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  • "Pillars of the Nation"The Making of a Russian Muslim Intelligentsia and the Origins of Jadidism
  • Mustafa Tuna (bio)

Historians who study imperial Russia's Muslims have long used the term "intelligentsia" as well as the corresponding Turkic words such as ziyâlιlar and aydιnlar (enlightened ones) to refer to or in relation to a turn of the 20th-century phenomenon that is otherwise known as "Jadidism" (cedîdcilik), which might loosely be interpreted as modernist or progressive reformism among the tsarist empire's Muslims.1 The Kazan Tatar-origin Turkish scholar Akdes Nimet Kurat, for instance, describes Jadidism in a seminal 1966 article as a social and cultural movement with political implications that emerged from the introduction of usûl-i cedîd (the new method), or modern education, among Russia's Muslims by the famous Crimean Tatar publisher and activist İsmâ'îl Bey Gasprinskiy (1851–1914) in the 1880s. Thereafter, Kurat uses intelligentsia, ziyâlιlar, and aydιnlar interchangeably to refer to a network (kitle, lit. mass) of activists who helped spread the "new method" or were products of it.2 The eminent Kazan Tatar historian Mirkasym Usmanov [End Page 257] concurs; he also uses ziyâlιlar and intelligentsiia interchangeably.3 Edward Lazzerini uses "intelligentsia" to refer to educated elites while distinguishing between Islamic scholars as the "religious intelligentsia" and Jadidists as the "secular intelligentsia."4 Danielle Ross further qualifies Lazzerini's "secular intelligentsia" with ideological designators such as "liberal," "nationalist," and "revolutionary,"5 a position that I have also emphasized, although with less emphasis on the term "intelligentsia."6

Thus the existence of a Russian Muslim intelligentsia, and its correspondence to or connections with Jadidism as a progressive reformist movement among Russia's Muslims, seems to be taken for granted in the literature with a few exceptions, which I discuss below.7 However, while the conceptual history of the term "intelligentsia" has been a fruitful topic of research in the context of the Russian and especially the Polish intelligentsias,8 a similar study in the context of Russia's Muslims has not yet been undertaken. Even the otherwise remarkable Tatar Encyclopedia does not offer an entry on intelligentsiia or its likely Turkic equivalent ziyâlιlar.9 In this article, I trace the [End Page 258] emergence and early evolution of the concept of intelligentsia among Russia's Muslims, with a focus on Russia proper as distinct from the later colonized territories of the Caucasus region and Central Asia.

In addition to marking the birth of the Russian Muslim intelligentsia during the revolution of 1905, this conceptual history provides important insights about the self-perception and societal positioning of the Russian Muslim intelligentsia. Most important, it highlights how Muslim intellectuals modeled themselves after the Russian, Polish, and other intelligentsias in conceiving of themselves as an intelligentsia, partly due to Gasprinskiy's notable role in translating Russian conceptions of the intelligentsia into the Russian Muslim context. It also documents how the early Russian Muslim intelligentsia perceived itself as a secular societal force responsible for and in charge of bringing progress to Russia's Muslims and, which is important, as distinct from the ulama, the network of Islamic scholars. Therefore, although one might conceptualize the Russian Muslim intelligentsia for purposes of historical analysis as broadly including at least some Islamic scholars, this has to be done with caution, because the early 20th-century Russian Muslim language of practice designated the "intelligentsia" as a more specific cohort of lay activists. This designation did not automatically exclude individuals with an Islamic education—especially since opportunities for lay education remained significantly limited for most Muslims in the empire. For inclusion, however, it required commitment to a modernist and secularist mode of progress as promoted by Gasprinskiy, those like him, and their followers among Russia's Muslims.10 The term "Jadidism" would inherit this connotation from its precursor "intelligentsia" when it became popular in the aftermath of the revolution of 1905.

An understanding of the conceptual history of "intelligentsia" among Russia's Muslims becomes even more critical in light of a relatively new intervention in the field that aims to enable alternative pathways of study in the historiography of...


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