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ISHAKI, AYAZ (1878-1954), Tatar political activist and writer. Born on 23 February 1878 into the family of Giylajetdin, the mullah of Yaushirma village in Kazan guberniya, Ayaz (or Gayaz) Ishaki received a traditional education at the Chistay madrasah (1890-1893) and then at the Kulbue madrasah (1893-1898) of Kazan. In 1898 he entered the Kazan Teachers’ School, from which he graduated in 1902, finding employment as a teacher of Russian at madrasahs in Kazan and Orenburg. In 1903 he returned to Yaushirma to take up briefly the duties of village mullah.


As a student Ishaki became involved in the first Tatar literary-political circle organized by a group of Tatar youth in 1895. They published a mimeographed paper called Tarakki (Progress) and in 1901 organized the Shakirdlik party, which a year later changed its name to Hurriyet (Freedom) and adhered to purely political goals. At this time Ishaki also established links with the Russian socialist revolutionary circles of Kazan and acquired a taste for action, which may explain the brevity of his stay in Yaushirma and his decision to return to Kazan.

Once back in Kazan, Ishaki became involved with radical circles; in 1905 he and Fuad Tuktar founded a secret Tatar political group called Tangchilar revolving around two socialist papers advocating the overthrow of tsarism-Tang (Down) and Tang yoldizi (Morning Star), both edited by Ishaki. In the fall of 1905 he and Tuktar organized the Socialist party Brek with its own journal, Azat (Free), succeeded by Azat khaliq (Free People).

In August 1905 Ishaki participated in the first Congress of the Muslims of the Russian empire, heading the group of twenty radical nationalists opposing the moderate views of the majority of delegates who advocated a political union of all Muslims. This disagreement grew even wider at the third congress (August 19o6), where Ishaki argued that unity of religion and culture did not suffice to unite all Muslims into one political party as long as class differences endured.

By 19o6 Ishaki had clashed not only with those Tatars who did not share his political radicalism but also with the Russian government. The newspaper Tang yoldizi was banned in 19o5, and Ishaki was arrested and sent to the Chistay jail. Upon release he launched the newspaper Tavish (The Voice), which continued the socialist revolutionary orientation of the previous two and prompted an immediate response from the government: Ishaki was arrested and jailed for six months and then sent to serve a three-year exile in Arkhangelsk. He escaped in 19o8 and made his way to St. Petersburg, where he lived in hiding; however, the police caught up with Ishaki and deported him to Vologda, where he stayed until 1913.

Since Ishaki was not allowed to return to Kazan, he chose St. Petersburg for launching his next projects-the publication between 1910 and 1913 of the newspapers Il (Country), Suz (The Word), and Bezneng il (Our Country). By this time Ishaki had mellowed politically, distancing himself from the radicalism of the socialists. He moved closer to the moderate platform of the Ittifak party, which had never regarded class differences as a hindrance to the unity of all Muslims. In 1915 Ishaki traveled to the Muslim regions of the Russian empire to promote the idea of unity and common action.

After the fall of the Romanov dynasty in February 1917, Ishaki helped organize the two congresses of Russian Muslims held during that year (May, Moscow; July, Kazan). On 22 July 1917, Ishaki was instrumental in having the national cultural autonomy of the VolgaUral Muslims proclaimed by the Second Congress, which also elected a National Assembly (Milli Majlis), National Council (Milli Shura), and National Administration (Milli Idare). He became the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Volga-Ural Muslims, but when the Red Army occupied the large cities of the Volga-Ural region in 1918, the National Administration was abrogated. Since the regional enemies of the Bolsheviks were also hostile to Ishaki, he and the National Administration moved to Kizilyar (Petropavlovsk) on the northern fringes of the Kazakh steppes, where he began to publish the newspaper Mayak (The Lighthouse).

