Turkic Modernism at the Turn of the Twentieth Century:
An Insider's View1
Edward J. Lazzerini
The following pages comprise a translation of one of Ismail Bey
Gasprinskii's (1851-1914)2 most significant essays, Mebadi-yi Temeddün-i
Islâmiyan-i Rus (First Steps Toward Civilizing the Russian Muslims),
published in 1901.3 The reasons for undertaking such a translation are
several. First, the essay was written by the man most often acknowledged as
the leader and guiding force behind the initial concerted drive to improve
the lot of Russian Turkic/Islamic peoples. In this respect, it amounts to an
insider's view of what had been accomplished by those communities between
1880 and 1901 in terms of broad cultural advancement. Secondly, the work
provides a convenient and concise source for an understanding of what
Gasprinskii and, by extension, later cedidçiler (modernists, often written
"jadidists") believed to be the weaknesses in the Muslim way of life that
required remedy, and it reveals the steps taken to overcome those
weaknesses. Thirdly, the bibliography that Gasprinskii appended to his essay
is of paramount importance in its own right. It is not simply a compilation
of Muslim works published in Russia, but a partial listing of jadid books,
essays, and treatises. For Gasprinskii, writing and publishing were
fundamentally tools with which to propagandize ideas, and these works
constituted a body of knowledge that he obviously felt should be imparted to
the Muslim people as an aid to achieving progress. The availability of this
list will provide scholars with one more source for defining the scope of
Gasprinskii's activities and the jadidist movement.
A movement for the reform and renovation of the Islamic way of life emerged
among Russia's Muslim subjects beginning in the third quarter of the
nineteenth century. This phenomenon was initiated by an extremely small
segment of the Muslim intelligentsia that had gained an acquaintance with
"Western" life, made the almost inevitable comparison between the general
progress and power of Western "Christian" nations and the decadent condition
of Muslim life in Russia and elsewhere, and concluded that at least some
borrowing from, and accommodation with, Western ideas and practices were
necessary for the very survival of darül' islâm (the realm of Islam).4
In Russia, the Muslim voices first raised in the early and mid-nineteenth
century in favor of change were isolated ones. Their demands were generally
limited to proposals seeking to break the grip of obscurantism on Islamic
theology and introduce secular subjects into the rigidly scholastic
curriculum of the Muslim schools. Such men as Abdulnasir al-Kursavi,5
Şihabeddin al-Mercani,6 and Hüseyn Faizhanov7 were all prominent during the
early struggle for enlightenment, but at no time was there any effort to
form ties, on the basis of a broad reform program, among the various groups
of Muslims in Russia.8
For the elaboration of a well-defined program of action that sought to treat
a wide range of Muslim societal problems on an all-Russia basis, we have to
turn to the Crimean Tatar Ismail Bey Gasprinskii.9 Born in a small village in
the Crimea in 1851, Gasprinskii carried on an unremitting attack against the
ills of Russian Islam from the late I870's until his death in 1914. At root
an educator, he sought to raise the cultural and economic status of his
co-religionists through a broad reform not only of the curriculum in the
Muslim schools, but also of the method of instruction. His creation of a
"new method" of education (usûl-i cedid) became the cornerstone upon which he constructed his own multifaceted program,10 and through his journalistic
activities Gasprinskii propagandized his ideas and gave birth to what became
known as cedidism.
Ismail Bey's primary instrument of propaganda was Perevodchik/Tercüman (The
Interpreter), a newspaper that he owned, edited, and published between 1883
and 1914.11 A dual language publication,12 Perevodchik/Tercüman (hereafter P/T)
was printed both in Russian and in a Turkic language based upon a simplified
Ottoman Turkish, but sprinkled with Tatarisms.13 One of the special features
of this newspaper was the appearance from time to time of supplements,
generally in the form of full-page inserts or small pamphlets.
As a supplement to issue forty (October 31, 1901), Gasprinskii offered his
readers Mebadi-yi Temedün-i Islâmiyan-i Rus. The pamphlet comprises an essay
of seven and one-half pages outlining the course of Muslim advances in
Russia during the previous quarter century, plus a bibliography of selected
The essay itself is straightforward enough not to require a lengthy
explanatory introduction on my part. Gasprinskii's prose style will
undoubtedly appear naive to present-day readers, but it should be kept in
mind that much of his literary output was purposefully written in this
manner. After all, his Muslim audience was not composed of worldly
sophisticates, and much about which he wrote was novel and unfamiliar to his
readers. Gasprinskii always tried to be instructive, and this led him to
strive constantly for simplicity of expression. In my translation I have
endeavored to remain faithful to the original text, and wherever possible
the style of the Turkic has been preserved. For the sake of clarity and the
English language, however, some parts have been freely recast.
