Dissertationsprojekt: Muslims in the Russian Army, 1874-1917
In 1874 universal liability to military service was introduced in the Russian Empire. It was the last of Tsar Alexander II “Great reforms” which had been sparked by Russia’s humiliating defeat in the Crimean War in 1856. If Russia wanted to safeguard her standing as one of Europe’s great power, something had to change. The reform of the army entailed several challenges. Among these was the question of how universal conscription would be implemented in a multiethnic and multireligious empire like Russia. In the second half of the 19th century governmental elites had become increasingly aware of their state’s diversity and many regarded it as a potential threat. Who then could be trusted as soldiers of the Tsar? Was the army an institution through which loyalty to Tsar and Fatherland could be generated? Or was Russia in danger of arming her own enemies?
The project looks at the implications of the reform of 1874 for the diverse Muslim population of the Russian Empire. The question of liability to conscription became a test-bed for their relation to the imperial state. After 1874 it was mainly Tatars and Bashkirs who were recruited into the army as soldiers. How did military elites perceive these Muslim recruits and how did it deal with demands to accommodate army life with their religious duties? How, on the other hand, did Muslim soldiers experience their service in a pre-dominantly Russian and Christian army? What role did military service of their brethren play in Muslim discourses after 1905?
Drawing on Russian and Tatar sources, the study reconstructs the Muslim encounter with the Russian army until the collapse of the imperial regime in 1917. It wishes to contribute to research on the management of ethnic and religious diversity in the Russian Empire and the perception of the empire and its institutions by non-Russians subjects.