Islamic Leadership and the State in Eurasia

Islamic Leadership and the State in Eurasia

By Galina Yemelianova

The book presents the first integrated study of the relationship between official Islamic leadership (muftiship), non-official Islamic authorities, grassroots Muslim communities and the state in post-Communist Eurasia. It employs a history-based perspective and compares this relationship to that in both the Middle East and Western Europe. 

Hardback, 286 Pages


February 2022

£80.00, $125.00

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About This Book

The book presents the first integrated study of the relationship between official Islamic leadership (muftiship), non-official Islamic authorities, grassroots Muslim communities and the state in post-Communist Eurasia, encompassing Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, the Volga-Urals, Crimea, the North Caucasus, Azerbaijan and ex-Soviet Central Asia. Its analysis is positioned within the current secularism/de-secularisation debate. The book is based on a wide range of primary and secondary sources, including the author’s interviews with Islamic official and popular leaders and authorities, which she conducted over two decades in various parts of Eurasia. The book employs a history-based perspective and compares the nature and role of official Islamic leadership and the state-Muslim relations across Eurasia with those in both the Middle East and Western Europe. It argues that in most of the post-Soviet lands, the official Islamic leadership and its relations with the state have largely retained their particular national and broader Eurasian character, which distinguishes them from what prevails in the Middle East and Western Europe. At the same time, the increasing political ‘Europeanisation’ of Lithuania and Ukraine since 2014 and, to some extent, Belarus, has accounted for their divergence towards the Western model of state-Muslim relations. In conclusion, it analyses the impact of globalisation and the advance of global Salafism, in particular, on Islamic leadership and state-Muslim relations across post-Soviet Eurasia. 


“In this well-documented and up-to-date study, Galina Yemelianova traces the complex relationship between Islamic and political authorities in the Muslim-populated parts of Eurasia and deftly illustrates the resilience of Islam against external domination and internal challenges. This book will be a welcome addition to many university courses on Islam and Russian and Eurasian history and also of interest to a wider general readership.”— Dr Bhavna Dave, SOAS University of London, UK.

“Central Asia and the Caucasus do not loom large in the imagination of most in the West, and yet, this region was the zone of the Silk Road, the trading route that tied together the periphery of Eurasia. It was also the zone of greatest contact between Christianity and Islam. Not only did Islam reach into the area when great empires existed there, but it has persisted down to the present when these empires have devolved into nations or ethnic regions. The varying adaptations of Islam that have emerged offer a wide range of case studies. Dr. Yemelianova has a deep and extensive grasp of this region, both from scholarly sources and from field work across the region. As an author of numerous articles and books on Islam and Central Asia, her fluency in both Russian and Arabic enable her to forge a unique perspective on the changes that Islam has undergone in this vast region.” — John Colarusso, McMaster University, Canada

This book is one of the most ambitious and comprehensive scholarly works about Islam in post-Soviet Eurasia to date. The main argument is that the historical evolution of this region has shaped the nature and forms of Islamic leadership and its relationship with the state and Muslim grassroots communities and thus gave it a unique ‘Eurasian’ character. To demonstrate this, the book covers immense ground both temporally and geographically. It analyses the development of Islam in general, and the relationship between the state, Islamic leaders, and Muslim communities in particular beginning from the birth of Prophet Muhammad in c. 571 CE and the early arrival of Islam to the region, continuing until the present time — Sofie Bedford, IRES Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Uppsala University, Caucasus Survey.

Yemelianova (Univ. of London, England) offers a rich, detailed overview of the relationship between Islamic religious authorities and state/political power in the various nations that were part of the former Soviet Union. The work is organized into three main parts. The first deals with the role and status of Islam in the Caucasus, Central Asia, Russia, and Eastern Europe from the birth of Islam until the end of czarism. Part II covers Islam and Islamic leadership under Soviet rule. The final section treats Islam in the post-Soviet environment. To support her narrative, Yemelianova draws on a wealth of scholarly sources in both English and Russian. The book has a glossary for the numerous Islamic and Russian terms that might not be familiar to many readers. Finally, an extensive list of endnotes and a lengthy bibliography make this volume an excellent starting point for scholars wishing to explore these topics further. The main drawback is that the work is a bit too dense for nonspecialists. Libraries supporting extensive research in Russian/Eurasian studies or Islamic studies will want to acquire this volume —D. Durant, East Carolina University.

Author Information

Galina M.Yemelianova has researched and taught for over thirty years on various aspects of Middle Eastern and Eurasian history, and contemporary Muslim and ethno-national politics.


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Table of Contents

List of Figures; Glossary; Note on Transliteration, Place Names and Calendars; Additional Signs Used; Introduction; Part I Islam, Islamic Authority and Leadership before and during the Russian Rule; Chapter One Authority and Leadership in Islam: A Historical and Comparative Perspective; Chapter Two Islamic Leadership among Tatars and Other Turkic Peoples prior to and during Russian Rule; Chapter Three Islam and Islamic Leadership in the Caucasus; Chapter Four Islam, Islamic Authority and Leadership in Central Asia; Part II Islamic Authority and Leadership in the USSR; Chapter Five The Volga-Urals; Chapter Six The North Caucasus; Chapter Seven The South Caucasus; Chapter Eight Central Asia and Kazakhstan; Part III Islamic Authority and Leadership in Post-Soviet Lands; Chapter Nine Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania; Chapter Ten European Russia; Chapter Eleven The Caucasus; Chapter Twelve Central Asia; Chapter Thirteen Eurasian Islamic Leadership within the Global Context; Notes; Bibliography; Index.


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