Imperial Islam

An Online Project On The Archival Documents
Of  The Shia and The Sunni
Spiritual (Administrative-Religious) Organizations Of
The Imperial Russian State
In Transcaucasia (The South Caucasus)


Manouchehr Shiva


In the nineteenth century, four related organizations were created to function as part of the Russian Imperial State in Transcaucasia to deal administer the region’s Muslims.

The offices of the Sheikh-ul-Islam (for the Shia population) and of the Mufti (for the Sunnis population) were established in the 1820s, the Shia and the Sunni Ecclesiastical (Spiritual) Boards were officially formed in the early 1870s.

These organizations had their centers in Tiflis (Tbilisi). After the collapse of the Russian Empire and creation of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Organizations’ documents were sent from Tbilisi to Ganja, and then to Baku.

In 2008 took images of many of the documents of the above organizations at the archives in Baku.



Teamwork and Financing
I have started to put the images on the internet. The process of editing, categorizing, posting, transcribing, translating, explaining, interpreting, and contextualizing all of the documents takes teamwork by individuals who are interested in the subjects covered in the images, and also know how to read the texts in any, or any combination of the four languages used. Azerbaijani, Persian, and Russian are the main languages, but Arabic is also used is some documents. It also needs financing.

For now, a major goal is to attract enough interest in order to start crowdfunding the project.




I would like to thank those at the National Archives of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and those who helped me to access the files and take the images.

I would also like to thank Dr. P. Ahanchi of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, who introduced me to the Islamic Organizations’ archival documents, and has joined this project. Dr. Ahanchi’s contributions are marked with the letters PA.


Files and Posts

The archival system in Azerbaijan used the same method or structure for archival files.

Each post on this site corresponds to an archival file, with the first image of the post being the file’s cover.

The number of pages of each file varies; from one to a couple of hundreds.

For the smaller files I am posting images of all or most of the pages. For the larger files, for now, I am only posting images the first few pages.

I am organizing the posts using categories consisting of subjects and years. As I continue posting the images, I will add to the categories. Each post is given more than one category. The categories are turned into pages on the top of the Home page. Each category page consists of a collection of posts with that category.