Assistant Professor of History, Duke University
My dissertation, “Imperial Russia’s Muslims: Inroads of Modernity” deals with the transformation of imperial Russia’s Muslim communities, especially those in the Volga-Urals region, between the late-eighteenth and early-twentieth centuries, while paying particular attention to their interaction with the Russian state, Muslim communities outside of Russia, and changes often emanating from Western Europe. It analyzes Russian Muslims’ encounters with modernity by focusing on the channels through which the influence of modern economy and political organization reached them, and it looks at social networks formed by Muslim scholars, merchants, intellectuals, and peasants as well as by Russian statesmen and missionaries to identify such channels – the inroads of modernity. Especially after the 1870s, reformist Muslim intellectuals and the Russian state provided two of those channels, and this dissertation argues that both of them failed in their aims. Several thousand Muslim reformists represented an opportunity for social mobilization, but then, they lost touch with the broader Muslim population, in effect distancing themselves from the values upheld by Muslim peasants. Moreover, the Russian state accused Muslim reformists of separatism and suppressed their activities. At the same time, Russian statesmen increasingly sought a more homogeneous population in order to keep Russia strong in the global competition for power and wanted to transform Muslims accordingly. But, agents of the imperial state could not enforce homogenizing policies compellingly while trying to maintain the regionally heterogeneous and non-participatory imperial governing system. Nevertheless, Russian Muslim communities, for their part, did adapt to the influences of modernity. Changes in what might be called infrastructure took place as the Russian state reformed its governing institutions and as improvements in transportation and communication connected Russian markets, especially in territories to the west of the Ural Mountains, to European markets in the late-nineteenth century. Russia’s Muslims felt these changes and the need to adapt to them only partially; therefore, they adapted only partially. But this dissertation argues that the need to adapt to changes in infrastructure was (and still is) a more compelling catalyst for modernization than the efforts of intellectuals or statesmen who suggested transformation solely through education and cultural improvement without due attention to accompanying changes in infrastructure.
Mustafa Tuna (Ph.D. 2009, Princeton University) is Assistant Professor of Russian and Central Eurasian History and Culture in the Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies of Duke University with secondary appointments in the Department of History and the Duke Islamic Studies Center. His research focuses on social and cultural change among the Muslim communities of Central Eurasia, especially the Volga-Urals region and modern Turkey, since the early-nineteenth century. He is particularly interested in identifying the often intertwined roles of Islam, social networks, state or elite interventions, infrastructural changes, and the globalization of European modernity in transforming Muslim communities. He is currently working on his book project titled Imperial Russia's Muslims: Islam, Empire, and West European Modernity, 1788-1917 for which he has a contract with Cambridge University Press. Dr. Tuna is married and has two sons.
Photo from the field - Mustafa Tuna