Sibelan Forrester - Swarthmore College - Fall 2012

What do we know about Russia's relationship to Islam - the religion of many of its neighbors, and indeed of many citizens of Russia? Some famous Russian cultural figures have quite Muslim-sounding names: Modernist poet Anna Akhmatova, composer Sergei Rakhmaninov, even Nikolai Chernyshevsky's ideal nineteenth-century revolutionary, Rakhmetov, who hardened himself by sleeping on a bed of nails. Despite this, the long and strong relationship of Russia and Islam has been neglected in scholarship until recently.

This new course will examine texts spanning more than a thousand years, to elicit the actual interactions of Russians and Muslims, images of Muslims in Russian literature (and a few Muslim images of Russia), the place of Muslim writers in Soviet literature, and the current position of Muslims in Russia and in Russian discourse.