This paper takes stock of “Islamic media” in the ussr by reviewing the kinds of sources that are available for the study of Islam in the Soviet Union, and, more importantly, exploring how social historians can use them. What follows is a detailed discussion of three genres of materials: anti-religious propaganda; correspondence of the official organizations engaged with Islam; and what, for convenience’s sake, I will term Islamic samizdat (popular religious literature and the few available autobiographies of ‘ulama).
sadum, the muftiate of the Soviet Central Asian republics, operated three Islamic educational establishments at various times in the half century following World War ii. This article argues that, far from being rubber-stamp bodies imparting official propaganda, these madrasas benefited from significant influence from three constituencies in the religious sphere: the state, sadum, and influential unregistered ʿulamā beyond the reach of both. As institutions at the intersection of “official” and “unofficial” Islam, they offer historians of Soviet Central Asia a rare glimpse into debates about Islamic education under communism.
This paper traces the development of the historiography of Islam in Soviet Central Asia from the Cold War’s outset to the present by illustrating its uncritical reproduction of modernist and communist templates for describing Muslim religiosity, and its debt to two foundational frames of Soviet antireligious propaganda: “survivals” and “nationalized Islam.” It highlights the important implications of these frames for this scholarship’s development, i.e., its assumptions concerning “normativity” and the “poverty” of Central Asian Islam, as well as the urban-rural divide’s salience in religious life. The essay concludes with a survey of recent scholarship on the subject.