Geschichte Osteuropas und Südosteuropas




Dissertation (abgeschlossen im Januar 2016): „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.

As the example of the diverse Muslim population of the Russian Empire demonstrates the introduction of universal liability to military service became a test-bed for their relation to the imperial state. After 1874 only Volga-Ural Muslims served as soldiers in the regular army, while Crimean Tatars were allowed to serve in their own unit. The Muslims of Central Asia and the Caucasus remained exempt. Toward those Muslim soldiers who were recruited, the Russian Empire followed a policy of pragmatic toleration. Nonetheless, from the perspective of the soldiers the draft into the army remained first and foremost a traumatic event. However, beginning in 1905 the Muslim intelligentsia began to portray their peers’ service as an act of heroism and sometimes patriotism. During the First World War the depiction of Muslim soldiers in the Russian army became a component of war culture in the Volga-Ural region.

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 contributes 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.