views updated


origins of jadidism
other prominent jaddists

Jadidism (a word meaning modernism, from the Arabic Jadid, meaning new) was a late-nineteenth-century movement of intellectual and political self-renewal and resistance among the Muslim subjects of the Russian Empire.

origins of jadidism

Russian annexation of the Crimea in 1783, the definitive conquest of the Caucasus in the 1850s, and expansion into the Islamic heartlands of Central Asia meant that by the turn of the twentieth century some thirteen million Muslims, 10 percent of the Russian Empire's population according to the 1897 census, lived under Russian rule. Russian colonialism used different methods to control these populations, ranging from outright Russification and attempted conversion to Orthodoxy, to cooperation and cajoling. Jadidism was born as a cultural movement stressing the education of children, economic development, emancipation of women, language reform, new forms of media such as newspapers and magazines, and the voicing of public opinion.

İsmail Bey Gasprinski (1851–1914), Crimean Tatar reformer, educator, and publicist, is seen as the intellectual founder of jadidism. Born in a small Crimean village to a family that had served in the Russian armed forces for two generations, Gasprinski became the most influential figure in the jadidist movement. Straddling two cultures, Russian and Turkic, Gasprinski (or Gaspirali as he is called in Turkish) served four years as the mayor of Bakhchisaray (Bahçesaray), the administrative center of the Crimea, from 1878 to 1882. In this period he published a seminal essay on Russian Muslims, Russkoe musulmantsvo (The Russian Islamic world). He was also given permission by the Russian censor to publish his newspaper, Perevodchik/Tercüman (The interpreter), in Russian and Turkish. During a career that spanned thirty years, Gasprinski appealed to Russian Muslims to abandon misdirected Islamic zeal and seize the tools of modernity such as modern schooling and technology. Modernity was not only compatible with Islam, he argued, but also indispensable if Muslims worldwide were to resist the intellectual assault of colonialism. His ideas found a broad audience not only in the Russian Empire but also in India, Egypt, and the rest of the Muslim world. In fact, the cultural program of modern republican Turkey, established after 1923, owed much to the jadidists. Gasprinski always remained a controversial figure because he wrote that Muslims should actually collaborate with the Russian authorities if they wanted to modernize themselves. He took the "civilizing mission" of Russian liberals at its word and I appealed to the Russian authorities to stop seeing Muslims only as potentially seditious subjects but to give them the opportunity to show their loyalty. This attitude was seen by some of the more militant Russian Muslims as toadying, and the Russian authorities never really trusted Gasprinski.

other prominent jaddists

Another major figure of the jadidist movement was Yusuf Akçura (Akchurin; 1876–1935). Born in Kazan, Akçura's family moved to Istanbul where he attended the Imperial Military Academy. Exiled in 1898 to Ottoman North Africa, he escaped to Paris in 1899 where he attended the École Libre des Sciences Politique. In 1903 he went back to Kazan where he published his seminal work, Ücç Tarzi Siyaset (Three types of politics), in which he argued for the union of all Turkic peoples of Russia. This would earn him the title "Father of Pan-Turkism." He published the newspaper Kazan Muhbiri (The Kazan informer) in 1904 and was among the leading organizers of the party known as the Alliance of Russian Muslims (1905). In 1920 he joined the Turkish nationalist movement in Ankara where he was a major influence on the government's program of Turkish nationalism. Akçura died in Ankara.

Ahmet Ağaoğlu (Aghayef; 1869–1939), a jadidist of the same generation, was born in Karabakh, Azerbaijan. At the insistence of his mother, he attended the local Russian gymnasium where he was introduced to Western influences. He later went to Paris where he studied under the philosopher Ernest Renan and became greatly influenced by his ideas. Another influence on the young Ağaoğlu was the Islamist militant Jamāl ad-Dīn al-Afghānī who promoted Islamist views. In 1894 Ağaoğlu returned to Azerbaijan where he struggled for the unity of Russian Muslims and founded the Difai, a secret society. In 1909, under pressure from tsarist authorities, he immigrated to the Ottoman Empire, where he joined the Young Turk movement. In this period he became a fervent advocate of Turkism, which he combined with liberal democracy. In 1921 Ağaoğlu joined the nationalists in Ankara. Yet, in his later years he adopted a critical position toward the single-party rule of Kemal Atatürk. By the time of his death he was somewhat marginalized.

Perhaps the most striking figure of all the jadidists was Sultan Galiyev (1882–c.1940). Born in a small village in Bashkortostan, Galiyev received his early education in the Tatar institute in Kazan. By the early twentieth century he came under Bolshevik influences and after the October Revolution in 1917 he was invited to join the All-Russian Islamic Congress meeting in Moscow, where he was elected to the post of general secretary. He later joined the Committee of Muslim Socialists in Kazan, which aimed to create a Muslim-Turkic state under the protection of the Soviet Union. At this point he fell out with the jadidists as his position became more socialist, and he grew more estranged from Islam. He was the primary organizer of the Islamic Red Army. By the early 1920s Galiyev had become a close associate of Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky. In 1920 he was the name behind the Congress of Eastern Peoples, held in Baku. The congress appealed to all the colonized peoples to rise up against imperialism. Galiyev was later arrested by Joseph Stalin for counterrevolutionary activities and died in mysterious circumstances.

There were many other jadidists from a wide variety of political persuasions. What united them all was a solid basic education in Russian schools; being imbued with the ideals of modernity, although they interpreted them in many ways; and a feeling of belonging to an Islamic-Turkic world.

See alsoEducation; Young Turks.


Georgeon, François. Aux origines du nationalisme turc: Yusuf Akçura, 1876–1935. Paris, 1980.

——. "Yusuf Akura: Deuxieme Partie—Le Mouvement National des Musulmans de Russie (1905–1908)." Central Asian Survey 5, no. 2 (1986).

Lazzerini, Edward J. "Local Accommodation and Resistance to Colonialism in Nineteenth Century Crimea." In Russia's Orient: Imperial Borderlands and Peoples, 1700–1917, edited by Daniel R. Brower and Edward J. Lazzerini, 169–187. Bloomington, Ind., 1997.

Rorlich, Azade-Ayse. The Volga Tatars: A Profile in National Resilience. Stanford, Calif., 1986.

Zenkovsky, Serge A. Pan-Turkism and Islam in Russia. Cambridge, Mass., 1960.

Selim Deringil