In 1919 Ishaki left Russia (via Japan) to participate in the European Peace Conference as the representative of the Volga-Ural Muslims. This departure marks the beginning of his life as a political emigre, which took him to Warsaw, Paris, Berlin, Mukden, Ankara, and Istanbul. During this period he channeled his efforts toward keeping alive the “national memory” of the Volga-Ural Muslims and supporting their struggle to free their homeland. In Warsaw Ishaki was active in an organization called Promethee, aimed at achieving independence for the ethnic minorities of Russia. In Berlin in 1928, he launched the newspaper Milli Yul (National Path), which changed its name to Yanga Milli Yul (New National Path) in 1939 Ishaki represented the Volga-Ural Muslims at the Muslim Congress held in Jerusalem in 1931 and continued to pursue the idea of Muslim and Turkic unity. Between 1934 and 1938 he traveled to Finland, the Arab countries, Manchuria, Korea, and Japan in order to create an organization of the Volga-Ural Muslim diaspora.

When the national congress of the diaspora met in 1935 in Mukden, it elected Ishaki the president of its national council. To provide the diaspora with a voice, in November 1935 Ishaki started the newspaper Milli bayrak (The National Flag), which appeared until mid-1945; it was the only one of his journals to survive German suppression in World War II. After the war Ishaki moved to Turkey, where he lived until his death in Ankara on 22 July 1954.

Ishaki left a threefold legacy as a political activist driven by the idea of Turkic unity and national autonomy for the Volga-Ural Muslims, a journalist promoting that political credo, and a creative writer reflecting the ideals of enlightenment, justice, and economic and political advancement intimately associated with Jadidism (Muslim reformism). [See Jadidism.] His literary work includes close to fifty short stories, novellas, novels, plays, memoirs, and translations of historical essays, addressing a broad range of issues. In the fantastic novel Iki yoz eldan song inkiyraz (After Two Hundred YearsExtinction; Kazan, 1904), and the Story Tagallemda sdgaddt (Happiness in Education; Kazan, 1899) he addressed the issues of reform and modernization of education as a condition of social progress; in the play Zdleykha (Moscow, 1918) the focus is on the tragedies brought about by Russian policies of forced conversion to Christianity of the Russian government. Other plays and stories address issues of social justice, women’s lives, and the quest for education. The literary works that most clearly mirror Ishaki’s political ideas are the play Dulkin echende (In The Wave; Paris, 192o) and the novel Oyga taba (Homeward; Berlin, 1922), which are permeated by nationalist and Pan-Turkic ideas. [See Pan-Turanism.]

Ishaki’s name was obliterated from histories of Tatar literature and culture published in the Soviet Union after 1926, and he was mentioned only to vilify him as a nationalist and enemy of the Soviet people. Not until 1988, in an article by I. Nurullin in the newspaper Vechernyaya Kazan, was the first step taken toward returning Ishaki to the peoples of his homeland. Since, newspapers and journals such as Kazan utlari (Fires of Kazan), Miras (Heritage), and Tatarstan have carried many articles about him, also reprinting some of his works. In 1991 the Union of Writers of Tatarstan instituted a literary prize in honor of Ishaki; the first writer to receive it was Rabit Batulla, whose works embody Ishaki’s ideals and hopes for the future of the VolgaUral Muslims.


Agay, H., A. S. Akis, and Tahir Cagatay, eds. Muhammed Ayaz Ishaki, Hayati ve faaliyeti: 100. Dogum Yili Dolayisiyla. Ankara, 1979.

Nurullin, Ibrahim. “Vozvrashchenie Gayaza Ishaki.” Vechernyaya Kazan 10.17 (1988).

Nurullin, Ibrahim. “Gayaz Iskhakiyga yoginti.” Kazan Utlari, no. 2 (1993) 153-157.

Saadi, A. Tatar adabiyate tarikht. Kazan, 1926.

Sultan, S. “Ayaz Ishaki Idilli: A Biography.” Central Asian Survey, no. 2 (1990): 133-143.

Validov, Dzhamaliutdin. Ocherki istorii obrazovannosti i literatury Tatar. Moscow and Petrograd, 1923.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/ishaki-ayaz/

  • writerPosted On: May 27, 2014
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