As for the bibliography, the original was very poorly done, at least by
modern standards. ln most cases Gasprinskii provided the author's name, the
title of the work, and the place and date of publication. Wherever possible,
in order to increase the list's usefulness, I have liberally added
information that is missing (e.g., the name of the publisher), corrected all
incorrect data (the original is notoriously inaccurate in so far as dates of
publication are concerned), rearranged the works by author, provided
complete titles where only abbreviated ones were given, supplied data on
various editions of each work, and noted the libraries outside of the former
Soviet Union in which copies of many of the works have been located. The
latter is provided for, at the end of each bibliographic entry, by the
following set of abbreviations:14
BrM British Museum (London)
D Dar ul-Kutub (Cairo)
EPHE Bibliothèque du Centre d'études sur l'URSS et l'Europe orientale, EPHE (Paris)
H Library of the University of Helsinki
IUK Istanbul Üniversitesi Kütüphanesi
LO Bibliothèque de l'Ecole des Langues Orientales Vivantes (Paris)
NYPL New York Public Library
TE Türkiyat Enstitüsü Kütüphanesi
TTK Türk Tarih Kurumu Kütüphanesi
WL Widener Library, Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
To both the essay and the bibliography I have provided commentaries and
Edward J. Lazzerini
First Steps Toward Civilizing the Russian Muslims
Cedid Books The Cedid Mekteb Students Women The Theater Charitable
Societies Publishing Houses The Titles of Cedid Books
At the present time, despite the fact that the Muslim subjects of Russia lag
far behind [other peoples], and that they share in so little of modern life,
this great [Turkic/Muslim] community is not all that incognizant [of what is
happening around it]; and one cannot deny that within it a revival is taking
place. Granted that this revival is not imposing; and so long as you do not
pay close attention, you will not even notice it. Yet it is enough for us
that with some attention it can be observed, because it undoubtedly
represents the beginning of progress and civilization.
Twenty or twenty-five years ago, God be praised, although a considerable
number of [Turkic/Muslim] religious works were published in Russia,15 only
three items dealing with science and literature were written in our
language.16 Of these, one was the Bilik published by the orientalist Radlov,17 the second was Kayyum Efendi Nasiri's almanac,18 and the third comprised the
comedies of Mirza Fath
'Ali Ahundov.19 Two of these works appeared in Kazan,
while the third was published in Tiflis. At that same time, a
Turkic-language newspaper entitled Ekinji [The Sower] was founded in Baku by
Hasan Bey Melikov.20 Although it had only a brief existence, the newspaper
cast a ray of light, like a lightning bolt, upon [long] dormant ideas.
Even though a few works such as the tale of Tahir ve Zühre (Tahir and Zühre)
were available [at that time], these cannot be included [in our discussion]
because of their lack of literary significance.
[Among Muslims] the state of general knowledge was regrettably pitiful.
Unaware of the discoveries of Kepler and Newton, Muslim society viewed the
world and cosmos through the eyes of Ptolemy, and was heedless of both
contemporary affairs and the lifestyles of other nations. In short, whatever
may have been the circumstances of the civilized world four hundred years
ago, we Muslims find ourselves today in exactly the same circumstances; that
is, we are four hundred years behind!
But now in this same Islamic world characterized by a dearth of knowledge, a
lack of information, and torpor, one can discern a slight revival, a degree
of awakening and understanding. This revival is not the result of some
external influence, but is a marvelous, natural phenomenon born from within.
In 1881 we published an essay in Russian entitled Russkoe musul'manstvo
(Russian Islam).21 In this essay we called upon Muslims to write and translate
works concerning science, literature, and contemporary progress. Praise God,
for we were fortunate that our appeal coincided with the intentions and
thoughts of many individuals. As a result, today, some twenty years later,
as many as three hundred scientific and literary works have been published
in our own language. I realize that for a people numbering in the millions,
the publication of three hundred items in twenty years is not a great deal.
Nevertheless, compared with the three works that I mentioned above, one
hundred times those three is not insignificant.
Generally speaking, the contents of these three hundred national works are
such as to encourage people to read and learn.22 Among the books themselves
are those that discuss geography, introductory philosophy, astronomy, the
preservation of health, and other useful knowledge.23 New-method [usûl-i
cedid] primers and reading books, plays, and one or two national novels make
up the literary contributions.
The authors of the above are young mullas who have been trained in our
national madrasas and who, through self-education, have acquired scientific
knowledge. But those youth who have entered the [Russian] gymnasia and
universities have not yet performed a service to our national literature.
Although the mullas have taken many steps forward, these others have just
made a beginning.24
There is a very simple explanation for this regrettable state of affairs.
While our enlightened, educated Muslims know Russian and European languages,
and while they enter various professions such as medicine, engineering,
mining, and law, they are unable to read and write in their own national
language! There is no educated Russian who does not read and write his own
native tongue, no educated Austrian, Pole, Georgian, or Armenian who is not
literate in his own national language. Unfortunately, this is not the case
with our people.
Above all else Islam makes two demands [on its adherents]: one is education,
the other is prayer. As a consequence, in every place where Muslims are to
be found, a mekteb is built for the former and a mosque for the latter.
Depending upon the locality, they are constructed either of stone, wood, or
felt cloth. Those of sedentary Muslims are found in fixed places; those of
nomads are portable and travel along with them. Everyone knows that the
Islamic world's largest and most important buildings and building complexes
consist of mektebs and mosques. In every village, in every quarter, somehow
or other one will find a place of instruction. In Russia, at a time when
education was hardly considered and there were only two Russian schools to
be found in the whole country, every Muslim village had one mekteb apiece.
