had it). Makatov argued that the cult of Sulayman was based on fables invented by the modern clergy, and that the stories of his alleged miracles should be rejected. Here Makatov referred to Soviet alpinists who visited Shalbuzdag in 1959 and found nothing miraculous on the top of it.48 This narrative is a good sample of an atheist lecture dating from 1962. Some details point out to the Cold War historical context, such as the attempt to treat Islamisation as a kind of foreign intervention against the freedom-liking Caucasian peoples.

Islam Becomes a Religious Survival

While Orthodox missionaries had attempted to recover the authentic original Christian tradition of Russia’s Muslims from under later cultural layers of Islamic “barbarism,” atheist scholarship had its own way of combating Islam. The Soviet atheist discourse regarded Islam as a remnant of the past. In Soviet Russia of the 1920s, religion in general was declared a “remnant of the past” expected to disappear in the future socialist society. This notion was interpreted in political and legal terms. All remnants of the old regime were to be destroyed, including religion and religious courts and rituals, and were labelled as “harmful survivals of the past.” In 1928 a special bill “On Crimes that Are Survivals of the Tribal Past” was passed in some North Caucasian autonomous Muslim republics of the Russian Socialist Soviet Federation. It became part of the tenth chapter of the Russian Criminal Code in the version of 1926 and was in force until 1996.49 Similar laws were introduced in the criminal codes of in some other republics of the Union. This legal basis played a crucial role in the atheist propaganda of both godless associations. The SVB and the Knowledge Society assisted state and society in overcoming “harmful influences” of Islam which were “religious survivals” inherited from the past exploiting societies. Their activists were also asked to monitor and report all cases when the law on religious organisations was violated; religious organisations (in the context of Islam: mosque communities) were expelled from public life from the 1920s to the 1980s.

The notion of “religious survival”, as used in Soviet atheist scholarship with reference to Islam, was further elaborated by lawyers, curiously with the help of ethnographers. It is note-worthy (though not often taken into consideration) that the term goes back to positivist anthropologists, such as Edward B. Tylor and especially Lewis H. Morgan;50 Soviet anthropologists just appropriated and modified it. Tylor introduced the notion of “survival” into anthropological usage in the late nineteenth century; he defined it as “processes, customs, opinions, and so forth, which have been carried on by force of habit into a new state of society different from that in which they had their original home, and they thus remain as proofs and examples of an older constitution of culture out of which a newer has been evolved.”51 Under Soviet rule, Tylor’s works entered the canon of ethnography and history, which was studied and commented upon by each and every Soviet anthropologist – including those from the Muslim borderlands of the country, of course. Taylor’s model was considerably rethought in the late Soviet period, and became a generally accepted official cliché. Ethnographers essentialised the concept of “remnant of the past” by relying on the outdated notions of Tylor’s “survival” and that of a “savage society” constructed by Morgan on the example of the idealised nineteenth-century Iroquois society (which never existed in reality).52 Soviet scholars became accustomed to looking for ethnic and national “traditions” and putting them outside history. What is amazing is that also after the Second World War Soviet scholars turned their attention to the already vanished pre-Soviet past while almost completely ignoring the decades of socialist modernisation. This perspective determined approaches to and propaganda against Islam; Islam was considered an unchangeable “survival” of foreign origin.

The Russian Discourse on Islam after the Age of Scientific Atheism

Today views on Islam and religious tradition are again changing. The disintegration of the socialist polity in 1991 was accompanied by a stormy re-Islamisation in the ex-Soviet Muslim re-gions, including the North Caucasus, Central Asia and the Volga region. The Muslim spiritual elite recovered and even expanded its influence on local societies. They now enjoy the support of former Communist Party officials who have retained their leading positions in the republican governments. Islam has once again become a political trump card, and every politician hastens to assure believers that he loves and protects it. This is illustrated in a typical statement by the former president of Dagestan, Mukhu Aliev: “Without religion our history means nothing; therefore we will support our traditional religious movements, traditional religion… and strengthen the Republican Spiritual Board in this matter.”53

At first glance, the Islamic comeback may seem as a clean sweep of seventy years of forced secularism and atheist propaganda. One should, however, take into account that the re-Islamisation emerged in a context of, and in reaction to, the Soviet legacy. It presents a specific modern answer to challenges originating from the collapse of Soviet rule in the Muslim borderlands of Russia. Those who claim that Islamic tradition still persists in the mountains, forget that nowadays in, say, the North Caucasus, about two-thirds of the so-called Muslim mountaineers live in the plains of the country. There is no need to search for a local tradition where it no longer exists. In post-Soviet Russia, mythmaking about local Islamic traditions is characteristic of scholarship and politics alike.

