Gasprinskii, Isma?Il Bay (1851–1914)
GASPRINSKII, ISMA˓IL BAY (1851–1914)
Isma˓il Gasprinskii (Gaspirali), a leading intellectual in the Turkic world, was born in Bahcesaray, Crimea, on 8 March 1851 and died in the same city on 11 September 1914. He received his early education in his hometown and later attended the Gymnasium in Akmescit (Simferepol). After graduating from the Military Academy in Moscow in 1867, he briefly served in the Ottoman army, and then subsequently taught at various Muslim schools in Russia. It was the latter experience that made him realize the necessity of educational reforms for Russian Muslims to achieve social and economic progress.
From 1883 on, when he established the newspaper Tercuman (Interpreter), Gasprinskii advocated reforms in curriculum and teaching methods, with an emphasis on advancing the abilities of students in reading, writing, and arithmetic. In his view, religion was to be taught as culture and for spiritual revival. He believed that many of the ills of Muslim societies could be cured by an improved new educational system (Usul-i Cedid).
At the First and Second Congresses of the Union of Russian Muslims in 1905 and 1906, held in Nizhni Novgorod and St. Petersburg, respectively, Isma˓il Gasprinskii's ideas on educational reforms and politics received close attention. In 1907 he helped found Ittifak-i Muslumanlar (Union of Muslims) urging not political but linguistic and cultural unity among the Muslim Turkic peoples of Russia. During the following decade, voicing his motto of "Unity in language, thought and action," he traveled to Istanbul, Cairo, and India urging educational and social reforms in the Islamic world. Despite opposition from existing traditional Muslim educators, by the time of Gasprinskii's death, around five thousand Usul-i Cedid schools had been established.
Isma˓il Gasprinskii also championed women's rights and the importance of education for Muslim women. In one of his important journals, Alem-i Nisvan (Women's world), which he began publishing with his daughter Sefika Hanim in 1906, he consistently argued that society could only reach a high level of civilization if women were also educated.
Bennigsen, Alexandre A. Ismail Bey Gasprinski (Gaspiraly) and Origins of the Jadid Movement in Russia. Oxford, U.K.: The Society of Central Asian Studies, 1985.
A. Uner Turgay