Treatment of Shamil and Muridism by Soviet Historians, by Mohydeen I. Quandour
from his Book “Muridism” A Study of the Caucasian Wars 1819-1859 (Chapter 5)
(Publisher: BookSurge (October 20, 2006) ISBN-10: 1419649744)
Biographical Note - Mohydeen Izzat Quandour
A writer, film producer and businessman with more than 40 years experience in international arenas. Quandour was born in Jordan and completed all his education (BA. MA. MIS. PHD) in the USA. He began his creative & business career in New York at J. Walter Thompson Co. (1962) in advertising and documentary film productions. He later moved to Bristol Myers in marketing and remained until end of 1969. In 1970 he published his first novel "The skyjack Affair" and moved to Hollywood in the early seventies where he worked as a screenwriter and later producer/director for television and feature films. ( Mannix, Bonanza, etc. and "The Spectre Of Edgar Allan Poe" and "Yanco" in Mexico). In 1974/75 Quandour returned to the business world as a marketing specialist and later as a consultant to several multinational companies and banks. In 1990 Quandour resumed his writing career with several historical novels (listed below) and produced many documentary series (The last Horsemen, Musical Journeys, etc.). Quandour is also known as an international expert on horses and equestrian sports and as a breeder of pure Arabians. Dr. Quandour lives with his wife and two boys in England and travels frequently to Russia and the Caucasus. Read more.
The Treatment of Shamil by Soviet Historians (Chapter 5)
In The previous four chapters an attempt was made to write an objective history of the Caucasian Wars, using sources form the Turkish, Arabic, Western European and Russian works. The purpose in doing so was to present an accurate account of the resistance carried on by the mountaineers by integrating the series of conflicts and campaigns into a single continuous history of the Russian conquest. This account shows how the resistance movement developed as far back as the mid-eighteenth century and how it progressed through Sheik Mansour’s and the Yermolov periods, until it finally generated a genuine national independence movement under the aegis of Islam during the Imamate of Shamil.
The greatest amount of printed material on Shamil and Muridism was written by Russian and Soviet historians.
Until fairly recently most of the European works were completely dependent on these sources, mainly for lack of other sources in the Middle Eastern libraries. However, in the last two decades and particularly since Would War II, several writers, of whom W.E.D. Allen is an example, revealed the wealth of Caucasian and Murid archives found in Turkey and other areas of the Near East (Al-Azhar in Cairo, etc.). Since then many Turkish and Middle Eastern writers (Kafle, Hizal, Daghistani, Barkok, Cevdet Pasa, etc.) became interested in the topic of Muridism; articles and books were published which introduced new interpretations challenging the Soviet historiographers.
It became obvious that Soviet historiography was directed toward an idealistic interpretation of history to support Communist dogma, which was reflected in the birth of Soviet historiographical patriotism and which blindly followed Party ideology, becoming in essence an instrument of partly policy.
The treatment of Shamil and Muridism by Soviet and Russian historians is one of the best examples of the changing trends in Soviet historiography. A discussion of this treatment is essential for clarifying the need for a new study of Muridism making use of the new sources to complement the Russian works.
Soviet historiography concerning Shamil and Muridism went through at least five distinct changes since the birth of the Soviet Union. During the early stages of the Soviet period and until the early 1930’s Russian historians took a more objective approach toward the history of the Caucasus, lauding Shamil at times as a great fighter against Tsarist colonial expansion. This favorable trend was best represented by M.N. Pokrovski and his school which supported the development of a nationalistic history of the various republics of the USSR, particularly with the purpose of exposing the colonial policies of the Russian Empire. Both Lenin and Stalin considered this interpretation as the official line of Soviet historiography and it was supported by both of them. In a foreword to one of his books, Pokrovski was hailed as a “strict and Orthodox Marxist who had done much to place Soviet historiography on a proper plane.”
Pokrovski regarded Muridism as a fundamentally democratic ideology. In a Party pamphlet published in 1930 in Moscow, Mr. E. Drabkina of the Pokrovski school, stated that Shamil’s leadership of a religious movement in no way overshadowed his progressive significance. He described the Murid “state” established by Shamil as being “in essence democratic... but in its structure a dictatorship.
Beginning in 1934 when the liquidation of the so-called bourgeois nationalists had begun, Muridism was discussed as a reactionary movement and Shamil himself as a religious fanatic. This radical departure from the original view was reflected by a number of resolutions voiced by the Council of Peoples Commissars (Sovnarkom) and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet. Union (CC CPSU). Other similar resolutions were issued by the central committees of the Union Republic Communist parties with particular emphasis against the bourgeois nationalism in the history of these republics.
The line followed was literally prescribed by the party Central Committee in Moscow and by Stalin himself in which the pro-Shamil Pokrovski school was now accused of anti-Marxism.
Books and research papers of historians in the national republics which had followed the old line were withdrawn from circulation, and their authors, like those of the Pokrovski tradition were either exiled or eliminated.