Competing visions of native Islamic tradition have emerged. Two rival Muslim factions push the cause of re-Islamisation in the North Caucasus and other Muslim areas in Russia and the ex-Soviet space: the officially recognised Muslim elite in control of the republican spiritual boards that were established in the republican capitals in the early 1990s, and the dissidents generally referred to as “Wahhabis.” They are bitterly opposed to each other. Congregations of Wahhabis emerged at first in the Northern Caucasus. Their imams appealed for the “purification of Islam” from “illicit innovations” (bid‘as), such as the Sufi dhikr ritual of remembrance of God, visits to holy places, celebrations of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, recitations of the Qur’an in cemeteries (talqin), and the use of protective charms (sabab). They regarded the Qur’an and the Sunna as the only sources of an authentic Islamic tradition and did not consider their traditionalist opponents faithful Muslims, instead calling them “heathens” (mushrikun). It is interesting to note that the two competing Muslim factions accuse each other of not knowing the authentic, “real” Islam.54 Severely defeated in 1999 when the second Russian-Chechen War started, the Wahhabi movement went underground. Nevertheless, its defeat did not mean the reconciliation of competing visions of the custom of the Muslim mountaineers.

Today, no one speaks any more of Islam in Russia as of a “survival”, at least not officially, nor in scholarship. The Knowledge Society is still working in Russia but without its former atheist department. Most scientific atheists became scholars of religion (religiovedy). The Institute of Scientific Atheism disappeared with the Central Committee of the CPSU, or even earlier, in 1991. The Museum of the History of Atheism and Religion in St. Petersburg was expelled from the Kazanskii Cathedral, but still functions under the new name of the Museum of the History of Religion. Houses of Scientific Atheism in Bishkek and Tashkent have been closed for more than twenty years. That in Tashkent was transformed into the Republican Centre for Propagating Cultural Values in 1991. The Central House of Scientific Atheism in Moscow was abolished in 1991, but was then returned to the Knowledge Society, and reopened in 1993 as the Central House of Spiritual Heritage (Tsentral’nyi dom dukhovnogo naslediia),55 hosting amateur courses in the Arabic and Turkish languages, in cooperation with the Islamic Cultural Centre. Many former denunciators of religion turned into Islam’s no less excessive admirers. For instance, Professor Magomed Abdullaev, who used to offer his advice on how to liberate Daghestani society from the dominance of Islam, nowadays directs a religious foundation named after Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sughuri in Makhachkala, and instruct students in the “spiritual achievements” of Daghestani Sufis, on whose life he produced works of popular science. The same transformation happened to Mikhail Vagabov from Daghestani State University. Gasym Kerimov publicly repented his “atheist sins” and issued a textbook in which he calls upon Muslims to live according to the law of sharia.56 University chairs of scientific atheism were transformed into departments of religious studies. Most of the philosophers mentioned above are still alive, teaching at provincial universities and writing scholarly works on Islam. A new generation of philosophers specialising in religious studies has grown up under the supervision of these ex-scientific atheists.

