Arabic historical studies in twentieth-century Dagestan: Amri R. Shikhsaidov
The aim of this article is to provide a broad overview of Arabic Studies in Soviet and post-Soviet Dagestan, a republic of the Russian Federation in the north-eastern Caucasus. To be sure, Dagestani Oriental scholarship is provincial in character, for two reasons: first, Dagestani scholarship has always focused on Dagestani history, in particular the Islamization process since the seventh century, the development of high Islamic civilization in the medieval period, the mountaineers’ resistance against foreign conquerors (such as Nadir Shah in the middle of the eighteenth century, and then especially against Czarism), and especially Dagestan’s integration (vkhozhdenie) into the Russian Empire. Oriental studies in Dagestan thus studied local Arabic sources in order to elucidate these central issues. Second, Dagestani Oriental scholarship emerged out of a group of local scholars who, as I will show below, obtained their classical education in Arabic and Islamic studies before the 1917 revolution and therefore continued some traditions of local Muslim scholarship within the nascent Soviet academic institutions of the republic. At the same time Dagestani Arabic studies also benefited from the circumstance that some leading Soviet Arabists and Caucasiologists in the prestigious research institutions of Leningrad were tremendously interested in Dagestani history. The presentday Orientalists in Makhachkala, Dagestan’s capital, are therefore products of a unique synthesis of traditional and academic scholarship on Arabic literature and Islam.