The new trend in Soviet historiography was required to present the history of the non-Russian peoples from the standpoint of its strong connections with that of the Russian people. The counter-revolutionary role of Russian Tsarism was to be exposed along with a special emphasis on the importance of the October Revolution in liberating Russia from a semi-colonial status. It was further required to prove, on the basis of historical evidence, that the subjugation of the non-Russian peoples by Russia was only a “lesser evil,” contrary to the Pokrovski interpretation.
It was during this period that Soviet historiography was most obviously directed toward an idealistic interpretation of past events. Historians were now attempting full-heartedly to substantiate the existence and advancement of the Soviet Union, headed by the Russians, to a special position with a high historical purpose. During this period also began Soviet interest in the Slavic question. Formerly Slavophilism as well as Pan-Slavism had been sharply criticized as reactionary movements. This was gradually reversed until Slavophilism became the general trend of the USSR, receiving great impetus from Hitler’s accession to power in Germany.
It was during the meeting of the Seventeenth Party Congress in 1934 that Stalin first pointed out Nazi discrimination against the Slavs. Soon afterwards Soviet Russia and Czechoslovakia concluded their pact of mutual aid on May 16, 1835.
Following the Soviet Union’s occupation of western Belorussia and the Ukraine, Academician V.I. Picheta published a book, The Basic Features of the Historical Development of the Western Ukraine and Belorussia which, like many other textbooks, propagated the concept of Slavic unity. Throughout World War Two Soviet historiography assumed the nature of political propaganda becoming academically and politically subjective and aggressive.
With the onslaught of the war the unfavorable trend toward Muridism was reversed once more to accommodate Party policy. Stalin rehabilitated Tsarist generals in order to excite the peoples patriotism, and Shamil was also restored to favor most likely for the same reason. Textbooks published from 1941 until 1947 spoke favorably of Muridism and described Shamil in noble terms:
“Shamil was an educated man... Shamil was an outstanding political leader and brave commander... Shamil showed himself to be gifted organizer in creating the North Caucasians’ state organization and leading them in the armed fight against Tsarist colonisers... Shamil’s activity was directed not only against Tsarism.but against local feudal lords. and was democratic and progressive.
This trend was reverting to the attitude of the twenties when Shamil’s outstanding career was recognized everywhere, and when he was hailed as the greatest national hero in his native country of Daghestan. The first signs of a return to the anti-Murid line came as early as 1947 when an Armenian writer, K.G. Adzhemyan, launched a public attack on Shamil. This occurred during a debate arranged by the Institute of History of the USSR Academy of Sciences on “The historical Essence of Caucasian Muridism.
Adzhemyan described the movement as “an ultra-reactionary current of militant Islam,” and characterized the freedom for which Shamil and the Murids had fought as “the freedom of the wolf, the freedom of backwardness, of darkness, of Asiatic primitiveness.” Adzhemyan’s views however did not win complete support of the meeting, although some official views were already leaning toward an anti-Shamil drive.
The tendency to glorify the Tsarist past, which had developed strongly during the war, gained future support in the postwar period. All the previous historical theories, regardless how well anchored they were in Marxist dogma, had to be accommodated to the new line. Historians were assigned the task of justifying Soviet territorial expansion. The “theory of the lesser evil” was further developed for this purpose and, one by one, the heroes of the non-Russian peoples were condemned as enemies of Russia. In the 1950 issue of “The History of the USSR” the change was obvious and dramatic:
Incited by England and Turkey, Shamil declared Ghazvat (holy war) against the Russians... English and French spies thoroughly surveyed the Black Sea coast.aiming at exploiting the highland population deceived by Shamil and the Murids... The highlanders movement led by Shamil was not a national liberation movement, but a reactionary and nationalistic movement in the service of English capital and the Turkish Sultan. It was directed against the true national interests of the highland peoples.
In the same year, 1950, another official move reflected the growing anti-Murid trend in the Soviet Union. A book by the Azerbaidzhani scholar, Geidar Guseinov, had been awarded the coveted Stalin prize a short time earlier. In May this prize was withdrawn. The book which reflected what had until then been the official line on Muridism was now condemned because the views had been changed once again. “Such an evaluation of Shamil and Muridism,” printed Pravda, May 14, 1950, “is anti-Marxist, contradicts historical facts and fundamentally distorts the actual sense of this movement, which was reactionary, nationalistic, and in the service of English capitalism and the Turkish sultan.”
The Georgian-language Tiflis Kommunist, in its July 17, 1951, said: “assistant professor loseliani will read a paper on July 2nd on ‘Georgia in the fight against Muridism and Shamil.” Another attack on Muridism came from no less a figure than Beria’s and Stalin’s associate, Bagirov, Party Secretary of Azerbaijan:
In the arsenal of the colonizers, especially the English, who had no scruples about the means they used to attain their aims, Islam occupied a special place. They used Islam and its various currents, not only to organize mass fratricidal wars among subject colonial people, but also in the struggle against their competitors, in the first place against Russia.