To some degree, the Soviet atheist scholarship of Islam even prepared the ground for the emergence of the so-called Wahhabi schism in the North Caucasus, with Wahhabis having borrowed the “scientific” methods that are allegedly based on social progress and recent findings of natural sciences. Even more important, Soviet scientific atheists and contemporary Wahhabi dissidents have much in common. They reduce the doctrine of Islam to the Qur’an and Islamic tradition (al-Sunna), rejecting the long and erudite scholarly tradition of local Muslim scholars as non-Islamic. This can be done easily, because the knowledge of this tradition mostly disappeared under the conditions of antireligious repression and secularisation. Following involuntarily the way of late Soviet atheist propaganda, Wahhabis denounce the cult of holy places and Sufism as pagan practices introduced to Islam by the ignorant and greedy “Muslim clergy” that directs the Muslim spiritual boards in the republics of post-Soviet Russia.57 The very abusive style of such criticism is of Soviet atheist origin. And also the Wahhabi discourse knows a “remnant of the past”: this is, of course, not Islam, as in Soviet times, but the alleged pre-Islamic layer still maintained by what they call “ignorant people.”

All this testifies not only to the disappearance of the Soviet atheist discourse on Islam but also, to some degree, of continuity between Soviet atheist propaganda and present-day religious propaganda of Islam. Militant and scientific atheism have both died, but their cause is alive and still influences post-socialist knowledge and politics.

First published in: Grzegorz P. Bąbiak, Edmund Dmitrów, Jerzy Eisler et al. (eds.), Wiek nienawiści: Księga dedykowana Prof. Jerzemu W. Borejszy, Warszawa: Instytut Historii Polskiej Akademii Nauk, Instytut Pamięci Narodowej etc., 2014, p. 35–52.


* This paper is based on the author’s fieldwork conducted between 2008 and 2010 with the financial support of the Volkswagen Foundation in the framework of international research project on the Politicisation of Islam in the Rural Communities of the Former USSR: An Interregional Comparative Study, 1950s–2000s (directed by Dr. Prof. S. A. Dudoignon and Dr. Prof. Chr. Noack).


