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EAST: Islam and National Identities in Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus

Type of group

Network group with funded projects

Area focus



Michael Kemper


Alfrid Bustanov
Sara Crombach
Danis Garaev
Hanna Jansen
Artemy Kalinovsky
Michael Kemper
Christian Noack
Sudha Rajagopolan
Ewa Stańczyk


EAST is a small and highly productive network group that operates as a bridge between Eastern European Studies, Religious Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, and Slavic Studies, with a focus on Russia and the USSR but also comprising work of social and religious history in Central Europe. The group has a new ERC Starting Grant (2019-2023)  and a strong track record of past projects (N.W.O.; Volkswagen Foundation); it enjoys excellent international visibility (with major partners in Kazan, Makhachkala, Moscow, Kiev, St. Petersburg, Dushanbe, as well as in Poland, the US, France, Switzerland, and Germany).

Focus areas

The History of Soviet and Russian Oriental Studies

How has Islam been studied in the USSR and contemporary Russia? How can Soviet/Russian "Orientology" be integrated into the broader debate on Orientalism? (N.W.O. Free Competition, 2009-2014, Kemper with S.A. Dudoignon, CNRS Paris; PhD students Crombach and Jansen; two volumes with Routledge 2011 and 2015).

Key publications

  • M. Kemper, “From 1917 to 1937: The Muftī, the Turkologist, and Stalin’s Terror,” Die Welt des Islams 57, no. 2 (2017): 162-191.
  • M. Kemper & C.U. Noack, “Christian-Muslim Borderlands: from Eastern European Studies to Central Eurasian Studies,” in Religion and Orientalism in Asian Studies, ed. Kiri Paramore (London: Bloomsbury, 2016), 145-163.
  • M. Kemper, “Introduction”, in: I.Y. Kratchkovsky, Among Arabic Manuscripts: Memories of Libraries and Men (Leiden: Brill Classics in Islam, 2016), 1-24.
  • Reassessing Orientalism: Interlocking Orientologies during the Cold War, ed. by Michael Kemper and Artemy M. Kalinovsky (London: Routledge, 2015).
  • A.K. Bustanov, Soviet Orientalism and the Creation of Central Asian Nations (London: Routledge, 2015).

The Transformation of Muslim Cultural and Political Identities in the Soviet Union

How have Muslim national and religious identities been transformed in the USSR and in the post-Soviet area? (VENI Kalinovsky 2012-2014; NOW Internationalization Kemper and Conermann, XXX; Noack/Dudoignon, Kolkhoz project Volkswagen-Foundation xxx).

Key publications

  • A.M. Kalinovsky, Laboratory of Socialist Development: Cold War Politics and Decolonization in Soviet Tajikistan (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2018).
  • A.M. Kalinovsky & M. Kamp, “From Industrialization to Extraction: Visions and Practices of Development in Soviet Central Asia,” Ab Imperio 2 (2018): 69-79.
  • Allah's Kolkhozes: Migration, De-Stalinisation, Privatisation, and the New Muslim Congregations in the Soviet realm (1950s-2000s), ed. S.A. Dudoignon and C.U. Noack (Berlin: Klaus Schwarz, [Islamkundliche Untersuchungen; No. 314], 2014).

Islamic Manuscripts from Tatarstan, Daghestan, Western Siberia

Identification, study and edition of Arabic and Tatar manuscripts (Kemper, Bustanov).

Key publications

  • A. K. Bustanov, Islamskaia poeziia v epokhu Stalina: Sbornik stikhov Kyiametdina al-Kadyiri (Kazan: Institut Istorii, 2018);
  • G. Isaev. Qur'an-i Kerim terjemesi, ed. A.K. Bustanov (Kazan, 2018).
  • S. Shikhaliev & M. Kemper,Sayfallāh-Qāḍī Bashlarov: Sufi Networks between the North Caucasus and the Volga-Urals”, The Piety of Learning: Islamic Studies in Honor of Stefan Reichmuth, Michael Kemper and Ralf Elger (Leiden: Brill, 2017), 166-198.

Islam and the Russian Language

A study of the Islamization of the Russian language and the emergence of an “Islamo-Russian sociolect” (N.W.O. Free Competition, 2014-2019, Kemper with Jos Schaeken/Leiden Univ., PhD students Danis Garaev [at UvA] and Gulnaz Sibgatullina [UL], post-doc Dr. Alfrid Bustanov).