The most interesting dethronement of Shamil came in 1952 from the Soviet historian, N.A. Smirnov, in a brochure called, “The Reactionary Essence of the Murid and the Shamil movement in the Caucasus.
“An incorrect and anti-Marxist approach to the study and elucidation of past national movements may be found in the false view prevalent in our historical literature on the Murid and Shamil movement of the first half of the XIX century in the Caucasus as being allegedly liberal and progressive.
Muridism should be regarded as an ultra- reactionary and militant religious-political movement which was exploited in the ýXIX century by the Turks and the English in the fight against the peoples of the Caucasus and against Russia.
Mistakes...of R.M. Magodemov, S.K. Bushuev, M.N. Pokrovski, and several other historians, and also in books on the history of the USSR for schools, colleges, and universities, and a repetition of analogous distortions of Marxism by the so-called M.N. Pokrovski “school.”
After having thus criticized the Pokrovski interpretations, Smirnov goes on to justify the Russian conquest of the Caucasus by first “exposing” England’s aggressive aims among the mountaineers and then promoting the fictitious idea that the Caucasians were seeking the aid of Russia in their struggle against the imperialists.
“In their fight against the Turkish and Persian conquerors and against Shamil the Caucasian masses invariably looked to Russia, seeking her help and support. They unhesitatingly reposed their trust in the Russians, hoping for protection from Shamil and from encroachment by external foes. They were not mistaken in this.
In the Turkey of the Sultans the peoples of the Caucasus saw only their implacable enemy, intent upon wrenching the Caucasus away from Russia and on crushing underfoot the national and cultural dignity of these people...The policy of severing the Caucasus from Russia was deeply alien and repulsive to the Caucasian Peoples. The Murid and Shamil movement was anti-popular and reactionary... it aimed at subjecting the Caucasian peoples to their worst enemies - the Sultanate of Turkey and, supporting her, England.
This was the period of the Korean War and of extreme tension between the free world and the Soviet Union. Soviet leaders seemed obsessed by fears of disloyalty, subversion, foreign intrigue and suspicion. All these attitudes were reflected in the denunciations of the “Shamil cult,” of Turkish intervention in the Caucasus, of British threats to central Asia and American threats in Siberia which altogether filled the Voprosy Istorii in 1951 and 1952.
Party-line historians searched diligently through Tsarist archives and military records to substantiate their implications of British and Turkish intervention in the Murid resistance. Some historians went as far as to say that the British (namely Urquhart, Bell, Longworth and Spencer - 19th century English adventurers) were the main architects of the whole Murid movement.
A.V. Fadeev, writing in 1951, stated that “the history of the Murid movement... completely confirms the fact that, as the product of wild Moslem fanaticism, Muridism was used as a weapon of aggression and a means of enslaving peoples and never had anything in common with the interests of the toilers. Exposure of this reactionary role of Muridism,” continued Fadeev, “has its timely significance in our days, when Anglo American imperialists and their Turkish understudies are trying to utilize well-worn Pan-Islamic and Pan-Turkish slogans with the aim of ideological preparation of war against the Soviet Union and the peoples democracies.”
This line continued unabated until 1956 during which time several books and articles appeared attacking Shamil and Muridism and asserting British and Turkish intervention in the mountaineers resistance. A collection of documents was published in Georgia in 1953 designed specially to prove that Shamil had been an agent of Britain and Turkey.
The first act of misrepresentation on the part of Soviet historians is evident in the fact that all English relations were confined only to the western Caucasus and, therefore, remained outside the direct sphere of influence and activities of Shamil. However controversy over the degree of British participation in the Caucasus became so involved and so misinterpreted that we feel a brief discussion of British - Caucasian relations of the Murid period is in order.
To give a complete picture of English intervention or the lack of it in Caucasian affairs we should probably go back in history to the Russo-Persian wars (1827-1828). But such an account would require much detail, and since the subject matter is not directly connected with the Murid wars, attention will be concentrated on developments prior to the Crimean War. From the early 1830’s until the fall of Shamil and eventual termination of the North Caucasian resistance in 1864, English connections with the Caucasus were mainly associated with the name of David Urquhart. It was this Englishman who was responsible for bringing the cause of the Caucasians before the British public, and who dedicated the greatest part of his life and fortune to consolidating assistance and support for them.
He first went to the Caucasus in the early 1830’s and immediately fell in love with the land and its people . Already an ardent Russophobe, Urquhart began publicizing the cause of the mountaineers and the injustices of Russia in several correspondences to his country’s press. In 1835 he was appointed as secretary of the British embassy in Constantinople. This official status however did not last long as he quarreled violently with ambassador Ponsonby regarding his enthusiasm for English support of Circassia.
In 1836, Urquhart, aiming either at involving his country in a war with Russia, or of discrediting Russian claims to Circassia, dispatched the British schooner, the “Vixen” loaded with arms and supplies to the Caucasus, in an attempt to break through the Russian blockade of the Circassian coast. The incident created an international crisis which brought down the wrath of the British Foreign Ministry on Urquhart and resulted in his dismissal from government service in the following year.
