Bolsheviks And Their Opponents For The First Years Of Soviet Power


The article deals with the complex and contradictory relationship between the Bolsheviks and representatives of the Muslim clergy. Specific facts are given from the history of Dagestan during the Civil War and the first years of Soviet power, when the Bolsheviks gradually began to deviate from the promises that they made to authoritative representatives of Islam, in particular Ali-Haji Akushinsky, Uzun-Haji Saltinsky, and others. The article contains separate excerpts from the letters of Ali-Haji Akushinsky, which he addressed to Denikin. They vividly show the manifestation of the scale and strength of the famous Muslim sheikh. During the years of the Civil War, the Bolsheviks made compromises with representatives of Islam, as they understood that without their help they would not be able to stay in power. They entered into various agreements with other political forces, among which the most influential were representatives of the Muslim clergy. The authors, however, also notice how in the first years of Soviet power the paths of yesterday's allies finally parted. This was reflected in the adoption of legislative acts by the Bolsheviks, which removed the authoritative Muslim Ulama from state affairs and the possibility of cooperation. The paper shows not only the compromises of the Bolsheviks with Muslim ideologists but also their outright deception in the early years of the Soviet Union. Facts are given that testify that in Dagestan the Soviet power was established not by the Bolsheviks, but by representatives of the so-called “Socialist group”.

Keywords: Bolsheviks, clergy, Dagestan, repressions, revolution


In the early years of Soviet power and until the 1950s, mass lawlessness was allowed in Dagestan, which became known thanks to the decisions of the party and government, as well as domestic historiography (Abdullaev, 2005; Agaev, 1990; Aidaeva, 1996; Akaev, 2006; Donogo, 2011; Elbuzdukaeva, 2011; Gakaev, 1999; Ibragimov, 2015; Isakieva, 2018; Izripova, 2004; Kakagasanov, 2020). The famous Dagestan historian Kakagasanov (2020) in his monograph “Mass political repressions of the 20-40s and early 50s of the twentieth century in Dagestan and their consequences (historical and documentary research)”, published in 2020 in Makhachkala, emphasizes that:

The very fact of mass repressions was officially recognized as the top party leadership of the country; first, in a closed report by the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, N. S. Khrushchev at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on February 14–25, 1956, and later in the resolution of the CPSU Central Committee on June 30, 1956 "On Overcoming the Cult of the Individual and Its Consequences. (p. 20)

The political repressions were carried out not only against major military leaders and famous scientists but also against representatives of the clergy, as well as ordinary citizens of the USSR. Muslim preachers who firmly stood by their principles and defended religious ideology were subjected to especially harsh repressions. Party and Soviet bodies considered them enemies of the Soviet state.

Problem Statement

The problem of the paper is based on showing how the relations of the Bolsheviks with representatives of the Muslim clergy changed during the Civil War. With the strengthening of Soviet power in Dagestan, the Bolsheviks, as the ruling political party, gradually began to renege and even openly deceive their recent allies in the fight against the enemies of Soviet power.

Research Questions

The article solves the problem of demonstrating the complex and contradictory relationship between the Bolsheviks and the Muslim clergy. In the face of the threat from the enemies of the Soviet government and, first of all, the Volunteer Army of General A.I. Denikin, which invaded Dagestan in 1919, the Bolsheviks were forced to compromise with their ideological opponents. They maneuvered in the environment of the enemies of the Soviet regime and entered into temporary agreements with them to retain power. However, after the end of the Civil War and the gradual strengthening of Soviet power, the Bolsheviks began to forget their supporters, who in wartime helped them to hold on and then consolidate their power in Dagestan.

However, it must be emphasized that most of the Muslim clergy in the North Caucasus offered fierce resistance to the Soviet authorities, which amounted to armed clashes. In this regard, we agree with the Dagestan historian Kakagasanov. As an experienced researcher of the problems of Islam in the North Caucasus, he writes: “It is known that a significant part of the Muslim clergy of Dagestan, after the establishment of Soviet power (1921), was hostile to this government for a long time” (Kakagasanov, 2020, p. 126). The Dagestan historian also objectively notes that “the Soviet authorities, on the whole, were condescending towards the oppositional antics of representatives of the Muslim clergy, based on the specific socio-economic and political characteristics of the republic and taking into account the traditions and customs, as well as the canons of Islam” (Kakagasanov, 2020, p. 128).

