ISSN 2330-717X

How Bolsheviks Laid Foundation For Rise Of Today’s Islamist Radicalism – OpEd


Of the many evil weeds which the Bolshevik revolution planted that continue to flourish is anti-Western Islamist radicalism, a trend that Lenin and his regime promoted from their very first days in power and that has informed Moscow’s policies Soviet and post-Soviet ever since.


Indeed, what might be called “the birth certificates” of 20th and 21st century anti-Western Islamist radicalism are the Soviet government’s appeal “To All the Toiling Muslims of Russia and the East” of December 3, 1917; and the shariat appeal by the Bolshevik-organized First Congress of Peoples of the East which took place in Baku, September 1-8, 1920.

The former, as Moscow commentator Kyamran Agayev points out today, urged the Muslim peoples to rise against the bourgeois West in alliance with the Bolsheviks, while the second went even further and suggested there was a mutually supportive connection between communism and Islam (

The Baku congress adopted what came to be called “The Shariat Project’ which listed 15 principles of the Islamic shariat that it said corresponded to communist doctrine, thus legitimizing Soviet power in Central Asia and encouraging a link between the Bolsheviks and Muslims in the Islamic world.

The project asserted in fact that “communism and the shariat do not contradict one another,” a position that Joseph Stalin, Lenin’s peoples’ commissar for nationalities affairs, declared in 1921 he fully supported. There were efforts to implement this in Central Asia but then Moscow turned against Muslims inside Soviet borders.

Many Bolsheviks were horrified by this alliance. After attending the Baku congress, Nikolay Bukharin told Lenin that “we have awakened a monster,” even though he could certainly not have foreseen or even suspected “what is taking place in the Near and Middle East.”


According to historians, Agayev says, “the Bolsheviks directed the work of the Congress of Peoples of the East into the channel of anti-Westernism,” which in practical terms meant the Anglo-Saxon world. Indeed, when Grigory Zinovyev, a Bolshevik leader who chaired the congress, asked Muslims to swear their allegiance to anti-Westernism, they swore with shouts of “hurrah.”

What the Bolsheviks did at the dawn of their power in Soviet Russia laid a delayed action mine under the world, one that Moscow hoped it could control and direct for its own purposes. But in fact, Agayev says, what Moscow had put in motion rapidly took on a life of its own, especially after the demise of the Soviet system.

Moscow thus should be very cautious about accusing the US of being behind the Islamist radicals. In reality, “Putin and his camarilla are in banal fashion repeating what Bolshevism did with its eastern policy and its search for the main enemy in the bourgeois West.” How this ended for the Bolsheviks is “well known,” although the Kremlin doesn’t appear to appreciate it.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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