Lectures: Islam in Russia and the NIS

Back to Eastern Europe and Central Asia

This series of digital lectures provides an overview of Islam in the Russian Federation, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. In this series, prominent scholars of history, sociology, religious studies, and literature discuss themes such as the history of Islam in the region, how religious belief and practice survived seven decades of state-sponsored atheism during the Soviet period, and the reemergence of Islamic practice, culture, and scholarship today in Russia, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. The lectures were originally recorded in June 2008 during a three-day a workshop for middle- and high school teachers, sponsored by the Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia (CREECA) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

  1. The General and Historical Meanings of Islam
    by Prof. Ovamir Anjum (20 minutes)
  2. The Nature of Islam in Today?s Central Asia
    by Prof. Russell Zanca (30 minutes)
  3. Central Asian Muslims and Islam under Russian and Soviet imperialism
    by Prof. Uli Schamiloglu (40 minutes)
  4. Does the North Caucasus Region of Russia Deserves Its Reputation as a “Cauldron of Terrorism”?
    by Prof. Theodore Gerber (30 minutes)
  5. Geography, Religion and Identity in the North Caucasus Region of the Russian Federation
    by Prof. Michael Khodarkovsky (10 minutes)
  6. Religion in Azerbaijan
    by Prof. Anna Oldfield (42 minutes)

1. Ovamir Anjum: the General and Historical Meanings of Islam

MP3 (20 minutes)
In this short digital lecture, Ovamir Anjum, a scholar of Islamic intellectual history, talks about the general and historical meanings of Islam. He also explains the significance of some of the pillars of Islam, such as prayers, fasting, alms giving and pilgrimage. Dr. Anjum, who received his Ph.D. in Islamic intellectual history in the Department of History of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is the Imam Khattab Chair of Islamic Studies in the Department of Philosophy, University of Toledo. During 2007-2009, he was a senior fellow at the Lubar Institute for the Study of the Abrahamic Religions (LISAR) at UW-Madison, and also taught in the Religious Studies Program. In addition to contemporary Islamic thought and movements, Dr. Anjum?s work focuses on the history of theology, politics and law in classical and medieval Islam, with a comparative interest in Western thought. He has long been involved in speaking to and organizing local Muslim communities in the US and encouraging dialogue among the various communities of faith.

2. Russell Zanca: the Nature of Islam in Today?s Central Asia

MP3 (30 minutes)

In this short digital lecture, prominent Central Asia specialist Russell Zanca discusses the nature of Islam in today?s Central Asia, focusing on the themes of the early spread of Islam, the rise of Sufism and other famous orders, and Islamic religious practices and saints in five countries of Central Asia. Dr. Zanca is an associate professor of anthropology at Northeastern Illinois University. He is co-editor with Jeff Sahadeo of Everyday Life in Central Asia and is the author most recently of Big Cotton Plantations: Uzbeks After Soviet Socialism. He has conducted research on the political economy of collective farming in Central Asia, and has written on other topics relating to gender, nationalism, religion, and post-Soviet identity.

3. Uli Schamiloglu: Central Asian Muslims and Islam under Russian and Soviet imperialism

MP3 (40 minutes)

Dr. Schamiloglu is a professor in the Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia, Chair of the Central Asian Studies Program and Director of the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The lecture was produced by Fatima Sartbaeva. David Macasaet, a media production consultant, and Shahin Izadi at L&S Learning Support Services provided production support. The traditional Kazakh music was recorded by Andy Hassan and performed by Sekuntai.

4. Theodore Gerber: Does the North Caucasus Region of Russia Deserves Its Reputation as a “Cauldron of Terrorism”?

MP3 (30 minutes)

Theodore Gerber addresses the question using survey data from the North Caucasus, the presentation looks at people’s attitudes regarding topics such as Islam, Russia, and jihad and offers some surprising conclusions about what kinds of issues concern respondents the most. Dr. Gerber is a professor of sociology and Director of the Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also an expert on the sociology of economic and political change in contemporary Russia and the author of numerous articles on such topics as the Russian labor market, HIV/AIDS in the eyes of Russian health care experts, contemporary Russian views of Stalin, and human rights in Chechnya.

5. Michael Khodarkovsky: Geography, Religion and Identity in the North Caucasus Region of the Russian Federation

MP3 (10 minutes)

Michael Khodarkovsky, a scholar of Russian history, talks about geography, religion and identity in the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation. Dr. Khodarkovsky is a professor of history at Loyola University in Chicago. He is the author of numerous articles about the history and politics of Russian colonial expansion into Eurasia. His recent books include Where Two Worlds Met: The Russian State and the Kalmyk Nomads, 1600-1771, and Russia?s Steppe Frontier: The Making of a Colonial Empire, 1500-1800.

6. Anna Oldfield: Religion in Azerbaijan

MP3 (42 minutes)

Anna Oldfield talks about music, culture, and religious faith in Azerbaijan. Using examples from traditional Azerbaijani music, Dr. Oldfield discusses the significant role of music in Islam?s survival in Azerbaijan over seven decades of state-imposed atheism during the Soviet period. Dr. Oldfield received her PhD in Languages and Cultures of Asia at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in May 2008. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and holds a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Asian Studies at Hamilton College, NY. She previously spent two years in Azerbaijan as a Fulbright fellow, where she researched the music of women epic singers. Dr. Oldfield?s book, Azerbaijani Women Poet-Minstrels: Women Ashiqs from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, is the first to study women bards in the Caucasus. We regret that, because the levels were not set correctly during the recording of Dr. Oldfield?s lecture, the volume and sound quality is uneven.