After that Urquhart devoted his time and fortune to building a band of faithful followers in order to assist the mountaineers in their struggle against Russia.
Urquhart rallied enthusiastic crowds and created national committees which vowed to support the Circassians. He was most successful in the midlands where the cotton industrialists viewed the possible Russian danger to their Indian trade routes with particular interests.
All this time the British Government remained non-committal. It did not relish the possibility of having Russian neighbors in India, and yet Lord Palmerston’s government remained unmoved and unaffected by the Urquhartian campaign. When in 1837 and 1838, England was sending an army across the Indus to oppose Russian influence, the Urquhartians insisted that the real bulwark of India was to be preserved by supporting Circassia, not by destroying Cabul. Some of the Staunch supporters of Urquhart during this period were a group of Polish émigrés who, like him, believed that Russia could be checked only if the Caucasians were successful in their resistance, thereby securing Poland’s independence and Turkey’s future. The Polish interest in the Caucasus, however, was not pegged to an interest in the fate of the British Empire or the security of Turkey. They saw in the Caucasians the only other people in the Russian Empire, apart from their own, who were carrying on a determined resistance to Russian domination. It represented a means of involving England in a dispute with Russia which would serve to make the issue of Polish independence a live one for European diplomats once more.
Another reason was the fact that many Poles had been enlisted to serve in the Caucasus by Russia, and some of them were deserting to the tribes.
Prince Czartaryski, leader of the Polish émigré group known as the Hotel Lambert, from their headquarters in Paris, had dispatched several agents to the mountaineers in order to confirm their resistance. The chief task of these agents was to attempt to unite the tribes and to help in bringing them arms and ammunition. Their headquarters was based in Constantinople.
Turkey, which had not recognized the partitions of Poland, harbored these agents as well as a large group of Polish exiles. Urquhart worked closely with the Hotel Lambert group, and it was with their aid that he later planned the expedition of the “Chesapeakee" to Circassia.
Following the Palmerston-Urquhart parliamentary and press debate concerning the “Vixen”, official circles in London lost their interest in the Caucasus. This interest was not revived again until the outbreak of the Crimean War (1853-1854). Here again the English Government failed to appreciate the full significance of the Caucasian wars. When in 1854, most of the Russian forces were deployed to the Crimea, the time would have been perfect for a collaboration with Shamil and the Russians might have been driven completely out of the Caucasus. But England remained unmoved, even by French gestures for such an invasion. She did however, later in Paris in 1856 during the peace negotiations, attempt to create a Circassian buffer state between Russia and Turkey.
Palmerston argued that Circassia should be considered an independent country. But the move was too late and lacked the support of Napoleon III. The Treaty of Paris (March 30, 1856) made no mention of Circassian independence.
In February 1857, after the termination of the Crimean War, an expedition, supported by The Hotel Lambert group, headed by Lapinski, and consisting mainly of Polish émigrés succeeded in landing on the Circassian coast. The group made contact with the Circassian tribes and was able to hold out until 1860. However in 1859, after Shamil surrendered, the Russians were able to deploy their entire forces against Circassia, and made it impossible for the small expedition to change the fortunes of the Circassians.
Some of the Circassian tribes, particularly the Natukhai and Abadzekhs who were directly under Russian fire, were beginning to incline toward total surrender to the Russians on the best terms available. But the Abadzechs, Shapsughs and Ubykhs succeeded in establishing a joint grand assembly (central authority) or “Mejlis” and, through the intermediary of the Hotel Lambert in Constantinople, applied for aid from Queen Victoria and Napoleon III. Their petitions were met with indifference in the West. Colonel Wladyslaw Jordan, chief agent of the Hotel Lambert in Asia Minor, did not allow this rebuff to dishearten him, and decided, in the following summer, to send two representatives from the tribes as deputies of the “Mejlis” to the governments of Western Europe. The two men selected for the mission were Hadj Haider Hasan and Kustaroglu Ismail, who at this time were with a group of Daghestani and Circassian chieftains who had come to Constantinople to ask for Turkish assistance. After a short stay in Paris in useless negotiations with the French, the two deputies were taken to London by Lapinski, who was acting as their translator.
In London, Urquhart and Zamoyski arranged for the deputies to have public and private audiences with influential figures. A Circassian Committee was formed under the Chairmanship of Edmond Beales, a British lawyer, the object of which was to put pressure on the government in order to change its attitude toward aiding Circassia.
