Custodians of Holy Places in Central Asia and Russian State (1865-1917)

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The article discusses the institution of custody of holy places in Central Asia in the pre-revolutionary period (1865-1917). It is indicated that despite the fact that this institution was not legitimatized in Muslim Law (Sharia), nevertheless, custody was quite widespread in the region. It is stated that the sheikhs-custodians were surrounded with mystical worship of the faithful who attributed to them supernatural abilities in the fulfillment of a variety of desires and healing of various diseases. The custody of holy places has always and everywhere been associated with the acquisition of income from pilgrimage. In Central Asia around a holy place, as a rule, a waqf complex was also formed, which made additional significant income to the sheikhs-custodians of holy places. The hereditary order of custody succession, with significant ownership holy places had, often was the cause of conflicts among relatives who had rights to sacred objects. After Russia came to Central Asia, this problem became one of the most important for the government of Turkestan. It was important for Russia to solve the property problem of holy places. In their attempts to solve it, the authorities of Russian Turkestan could not build a clear and understandable system of relations with custodians of holy places. Even after half a century of presence in the region, the authorities had little idea of the number of holy places and real income of their sheikhs-custodians. The author concludes that the reason for such an ineffective activity of Russian authorities in the region in solving problems of holy places was the fear of destroying the order that took shape over the centuries. It, in their opinion, could lead to an increase in anti-Russian feelings in the region.

About the authors

Vladimir P. Litvinov

Bunin Yelets State University

Author for correspondence.

Doktor Istoricheskikh Nauk [Dr. habil. hist.], Senior Research Fellow, Scientific Research Laboratory

28/1, Kommunarov St., Yelets, 399770, Russia


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Copyright (c) 2020 Litvinov V.P.

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