The Concept of Nation and the (Re)conceptualization of Identities and Cultures: The Muslims of the Russian Empire (19th-early 20th Centuries)

Monday, April 3, 2006
1219 International Affairs Building

Uli Schamiloglu (Professor of Turkic & Central Eurasian Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

This paper offers a framework for analyzing the rise of modern cultures among the Turkic Muslims peoples of the Russian Empire (with special reference to the Ottoman Empire as well). It argues that there were two distinct trends: 1) a more traditional non-territorialized identity among various Muslim Turkic peoples, as well as 2) the rise of modern national identities beginning in the mid to late 19th century. This can be traced to developments in the Middle Volga region, namely the rise of a modern "Tatar" national identity and a subsequent Tatar national project among the people known today as "Kazan Tatars". Thanks in large measure to modern education and the emergence of a modern press, this idea in turn influenced the development of subsequent modern national identities and cultures among the Crimean Tatars, Kazakhs, and other Muslim Turkic peoples. This paper argues the need for applying a consistent framework for analyzing the rise of modern national cultures from the Middle Volga region to the Ottoman Empire, the South Caucasus, and Central Asia in the late Imperial period, an unstudied but fundamental aspect of the rise of modern cultures among the Muslims Turks in the pre-Soviet period.