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Vladimir Bobrovnikov's article focuses on the reconstruction of Islamic traditions on a collective farm in Dagestan. Based upon fieldwork done in the early 1990s in the Dagestani aul of Khustada, Bobrovnikov's article first explores the concept of tradition in Soviet ethnography and Western social studies.

Khushtada was chosen for research because it is one of the centers of Islamic life in Dagestan. The village houses a seventeenth century mosque, Sufi monuments, and many praying houses. Local memory often refers to the role of the Khustada people in the spread of Islam in Dagestan and links Islam to local events. A popular local narrative refers to volunteers from the village who joined Imam Shamil, while another one describes a Naqshban-di sheikh killed by the Soviet authorities. During Soviet times, Islamic traditions, the Koran, and Sufism were taught illegally in Khushtada. Despite the stress on resistance to the Soviet authorities, the local population remembers nostalgically the Soviet collective farm, which survives today as a form of communal self-organization ( dzhamaat) centered on the mosque and ran by the local Islamic elite, and contributes to the maintenance of the local mosque. The dzhamaat also received the land that belonged to the collective farm.

Islamic authorities not only control the village administration but also implement the shari'a and, although the dzhamaat has no means to enforce its decisions, the force of public opinion secures its authority. However, the judicial authority of the local Islamic administration covers only minor cases, while for serious cases the people of Khushtada address the militia and courts in the district center. However, in mid-1990s the Islamic community of Khushtada has been split between "Sufists" (followers of the local Islam) and "Wahhabists" (followers of the reformer al-Wahhab).

According to the author, despite the revival of Islam based on the legacy of Soviet collective farms, "Islamic traditions" in Dagestan cover a great number of raptures and discontinuities (such as prolonged periods when mosques were closed or Sufi educational patterns broke down). Russian has replaced Arabic, and few people can read old manuscripts. Today's basis for Islamic revival, the Soviet collective farm, though, appears to have emerged as an heir to the local self-government unit, introduced by the Russian imperial administration in the 1860s. And yet, the collective farm, which replaced the dzhamaat during the Soviet period, itself profoundly changed in the last half century.

Bobrovnikov concludes that his research into the transformations of the community in Khushtada allows arguing that there is no "primordial" Islamic tradition in Dagestan. These traditions emerged in response to colonial and Soviet transformations and modernization. The invented traditions of an Islamic and a Soviet past merged in the collective farm / dzhamaat. Bobrovnikov concurs that it is in local communities that the dynamics of Islamic life and the transmission of Islamic knowledge are defined, yet he does not agree that these local communities are necessarily in opposition to the state. Soviet authorities attempted to use traditionalist discourse and to maintain local communities in a new form. In doing so, they helped the carriers of these "invented traditions" to grab power.


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