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Islam in Central Asia: from the Soviets to the Present

Islam in Central Asia: from the Soviets to the Present

The Hugh Leach Memorial Lecture

Dr. Adeeb Khalid, 18 October 2023 15:00 BST

Islam first emerged in Central Asia in the early ninth century when it was imported by regional leaders from the Middle East. Since then its influence and prominence has waxed and waned along with those in power. Under Soviet occupation Islam came to personify all that was not Russian and embodied a rejection of the Bolsheviks scientific atheism. Following the collapse of the USSR, newly independent elites across Central Asia deployed elements of Islam as a tool in the formation a national identities and the re-traditionalisation of society.

As a result of growing disillusionment with corrupt elites and poor socio-economic conditions across contemporary Central Asia, Islam is once again growing in popularity. This brings its own challenges in the form of the rise of radical political Islam and fundamentalism only encouraged by the recent return to power of the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan. Islam is now a key factor in the politics, society and national identity of the Central Asian republics and one that will have an important influence on the regions future.

Adeeb Khalid is the Jane and Raphael Bernstein Professor of Asian Studies and History at Carleton College, Minnesota. His work centres on the history of the sedentary societies of Central Asia from the time of the Russian conquest to the present. He has held visiting appointments at the John W. Kluge Center for Scholars at the Library of Congress and at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris and is a member of the editorial boards of Slavic ReviewCentral Asian Survey, and Cahiers de l’Asie centrale.

His most recent book is Central Asia: A New History from the Imperial Conquests to the Present (2021).

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