But, if in former days these schools sufficed and were efficient, we must
all acknowledge that to meet the demands of today they are in need of
For several years I was in the teaching profession,25 and [during that time] I
became intimately acquainted with conditions in the Russian schools and
Muslim mekteb. [In the latter] the poor students would rock at their reading
desks for six or seven hours everyday for five or six years.26 There were many
nights when I was unable to sleep because of my bitterness and regret at
seeing them deprived of the ability to write and of a knowledge of the
catechism and other matters, and their inability to acquire, in the end,
anything other than the talent for repeating an Arabic sentence.27
School time was being wasted. The teaching of skills, techniques, the
Russian language, and other matters was [so inadequate] that a fifth-year
mekteb student could neither perform his daily prayers properly nor write a
simple letter. A remedy had to be found for this state of affairs. It was
necessary to complete the teaching of religion well and in a short time, and
then to find a way to provide [the students] with the skills, languages, and
information needed for today's world.
It was because of this that we opened a discussion of the new method [usûl-i
cedid] in 1884 in Tercüman,28 the newspaper that we had founded in 1883. A
graded and phonetic primer was published and a mekteb in Bahçesaray was
changed over to this method and system. The visible progress made by the
students of this mekteb compelled other schools to adopt the method.29 In six
months, after mastering reading and writing in Turkic and the four basic
arithmetical processes, the novice students had begun lessons to learn
Arabic, and were reading a book that taught the elements of religion. [Their
successes] reverberated in far-off provinces, and today the "phonetic
method" [usûl-i savtiye] has spread all the way to Chinese Turkistan. [In
the intervening period] over five hundred old-[method] mektebs have been
reformed. Because the opportunity presented itself, Russian language
teachers have been invited to a number of mektebs, and one hears that
perfect Russian has been acquired with ease. (For example, in mektebs in
Bahçesarai, Şeki, Kulca, Şirvan, Nakçevan, and other places.)
Great success has been achieved in awakening public opinion concerning the
mekteb because Muslims are an alert people who, once they are exposed to
something, come to know and understand it.
Consequently, I am hopeful that there will be other reforms and that the
idea of change will not be reserved only for primary schools. Reform of the
Arab medrese as well has been engraved on the heart of the nation. After
spending eight or ten years studying grammar, which is the primary
introduction to the Arab and Islamic sciences, and after being "imprisoned
in the medrese" for fifteen years, the student does not know Arabic. He will
have come across the names of Ghazali, Bukhari, and Taftazani, but will have
had no acquaintance with the likes of 'Ali Husayn ibn Sina, Farabi, or Ibn
Khaldun.30 Consequently, it dawns on many men that this is not a very sound or
reasonable way to terminate their education. Thanks to this [realization],
and with the intention of renovating the educational method, they have been
rather successful in reforming and reorganizing the following medreses: the
Zincirli in Bahçesarai, the Barudi in Kazan, the Osmaniye in Ufa, and the
Hüseyniye in Orenburg. In order to facilitate the teaching of Arabic, newly
organized grammar books have been published. For example, there are the
works of Ahmed Hadi Efendi Maksudi [published] in Kazan.31
The search for knowledge does not take this path alone. Profiting from the
state-run primary schools,32 Muslim students are entering the [Russian]
gymnasia and universities in order to become acquainted with contemporary
progress and learning, and the number who complete [these schools] is
Twenty years ago, one of our people had received a university education; now
such people number more than one hundred. Fifty Muslim young men who have
received a [Russian] higher education and who have entered the professions
of engineering, medicine, law, etc., can be found in Baku alone. There are
also those who have been educated in, and returned home from, French and
It is noteworthy that there is a greater number of Muslims in the southern
provinces who study Russian than there are in the inner provinces. We hope
that our coreligionists up and down the Volga will recognize that they are
being delinquent in this matter, and that they will endeavor to become
acquainted with contemporary progress through a knowledge of the Russian
language. There are thousands of scientific and technical works written in
Russian, it is necessary to profit from them.33
In a similar way the national theater is the product of recent years.
Besides the comedies of Mirza Fatıh 'Ali, which have been around for
some time, several new comedies have been written and published. Theatrical
plays in the national language have appeared in Baku, Karabagh, Gence, and
Bahçesarai. In Baku a permanent theatrical company has been formed, and one
or two plays have been translated from Russian. Armenian, Georgian, and
Jewish girls serve in the roles of women. We are thankful [for all of this],
but it cannot be denied that our theater rests on one leg.
One notices traces of awakening and progress among Muslim women, who have
remained even further behind in comparison with Muslim men. If you want
proof [of progress in this area], I can only give you a little. In the last
days of winter, there appears a white flower growing in the snow; surely you
know it. If this bloom is not proof that summer has arrived, it is a certain
sign that the beginning of summer is near. There are some signs just like
this one [with regard to the advancement of our women]. Twenty-five years
ago, the respected wife of Hasan Bey (who was one of our journalists),34 was
the only Muslim woman who had received an education; now there exist perhaps
twenty such women. In St. Petersburg, in a women's medical [nursing?]
school, three Muslim women are studying medical science, and one is
practicing medicine.35 It is well known that two Muslim women are writing, and
their results are being published.36 Let them be examples and models for
emerging authors. This world is one of hope; why should we despair?