Key publications

  • A.K. Bustanov & M. Kemper, eds., Russia’s Islam and Orthodoxy beyond the Institutions: Languages of Conversion, Competition and Convergence (London and New York: Routledge, 2018).
  • D. Garaev, “Jihad as Passionarity: Said Buriatskii and Lev Gumilev,” Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 28, no. 2 (2017): 203-218.
  • A.K. Bustanov & M. Kemper, Islam po-russki: Analiz sovremennoi islamskoi literatury v Rossii: Uchebnoe posobie (St. Petersburg: Prezidentskaia biblioteka, 2016).
  • G. Sibgatullina & M. Kemper, “Between Salafism and Eurasianism: Geidar Dzhemal and the Global Islamic Revolution in Russia,” Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 28, no. 2 (2017): 219-236.

The Politics of Memory in Poland

A study of the commemoration of World War II and the Holocaust in Poland (Dr Ewa Stańczyk, EURIAS Junior Fellowship at NIAS 2014-2015; Herder Scholarship, Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe 2016; Leibniz Summer Fellowship, Centre for Contemporary History Potsdam 2016).

Objects in Post-Conflict Settings

A project on the afterlife of material culture in former war zones and conflict regions (Dr Ewa Stańczyk, in collaboration with Zuzanna Dziuban UvA/Freie Universität Berlin).

Key publications

  • E. Stańczyk, ed., Beyond Maus: Comic Books, Graphic Novels and the Holocaust. Special issue of Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 17, no. 1 (2018).
  • E. Stańczyk, ed., Comic Books, Graphic Novels and the Holocaust (special issue reprint) (London: Taylor and Francis, 2018).
  • E. Stańczyk, “Transnational, Transborder, Antinational? The Memory of Jewish Past in Poland,” Nationalities Papers 44, no. 3 (2016): 416-429.
  • E. Stańczyk, “Heroes, Victims, Role Models: Representing the Child Soldiers of the Warsaw Uprising,” Slavic Review 74, no. 4 (2015): 738-759.
  • E. Stańczyk, “Commemorating Young Victims of World War II: the Forgotten Children’s Camp in Litzmannstadt/Łódź,” East European Politics and Societies 28, no. 3 (2014): 614-638.

New projects/future directions

The Muslim Individual in Imperial and Soviet Russia

ERC Starting Grant by Dr. Alfrid Bustanov (2019-2023, two PhDs and one post-doc).

Key publications

  • A.K. Bustanov, “Muslim Literature in the Atheist State: Zainap Maksudova between Soviet Modernity and Tradition,” Journal of Islamic Manuscripts 9, no. 1 (2018): 1-31.
  • A.K. Bustanov, "Against Leviathan: On the Ethics of Islamic Poetry in Soviet Russia.," in The Piety of Learning: Islamic Studies in Honor of Stefan Reichmuth, eds. M. Kemper and R. Elger (Leiden: Brill, 2017 (Islamic History and Civilization; Vol. 147)), 199-224.

Russian Cultural and Language Promotion in the Near and Far Abroad

(Dr Christian Noack in the framework of the Jean Monnet “Nemesis” Network Project). EAST has organised two panels on the 2017 International Political Science Organisation (IPSA) conference in Amsterdam 22-24 May 2017 dedicated to this subject. A collective volume is in preparation.

Eastern Europe and Israel

A study of Holocaust survivors from Poland and Czechoslovakia who were recruited to fight for Israel in 1948. (Dr Ewa Stańczyk,EHRI fellowship 2018, in collaboration with Dr. Nir Arielli, Univ. of Leeds).

Religious Political Technologies: the Battle for Islam and Orthodoxy in Russia and Ukraine

(Kemper, in Jean Monnet “Nemesis” Network Project; N.W.O. pre-proposal "Orthodox Geopolitics: Kiev between Moscow, Constantinople and the West", Sept. 2018, pending.)

Academic outreach

From 2014-2017, the EAST group members delivered 54 lectures/talks at various national and international institutions.


Regular series at UvA

  • EAST (Europe-Asia Study Table), at UvA's European Studies Department: this is the series of regular lectures by staff and invited guests, often in cooperation with other research groups at the Faculty of Humanities (esp. in European Studies and History). Organizer: Dr. Artemy Kalinovsky.
  • EAST Public: once or twice per semester, focused on contemp. Political developments, for a larger interested audience. Organizer: Dr. Artemy Kalinovsky.


  • "European Languages as Muslim lingua francas", 13-14 December 2018, UvA Library (organizers: M. Kemper, G. Sibgatullina).
  • "The Iranian Revolution as a World Event", UvA, 13-14 December 2018 (organizer: A.M. Kalinovsky).

Valorization beyond academia

Several of our projects have strong valorization aspects in collaboration with non-academic players. Kemper, in his new project on the battle between several Orthodox churches in Ukraine, cooperates with the Eastern European Section of the OSCE (The Hague, policy briefing), and with Pax Nederland (joint events in Ukraine planned for 2019).

EAST has a strong national and international media presence, as featured here with the media interventions by Artemy Kalinovsky: