Central Asia was the sole Muslim region of the former Russian Empire lacking a centralized Islamic organization, or muftiate. When the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin created such a body for the region as part of his religious reforms during World War II, he acknowledged that the Muslim faith could enjoy some legal protection under Communist rule. From a skeletal and disorganized body run by one family of Islamic scholars out of a modest house in Tashkent's old city, this muftiate acquired great political importance in the eyes of Soviet policymakers and equally significant symbolic significance for many Muslims. Relying on recently declassified Central Asian archival sources, most of them never seen before by historians, Eren Tasar argues that Islam did not merely "survive" the decades from World War II until the Soviet collapse in 1991, but actively shaped the political and social context of Soviet Central Asia. Muslim figures, institutions, and practices evolved in response to the social and political reality of Communist rule.
Through an analysis that spans all aspects of Islam under Soviet rule-from debates about religion inside the Communist Party, to the muftiate's efforts to acquire control over mosques across Central Asia, changes in Islamic practices and dogma, and overseas propaganda targeting the Islamic World-Soviet and Muslim offers a radical new reading of Islam's resilience and evolution under atheist rule.