  1. In the Russian original these Godless verses (chastushki) against the prophet Muhammad written by a certain F. Malov sound as follows:
    …По аулам бога нет
    С той поры как учимся.
    Даже старый Магометс кораном улетучился…
  2. It is noteworthy that the early Soviet pattern of state secularism was much influenced by the French tradition of laicité dating back to the French Revolution, and
    developed under the Third and Fourth Republics. It is no coincidence that the first Soviet historical overview on the World History of Atheism drew mostly on French samples: I. Voronitsin, Istoriia ateizma, 5 vols. (Moscow: Ateist, 1928–1930), esp. vols. 2–5.
  3. Daniel Peris, Storming the Heavens: The Soviet League of the Militant Godless (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998).
  4. Ibid., pp. 4–5, fn. 12.
  5. Michael Kemper, “The Soviet Discourse on the Origin and Class Character of Islam, 1923–1933,” Die Welt des Islams 49 (2009): 1–48; idem, “Ljucian Klimovič. Der ideologische Bluthund der sowjetischen Islamkunde und Zentralasienliteratur”, Asiatische Studien – Etudes asiatiques 63, no. 2 (2009): 93–133.
  6. See, for instance, the CVs of Soviet Orientalists in S.D. Miliband’s Biobibliograficheskii slovar’ sovetskikh vostokovedov (Moscow: Glavnaia redaktsiia vostochnoi literatury, 1973), p. 43 (A.M. Arsharuni), pp. 72–73 (E.A. Beliaev), p. 124 (Kh.Z. Gabidullin), p. 255 (L.I. Klimovich), and p. 515 (N.A. Smirnov). No more informative in this respect are the two later editions of Miliband’s dictionary which appeared in 1995 and 2008.
  7. Leonard Shapiro, The Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 2nd ed. (New York: Random House, 1970), p. 439; Peris, Storming the Heavens, p. 2.
  8. Sovetskaia istoricheskaia entsiklopediia, vol. 3 (Moscow: Sovetskaia entsiklopediia, 1963), p. 816; Bol’shaia sovetskaia entsiklopediia, vol. 9 (Moscow: Sovetskaia entsiklopediia, 3rd ed., 1972), p. 555. Cf. Nathaniel Davis, A Long Walk to Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy (Oxford: Westview Press, 2003), p. 10.
  9. For more details on the complicated history of MIV and other Oriental studies educational institutions in Soviet Russia, see: N.A. Kuznetsova, L.M. Kulagina, Iz istorii sovetskogo vostokovedeniia (Moscow: Nauka, 1970); A.P. Baziiants, Lazarevskii institut v istorii otechestvennogo vostokovedeniia (Moscow: Nauka, 1973).
  10. Evgenii Beliaev (ed.), Proiskhozhdenie islama: khrestomatiia (Moscow: Moskovskii rabochii, 1931); idem, “Musul’manskoe sektanstvo,” in: Valentin Ditiakin (ed.), Islam (Moscow: Ateist, 1931); N.A. Smirnov, Islam i sovremennyi Vostok (Moscow: Bezbozhnik, 1928); idem, Sovremennyi islam (the second revised and extended edition of his monograph: Islam i sovremennyi Vostok [Moscow: Bezbozhnik, 1930]); idem, Chadra: proiskhozhdenie pokryvala musul’manskoi zhenshchiny i bor’ba s nim (Moscow: Bezbozhnik, 1929); idem, Musul’manskoe sektantstvo (Moscow: Bezbozhnik, 1930); idem, Islam i ego klassovaia rol’ (Moscow & Leningrad: GIZ, 1930). For details of the biographies of Beliaev and Smirnov, see: Aziia i Afrika segodnia 10 (1965): 261–262; V.I. Koretskii, “K semidesiatiletiiu Nikolaia Aleksandrovicha Smirnova,” Voprosy istorii 5 (1967): 170–171.
  11. Ia.V. Vasil’kov, M.Iu. Sorokina (eds.), Liudi i sud’by. Biobibliograficheskii slovar’ vostokovedov – zhertv politicheskogo terrora v sovetskii period (1917–1991) (St. Petersburg: Peterburgskoe vostokovedenie, 2003), pp. 42–43.
  12. Ibid. pp. 107, 362–364. Cf. Sofiia D. Miliband, Vostokovedy Rossii XX – nachalo XXI veka. Biobibliograficheskii slovar, 2 vols. (Moscow, 2008), vol. 1, pp. 63, 283.
  13. Ibid., p. 283.
  14. A.M. Reshetov, “Tragediia lichnosti: Nikolai Mikhailovich Matorin,” in: D.D. Tumarkin (ed.), Repressirovannye etnografy (Moscow: Vostochnaia literatura, 2003), pp. 147–192. Matorin continued his antireligious studies even when he was detained in a concentration camp near Tashkent. Before his execution in 1936 he wrote the Program for Gathering Materials on Religious Beliefs and Cult in Everyday Islam. See: Vasil’kov, Sorokina (eds.), Liudi i sud’by, p. 259.
