Bayram Balcı, Islam Renewal in Central Asia in R. Isaacs and E. Marat (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Central Asia, Londres, Routledge 2021, pp. 411-421. DOI: 10.4324/9780429057977
The Central Asian republics’ break from the USSR was significant in religious terms.While the communist authorities had claimed to be atheist at least in theory, or non-religious, the new states on the other hand adopted a wholly new approach to religion, not opposing it but linking it with and incorporating it into the new political identity of state, nation and society.Thirty years after the end of the USSR, the renewal of Islam is a matter of history and does not in truth derive from the sociology of religion and the place of religion in the relations between the Central Asian states and the rest of the Muslim world (Balci 2003; 2019).This chapter examines religious change in Central Asia over the last three decades from a historical perspective. Such is the complex nature of the way in which Islam is managed and experienced by state and society in Central Asia, that it should be approached not just in one way, but several. However, the approach in this chapter emphasises the interactions between internal and local dynamics and those of foreign societies, according to which each Central Asian state has empowered its own way of accommodating Islam within its society and institutions. In other words, this chapter provides an analysis of how Islam in Central Asia relates to Islamic geographical areas cut off during Russian and Soviet domination.The chapter highlights the dynamics of communication between Central Asian Islam at the end of the USSR and those of a globalised Islam, i.e., those Islamic influences from Turkey, Iran the Arab world and the Indian sub-continent. Such an approach to the topic foregrounds the different varieties of ‘imported’ Islam.The analysis demonstrates that the new Islam which developed in the post-Soviet period in Central Asia, is the product of a synthesis between local Islam and diverse foreign influences benefitting from the opening of frontiers which had been closed for several decades.