Charity, giving alms, and helping others are fundamental to the Islamic
faith. Because of this, God be praised, we can say that there is no one who
does not tithe or give alms and [other assistance]. Everyone contributes
within his means, and thus every year a great deal of money is dispensed in
this way. Nevertheless, while there are those who help themselves to these
charities, there are others too ashamed to do so, and, as a result, go
hungry. Being aware of the fact that there is a lot for some and nothing for
others, the public has begun to rectify the situation. In recent years, to
provide order to charitable activities and increase the opportunities for
such projects, the idea of the charitable society has emerged. Twenty-five
years ago, in all of Russia, there was only one Muslim charitable society,
in Vladikavkaz. Today such societies have been established and are carrying
on their tasks in each of the following places: Khankerman, Kazan, Troitsk,
Semipalatinsk, Ufa, and Haci Terhan.37
[The extent of] publishing activity and the book trade is the most concrete
testimony to the degree of advancement and progress of a nation; it is the
most direct proof. Twenty years ago, there were two printing presses in
Muslim hands: that of the Abdullin Taş publishing house in Kazan, and of the
Insizade press in Tiflis. Now there exist the Tercüman press in Bahçesaray,
the press of Ilias Mirza Boragani in St. Petersburg, of the Karimov brothers
in Kazan, of Mulla Ibrahim Karimov in Orenburg, and of Doctor Ahundov and
Ali Mardan Bey in Baku. In all we have progressed from two such
establishments to eight.
I am leaving it up to each reader to evaluate the degree of progress and
advancement that has been made in each of the areas [of Muslim life] about
which I have been writing.
Following are the works which we reviewed this evening, and which comprise a
part of our new [cedid] literature. This list is by no means complete; if we
may, we have postponed its completion until another time.38
[The bibliography of cedid publications that was appended to Gasprinskii's Mebadi-yi Temeddün-i Islâmiyan-i Rus (First Steps Toward Civilizing the Russian Muslims) consists
of three parts: Books Pertaining to Instruction, Books Pertaining to Science and
Literature, and Suplementary Reading (books and pamphlets published by Gasprinskii's
own printing establishment). See Bibliography.]
. This is a modestly revised version of the translation and commentary that first appeared in the
French journal Cahiers du Monde russe et soviétique, XVI, No. 2 (April-June, 1975), 245-277.
I would like to thank Mme Dilek Desaive of Paris for her unselfish assistance during the early
stages of translation, when she perused my first drafts and offered corrections and suggestions.
My thanks go also to Walter Andrews, who was my professor of Turkish at the University of
Washington, for his advice concerning the translation's final draft. To the American Council of
Learned Societies and the Social Science Research Council, joint sponsors of the Foreign Area
Fellowship Program, I owe a debt of gratitude for providing the financial support for one and one-half years of research both abroad and in the United States. This article is one product of that research.
. Our protagonist's surname, drawn from the village of "Gaspra" that survives in Crimea, takes many forms, including al-Gasfari (the earliest that I have seen), Gaspirali (the standard Tatar
rendering), and Gasprinskii (the Russianized version). My decision to use "Gasprinskii" here and
in my other work results from two principal realizations. First, Ismail Bey used the Russianized
version virtually throughout his life, certainly in his writing/publishing activities. Second, that
version is consistent with a fundamental position that Ismail Bey held about relations between his
Turkic brethren and the Russians, a relationship that he characterized by the term sblizhenie
(rapprochement, accommodation). Ethnic considerations aside, faithfulness to Ismail Bey's self identity seems most appropriate.
. References to this work are rare both in contemporary sources and more recent studies. The
nineteenth-century Hungarian orientalist, Arminius Vambéry, drew attention to the essay and
provided translations of certain portions of it in two of his own works: Western culture in
Eastern lands. A comparison of the methods adopted by England and Russia in the Middle
East (London, 1906), 272, 361-362; and "Die Kulturbestrebungen der Tataren," Deutsche
Rundschau, CXXXII (July-Sept., 1907), 74-76. Vambéry mistakenly claimed, however, that Gasprinskii's essay appeared in both Russian and Turkic.
. The intellectual trauma resulting from confrontation with the West was hardly peculiar to
Russian Muslims. Many of their co-religionists in the Ottoman Empire (including Egypt), and in
India had already begun to experience it some years before, and Muslims in Persia, Afghanistan,
and elsewhere would shortly go through it as well. The significance of this phenomenon for the
modern history of Islam has not escaped recent scholarship, and the result has been a growing
body of literature dealing with the issue in both general and specific terms. Of this literature,
following are of particular value: R. N. Frye, ed., Islam and the West (The Hague, 1956); G. E.
von Grunebaum, Modern Islam: the search for cultural identity (Los Angeles, 1962); B. Lewis, The Middle East and the West (Bloomington, 1964); W. C. Smith, Islam in modern history (Princeton, 1957); B. Lewis, The emergence of modern Turkey (London, 1961); N. Berkes, The
development of secularism in Turkey (Montreal, 1964); A. Hourani, Arabic thought in the liberal age, 1798-1939 (London, 1962); and H. Sharabi, Arab intellectuals and the West: the formative years, 1875-1914 (Baltimore, 1970).
. Born among the Volga Tatars, Abdulnasir al-Kursavi (1783-1814 according to one source, but 1776-1818 according to another) was educated in the classical Islamic tradition and became a
young theologian and professor at a medrese (higher theological school) in Bukhara, a leading
center of Muslim theology at the time. While in Bukhara, he began to speak out against those who
would transform Islamic theology from a living body of teachings into an abstract, scholastic
system. For his "radical" ideas he made many enemies and was ultimately sentenced to death by
the Emir for heresy. Kursavi fled the city and returned to the Volga region where he opened his
own medrese in the village of Kursa (his home town). He subsequently achieved notoriety once
again for his beliefs, and was accused of impiety by some other teachers. His case reached the
Mufti of the Muslim Spiritual Assembly in Orenburg for adjudication, but the outcome of the
matter is not known. None of his writings has been published, but his religious views are said to
be well represented in a manuscript entitled "Irsad al-Ibad" (A guide for servants of God). See M.