  15. Miliband, Biobibliograficheskii slovar’, p. 255; Kemper, “Ljucian Klimovič,” p. 95.
  16. Vasil’kov, Sorokina, Liudi i sud’by, p. 376; Kemper, “The Soviet Discourse,” pp. 25–28.
  17. F.D. Ashnin, V.N. Alpatov, D.M. Nasilov, Repressirovannaia tiurkologiia (Moscow: Vostochnaia literatura, 2002), p. 20.
  18. Edward W. Said, Orientalism (London: Penguin Books, 1995, 2nd ed.), p. 285.
  19. Religioznye verovaniia narodov SSSR (Moscow & Leningrad: State Antireligious Publishers, 1931, vols. 1–2).
  20. Both of them changed the field of study. Klimovich turned to the Soviet literature in Oriental languages and Ditiakin to the history of freethinking in Renaissance Europe. See: V.T. Ditiakin, Leonardo da Vinchi (Moscow: Znanie, 1952); L.I. Klimovich, Znanie pobezhdaet (nekotorye voprosy kritiki islama) (Moscow: Znanie, 1967); idem, Pisateli Vostoka ob islame (Moscow: Znanie, 1978).
  21. See: I. Makatov, Kul’t sviatykh – perezhitok proshlogo (Makhachkala: Dagknigoizdat, 1962); M.V. Vagabov, Otnoshenie musul’manskoi religii k zhenshchine (Moscow: Znanie, 1962); M.A. Abdullaev, S.M. Gadzhiev, Pogovorim o musul’manskoi religii (Makhachkala: Dagknigoizdat, 1962); S.M. Gadzhiev, Puti preodoleniia ideologii islama (Makhachkala: Dagknigoizdat, 1963); M.A. Abdullaev (ed.), Ocherki nauchnogo ateizma (Makhachkala: Dagknigoizdat, 1972); I. Makatov, Islam, veruiushchii, sovremennost’ (Makhachkala: Dagknigoizdat, 1974); M.A. Abdullaev, M.V. Vagabov, Aktual’nye problemy kritiki i preodoleniia islama (Makhachkala: Dagknigoizdat, 1975); Iu.G. Petrash, Islom, fan, koinet (Tashkent: Fan, 1976); V.Iu. Gadaev, Dorogoi istiny (Grozny: Checheno-Ingushskoe knizhnoe izdatel’stvo, 1982).
  22. See: L.R. Gordon-Polonskaia, Musulmanskie techeniia v obshchestvennoi mysli Indii i Pakistana (Kritika musulmanskogo natsionalizma) (Moscow: Nauka, 1963).
  23. B.N. Konovalov, “Soiuz voinstvuiushchikh bezboznnikov,” Voprosy nauchnogo ateizma 4 (1967): 81. Cf. Lynne Viola, Peasants Rebels under Stalin: Collectivization and the Culture of Peasant Resistance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 42–43.
  24. Smirnov, Ocherki izucheniia islama v SSSR, p. 142.
  25. Muzei istorii ateizma i religii (Leningrad: Lenizdat, 1981).
  26. Peris, Storming the Heavens, p. 11.
  27. 60 let Obshchestvu “Znanie”: Prezidenty Obshchestva “Znanie” (Moscow: Znanie, 2007, leaflet), pp. 1–2.
  28. B. Khotinskii, “XVI s’ezd partii i nashi zadachi,” Etnografiia 4 (1930): 5.
  29. See the entries: “Alexander Alexandrovich Semenov,” and “Mikhail Meerovich Tsvibak,” in: Vasil’kov and Sorokina (eds.), Liudi i sud’by.
  30. See memories of the poet and translator Vasilii Benaki who had been trained in Iranian studies at the Oriental Faculty in post Second World War Leningrad and witnessed Klimovich’s attack on academic Orientalists in 1949: Vasilii Betaki, “Snova – Casanova,” Mosty 3–8 (2004), ch. 11. The work is available online at: http://bolvan.ph.utexas.edu/~vadim/betaki/memuary/V11.html.
  31. Liutsian Klimovich, Prazdniki i posty islama (Moscow: State antireligious publishers, 1941), pp. 15–16.
  32. Smirnov, Ocherki izucheniia islama v SSSR, p. 122. Cf. Evgenii Beliaev, “Bibliografiia po islamu na russkom iazyke (dorevolutsionnye izdaniia),” p. 133; Beliaev (ed.), Proiskhozhdenie islama: khrestomatiia, p. 9; S.A. Tokarev, Religiia v istorii narodov mira (Moscow: Politizdat, 1963), ch. 24.
  33. Beliaev, “Bibliografiia po islamu na russkom iazyke,” pp. 149–155.
  34. Smirnov, Ocherki izucheniia islama v SSSR, p. 82.
  35. Ibid., p. 166.
  36. N. Bogoliubovskii, Islam, ego proiskhozhdenie i sushchnost’ po sravneniiu s khristianstvom (Samara, 1885); Ya. Koblov, Antropologiia Korana v sravnenii s khistianskim ucheniem o cheloveke (Kazan, 1905).
