Staunton, November 26 – Young people in Daghestan “are not only more religious but also more conservative in their religiosity,” according to Irina Starodubrovskaya, something that she suggests will do little to promote modernization in that North Caucasus republic and may point toward even more serious problems ahead.
In an interview conducted by Badma Buyrchiyev of the Kavkazskaya politika portal, the Gaidar Institute specialist on the regions discusses the findings of her recently completed investigation into the values of Daghestanis, one that involved a survey of some 1600 of them (kavpolit.com/articles/irina_starodubrvoskaja_dagestanskih_musulman_obedi-29816/).
The study, which involved an Internet poll because religious tensions in the republic made more direct methods impossible, was conducted by the Gaidar Institute and the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service. 1675 people filled out the survey form, although nearly twice as many began it and then stopped, Starodubrovskaya says.
It used three key questions to identify Daghestanis in terms of their religiosity: “Do you pray five times a day?” “Do you belong to a [Sufi] tariqat?” and “Do you take part in mavlids?” On the basis of that, the authors concluded that 22 percent of Daghestanis were secular, 27 percent were percent were traditionalists, and 22 percent were non-traditional Muslims.
Because those who took part were self-selected, the Moscow scholar continues, one cannot assert that these divisions mirror those in Daghestani society as a whole. But they are suggestive, especially in terms of differences among the generational cohorts in that North Caucasus republic.
And they allow for one important corrective to the views of many, she says. Typically, the expert community divides the Muslims of Daghestan and elsewhere into the moderates and the radicals depending on their attitude toward force. “Our investigation allows us to suggest that this division is much deeper and touches fundamental values.”
“Thus,” Starodubrovskaya continues, “on questions of general equality, participation in elections, and trust in other people, the responses of supporters of non-traditional Islam split practically right down the middle between these opposing positions,” thus suggesting the need for a finer grained approach.
Further, she says, “judging from everything, young people [in Daghestan] not only are more religious but also more conservative in religiosity. Among them are more who back independent reading of translations of the Koran in favor of reading interpretations and also a search for the resolution of religious issues within a single legal school and not among contemporary teachers.”
On the one hand, that can have a positive consequence because younger people are more inclined to go back to primary sources. “However, on the other, the contemporary individual is someone who thinks independently and the uncritical acceptance by the young of prepared recipes in such an important sphere for Daghestan as the religious one will hardly promote the modernization of the region.”
In addition to her conclusion that “young people are more religious and more conservative in their religiosity,” Starodubrovskaya says, the study found that “what unites Daghestani Muslims in the first instance are modernized values” and that “non-traditional Muslims on the whole are somewhat more archaic.”
But at the same time, she adds, all these groups are subdivided and the research shows that they overlap on particular issues than many are inclined to think, with conservatives backing free choice and moderates insisting on the observance of traditional values as far as women and education are concerned.
Such overlap means that there is more communication among these groups and less certain opposition among them than many think, a pattern that not only allows for shifts toward modernity but away from it as well, especially if the young are the more religious and the more conservative in their religiosity as is now the case.