Islam, Repression, and Memory

Shami-Damulla, a reformist Islamic scholar from Syria, settled in Tashkent before the 1917 Revolution. Initially, the Bolsheviks saw him as a modernist, and a supporter of “Islamic socialism.” Yet, by 1932, the NKVD arrested him for fundamentalism. Shami-Damulla’ students nonetheless continued his work and he remained an important figure in the development of Islamic fundamentalism in Soviet Central Asia. To what extent was Shami-Damulla’s religious thinking, and Islamic thought generally, influenced by the Soviet experience? This interview with Elmira Muratova, Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, and Michael Kemper, University of Amsterdam, will discuss the intersections of Soviet ideology and modernisation and Islam in the Soviet Union. To what extent did the Soviets (ab)used conflicts between Sunni and Shiite to control its Muslim population? How do we understand Islam’s revival since 1991, and what place does it have in general the cultural-national renaissance among post-Soviet Muslim’ societies?


Elmira Muratova is a research fellow at Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Denmark and previously at the Crimean Federal University, Ukraine. She’s a political scientist interested in minority, ethnic and religious studies. While in Aarhus, she will focus on ethnic and religious developments among the Crimean Tatars in the post-2014 Crimea.

Michael Kemper is Professor of East European history at the University of Amsterdam, Department of European Studies. He has published widely on Islamic literatures and manuscripts from the Volga-Ural and North Caucasus regions; on the history of Soviet Oriental Studies; and on the interaction between languages of Islam and Eastern Orthodoxy in contemporary Russia.


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