Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

International Relations

First Advisor's Name

Mohiaddin Mesbahi

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Thomas Breslin

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Ronald Cox

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Peter Craumer

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Keywords

Islam in IR, Contemporary Islam, Russia, Muslims in Russia, Islamic Factor, Security in Russia, Islam in Secular States, Russian Idea, Religion and Politics

Date of Defense

3-24-2015

Abstract

Despite the long history of Muslims in Russia, most scholarly and political literatures on Russia’s Islam still narrowly interpret Muslim-Slavs relations in an ethnic-religious oppositional framework.

In my work, I examine Russia’s discourse on Islam to argue that, in fact, the role of Islam in post-Soviet Russia is complex. Drawing from direct sources from academic, state, journalistic, and underground circles, often neglected by Western commentators, I identify ideational patterns in conceptualizations of Islam and reconstruct relational networks among authors. To explain complex intertextual relations within specific contexts, I utilize an analytically eclectic method that appropriately combines theories from different paradigms and/or disciplines.

Thanks to my multi-dimensional approach, I show that, contrary to traditional views, Russia’s Muslims participate in processes of post-Soviet Russia’s identity formation. Starting from textual contents, avoiding pre-formed analytical frames, I argue that many Muslims in Russia perceive themselves as part of Russian civilization – even when they challenge the status-quo.

Building on my initial findings, I state that a key element in Russia’s conceptualization of Islam is the definition, elaborated in the 1990s, of traditional Islam as part of Russian civilizational history, as opposed to extremist Islam as extraneous, hostile phenomenon. The differentiation creates an unprecedently safe, if confined, space for Islamic propositions, of which Muslims are taking advantage. Embedded in debates on Russian civilization, conceptualizations of Islam, then, influence Russia’s (geo)political self-perceptions and, consequently, its domestic and international policies.

In particular, Russian so-far neglected Islamic doctrine supports views of Islamic terrorism as a political and not religious phenomenon. Hence, Russia interprets both terrorism and counterterrorism within its own historical tradition, causing its strategy to be at odds with Western views. Less apparently, these divergences affect Russian-U.S. broader relations.

Finally, in revealing the civilizational value of Russia’s Islam, I expose intellectual relations among influential subjects who share the aim to devise a new civilizational model that should combine Slavic and non-Slavic, Orthodox and Islamic, Western, and Asian components. In this old Russian dilemma, the novelty is Muslims’ participation.

Identifier

FI15032151

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