Gainullin, Tatarskaia literatura i publitsistika nachala XX veka (Kazan, 1966), 120. For a brief
biographical note on Kursavi, consult Dzh. Validov, Ocherk istorii obrazovannosti i literatury Tatar do revoliutsii 1917 g. (Moscow, 1923): 32-33.
. Şihabeddin al-Mercani (1818-1889) was a noted theologian and historian from the Kazan
region. Until the age of twenty he studied in his own father's medrese, but then continued his
education in two major Central Asian religious centers, Bukhara and Samarkand. During this
period in Central Asia Mercani became involved in the theological controversies which would profoundly
influence the course of his life. See Dzh. Validov, 35-39, for a discussion of the major
controversies which Mercani used as a means to achieve two goals: the separation of theology and
religion, and a return to a primitive Islam shorn of the complexities that had grown up around it
over the centuries. As a historian and biographer, he produced a number of significant works of
lasting value. Brief analyses of Mercani as a historian can be found in G.. Gubaidullin, "Razvitie
istoricheskoi literatury u tiurko-tatarskikh narodov," in Pervyi vsesoiuznyi tiurkologicheskii
s"ezd (Baku, 1926), 40-42, and M.F. Togay, "Qazan Türk tarihine bakislar: muverrih Sehabettin
Mercan," Türk Amaci, I (1942/43), 343-348. Of immense value for a study of Mercani is S.
Gubaidullin, ed., Şihabeddin al-Mercani hazretlerinin veladetlerine yuz yil tolu (1233-1333)
münasebetiyle neşri etildi (Kazan, 1333/1914-1915).
. Hüseyn Feizkhanov was born in 1826 in the village of Sabachai, Simbirsk Province. At first a
student of Mercani, Feizkhanov subsequently attended courses in the Oriental Faculty at Kazan
University and later at St. Petersburg University, where he forged a close scholarly relationship
with the Russian orientalist Vladimir Vel'iaminov-Zernov. At some point during his studies,
Feizkhanov developed an interest in the problems of Muslim education in Russia. This interest
came to the fore in 1860 when he raised the question of reform of the Tatar medrese in a project
entitled "Islah-i Medaris" (Reform of the medrese). In his project, Feizkhanov envisioned a Tatar
secondary school in Kazan where Islamic and secular sciences, and the Russian language, would
be taught according to European methods. On this same subject he carried on a correspondence
with his former mentor Mercani who was also interested in educational reform, but who found his
erstwhile pupil's project too bold and likely to open the way to the Russification of the Tatars. On Feizkhanov's life and work one can consult Riza'eddin Fakhreddin, Asar, Vol. II (Kazan, 1900),
432-443, and G. von Mende, op. cit., 38-39. Some of the correspondence between Feizkhanov
and Mercani have been published in Asar and in the review Şura, 14-19 (July 15-Oct. 1, 1916).
On Feizkhanov's association with the Kazakh enlightener Chokan Valikhanov, see A. Kh.
Marghulan, "Shoqannyng zhangadan ashylghan dosy—khusain Faizkhanov zhane onyng
peterbordan zhazghan khattary," Izvestiia AN Kaz. SSR, Seriia obshchestvennykh nauk, III (1965), 12-24.
. Certainly the vast distances between the various Muslim communities in Russia and the
concomitant low level of inter-community contact contributed to the absence of any unified action
on the part of the early "enlighteners". But even more striking, and less explicable, was the
apparent lack of cooperation on the intra-community level. Dzh. Validov (op. cit.: 42) cited one
noteworthy example of this: "Nasyri was a contemporary of Mercani and lived nearby him, but
between them there was no internal moral bond nor any active contact."
. There exists a substantial literature concerning Gasprinskii, but most of it must be handled with
extreme caution. Fortunately, much of what Gasprinskii himself wrote is extant outside of the Soviet Union, and this corpus of material provides us with a reasonably clear understanding of his
life and work. For a full-scale study of Gasprinskii, with accompanying exhaustive bibliography,
see my doctoral dissertation entitled "Ismail Bey Gasprinskii and Muslim modernism in Russia, 1878-1914", Seattle, University of Washington, 1973.
. Gasprinskii's program, although never articulated fully in a single manifesto, clearly
comprised the following points: (a) reform of the Muslim educational system in order to bring it
into conformity with "modern" pedagogy; (b) creation of a common Turkic literary language; (c)
emancipation of women; (d) organization of cooperative and philanthropic societies; (e)
strengthening of ties among Russia's Turco-Muslim peoples; and (f) cooperation with the Russian government and people.
. Tercüman/Perevodchik survived until February, 1918 when publication was suspended by
order of the fledgling Bolshevik government. On this and other journalistic enterprises pursued by
Ismail Bey, see A. Bennigsen and Ch. Lemercier-Quelquejay, La presse et le mouvement national
chez les musulmans de Russie avant 1920 (The Hague: Mouton, 1964): 37-42, 138-143, and E. Lazzerini, op. cit., especially ch. II and III.
