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GASPRINSKII, ISMAIL BEY (1851-1914), Crimean Tatar reformer, educator, and publicist, regarded as an architect of modernism among Muslim Turkic subjects of the Russian Empire. Born in a small Crimean village to a family that had served in the Russian military for two generations, Ismail Bey was schooled first in a local maktab and then in Russian military academies before spending nearly three years abroad, principally in France and the Ottoman Empire. Upon his return to Crimea he taught Russian briefly in the Zincirli madrasah and served a four-year term as mayor of Bakhchisarai from 1878 to 1882. In that period he published a defining essay, Russkoe musul manstvo, which challenged his community and its Russian leaders to awaken to a new age; he also received permission to produce a newspaper, Perevodchik/Tercuman (The Interpreter) that would appear in both Russian and Turkic. With the first issue, dated io April 1883, Gasprinskii launched one of the most important ethnic periodicals in Russian history and firmly committed himself to a fife of public service dedicated to the modernization of Turkic society and the Islamic way, both within Russia and abroad.

For the next thirty years Gasprinskii endeavored to persuade his brethren to reassess their intellectual assumptions and sociocultural practices so as to overcome those conditions, derived largely from the influence of a misdirected religious orthodoxy, that he believed condemned Muslims to cultural inferiority under modern Western technological, military, political, and intellectual hegemony. The declining fortunes of Muslims everywhere, along with his own cosmopolitan experiences, impelled Ismail Bey to advocate a message that change was not only possible and good, but was also absolutely necessary for cultural survival. He further argued that progress could be ensured only by educating children in modern schools teaching a modern curriculum by modern methods (usul al jadid), by encouraging social and economic cooperation, and by developing a willingness to borrow from other cultures (especially Europe) whatever might prove useful and beneficial. Perevodchik/Terciiman, countless pamphlets, and (after 1905) other periodical publications (Alem-i nisvan, Alem-i sibyan, Al-nahdah, and Kha! Kha! Kha!), became the vehicles by which Gasprinskii spread his ideas and inspired the movement known as Jadidism (modernism).

For Gasprinskii, creation of a new society able to compete effectively meant generating “new people.” Education, of course, stood at the center of his project, for it was expected to reorient the way the younger generation thought and behaved. Islam would remain in the curriculum for moral guidance, but it would cease to dominate, replaced in that role by the sciences, mathematics, foreign languages, philosophy, and a range of practical subjects. The “new man” would be complemented by the “new woman,” still expected to shoulder the major responsibility for nurturing society but given more autonomy and broader opportunities to participate in public affairs. Mobilization of the talents, resources, and energies of the largest possible number of people permeated Gasprinski’s writings, leading him to call for the development of a common Turkic literary language, the establishment of mutual-aid societies, and cooperation with the Russian government and people. By the second decade of the twentieth century, Gasprinskii’s influence, intellectually moderate and consummately practical, was felt throughout Turkic Russia, as well as in Turkey, Egypt, and even Muslim India.

[See also Jadidism. ]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Gasprinskii, Ismail Bey. “Russo-Oriental Relations: Thoughts, Notes, and Desires.” Translated by Edward J. Lazzerini. In Tatars of the Crimea: Their Struggle for Survival, edited by Edward Allworth, pp. 202-216. Durham, N.C., 1988. Translation of his Russkovostochnoe soglashenie (1896).

Lazzerini, Edward J. “Ismail Bey Gasprinskii, the Discourse of Modernism, and the Russians.” In Tatars of the Crimea: Their Struggle for Survival, edited by Edward Allworth, pp. 149-169. Durham, N.C., 1988.

Lazzerini, Edward J. “Ismail Bey Gasprinskii’s Perevodchik/Terciiman: A Clarion of Modernism.” In Central Asian Monuments, edited by Hasan B. Paksoy, pp. 143-156. Istanbul, 1992.

EDWARD J. LAZZERINI

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/gasprinskii-ismail-bey/
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  • writerPosted On: June 8, 2013
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