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  • Мусульман- ское "сектантство" в Российской империи: "Ваисовский Божий полк староверов-мусульман" 1862-1916 гг
  • Gary Guadagnolo (bio)
Д. М. Усманова . Мусульман- ское "сектантство" в Российской империи: "Ваисовский Божий полк староверов-мусульман" 1862-1916 гг. Казань: Фэн, 2009. 568 с. ISBN: 5-9690-0071-X.

In Muslim "Sectarianism" in the Russian Empire: The Vaisov Holy Regiment of Muslim Old-Believers, 1862-1916, Diliara Usmanova, professor of history at Kazan Federal University, charts a tumultuous tale of religious dissidence, institutional persecution, social unrest, and political upheaval in the waning decades of tsarist Russia. Usmanova's greatest achievement is her thoughtful engagement with the larger historical trends that this tale of sectarian intrigue brings to light. Although membership in the Holy Regiment of Muslim Old Believers remained low, numbering only somewhere between 2,000 and 15,000 people at its zenith in the early twentieth century, Usmanova uses the movement to contextualize broader patterns of modernity, secularization, nationalism, and political radicalization that shaped the experiences of many people throughout the Russian Empire. Usmanova provides texture, depth, and complexity to trends incessantly [End Page 495] cited in scholarship, yet rarely scrutinized adequately. Usmanova's work deserves a wide readership not only for its insightful analysis into this peculiar movement, but also as a useful model for how to treat intersecting religious, ethnic, social, and political themes with clarity and acumen.

Muslim "Sectarianism" in the Russian Empire recounts the history of the Vaisov Holy Regiment of Muslim Old Believers, a movement that gained a foothold among the Muslim population of the Volga region and then spread to other parts of the empire in the decades leading up to 1917. At the helm of the Holy Regiment was a self-titled sheikh of the Naqshbandi Sufi Brotherhood, Bagautdin Vaisov (1810[?]-1893), who was succeeded by his son Gainan Vaisov (1878-1918) and then later another son, Gazizian Vaisov (1887-1963). Given the unique agendas, personalities, and worldviews of each of these men, Usmanova primarily frames her history of the Holy Regiment around their biographies. Her introduction summarizes the historiography of the Vaisov movement and the themes and sources that carry the book. Two chapters follow, the first concerned with the inception of the Holy Regiment under Bagautdin Vaisov from the 1860s to the fin de siècle. The second chapter takes up the period of Gainan Vaisov's leadership at the beginning of the twentieth century until the eve of the 1917 revolutions. At this point, Usmanova ends her narrative and provides, as a way of a lengthy appendix, over 350 pages of archival documents concerning the Vaisov sect, the vast majority published here for the first time. A brief conclusion holds together the Vaisov movement's various and, at times, contradictory religious, political, social, and national aspects; it brings the reader back to Usmanova's primary assertion that the Holy Regiment of Muslim Old Believers, "itself not constituting a single and unchanging phenomenon, therefore does not yield a simple interpretation" (P. 517).

The author's three-pronged periodization of the history of the Vaisov Holy Regiment merits further examination. The first era stretches over two decades from the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s. Here, Usmanova reconstructs the biography of two men, Bagautdin Vaisov and his teacher, the sheikh Dzhagfar al-Kulatky al-Bulgari Salikhov (1790-1862). Usmanova notes how Vaisov positioned himself as the heir to Salikhov, crediting his influential teacher with the idea of creating a movement existing outside of traditional Islamic structures. To this end, Usmanova details the central tenets of Vaisov's doctrine by looking at the doctrinal tracts that guided the Holy Regiment after its founding on November 11, 1862. Vaisov, while [End Page 496] vowing to support and pray for the Russian tsar, dismissed local and central bureaucrats as emissaries of Satan. He held the Orenburg Muslim Spiritual Assembly, the official administrative unit for the Russian Empire's Muslims, in particular disregard, accusing the ruling muftis of corruption and collaboration with Russians in order to weaken Islam. Not surprisingly, this provoked considerable animosity between Vaisov and government-sanctioned Muslim leaders.

Two other precepts of Vaisov's doctrine also warrant attention. First, Vaisov advanced a bold eschatological program, presenting himself as a harbinger of the end of the world, which he predicted would take place in 1882. He condemned the vices of society, pointing in particular at the...


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