. After the first few years of Tercüman/Perevodchik's existence, the Turkic section was
gradually expanded at the expense of the Russian section. Beginning in late 1905, except on rare occasions thereafter, articles were published in Turkic alone.
. For an analysis of the language of Tercüman, and by extension, a study of Gasprinskii's
common Turkic literary language, see G. Burbiel, "Die Sprache Isma'il Bey Gaspyralys," doctoral
dissertation, University of Hamburg, 1950, and E. Lazzerini, op. cit., ch.. VII. There are a number
of criticisms of Burbiel's work, not the least of which was the use of only seven issues of Tercüman for his analysis. Nevertheless, his basic conclusions as to the nature of the new literary language appear to be valid.
. Knowledge of the library collections in Paris, Helsinki, Istanbul, and Ankara has resulted from
this researcher's personal, on-the-spot perusal of their catalogues. As for holdings in other libraries, I have relied upon data gathered by Prof. A. Bcnnigsen and Ch. Lemercier-Quelquejay, and upon a recent publication of Prof. Edward Allworth entitled Nationalities of the Soviet East:
publications and writing systems (New York: Columbia University Press, 1971). The information
on library holdings is not meant to be exhaustive, but should serve as a guide to the availability,
outside of the Soviet Union, of the works in Gasprinskii's bibliography.
. As part of Empress Catherine II's (1762-1796) final attempt to create a successful state policy
toward the Muslim subjects of the Russian Empire, all books used in Muslim schools after 1786
were to be printed and translated at government expense in dual-language editions: in Russian and
Tatar. [A. W. Fisher, "Enlightened despotism and Islam under Catherine II", Slavic Review,
XXVII, No. 4 (1968), 549.] In I800, at the request of certain Kazan Tatars, a special Asiatic press
was established at Kazan University by imperial order for the printing of books in languages
employing the Arabic script. Once in operation, this press eventually was turning out hundreds of
thousands of copies of such works annually. On the activities of the Asiatic press and for a list
all works published by it between 1800 and 1896, see N.I. Katanov, Katalog knig,
otpechatannykh v tipografii imperatorskago Kazanskago universiteta s 1800 po 1896 god
(Kazan, n.d.), 1-8 and 324-416. For other information on Muslim publishing activity in the first
three-quarters of the nineteenth century, one may consult the following: V.D. Smirnov,
"Musul'manskiia pechatnyia izdaniia v Rossii," Zapiski vostochnago oldeleniia imperatorskago
Russkago arkheologicheskago obshchesiva, III (I888), 97-114; G. Gubaidullin, "Iz proshlogo
Tatar," Materialy po izucheniiu Tatarstana, Part II (Kazan, 1925), 103-105.
. One of the fundamental aims of Gasprinskii's "program" was the creation of a common Turkic
literary language that would serve as a means of uniting, at least culturally, all Muslims in
Gasprinskii seems to have formulated such a language sometime during the 1880s, utilizing what
amounted to a simplified Ottoman Turkish as a base to which were added certain Tatarisms.
Tercüman was gradually printed in this language and became a vehicle for its dissemination.
Whether this is the language to which Gasprinskii is referring when he writes "our language", or
whether he merely means one or the other of the various Turkic languages in which most works
were being written, is difficult to determine. Gasprinskii was later to admit in his newspaper
Millet (The Nation), No. 0 (trial issue, 1906), 1, that before 1905-1906 it was too risky in Russia
to raise openly the subject of a common Turkic literary language, and that he had had to resort to
"implication, hints, and examples... [in order to] make those who read understand in some way..."
Perhaps this is an example of Gasprinskii's indirect approach to the subject; much more plausible,
however, may be the following explanation: given the extremely low state of Muslim publishing
activity, Gasprinskii was willing to accept jadid works written in any Turkic language used by
Muslims. After all, one cannot be too discriminating when there are only several hundred such
works from which to choose.
. Vasilii Vasil'evich Radlov (1837-1918) was a well-known Russian orientalist, one-time
inspector for the Tatar, Bashkir, and Kirgiz schools in the Kazan School District, and a member of
the Russian Academy of Sciences. For a biographical sketch of Radlov, see the article by P. Ritter
in Entsiklopedicheskii slovar, Vol. 35 (7th ed.; Moscow, 1910-1948), 444-446. For
biographical information and for a survey of his work, see O. Pritsak's introduction to the reprint
of Radlov's Versuch eines Wörterbuches der Türk-Dialecte, Vol. 1 (The Hague, 1960), v-xxvii.
A complete list of Radlov's works can be found in Materialy dlia bibliograficheskago slovaria
deistvitel'nykh chlenov imperatorskoi akademii nauk (Petrograd, 1915-1917), Part II, 121-136.
The Bilik mentioned above is a reference to Radlov's large study of the old Turkic literary
monument Qutadgu Bilig, which he began in 1884 and later published as Das Kudatku Bilik des
Jusuf Chass-Hudschib aus Bälasagun (2 parts; St. Petersburg, 1891-1910).
. Many studies have been devoted to the erudite Tatar scholar 'Abdulqayyum al-Nasyri (1825-
1902). For a biographical sketch and an extensive bibliography of Nasyri's own works and works
about him, although the latter are rather dated, see Ch. Lemercier-Quelquejay, "Un réformateur
tatar au XIXe siècle: 'Abdul Qajjum al-Nasyri," Cahiers du monde russe et soviétique, Vol. 4,
Nos. 1-2 (1963), 117-142. Of similar import is S. Çagatay, "Abd-ul-Kayyum Nasyri", Ankara
Üniversitesi Dil ve Tarih-Cografya Fakültesi Dergisi, Vol. 10, Nos. 3-4 (1952), 147-160.
