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The Propagation of Islam in the Siberian Khanate: Legend, History and Aftermath

Religions of the Silk Road Lecture by Hamid Algar, UC Berkeley

Friday, March 08, 2013
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095


The Siberian Khanate is the least known of the Mongol successor states, perhaps because of the brevity of its life and the remoteness of its location. One of its effects proved, however, permanent: the dissemination of Islam in a distant corner of Eurasia. This process began some time before the disintegration of the Golden Horde, but is associated primarily with the rule of Küçüm Khan, most celebrated among the khans of Western Siberia. Little documentary evidence of the propagation of Islam under his auspices survives; it is rather a legend, shot through with chronological impossibilities, that provides a somewhat opaque record of the process. It was precisely in the time of Küçüm Khan, the late sixteenth century, that Russian conquest of the region began, accompanied by much coerced conversion to Christianity, but Islam was preserved and even propagated further throughout the centuries of Russian rule; the city of Tobol’sk is still today an outpost of Islam. 

Hamid Algar is Professor Emeritus of Persian and Islamic Studies University of California, Berkeley.

Religions of the Silk Road: Transformation and Transmission in the Heart of Asia, is a lecture series co-sponsored by the UCLA Program on Central Asia and the Center for the Study of Religion

Before the rise of the maritime empires of Europe, the ancient trade routes of Central Asia served as one the world’s most vital thoroughfares of religious traffic. From the goddesses of prehistoric Eurasia through the Iranian religions of Zoroaster and Mani, to the Buddhism transferred from India and the Judaism, Christianity and eventually Islam carried in from the Mediterranean west, almost all of the major religions of Asia were imported into the oasis towns that lined the route between Persia and China. Yet if the monks, books and relics who moved along the ‘silk road’ point to a history of religious transmission both into and through Central Asia, important questions remain about what happened to these religious forms in their long periods in transit. Placing the question of transformation alongside that of transmission, the current series of talks excavates the neglected history of Central Asia’s own contributions to the religions of the old world.


Sponsor(s): Center for European and Eurasian Studies, Center for Near Eastern Studies, Asia Institute, Program on Central Asia, Center for the Study of Religion

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