The plan to achieve this was by chartering an English vessel to take the Circassian Deputies back to Circassia from Constantinople. The idea was that if the vessel succeeded in avoiding the Russian occupied parts, and arrived to its destination untouched, then Russian claims to sovereignty over the area would be disproved. On the other hand, if the vessel were seized, its owners would demand a compensation. The British Government would either be forced under pressure of public opinion to band the Russian act as an act of piracy, or accept a humiliation as was the case during the affair of the “Vixen”. If the second instance took place, the Committee was confident that the present Cabinet would be easily overthrown. Lord Russell’s attitude, however, did not change, and his answers to the Circassian deputies was almost always negative:
“The Treaty of Adrianople transferred to Russia all the rights which Turkey had to the Circassian coast...But H.M.G. have never admitted that Turkey was in possession of the whole of the Circassian coast of the Black Sea, or had any right to claim that possession. But it is clear that any attempt on the part of British vessels to make for any point on the Eastern coast of Circassia between the ports which have been opened by Russia to foreign commerce would bring about complications with the Russian Government, and expose the persons engaged in the enterprise to loss.”
Later, on January 22, 1863, Lord Russell wrote Beales saying:
“when the “vixen” was captured by the Russians the Queen ‘s Advocate General advised that the Law of Nations would not justify her Majesty’s Government in asking for the restoration of the Vessel. H.M.’s Government do not interfere in the hostilities now carried on, and do not intend to give any aid to either party.”
Despite these negative answers form the Government, the Circassian Committee continued its plans for the expedition. Hammond, the permanent Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, on the same date of the above correspondence, wrote Beales:
“His Lordship (Russell) must decline to give information which might influence parties in undertaking or refraining form any commercial enterprise (!), or to say before hand what course H.M. Government would adopt if parties engaged in any such enterprise would meet with hindrance or loss.”
The Circassian Committee arrived at the conclusion, based on such correspondence as quoted above, that there was no legal action or law existing which might obstruct commercial intercourse with the Circassian ports (in the possession of the independent Circassians) on the eastern coast of the Black sea. The two Circassian deputies returned to Constantinople early in 1863, after Beales and Urquhart had promised them delivery of the commercial vessel. The “Chesapeakee” was soon bought and preparations were painstakingly made for her voyage.
The following events were unfortunate for the Circassians who never received the promised assistance. In summary, the Polish insurrection took place in Warsaw, January, 1863 with far reaching transformation of the international situation. The Polish question occupied the European diplomats for sometime to come, and the two revolutionary factions, the “white” (Hotel Lambert) and the “red” (radical middle class democrats) were at loggerheads over foreign policy and the Circassian question.
Union of action was lacking, among the Polish Russophobes in Constantinople as well as with the Circassian Committee in London. While Urquhart and the Poles of the hotel Lambert regarded Circassia as a key to the liberation of Poland, the Polish democrats considered any Circassian commitments as a bad diversion of money and men form their main interest, Poland.
When news of the Chesapeakee’s cargo (arms and ammunitions) leaked out to the British authorities Urquhart’s anger had no bounds and a bitter argument ensued between him and Jordan, head of the Hotel Lambert in Constantinople.
When the vessel arrived in Constantinople, late in August, the Hotel Lambert decided to change their plans, and rather than load the “Chesapeake” with further supplies for the Circassians, they arranged for the embarkation of a small Polish force under the leadership of colonel Przewlocki, whose task upon its arrival in Circassia would be the formation of a Polish Legion from Polish prisoners and deserters. While all these preparations continued, the Russians heard of the expedition and strengthened their naval patrols on the Circassian coast.
The “Chesapeake” arrived safely at Vardan on the Circassian coast by successfully avoiding the Russian patrols. But the Ubykh tribesmen were bitterly disappointed because they had been expecting the arrival of substantial assistance in man-power and military supplies, possibly a whole army. Przewlocki held on for about six months in Circassia and finally had to leave because of lack of supplies and the disappointment over promised aid from Turkey and the West.
Soon after their departure, the independent Circassians were forced into submission and the Caucasian War was at its end.
It is evident from the above discussion that British intervention in Caucasian affairs was strictly private. Furthermore it is rather obvious that this private British and Polish interest in Caucasian affairs was mainly concerned with the Circassian tribes and had little or no contact with Shamil and Muridism. Therefore it follows that the abundance of Soviet works between 1950 and 1956 which developed and expanded the theory of British-Turkish intervention in the Caucasus and in the Murid affairs were purely propagandist in nature and had no foundations in historical evidence.
The posthumous dethronement of Stalin had a noticeable effect on the Soviet historians approach to Muridism, and the rehabilitation of Shamil began once more in 1956 at a conference of the readers of Voprosy Istorii in Moscow. A.M. Pikman delivered one of the speeches which pointed out the previous “crude falsification of history” regarding Muridism and Shamil. He laid down “a criterion for evaluating Muridism as well as every other national movement: “did or did not the movement aid the liberation struggle of the toilers of Russia and Western Europe?” In the following issue of Voprosy Istorii, Pikman discussed his views at greater length, citing Marx and Engels repeatedly and calling for the recognition of Shamil as a national hero. A few months later, a Daghestani scholar repeated most of Pikman’s views in a short article in the same distinguished Journal.
