‘If a bourgeois revolution is to start in Russia, it will begin with Tatarstan,’ Kazan historian says

Kazan Tatars protest against the state-imposed policies of Russification. Tatarstan, Russian Federation, circa 2013. (Image: social media)

Kazan Tatars protest against the state-imposed policies of Russification. Tatarstan, Russian Federation, circa 2013. (Image: social media) 

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Just as jadidist writers like Yosef Akchura played a key role in elaborating “the Tatar model” that became the basis for Turkey’s post-Ottoman transformation, “if a bourgeois revolution does begin in Russia, it will start with Tatarstan,” according to Kazan historian Rafael Mukhametdinov.

Rafael Mukhametdinov, historian at the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences

Rafael Mukhametdinov, historian at the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences

In thinking about the future, the long-time specialist of Turkic societies at the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences argues in a major article in Kazan’s Business-Gazeta, many are inclined to forget two things:

  • Religion plays a continuing role in many societies even now and
  • Revolutionary change typically starts from one point and spreads.

A major reason that the Arab world and Russia have not made the transition to modernity, however great their incomes from the sale of raw materials, is that they have not modernized religion and transformed it from a force ruling society into one that is something personal for each individual, the historian argues.

“In the Arab world,” for example, “an industrial society and a bourgeoisie as a class have still not been formed,” Mukhametdinov says. As a result, “if you discount the income from oil and gas, the GDP of Spain with its 35 million people is greater than the combined GDP of all Arab countries with a population of more than 200 million.”

The transition to modernity and the rise of the bourgeoisie spread from Holland to the rest of western Europe four and five centuries ago, and the same thing happened further east but still only in part. In a similar way, “the precursor of the transition to the bourgeois model of society and nationalism in Turkey … was the Tatar bourgeois model of development.”

This Tatar model, the historian says, was a new form of nationalism which combined via jadidism Islamic culture and a commitment to national development and was most importantly promoted by Yusuf Akchura who insisted that religion must shift from a societal regulator to an individual one for a modern industrial nation and economy to emerge.

In the decades preceding the 1917 revolution in Russia, Mukhametdinov points out, “Tatar society from the point of view of the development of bourgeois style of life and modernization was the leader of the Muslim world and its leading intellectuals – men like Musa Bigiyev, Zyya Kamali, Rizaetdin Fakhretdinov and Galimdzhan Barudi – set the pace for Turkey and for many in the Arab world.

Tragically, this rich intellectual tradition was interrupted by “the Bolshevik genocide against Muslims,” an action which has left many Muslims in Russia with the sense that the Islam they see around them began “from a blank slate.” But that is beginning to change as many Muslims in Russia recover the pre-1917 past.

A major contribution to this recovery, Mukhametdinov says, is the preparation, which is near completion, of a 12-volume set of the works of the jadidist thinkers of pre-1917 Tatarstan translated from the Arabic and Old Tatar and that will hopefully be translated into modern Tatar in the near future.

This publication and the growth of interest in the ideas of Akchura and the others will naturally play a major role in the future direction of thinking in Tatarstan, but these things will also have a significant impact on other countries like Russia and the Arab East which have not escape from the pre-modern status of religion and thus moved into modernity.

“If a bourgeois revolution is to begin in Russia, then it will start in Tatarstan, just as in Europe, a similar revolution began with little Holland,” Mukhametdinov argues. “We Tatars desperately need an influx of new intellectual forces in the sphere of Islam.” Rereading the classics will help; applying them will make all the difference.


Edited by: A. N.

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  1. Avatar Eolone says:

    The Hanseatic League was the model for Holland’s economic development. In fact, Holland was a member of the league when it existed. But the makeup of the Dutch Republic was not something other countries would have imitated. It was chaotic. As for modernizing “religion and transformed it from a force ruling society into one that is something personal for each individual” as a way to improve society, that is laden with pitfalls, as any 17th century gentleman can tell you. Muggletonians, Familists, Anabaptists, etc., call them Puritans or Independents, if you wish, were set against the Anglican Church. There were other factors, of course, that led to the civil war. In time they sorted things out, well, after a bit of persecution and drawing and quartering. The US government started anew, divorcing itself from religion – except for conservatives who keep writing about how religion created the US. (Then there’s conservative Mike Lee who tells us the Iroquois Indians told Franklin all about their wonderful league. Lee never heard about the Hanseatic League or the Dutch Republic. The Founding Fathers, however, were readers.)

    1. Avatar RedSquareMaidan says:

      Freedom OF Religion did help found the US. They decided that was better than having the King’s “Church” imposed on them.

      1. Avatar Eolone says:

        The colonies were chartered by the king. Religion could be a nasty thing. The Pilgrims destroyed Merrymount – the folks there were too merry. Roger Williams left the austere, uncompromising Massachusetts colony. The established Anglican Church in Virginia was not accepting of Lord Baltimore, a Catholic. Freedom of conscience was relative.

        1. Avatar zorbatheturk says:

          Mark Zuckerberg is a modern day prophet.

          1. Avatar Mick Servian says:

            Did you actually just say that?

          2. Avatar zorbatheturk says:

            Putin assboy.

          3. Avatar Mick Servian says:

            Freudian slip much?

          4. Avatar zorbatheturk says:

            Clean your ass.

          5. Avatar Mick Servian says:

            And you wonder why the Dutch and the rest of Europe don’t want you around.

          6. Avatar zorbatheturk says:

            You define the word dumb.

          7. Avatar Mick Servian says:

            Whatever dude. Name calling please

  2. Avatar zorbatheturk says:

    Any further breakup of the RuSSia is to be welcomed.

  3. Avatar Ihor Dawydiak says:

    Islamic uprisings within the Russian Federation would certainly create significant problems for the Putin regime but they would not succeed on their own. A simultaneous revolution by ethnic Russians would also be required to topple the current fascist administration in Moscow. But how could this be achieved? Bankrupting Russia would definitely be a distinct possibility.

    1. Avatar RedSquareMaidan says:

      Surely the Russian Muslims see what their government is doing and has done to the Ukrainian Tartars. It would be Putin’s nightmare for them to team up with Russia’s youth and the poor to rise up against his fascist policies.

      1. Avatar Mick Servian says:

        Oh my those tatars and Muslims must be the happiest people on earth. Knowing how much you care for them. Lol