Dudoignon, Stéphane A., ‘Holy Virgin Lands’, in E. Tasar et al., ed., The Khan’s Oven, 2021

Dudoignon, Stéphane A., ‘Holy Virgin Lands? Demographic Engineering, Heritage Management, and the Sanctification of Territories in ex-Soviet Central Asia, since WWII’, in E. Tasar, J. Eden, A. J. Frank, ed., The Khans’ Oven: Studies on the History of Central Asian Religions in Honor of Devin DeWeese, Leiden & Boston: Brill (HdO), pp. 358–408, ill.

This chapter analyses different types of embedment of religious practices and identities, in the former Soviet South, in contexts impacted since after WWII by massive population re-settlements of the late 1940s and by the creation, within collective farms, of territorialised communities. It focuses on sanctifications of these territories, through Muslim hagiographic experiences developed locally during the 1990s–2000s.

By hagiographic experiences, we mean combinations of instruments — textual, monumental and/or ritual — of the worship of men of God active in Soviet times, in their recognised attributes as modern community founders. Another character of this modern Islamic sainthood is the Muslim saints’ alleged rebellion, if not against the Soviet order itself, at least against Russian kul’tura as it had been imposed on Central Asian societies.

As in the Caucasus, confessional and national values have often merged, in a politicised religious field characterised by the confrontation, from the early 1990s to the early 2010s, of sacred lineages of tomb keepers with newcomers educated abroad — the former playing the custodians of local tradition, through a patrimonial relation to Islam largely borrowed, in fact, from specifically Soviet reappraisals of cultural ‘heritages’.

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