Islam and Ethnicity in Russia: An Introduction
The essays in this forum discussion examine the question of the relationship between Islam and ethnicity in Russia from the perspective of a variety of everyday Muslim experiences and of social or official discourses about Islam. The forum unravels these complex ways of living and thinking about Islam, in which ethnicity may or may not play a role from pious Muslims forming a ‘halal movement’; Central Asian migrants; Tatar Muslim officials, Islamic clerics from the past and nationalists; Muslims in the eastern and western parts of the North Caucasus and, finally, Shia Muslims, a diverse group composed of autochthones and migrants. At the core of a study of the relation between Islam and ethnicity we find the question of whether these two aspects of identity are distinct or if they can and do merge and even reinforce each other.
The aim of this special issue is to explore, from the perspective of various notions of space, the manifold ways in which Muslims in Russia live and practice their religion. We aim to analyse how Muslims in Russia are confronted in the practice of their religion with various conceptual and experiential realms. These realms correspond to certain divisions that they must negotiate and navigate. Examples of these include the boundaries between the secular and the religious; the public and the private; the official and the informal or unofficial; the local and the translocal/transregional/transnational; halal and haram, etc. Looking at Islam through the lens of space allows us to explore the dynamic ways in which Muslims in Russia have continued to creatively redefine, negotiate, reinforce, alter and dissolve these boundaries and divides since the fall of the Soviet Union. Diverse experiences and perceptions of Muslim spaces further help us to relate the question of the (re)appearance of these Muslim spaces to the process of de-secularisation that is currently taking place in post-Soviet Russia. In particular, we aim to clarify how the relationship between the secular realm and the Islamic religion is being reconfigured by examining how Muslim lives integrate, transcend and alter the normative dichotomies that are present in official discourses on Islam. We thus want to look ethnographically at the relationship between the ways in which normative categories define and delimit certain realms and the ways in which Muslims live their religion by creatively shaping and experiencing spaces that go beyond these normative divisions. In addition, this special issue explores the question of how the (re)creation of Muslim spaces is linked to processes of becoming Muslim, of cultivating a Muslim self and of experiencing different (but often simultaneous) identities and forms of personhood.
The book deals with the historical process of the spread of Islam in the territory of the modern Russian Federation, and partly the republics of the former Soviet Union, characterized by the features of traditional Russian Islam. It also assesses the development of interaction and cooperation between Russia and the states of the Organization of Islamic Solidarity and other international associations of islamic states. The existing problems and prospects of development of relations between Russia and the world Muslim community are studied.
The renewed interest for Sufism, in the form of the celebration of a Sufi past, and the presence of Naqshbandi Sufi brotherhoods in the Volga and Urals ask the question of the place of Sufism in the region’s broader Islamic revival. In particular, how is Sufism related to the concept of “traditional Islam” as a central official category that seeks to define a local Islam? In order to understand how the place of Sufism is negotiated in relation to the notion of a local Islam, we analyse both how Sufism is integrated into the concept of traditional Islam on a more official level and how Sufi murids view their place in the Islamic revival. We refer to the literature on Sufism and its critiques and to new interpretations of the Volga-Ural Muslim history to highlight how negative images of the phenomenon and previous theological disputes form the background against which the Sufi revival takes place. Drawing on the idea of Sufism’s “disappearance” from a historical narrative in Soviet times and on the importance of anti-Sufi critiques in fashioning this narrative, we aim to understand how a new narrative on Sufism emerges on an official level and how it connects or not with the way Sufi murids perceive their beliefs and practices. By analysing convergences and divergences in official perceptions of Sufism and the perceptions of Sufi murids, we examine how the question of Sufism sheds light on the paradoxes in the concept of traditional Islam. Hence, Sufism challenges the image of a unified theological heritage as a foundation for traditional Islam, as it brings to the fore the anti-Sufi critique of previous Jadids. While official views and the views of Sufi murids converge on a more theological definition of traditional Islam understood as the three dimensions of Islam (islam, iman and ihsan), Sufism also raises the question of religious authority. Indeed, the spiritual hierarchies represented by Sufi tariqas may not be easy to reconcile with an official Muslim representation. Finally, Sufi murids refer to the notion of a local sacred geography, but also emphasise the transnational and transregional connections established by Sufi tariqas, thus pointing to another understanding of locality.
The four contributions to this special section aim to study Islam in Russia from below, by examining how Muslims in Russia live and experience their vision of the Islamic religion in conformity and/or dissonance with official categories of Islam, or by simply moving beyond them. The contributions in this collection start from the idea that the study of Islam in Russia is inevitably confronted with normative discourses about acceptable and undesirable forms of Islam. These normative discourses are represented in the categories of “traditional” and “non-traditional Islam” that contributors to the section examine and interrogate through the perceptions and experiences of their Muslim informants. A number of questions arise when we examine the relationship between lived, grassroots Muslim experiences – Islam perceived from below – and top-down normative discourses. First, we can ask whether official categories reflect emic self-definitions, ways in which Muslims in Russia define themselves, taking into account that these emic terms are in flux. We can also ask about the nature of grassroots Muslim experiences: do they inevitably emerge outside of official Muslim institutions, or do we find a variety of grassroots Muslims, not all clearly identifiable on a religious level? Second, we can consider what increased religiosity, taking different forms, might mean for the perception of official dichotomies, along with the role of the Muftiates at the intersection between state discourses and grassroots Muslims. Does increased religiosity dissolve, alter or consolidate divisions drawn on an official level? The ethnographies in this section reveal that the exploration of Islam tends to produce unique trajectories among Muslims in Russia that cannot always be clearly located on a theological spectrum. The religious trajectories carved out by Muslims in Russia are constantly evolving and responding to a changing socio-political environment.
This article is talking about state management and cultural policy, their nature and content in term of the new tendency - development of postindustrial society. It mentioned here, that at the moment cultural policy is the base of regional political activity and that regions can get strong competitive advantage if they are able to implement cultural policy successfully. All these trends can produce elements of new economic development.