Chapter

First Steps toward Civilizing the Russian Muslims

Ismail Bey Gasprinskii

in Modernist Islam, 1840-1940

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780195154672
Published online November 2007 |
 First Steps toward Civilizing the Russian Muslims

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Ismail Bey Gasprinskii (Crimea, 18511914), Tatar reformer, educator, and publicist, was the most influential architect of Islamic modernism among the Turkic subjects of the Russian Empire. Gasprinskiialso known by his Tatar name, Gasp1raliwas educated in both traditional Islamic and Russian schools, and was being trained for a career in the Russian military until he abandoned his studies to spend three years in France and the Ottoman Empire. Returning to Crimea in 1875, he became a school instructor and served four years as mayor of Bakhchisarai. From the early 1880s until his death, Gasprinskii devoted his efforts to challenging intellectual assumptions and sociocultural practices that he believed condemned Muslims to cultural inferiority in the face of modern Western technological, military, political, economic, and intellectual hegemony. His primary tool was print, notably the Russian- and Tatar-language newspaper Perevodchik/Tercman (The Interpreter), which Gasprinskii founded and edited for the last thirty years of his life. Education stood at the center of his modernist project, and Gasprinskii also called for the development of a common Turkic literary language, the establishment of mutual-aid societies, and cooperation with the Russian government and people. Gasprinskii's influence, intellectually moderate and consummately practical, came to be felt throughout Turkic Russia as well as in Turkey, Egypt, and South Asia. The essay translated here assesses the first two decades of Islamic modernism in Russia, highlighting key directions and accomplishments and (although not included here) listing a bibliography of the new writing, fiction and nonfiction, that he felt defined the cutting edge of the new society.1

Chapter.  2643 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture ; Islam

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