Archives Digital Russian History Islam and Russian/Soviet History

Russian/Soviet Perspectives on Islam Launches

A few years back, Vadim Staklo came to George Mason University from Yale University Press. At YUP, in addition to wide editorial direction of publications on Russian and Soviet history, Vadim had worked on the launch of the Stalin Digital Archive, digitizing the Stalin Collection at the Russian State Archive of Social and Political History. [If you don’t know the Stalin Digital Archive, check out this interview with Vadim.] Vadim came to George Mason in hopes of collaborating with the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media on further projects aimed at digitizing and translating materials from the archives of the former Soviet Union, but now rather than expensive subscriptions that limit the availability of the digitized projects, he would seek outside funding to make documents available via open access to everyone.

I share below his announcement of the beta launch of the first project, a collection of transcribed and translated documents devoted to the history of Islam in Russia and the Soviet Union. In addition, I will join him on a roundtable at the upcoming conference of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, where we will talk more about the online archive. We are anxious for your feedback as we continue to develop the project. Without further ado, here’s Vadim.


George Mason University is launching a major new international multidisciplinary scholarly program, the Russian/Soviet Perspectives on Islam Project (RPI). The project, with primary support from the Luce Foundation and the NEH, documents the encounter and evolving relationship between the Orthodox/secular state and the Islamic regions, groups, individuals, and ideologies on the territory of the former Soviet Union and neighboring countries. This set of unique materials illuminates the strategies implemented by the Soviet and Russian state to establish authority and legitimacy among predominantly Muslim populations in Central Asia, the Northern Caucasus and Siberia and to enhance Moscow’s influence internationally with nearby Muslim countries, including Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey. The digital archive is designed to disseminate these documents to the widest possible scholarly community and general readership.

Please join us for the launch and presentation of the RPI
at the ASEEES Congress on Saturday, 19 November at 3:45 PM.

The project will digitize and translate a large number of primary sources pertaining to these topics. Besides presenting the documents from a number of Russian and international archives, we also work with institutional partners and individual scholars to assist in their search, management, and publication of primary sources related to their forthcoming or published books and articles. These synergetic themes will allow us to broaden the reach of traditional publications by introducing a virtually unlimited number of well-organized relevant primary sources to scholars and the general public.

At the core of this knowledge base is a collection of digitized primary sources. Most of these documents have never been published before, although we do include some important materials that have been known to and used by scholars. We employ two methods to select and add documents to the RPI:

  1. Direct archival work.

Affiliated scholars and archivists conduct focused field research and identify specific documents for inclusion in our knowledge base. These documents can be grouped into five main categories that also represent the current search criteria (we may expand this list in the future): Religion (aspects of history and religious tradition and thought, legal issues, organization and interaction with secular authorities, etc.); Nationalities question/Nation building; Women’s question; Education; Insurgency.

  1. Curated collections.

These sub-collections include the materials resulting from scholarly work by individual researchers on some specific topics. Scholars, as they prepare their articles, monographs, anthologies, and other traditional publications, sift through a huge volume of primary sources, only a fraction of which gets published or referenced on paper. Our platform allows to preserve, organize, and share this formidable array of relevant materials. These collections are annotated and introduced by the scholars, and become part of the general pool of documents in the knowledge base. They work in synergy with, and serve as an online documentary extension of, the traditional publications.

We invite you to preview the RPI site

Please visit the prototype site and give us your opinion.

The Browse Documents option will display a list of all items currently entered in the database.

Browse Collections and Exhibits show curated sets of documents on certain topics prepared and introduced by specialists. For example:

Muslims and the Civil War;

Soviet Muslim Posters;

Religious Boards of Transcaucasian Muslims, etc.

The Search function allows for Keyword, Boolean, and Exact Match searches, as well as Advanced search. The default setting for quick search is Keyword.

Advanced Search is a powerful tool for complex customized inquiries. It allows to specify the search by individual fields, such as Archive, Fond, Opis, List, Date, Translation, etc, and any combination of them. For example, a search that includes “Transcription / Is not empty” will render all documents that have been transcribed. Combined with “Translation / Is empty” and “GARF” as the keyword will limit that list to documents from the State Archive of the Russian Federation that have been transcribed, but not yet translated, etc.

Once you build your search, and run it, you can bookmark the results page in your browser. Next time you follow this link, this search will run again to reflect the changes to the collection that have happened since your last visit.

How to Use and Contribute

Russian Perspective on Islam is a living, growing project. It depends on the users providing their feedback, and suggestions for expansion that would benefit scholars and the general public.

If you are a scholar, we invite you to use this collection for initial inquiry, as well as to collaborate with us as you do research for your monograph, article, anthology, dissertation or a course paper. We want to publish an expanded selection of your primary sources that will complement your printed work, and your introduction that will help others navigate these materials.

If you are an educator, you are welcome to explore this collection to inform your lectures and presentations by using an embedded Exhibit Builder or any other program of your choice.

If you are a policy analyst, feel free to enhance your expertise by studying these unique and relevant materials, and work with us on the subjects that need additional research.

We are looking for volunteer translators to help translate the most important documents and commentary into English.

If you are a visitor, please let us know what you think, and how this knowledge base can be improved.

And, if you are a donor, we need your help to support this program.

Any thought on the project are welcome in the comments here, or be in touch by email!

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