However in the last issue of Voprosy Istorii for 1956 (which because of the Hungarian and Polish events was not published until February 1957) S.K. Bushuev made a sharp attack on Pikman’s interpretations, reflecting to some extent the neo-Stalinist reaction which set in after the Polish and Hungarian revolutions. A year of serious debate on the Murid question followed which started with the Makhachkala Conference in Daghestan and continued at the Moscow debate which was attended by more than 500 historians. The conclusions of the first conference were reported in Voprosy Istorii:
“Thus the participants of the Daghestan session advocated discarding the view point which had been confirmed after 1950, to the effect that the Caucasian Mountaineers movement was reactionary, contrary to the interests of the people...The unification of Daghestan with Russia had objectively a progressive historical significance... The Caucasian Mountaineers movement tried to utilize powers hostile to Russia... The Mountaineers movement under the leadership of Shamil was directed primarily against the colonial policy of Tsarism and was a struggle for national independence. The religious trappings of this movement were, however, reactionary; Muridism inflamed religious fanaticism and provoked hatred toward peoples professing Christianity.”
At Moscow M.N. Pokrovsky, N.A. Smirnov, and A.V. Fadeev delivered speeches which were more negative than those delivered at Makhachkala. Pokrovsky discussed the social struggle of the Adygei (Circassian) tribes in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. His argumentation and social analysis were generally designed to prove that the masses of the Western Caucasian peoples had leaned toward Russia while the aristocracy favored Turkey. Smirnov’s report was devoted to denouncing Muridism as the root of all the evil and reactionary trends in the Mountaineers resistance movement. Fadeov’s report discussed “The Caucasus in the System of International Relations from the Twenties to the Fifties of the Nineteenth Century.” In it he admitted that the Caucasus had always played a role in the plans of conquest of the Tsars, but continued to maintain that the “English bourgeoisie had striven to tear the Caucasus away form Russia” and had utilized Muridism as their own weapon.
The debate which followed was, according to the Voprosy Istorii report, very stormy. Pikman was first to speak and defended himself rigorously, differing with Smirnov’s views. Adzhemyan refused to change his views and insisted it was entirely wrong to consider the struggle of the Mountaineers a national liberation movement. The majority of the participants however were less negative in their discussion. The Moscow debate was summed up by L.M. Ivanov of the Historical Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences:
“...the overwhelming majority of the participants in the discussion recognized that the anti-colonial movement of the Mountaineers led by Shamil had been provoked by the aggressive and colonial policy of Tsarism and theintensification of the class struggle inside the Mountaineer society...
In examining the course of this movement, it is impossible not to consider the influences of external forces, the efforts of the ruling circles of England, Turkey and other powers to utilize the movement of the Caucasian Mountaineers in their own interest. In exposing the harsh colonial policy of Tsarism, Soviet historians must demonstrate from every point of view the objectively progressive consequences of the unification of the Caucasus with Russia.”
The Moscow debate as well as the one held in Makhachkala revealed the renewed efforts of rehabilitation of the Murid movement. But the timing was unfortunate for the supporters of Shamil and Muridism in brining their campaign to a head at a time when the severe neo-Stalinist reaction had taken over.
The disturbing events in Hungary and Poland in October and November of 1956 demonstrated to the Party leadership the dangers of the force of ideas when fused with mass discontent. Consequently, their enthusiasm for reform and the rehabilitation process begun at the Moscow debate, lessened appreciably after 1957. The pro-Muridism historians found themselves without support from above. But regardless of whether there had been a neo-Stalinist reaction or not, one wonders at which point the Party would have found it necessary to intervene in the Shamil debate before it went beyond what the Party considered a permissible degree of revision of the general policy on the incorporation of non-Russian peoples in Russia.
The latest book by N.A. Smirnov, Myuridizm na Kavkaza (Moscow, 1963) reflects the same attitude of partially reformed viewpoints expressed six years earlier. Since the end of World War II the Soviet Communist Party, as well as numerous other Soviet historians like Smirnov, had been trying to discover a formula to justify Tsarist conquests in the Caucasus as progressive. They have never quite succeeded in doing so; and Smirnov’s new book is still beset by the “Shamil Complex.”
Another noticeable ingredient in Smirnov’s latest book is the effect recent Soviet political ventures in Asia and Africa have had on the problem of justifying past Russian colonialism. The myth that the resistance was anti-Tsarist and in no way anti-Russian continues to be propagated. There has been some softening of official attitudes for obvious reasons, but Soviet policy toward Moslem peoples of the USSR has remained essentially negative. The reactionary nature of Muridism continues to be stressed and the element of foreign “intrigue” is still allotted an important role in explaining the intensity of the Murid resistance. The repeated assertions concerning British and Turkish schemes and “intrigues” in the Caucasus seems rather absurd especially in the light of our earlier discussion concerning British relations in the Caucasus.
