Searching for New Solutions: A Revision of the Statutes on Governance of the Muslims of Transcaucasia
The Statutes on governance of the Transcaucasian Muslim clergy, approved on 5 April 1872, remained in force without amendments right up until the 1880s and 1890s. During this period, pursuant to Section 7, several inspections were conducted at “Muhammadan religious institutions”: in 1873 by the Transcaucasian Mufti Hadji, Hamid Efendi Mustafa Efendi Zadeh; in 1879 by the Sheikh ul-Islam of Transcaucasia, Ahmed Husein Zadeh; and in 1883 by active state councilor V. Bezobrazov, an official of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The inspection results were the basis for instituting in 1884 a special commission, chaired by N. I. Pribil, to prepare a proposal for necessary amendments in the texts of the 1872 Statutes and formulating the regulations, rules and forms required for it. By 1887 two drafts, “A” and “B,” had been prepared. The difference between them lay in the distribution and exposition of the articles, with Draft “B,” presented in this collection, provided a more systematic exposition of the material. Both versions were sent for review to the heads of the Muslim religious boards, governors and the oblast chiefs of the Caucasus Krai.
According to the 1897 draft “Statutes,” Muslim religious institutions and members of the religious class were to be supplied with the following regulations and rules:
2. The form of a general list of all Muslims belonging to a mosque’s parish;
Out of this list of supplemental regulations and programs, only four were authorized by the Caucasus viceroy, Grand Duke Mikhail, in 1873 and 1876 and implemented. Since the other guidelines were not approved, governors and Muslim religious institutions were instructed in 1888 to follow general directives on administrative procedures.
After reviewing the draft Statutes proposed by the commission, the office of the High Commissioner for the Civilian Population in the Caucasus raised the question about the efficacy of “the broad organization of governance of the religious affairs of Caucasus Muhammadans that is defined by the statutes in effect and planned in 1885, especially in the substantial government expenditures that this organization entails.”[i] Therefore the office, confining itself to general criticisms, proposed: 1) applying the draft Statute and the new staff lists, after they were approved by legislators, to the Tiflis, Yelisavetpol, Baku and Erivan gubernias and Kars Oblast; 2) leaving the governance of religious affairs in Dagestan Oblast and Zakatala, Artvin and Batumi okrugs to the administration on the previous basis; 3) making expenditures for the support of the clergy, as before, out of the state treasury, while increasing them by 4,820 rubles per year; 4) assigning the keeping of civil registers to village and town public administrations; 5) sending the draft regulations and forms prescribed by the Statute for approval to the minister of internal affairs; 6) buying up all the wakf real estate in Kars Oblast and Artvin and Batumi okrugs, except actual mosques and the schools attached to them, by means of capitalization from 6% of the average income for recent years, and converting these amounts to wakf capital; 7) implementing the plan to sell wakf real-estate holdings in Kars and adding the amount derived from this sale to the wakf capital held there; denying the request of the Kars Wakf Commission to build new shops; rejecting: 8) the petition of Transcaucasian religious boards for an exact determination of the financial support for the parish clergy from mosque societies and of the land parcels provided for these clergy and 9) the request of religious boards for an expansion of the jurisdiction of religious institutions regarding divorce cases, charging religious boards with drawing up a draft prenuptial agreement that could serve as a document during the hearing of various lawsuits regarding marital obligations.[ii]
The office’s proposals were heard on 21 March 1898 in the Council of the High Commissioner for the Civilian Population in the Caucasus. The Council, on the whole, agreed to them, but the ledger of meetings regarding this subject was never approved.
The 1897 documents presented below are drafts prepared by N. Pribil’s commission and reworked by the office of the High Commissioner for the Civilian Population in the Caucasus.