Transcaucasia’s Muslim Religious Boards in The Russian Empire

Introduction by Anastasia Ganich

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“The written sources that make up this thematic unit reflect the process of Islam’s evolution in the Russian Empire, in particular its institutionalization in the Transcaucasian provinces. The documents are of various types: from legislative drafts to ritual texts. Among the myriad documents discovered, the ones that were selected were those that can show most vividly the two parallel worlds of Transcaucasia during the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. They were, on the one hand, the world of the Russian civilian and military bureaucracy and the lawmakers who determined and designed Islamic reality in the political space of the empire. On the other, the realm of religious sacrament, experience, tradition and daily life, which was represented by the followers of the religion of Islam themselves. Two completely dissimilar realities that were little known to each other and that through a confluence of historical fates confronted the necessity of interacting and developing together. The alienation between the worlds was the primary reason for the ineffectiveness of the legislative activity aimed at regulating the religious life of the empire’s Muslims, which inevitably resulted in a permanent growth of a lack of understanding and rejection by the local populace of the government’s legislative initiatives.”