The Turkish Sultans tried, in their ineffectual manner, to stem the Russian advance which at times threatened the eastern Anatolian regions, but this could hardly constitute the kind of “intrigue” against Russia which the Begirovs and Smirnovs had made it to be. To accuse the British of plotting to liberate the Caucasus from Russia is to attribute a degree of long-range planning to British policy of the nineteenth century which was never there.
In the nineteenth century, Britain’s Caucasian policy was a very minor aspect of her Near Eastern policy. She favored bolstering the Ottoman Empire enough to keep it from collapsing and falling entirely to Russia. In principal therefore, Britain opposed Russian gains at Turkish expense, but it was not until the Crimean War that she undertook military operations to further this Principal. Even then, Britain’s military effort was entirely concentrated in the Crimea with little or no interest in the Caucasian campaign.
In conclusion, the campaigns for revision of the anti-Muridism and anti-Shamil line, begun in 1957, have had some positive results. Suppressed views concerning national histories and pre-Soviet political, social and cultural development is being publicly aired especially by the intelligentsia of the nationalities in question.
In Daghestan this was seen immediately following the Moscow debate. The Bureau of the Daghestan Regional Committee of the All-Union Communist Party met and none of the participants in the Shamil debates, even those strongly denounced like Burdzhalov and Pikman, has been called upon to make a self-criticism. Even though Moscow historians have been periodically restrained from participating in an all-out revision of the history of the Caucasian wars, those in Daghestan and the Northern Caucasus will probably find more freedom as time passes. This should have a favorable effect on the development of research on Muridism in the Soviet Union.
1. Pokrovski, M.N., ''Russkaya istoriya s drevneishikh vremen'',: Russian History from Earliest Times, (Moscow, 1933), 8th ed., Vol. I, Forward.
2. Drabkina, E., ''Natsionalny i Kolonialny vopros v tsarskio Rossii'': (The Nationalities and Colonial Question in Tsarist Russia), (Moscow, 1930).
3. For example one such resolution was released by the CC CPSU on May 16, 1934, “On teaching of History in the Schools of the USSR.” This and others are found in; Direktivy VKP I postanovleniya Sovetskogo pravitelstva o narodskom obrazovanii za 1917-1947 gg,: (Directives of the All-Union communist Party (Bolshevik) and Resolutions of the Soviet Government concerning Public Education during 1917-1947), (Moscow-Leningrad, 1947), 1st edition, pp. 170-171, 182-188, 196-202.
4. Protiv istoricheskoi Kontseptsii M.N. Pokrovskogo, Sbornik statei: (Against the Historical Concepts of M.N. Pokrovski, A Compilation), (Moscow-Leningrad, 1939).
5. Urban, P.K., Smena Tendentsii v sovetskoi istoriograffii: (Changing Trends in Soviet Historiography), Munich, 1959 p.9
6. Direktivy VPK I postanovleniya Sovetskogo pravitelstva onarodskom obrazovanii az 1917 gg, op. cit., pp. 196-202
8. Grishko, v., Panslavism v sovetskoi istoriograffii I politiki: (pan-Slavism in Soviet Historiography and Politics), Munich, 1965.
9. Istoriya SSSR: (History of the USSR), Chapter on, “The Conquest of the Caucasus and the North Caucasians Fight for Independence Under the Leadership of Shamil,” Moscow, 1948, p.174
10. Reported in Voprosy Istorii, (1947), No.II pp.134-104, (The exact date of the debate is not given).
11. For further discussion of this theory see K.F. Shteppa “The Lesser Evil Theory,” in C.E. Black (ed), Rewriting Russian History, (New York, 1956), pp.107-120.
12. Istoriya SSSR: (History of the USSR,) Moscow, 1950), pp.177-178.
13. Guseinov, Geidar, Is istorii obshchestvennoi i filosofskoi mysli Azerbaidzahane xixveka: (From the History of Social and Philosophical Thought in Azerbaidzhan in the Nineteenth Century, (Baku, 1949).
14. Bagirov, M.D.., “K voprosu o Kharaktere dvizheniya Myuridizma I Shamilya”: “On the Nature of the Murid and Shamil Movement, “ In Bolshevik, (1950), No.13.
15. Smirnov, N.A., Reaktsionnaya sushchnost divzheniya Myuridizma I Shamilya na Kavkaze, (Moscow, 1952), pp.4-5.
16. Ibid., pp.17-19
17. These men were champions of the Caucasian cause in Europe but they failed nevertheless to arouse official concern or extend substantial aid to the Mountaineers. The books they wrote became classics of 19th century travel and adventure.
18. Fadeev, A. V., “Myuridizm kak orudie aggressivnoi politiki Turtsii Anglii na severozapadnom Kavkaze v XIX stoletii:” (Muridism as a weapon of the Aggressive Policy of Turkey and England in the Northwestern Caucasus in the Nineteenth Century), Voprosy Istorii, (1951) No.9. pp.76-96.
19. Smirnov, N.A., Ocherki istorii izucheniya Islama v SSSR: (Studies on the History of the Study of Islam in the USSR,), (Moscow, 1954).