Between 1871 and 1897 (except for the years 1886, 1887, and 1895), Nasyri edited an annual
almanac entitled Qazan Kalindari, which provided the reader with information on a variety of
topics. Copies of the almanac for the following years are available outside of the CIS: 1873 [BrM];
1874 [BrM]; 1876 [LO]; 1881 [H]; 1885 [LO]; 1897 [H].
. Mirza Fatih 'Ali Akhundov (1812-1878) was a major figure in the general cultural
of nineteenth-century Azerbaidjan. Educated both in a traditional Muslim and a Russian-sponsored
school, Akhundov passed up a career as a theologian in favor of a position as oriental language
translator in the Chancery of the Governor-General of the Caucasus, Baron Gregor von Rosen. He
remained in Russian state service until his retirement in 1876. Akhundov's great contribution to
Azeri people, however, lay in his activities and interests outside of his official duties. Spurred
by a desire to bring about change in the traditional life style of the Azeri Muslims, he turned to
literature as a means of attacking old and propagandizing new ideas. After an early fascination
classical Islamic literature, Akhundov abandoned the elitist literary language and turned to
in the Azeri vernacular, which could be understood by even the semiliterate. He was a pioneer of
the theater among the Turkic peoples, famous for the comedies to which Gasprinskii alludes above;
and he was the first Azeri to write a novel in the vernacular. For the last twenty years of his
Akhundov worked diligently to reform the Azeri language either by simplifying the Arabic script or
by proposing the adoption of the Latin alphabet. Much like Gaspinskii himself, Akhundov viewed
education as the keys to the well-being of the Muslim community. An exhaustive bibliography of
over 1,700 Russian sources dealing with Akhundov is provided by A. N. Lerman in Mirza Fatali
Akbundov v russkoi pechati 1837-1962 gg. Bibliografiia (Baku, 1962). Biographical information
can be found in D. Dzhafarov, M.F. Akbundov (Moscow, 1962). For appreciations of
Akbundov's role in the modernist trend in Azerbaidjan, see H.W. Brands, Azerbaidschanische
Volksleben und modernistische Tendenz in des Schauspielen Mirza Feth-Ali Ahundzades
(Gravenhage, 1958), and T.A. Swietochowski, "Modernizing trends and the Growth of National
Awareness in 19th century Russian Azerbaidjan", Ph.D. diss., New York University, 1968, 76-158.
. Hasan Bey Melikov Zerdabi (1842-1907), an Azeri educator, journalist, and grass-roots
"enlightener", worked for the modernization of Muslim life in much the same way as did
Gasprinskii, except that the scope of his activity was parochial rather than pan-Islamic in its
territorial range. He devoted his adult life to improving the Muslim schools, developing education
for girls, establishing charitable societies, and promoting an Islamic theater. From July 1875 to
September 1877, he was editor and publisher of Ekinji, the first private newspaper in a Turkic
language to be published in Russia. He and Gasprinskii were essentially contemporaries, and
while there is evidence that they knew of and admired each other's work, there is nothing that
points to any serious cooperation between them. Concerning Hasan Bey there is an extensive
literature, of which the following should be noted: Z.B. Geiushev, Mirovozzrenie G.B. Zardabi
(Baku, 1962), and M.M. Kasumov, "G. Zardabi—vydaiushchiisia Azerbaidzhanskoi prosvetitel'," Trudy Instituta istorii i filosofii AN Az.SSR, Vol. 8 (1955), 136-178. In English there is T.A.
Swietochowski, op. cit., 171-197.
. An extremely important early essay, Russkoe musul'manstvo> (Russian Islam) first brought
Gasprinskii's name and ideas to public attention. Originally serialized in Russian in issues 43-47
(1881) of the newspaper Tavrida, it was subsequently expanded and reprinted as a separate
publication. Herein Ismail Bey discussed the situation of the Islamic community in Russia and
raised the issue of its modernization. The key to a better life for his co-religionists was, he
active cooperation between an enlightened Russian government and an awakened Muslim people.
For a Russian reaction to this essay, see M. Miropiev, "Kakiia nachala dolzhny byt' polozheny v
osnovu obrazovaniia russkikh inorodtsev musul'man? Po povodu broshiury Ismail-beia
Gasprinskago," Rus', Vol. 4, No. 17 (Sept. 1, 1884), 24-41.
. I use the word "national" to translate the adjective millî found throughout Gasprinskii's
The reader is cautioned, however, to understand "national" in cultural and not political terms.
. Mullas were Islamic teachers trained in the medreses for service in the mekteb (primary
schools). The "young mullas" to whom Gasprinskii refers were representatives of the modernist
wing of that professional group, men who had become aware of the need to broaden the range of
their intellectual inquiry to include secular as well as religious (Islamic) subjects. Since only
theological studies were pursued in the medreses, scientific knowledge was acquired "through self-
. Here Gasprinskii directs mild criticism toward those of the intelligentsia who have become so
westernized that they had lost all touch with their Islamic roots. From many of his other writings,
is clear that he felt strongly that those who had succeeded in life, whether it be materially or
intellectually, had an obligation to share with their brethren the fruits of their own success.
attitude, so pronounced in Gasprinskii, probably results from the triple influence of traditional
Islamic teaching, French utopian socialism, and Russian populism.
