How was the Soviet Union able to avoid issues of religious and national conflict with its large and diverse Islamic population? In his new book, Soviet and Muslim: The Institutionalization of Islam in Central Asia (Oxford University Press, 2017), Eren Tasar argues that the Soviet Union was successful in building its relationship with Muslims in Central Asia because it created a space for Islam within the state’s ideology.
Exploring sources from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, Tasar gives readers an understanding of how the USSR created and used institutions to manage Islam following World War II. Soviet and Muslim provides a new prospective on the relationship between Islam and the Soviet state as it shows that the relationship between them was not based on government oppression of religion, rather it was one of accommodation and flexibility on both sides. Tasar also shows the continuities between tsarist and Soviet policy towards Muslims in Central Asia, and places Soviet Muslim policy in a global context.
Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon is a history professor.