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The clash between Communism and Islam in the Soviet Union pitted two socio-political systems against one another, each proclaiming ultimate truth. This study examines the first decades of the struggle in Central Asia (1917-1941), where an ancient religious tradition faced an aggressive form of secular modernity. The Soviets attempted to break down Muslim culture and remold it on Marxist-Leninist lines. Central Asians played complex roles in this effort, both defending and attacking Islam, but mostly trying to survive. Despite Stalin's totalitarian aims, the Soviet regime in Central Asia was often weak even into the 1930s, and by 1941 the opposing systems had reached a standoff.
The Communist Party pursued the destruction of Islam in stages, which reflected the development of Soviet political strength. The party developed propaganda that both attacked Islam and extolled the new Soviet culture. However, the entire process was plagued by inefficiency, ignorance, and disobedience. By 1941, the Communists had inflicted tremendous damage, but customs such as circumcision, brideprice, and polygyny had merely gone underground. Central Asians had not exchanged the fundamental identity of Muslim for Marxist-Leninist. Keller utilizes documents from Moscow and Tashkent, including the now-closed former Communist Party Archive of Uzbekistan.
- Table of Contents
Imperial Russia and Islam
Old Empire on a New Basis
Soviet Central Asia: Laying a Foundation
Discussing the Problem
This well-presented, erudite study examines the struggle in Central Asia between the atheistic Soviet communist regime and Islam's ancient religious and political traditions. Upper-division undergraduates and above.
[A] major contribution to the field of modern Central Asian studies, and also to the modern history of the Islamic world.
Keller's use of primary documents and astute scholarship shines through in this splendid work designed for professionals and advanced researchers.
Keller's book is one of the first to explore the Soviet treatment of Islam in Central Asia in this period, the revolutionary first decades of Soviet rule....Keller's conclusions about the survival of Islam and traditional Central Asian identities are particularly perspicacious. Keller's book is an important contribution to the literature.
...addresses the Soviet campaigns to suppress Islamic institutions in Central Asia in the period before the Second World War.
This substantial scholarly work traces the evolution of Tsarist Russian and Soviet policy toward Islam in Central Asia, especially the republic if Uzbekistan...Anyone who wants to understand the impact of Tsarist and Soviet policy on the place of Islam in Central Asian society should read this book.
These are broad issues that students of early Soviet Central Asia will have to grapple with as more works follow this pioneering study and benefit from the valuable contribution it makes to our understanding of a crucial period of modern Central Asian history.