. According to C. Seydahmet, Gaspirali Ismail Bey (Istanbul, 1934), 8, after his departure
from the Moscow Military Academy in 1867, Gasprinskii accepted a position as a Russian-
language instructor in Bahçesaray at the Zincirli medrese. Beginning in 1869 he taught for two
years at the Dereköy mekteb in Yalta, before once again returning to teach at Zincirli. He failed
to retain his post for very long when, as a result of his criticism of the traditional educational method
then in use, he incurred the enmity of both students and faculty alike. Under pressure to recant or
resign, and even threatened with physical harm, Gasprinskii quit the medrese in 1871. Around
1875, Ismail Bey again tried his hand at formal teaching, but his outspoken views once more led to
conflict with the educational establishment. See Osman Akchokrakli, "Qart mu'allim ve
yazicilarimizdan Isma'il Gasprinski," Oku Işleri, No. 2 (June, 1925), 9.
. In the traditional mekteb, the students were required to recite their lessons aloud, both to
them to memorize the material and to permit the instructor to correct their pronunciation. The
rhythm of their recitations was aided by rocking their upper bodies as they sat cross-legged on the
. Here we are introduced to the basic criticism of the old method of Muslim education: it was
based upon learning by rote with no concern for student comprehension. Knowledge of the Qur'an
and other religious writings (this being the only knowledge deemed worthy of mastering), was to
be limited to their memorization. For Turkic as for all non-Arab children, this was particularly
difficult because the material to be rnastered was in Arabic, a language in which they were all too
often given no training. For a list of the reading materials used in an old-method mekteb,
that point up the entirely religious content of the curriculum, see S. Rybakov, "Novometodisty i
starometodisty v russkom musul'manstve," Mir Islama, Vol. II, No. 12 (1913), 856, citing an
article in the Tatar review Şura,14 (July 15, 1913).
. The primer was entitled Hoca-yi Sibyan. Az Vakitta Okumak Yazmak ve Kisab Bildirir.
Gasprinskii contended that the material covered by this book could be mastered in only six months,
instead of the usual four or five years using the old method.
. The first new method mekteb was opened in the Kaytaz Aga quarter of Bahçesaray with an
enrolment of twelve students and an instructor named Bekir Emekdar Efendi.. The success of the
enterprise was such that, despite strong opposition, forty new students were enrolled after only
two months. As news of the school spread, mullas from Caucasia and the Volga region came to
Bahçesaray in order to learn the new method, then returned home to establish their own reformed
mektebs. By the end of the 1880s, every Russian province possessed two or three such
institutions. See I. Gasprinskii, "Türk Yurtcularina," Türk Yurdu, I (1328/1910), 194, 236-237
. All of those mentioned were outstanding and much revered Islamic intellectuals.
. Specifically Al-Kavanin al-nahviya (The rules of grammar), Kazan, 1893. See entry 21 in the attached bibliography.
. Gasprinskii is referring to both the regular Russian primary schools and the special Russo-
Tatar (or Russo-Native) schools, the second of which appeared in small numbers beginning in the
1870s. The latter type of school was specifically set up to provide state-controlled education for
Muslim and other inorodtsy (non-Russian) children and was based upon the pedagogical ideas of
N.I. Il'minskii. For a useful analysis of the Il'minskii's role in the education of non-Russian
minorities, see I.T. Kreindler, "Education policies toward the Eastern nationalities in Tsarist
Russia: A study of Il'minskii's system," Ph.D. dissertation (Columbia University, 1970), which
also contains a thorough bibliography. K.E. Bendrikov, in his Ocherki po istorii narodnogo
obrazovaniia v Turkestane, 1865-1924 (Moscow, 1960), provides important information on
Russo-Native schools in Turkestan.
.That Gasprinskii took pains to point out that many Muslims had been lax with regard to
learning Russian is noteworthy on two counts: first, it reflects the intense indifference, even
abhorrence, of traditionalist Muslims toward acquiring a non-Islamic language; secondly, it reveals
Ismail Bey's conviction that Russian, as well as other European languages, must be learned if
Muslims are to enter the mainstream of modern life. For many Russian Muslims to study the state
language was tantamount to inviting ultimate Russification. Traditionalists certainly have a valid
point in this regard; nevertheless, committed as he was to achieving a syncretic solution to the
problem of Islam in the modern world, Gasprinskii felt that the benefits to the Islamic community
of learning Russian far out-weighed the threat that knowledge of the language might pose.
. The reference is to Khanifa, wife of Hasan Bey Melikov Zerdabi. See note 20.
. In Perevodchik No. 10 (March 12, 1895), 20, Gasprinskii reported that Razia Kutluiarova, a
Muslim woman, had completed her medical studies in St. Petersburg and had been granted
permission to practice. The exact nature of Kutluiarova's medical training, however, is unclear.
. See the bibliographic entries for Khanifa Khanim (also entered under the pen name 'Alimat al-Benat), and Ibnet-ul-Suleymani.
. Copies of the regulations and by-laws of a number of charitable societies are available in
turcica collection of the Helsinki University Library. In 1908, a standardized form for composing
the by-laws of such organizations was published in Zaman Kalindar. Taqvim 1909 (Kazan,
. Gaspinskii appears never to have completed the list.