Hagiographic sources from nineteenth-century Inner Russia and Khvārazm indicate the existence of a cluster of Muslims opposed to the state-supported Islamic institutions of the Russian Empire. Many Muslim scholars of the period did not accord the Volga-Ural region the status of an ‘abode of Islam,’ as they considered it to be a ‘land of ignorance.’ This paper examines the significance attached by Muslims of Inner Russia to the pious rhetoric of resettlement from a ‘land of ignorance’ to the ‘abode of Islam’. I argue that the opposition to the already well-established imperial structures in the Volga-Urals resulted in the formation of a powerful migrant community near Urgench, Khvārazm, that used the Naqshbandiya-Mojaddediya Sufi networks as a stable bridge to home.
This article explores the revitalization of interest in Islamic literature in the post-Stalinist Soviet Union. A broad picture of the preservation and transmission of religious knowledge in atheistic society appears in the biography of Zainap Maksudova (1897–1980), a scholar of Tatar manuscripts who spent her life collecting and interpreting the written legacy of Muslim intellectuals from the Volga-Urals region. Considering Maksudova’s experiences in religious and academic studies, this article draws attention to a cohort of specialists with similar interests and life experiences. Maksudova was at the forefront of this cohort and produced major works on the intellectual history of Muslims in Inner Russia. Muslim Soviet scholars navigated the difficult terrain between the study of the Islamic past and the ideological structures of the Soviet academic establishment. These specialists also served as a bridge between the circles of religious personnel and secularized academics. Such a bridge enabled the exchange of ideas, establishing a common discourse on the shared past.