A Theoretical Approach to the “Muslim Question”

Document 1

 In June 1828, pursuant to a directive from the high commissioner in Georgia, Count I. F. Paskevich-Erivansky, a special Committee on Governance of the Muslim Provinces was established in Tiflis. The Committee members were assigned several difficult and extensive tasks: to gather information about the customs that served in lieu of laws in the Muslim provinces; to determine the procedure of court administration prior to the territories’ annexation by Russia; to ascertain directives “regarding various parts of governance” that had been issued under the Russian government; and to describe the rights of the upper class. A separate unit consisted of issues related to defining the duties of Muslim clerics, determining their income and expenses and ascertaining the forms of hierarchy that had existed. In addition, the Committee was receiving statistical information on population, government-owned lands and other state property. For 18 months officials gathered the necessary materials through the “usual bureaucratic method,” by sending inquiries to the localities. The responses were “so fragmentary, unclear and contradictory that the committee had to send them back with a request to provide more complete information.”[i] Seeing that the Committee’s actions were not succeeding, Count Paskevich-Erivansky in 1829 proposed limiting the tasks that were assigned and that the Committee begin by drafting a statute on the establishment of a Muslim religious board. The Statutes on the Orenburg Muhammadan Religious Assembly and the Taurida Muhammadan Religious Boards served as models. The first draft was presented on 1 June 1833 to the new high commissioner in Georgia, General G. V. Rozen. All matters related to the Muslim clergy were to be subordinated to one main board (without dividing it into Sunnis and Shiites); the clerics were to be supported with wakf [religious property endowments] funds, the amount of which tsarist officials knew nothing specific about; sharia courts were to be consolidated with arbitral tribunals, and so forth. The draft was rejected out of hand and sent back for more work. Rozen assigned this work to the official for special assignments under him, A. P. Kazachenko. In August 1837 a new version was sent to the Committee, and in November it was submitted to Minister of Internal Affairs D. N. Bludov. The only difference in it, however, was a condensation of the text without changing the substance. It still did not define the rights and duties of Islamic cleric, the hierarchical system and other key questions. For another few years, right up until 1842, various officials worked on refining the text of the “Statute,” which, however, never did reach the level of an official discussion.

The 1836 draft presented here is probably the text reworked by A. P. Kazachenko at the request of High Commissioner G. V. Rozen.


[i] Ivanenko, V. N. Grazhdanskoe upravlenie Zakavkaz’em ot prisoedineniia Gruzii do namestnichestva Velikogo Kniazia Mikhaila Nikolaevicha. Tiflis, 1901, p. 211.