To say this is an encyclopedia of Islam in Russia would be to slight the book's rich analysis. But to avoid that description would be to understate how thoroughly Hunter and her colleagues cover every aspect of the subject: from a serviceable history of the last 500 years, to the organizational detail of the Muslim communities and their overarching councils, to the sociology of Russia's Muslim population and its relationship with Russian Orthodoxy, to Islam's political place within Russia, and finally to the role that it plays in Russian foreign policy. They argue that Islam has been and remains far more central in defining Russian identity and a more distinct influence on Russian foreign policy than is normally recognized. Already the second-largest religious-ethnic grouping in Russia-and one that is growing rapidly relative to Russia's shrinking population-Russia's Muslims, they contend, will have much to say about how the country's current historic passage turns out.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.
More Reviews on Eastern Europe and Former Soviet Republics From This Issue