"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Christianity and Islam in Post-Soviet Russia

When I teach, as I do every semester, my course on Eastern Christian encounters with Islam, I love the time we spend on Russia for it gives me a chance to upend a lot of silly notions that American Christians have about Russia, Russian Orthodoxy, and Islam, including in its Russian embodiment and context where there are many notably different practices from Islamic life in, say, the Arabic world. A recent book helps us further appreciate the unique challenges in the Russian context: Languages of Islam and Christianity in Post-Soviet Russia by Gulnaz Sibgatullina (Brill, 2020), 230pp. About this book the publisher tells us this: 

In her book, Gulnaz Sibgatullina examines the intricate relationship of religion, identity and language-related beliefs against the background of socio-political changes in post-Soviet Russia. Focusing on the Russian and Tatar languages, she explores how they simultaneously serve the needs of both Muslims and Christians living in the country today. 

Mapping linguistic strategies of missionaries, converts and religious authorities, Sibgatullina demonstrates how sacred vocabulary in each of the languages is being contested by a variety of social actors, often with competing agendas. These linguistic collisions not only affect meanings of the religious lexicon in Tatar and Russian but also drive a gradual convergence of Russia's Islam and Christianity. 

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