Muslim Reformers and the Bolsheviks: The Case of Daghestan
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AUA Adjunct Lecturer Naira Sahakyan Publishes Monograph

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YEREVAN, Armenia  — The American University of Armenia (AUA) is proud to share that AUA Adjunct Lecturer Naira Sahakyan’s monograph titled “Muslim Reformers and the Bolsheviks: The Case of Daghestan” was recently released by Routledge, a leading academic publisher within humanities and social sciences. The book explores the experiences of the Muslim scholars of Daghestan in the 1917 Russian Revolution and how they attempted to gain religious and political authority in the new post-imperial environment.

“This book is based on my doctoral dissertation that I defended at the University of Amsterdam in 2021. It is the outcome of five years of research, during which I visited Daghestan many times, collecting data in state and private archives of Daghestan and traveling across the country. Congruent with my academic background in Arabic and Islamic Studies, Muslim-populated Daghestan has been within my field of interest for long. I was particularly interested in Daghestani manuscripts and the large number of Arabic-language Islamic manuscripts found outside the Arab world,” remarks Sahakyan.

The book uses many Arabic and Turkish language primary sources that have recently become available, thus contributing new knowledge to the field. As Sahakyan notes, nowadays only a small group of Daghestanis read Arabic, which makes it difficult for them to study their own history. “I tried to offer Daghestanis something that they could read and use to learn more about their own history, and to keep an important part of their identity alive. It is extremely important to fill the gaps in their identity,” she notes.

Covering the period between the February Revolution and the first massive repressions of scholars of Islam, and providing new insights into the complexities of the relations between Muslim reformers and Bolsheviks, Sahakyan’s analysis challenges the dominant view in Western scholarship, revealing that the relations between the two sides were pragmatic rather than ideological. While there was power struggle and disagreements between the Muslim reformers and the Bolsheviks particularly concerning the latter’s atheism, the book argues that they cooperated on issues of modern education and language policy and formed alliances against assumed common threats. These interrelations demonstrate that, in spite of being influenced by the wider Islamic debate at the turn of the twentieth century, the Islamic reformist discourse in Daghestan was also an integral part of Soviet modernity. 

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.