  37. Liutsian Klimovich, Soderzhanie Korana (Moscow: Atheist, 1930, 2nd ed.), pp. 91–96.
  38. Liutsian Klimovich, “Marks i Engel’s ob islame i problema ego proiskhozhdeniia v sovetskom islamovedenii,” in: Revoliutsionnyi vostok. Organ nauchno-issledovatel’skoi assotsiatsii po izucheniiu natsional’nykh i kolonial’nykh problem 3–4 (1933): 71–75.
  39. Ibid., p. 74. For a substantial comment on reasons and tactics of this criticism, see: Kemper, “The Soviet Discourse,” pp. 42, 43.
  40. Beliaev (ed.), Proiskhozhdenie islama: khrestomatiia, pp. 9–10.
  41. Beliaev, “Bibliografiia po islamu na russkom iazyke,” p. 142. For the truth’s sake, one should note that the style of Krachkovskii’s translation is even more intricate for a Russian reader. Krachkovskii could not finish his translation, which therefore is often a verbatim translation from Arabic.
  42. See, for instance: Tokarev, Religiia v istorii narodov mira; L.I. Klimovich, Kniga o Korane (Moscow: Politizdat, 1986), passim.
  43. A.M. Arsharuni, “Bibliografiia po islamu,” in: Islam (Moscow: Bezbozhnik, 1931), p. 158.
  44. See: N.A. Smirnov, Musul’manskoe sektantstvo; Abdullaev and Gadzhiev, Pogovorim o musul’manskoi religii; Abdullaev (ed.), Ocherki nauchnogo ateizma; Makatov, Islam, veruiushchii, sovremennost’; Tokarev, Religiia v istorii narodov mira, passim.
  45. Ibid., passim, especially ch. 24.
  46. Cf. the treatment of God’s predestination (al-qadar) in Vladimir Cherevanskii, Mir islama i ego probuzhdenie (St. Petersburg, 1901), part 1, p. 320; and in: S.D. Skazkin (ed.), Nastol’naia kniga ateista (Moscow: Izdatel’stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1971), pp. 203, 241.
  47. Austin Jersild, Orientalism and Empire. North Caucasus Mountain Peoples and the Georgian Frontier, 1845–1917 (Montreal & London: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002), pp. 42–47.
  48. Makatov, Kul’t sviatykh - perezhitok proshlogo, 5, 9-10.
  49. V.O. Bobrovnikov, “Obychai kak iuridicheskaia fiktsiia: traditsionnyi islam v religioznom zakonodatel’stve postsovetskogo Dagestana”, Gumanitarnaia mysl’ Iuga Rossii, no. 1 (2006), 5.
  50. On the influence of Morgan’s views of primitive clan on Soviet anthropological and historical scholarship, see the excellent paper by Christian Dettmering, “Reassessing Chechen and Ingush (Vainakh) Clan Structures in the 19th Century,” Central Asian Survey 24, no. 4 (2005): 469–489.
  51. E.B. Tylor, Primitive Culture. Researches in the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Language, Art and Custom (New York: Henry Holt, 3rd ed., 1889, vol. 1), p. 16.
  52. For more details, see: Vladimir Bobrovnikov, “From Collective Farm to Islamic Museum? Deconstructing the Narrative of Highlanders’ Traditions in Daghestan,” in: Florian Mühlfried and Sergey Sokolovskiy (eds.), Exploring the Edge of Empire. Soviet Era Anthropology in the Caucasus and Central Asia, (Zürich, Berlin: Lit-Verlag, 2011), pp. 107–108, 111.
  53. A. Shikhsaidov, “Islam in Dagestan,” in: L. Jonson, M. Esenov (eds.), Political Islam and Conflicts in Russia and Central Asia (Stockholm: Swedish Institute of International Affairs, 1999), p. 65.
  54. Vladimir Bobrovnikov, “Post-Socialist Forms of Islam: North Caucasian Wahhabis”, ISIM Newsletter 7 (2001): 29.
  55. See the website of the Knowledge Society at: http://www.znanie.org/docs/DDN.html.
  56. Gasym M. Kerimov, Shariat – zakon zhizni musul’man (Moscow: RAGS, 2008). Cf. an atheist critical analysis of sharia by the same author: G.M. Kerimov, Shariat i ego sotsal’naia sushchnost’ (Moscow: Glavnaia redaktsiia vostochnoi literatury izdatel’stva Nauka, 1978).
  57. See, for instance, Baha’ al-din Muhammad, Namaz (Moscow: Sanlada, 1994), pp. 5–8. For a more detailed discussion of this question, see: Bobrovnikov, “Post-Socialist Forms of Islam,” p. 29; idem, Musul’mane Severnogo Kavkaza: obychai, pravo, nasilie (Moscow: Vostochnaia literatura, 2002), pp. 262–281.