20. Tsagareishvili, S.V., (ed), Shamil-stavlennik sultanskoi Turtsii i Angliiskikh kolonizatorov: (Shamil as a Protégé of the Turkey of the sultans and the English Colonizer), (Tiflis, 1953).
21. David Urquhart wrote extensively on the Caucasian wars. The following are some of his works which it has been possible to examine: Progress and Present Position of Russia in the East, printed in four editions, (London,1854). England and Russia, (London ,1835). See also R.W. Seton Watson, Britain and Europe, 1789-1914, (Cambridge, 1938), pp. 255-257. G.H. Bolsover, “David Urquhart and the Eastern Question,” 1833-1837, in the Journal of Modern History, Vol. viii, pp.444-467. Also Sir Charles Webster, “Urquhart, Ponsonby and Palmerston,” Vol.1xii, pp. 327-351. The Expedition of the Chesapeake to Circassia, (London, 1864). (An anonymous pamphlet, actually a collection of articles written by Urquhart in the English press). The Secret of Russia in the Caspian and Euxine, (London ,1863) The Flag of Circassia, (London, 1863).(a leaflet of Mr. Urquhart’s speech at Glasgow. May 23, 1638). For historians who wrote on David Urquhart see: Gertrude Robinson, David Urguhart” Some Chapters in the Life of a Victorian Knight-Errant of Justice and Liberty, (Oxford, 1920). John Howes Gleason, The Genesis of Russophobia in Great Britain, (Cambridge, Mass., 1950), pp.153-171, 173-184, 190-204, 257-266.
22. Webster, Charles, The Foreign Policy of Palmerston, 1830-1841, (London,1951), pp.270-576.
23. Urquhart bought the Sheffield “Free Press” to serve as a mouthpiece of his campaigns and political views.
24. Widerszal, Ludwik, Sprawy Kaukaskie w polityce europijskiej w letach 1831-1864, (Warsaw, 1834). Chapter 2 of this book contains important information regarding Urquhart’s relations with the Poles.
25. Temperley, Harold, “The Treaty of Paris and its Execution,” Journal of Modern History, Vol.iv, pp.396-397.
26. Sprawy Kaukaskie w polityce europijskiej w letach 1831-1864, op. cit., Chapter V.
27. Caucasian Battlefields, op. cit., p.108
28. Russell’s comment on a letter form Lord Robert Montague, November 2, 8162. Public Records Office, Foreign Office Papers, 65/261.library of The Foreign Office, London.
29. Letter from Lord Russell to Beales, January 22, 1863. foreign Office Paper, 65/652.
30. Letter from Hammond to Beales, January 22, 1863. Foreign Office Papers, 65/652.
31. The expedition of the Chesapeake to Circassia, op. cit., p.10.
32. Ibid., pp. 7-14.
33. Colonel Klemens Przewlocki was one of Jordan’s assistants who, during the Crimean War, organized a Cossack regiment on Turkish soil.
34. The expedition consisted of seventeen men of whom were seven Poles, two Frenchmen, four Turks, and four Circassians.
35. Letter of the British Consul, Stevens, to Lord Russell, September 7, 1863. Foreign Office Papers 78/1775.
36. The Conference which took place on January 25, 27th and 28, 1956, is reported in Voprosy Istorii, 1956 No.2, pp. 199-213.
37. Ibid., p.210
38. Pikman, A.M. “O borbe Kavkazskikh gortsev s tsarskimi kolonizatorami”: “On the Fight of the Caucasian Mountain People Against the Tsarist Colonisers,” Voprosy Istorii, No. 3, 1956, pp. 75-84. Marx and Engels wrote in support of the liberation struggle of the Mountaineers especially during the Crimean war. Marx championed the mountaineers cause in many of his writings and ridiculed the allied command for its ineptitude to co-ordinate operations so as to help the North Caucasians fighting for independence. See Marx and Engels, Works, Vol.IX, pp. 541-43, p.410. Also Vol. XXIII pp. 188-189.
39. Danigalov, G.D., “O dvizhenii fortsev pod rukovodstvom Shamilya”: “On the Movement of the Mountaineers Under Leadership of Shamil, “ Voprosy Istorii, No.7 1956, pp. 67-72.
40. “Obsuzhdenie voprosa o Kharaktere dvizheniya gorskikh narodov severnogo Kavkaza v 20-50-kh godakh XIX veka”: “Discussion on the character of the Movement of the North Caucasian Peoples, 1820’s 1850’s, “ Voprosy Istorii, No.12, 1956, pp. 188-198.
41. Pokrovski’s report appeared as an article in Voprosy Istorii 1957, No.2, pp. 62-74.
42. Out of the entire debate in which 30 members participated, the Voprosy Istorii (No.2, 1957) devoted a great deal of space to 25 participants and gave their views at some length.
43. Ibid. His original article, mentioned here on page 8, appeared in Voprosy Istorii, No.11 pp. 134-140.
44. voprosy Istorii, No.2, 1957.