An analysis of archival documents allows us to state that in the first years of Soviet power in the republics of the North Caucasus, Muslim holidays were considered holidays. For example, Friday, as in many Muslim countries, was declared a day off in the Soviet state, and Soviet Muslims were allowed to perform Friday prayers in mosques. Thus, along with Soviet holidays, for example, May 1 or October Socialist Revolution Day, November 7, Muslims were allowed to celebrate Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. These holidays were officially declared days off. This continued until 1927 when Sharia courts were liquidated in the North Caucasus, and the Muslim clergy began to be subjected to serious persecution.

In Dagestan, there were “over 700 urban and rural Sharia courts, and the number of Muslim schools at mosques significantly exceeded the number of secular general education schools” (Kakagasanov, 2020, p. 130). The loyal attitude of the Bolsheviks towards Muslims before 1927 is also evidenced by the fact that the Muslim dogma was officially allowed to be taught in schools to children from the age of twelve. It was also allowed to marry Muslims according to Sharia.

However, in subsequent years, the socio-political situation in Dagestan began to change substantively. Elbuzdukaeva (2015) notes:

The political and ideological pressure of the period of the “socialist offensive” of the late 1920s and early 1930s when the economy is subject to total state control, and the party merges with the state was expressed in the policy of repressions. (p. 45)

During this period, Dagestan achieved great success in the sphere of economy, politics, and culture, as well as in national politics and interethnic relations. Soviet people of all nationalities were characterized by enthusiasm and the utmost exertion of spiritual and physical strength. Dagestanis in those years also felt pride in their country and its achievements. Already in the first five-year plan of the USSR, Dagestan had made significant progress in the economic and cultural life of the republic. An education system was formed, and the national intelligentsia emerged as a separate social class. So, at the beginning of the formation of Soviet society, as well as in the pre-war period in Dagestan, along with repressions and violations of human rights, there were successes in the economy, culture, and politics. Professor Elbuzdukaeva (2015) points out that:

Political repressions made it possible to condense the excess socio-psychological energy of the people, direct it to solving key development problems, and to some extent compensate for the weakness of material incentives. The legal system of the state was an established part of the mechanism of political repression as a way to achieve and retain power. With its help, the political doctrine of the dictatorship of the proletariat, which legalized the violence of one part of society against another, materialized in practice as a destructive weapon in the fight against one's people. (p. 47)

Despite the extensive literature on political repressions in Dagestan (Bugaev, 2006; Dzidzoev, 2006; Gakaev, 2001; Gapurov, 2006; Ibragimov, 2006; Smith, 2001), this topic is still relevant. Aspects of зrepressions against the Muslim clergy have been little studied. In this regard, much attention has to be given to consider the cooperation and mutual assistance of the well-known and authoritative spiritual leader of Shaykh al-Islam of Dagestan, Ali-Haji Akushinsky, who during the Civil War provided great support to the Bolsheviks. One of the largest streets in Makhachkala was named after him in the post-Soviet years. The influential Ulama enjoyed great respect both in his homeland and among other Muslim peoples of the Russian Empire, and then the Soviet state. His authority was so high that not only Dagestani Muslims, but also other nations who practice Islam listened to his opinion in the most difficult periods of history. That is why the supporters and defenders of Soviet power in Dagestan made great efforts to win him over to their side. These facts are known in Dagestan to both schoolchildren and the older generation. It is important to emphasize that in Dagestan during the Russian Civil War there were several Muslim high-ranking Ulama who did not support the Soviet regime. Ali-Haji Akushinsky, Nazhmuddin Gotsinsky, and Uzun-Haji Saltinsky stood out among them.

However, not all Ulama were as hostile to the new government as, for example, N. Gotsinsky, who fought in Dagestan and Chechnya until August 1925 against the new government. Professor Privalov, in the afterword to the monograph by Professor Dzidzoev (1995) “National Relations in the Caucasus”, states that:

The author showed the scope and intensity of the struggle against the imam of the North Caucasus N. Gotsinsky, who was killed only in 1925. To fight the imam, the Soviet government threw the armed formations of the Caucasian Military District, headed by the famous commander I.P. Uborevich, as well as parts of other military formations of the Red Army. Thus, the book by V.D. Dzidzoev fills the gap in the coverage of this issue. (p. 239)

Uborevich himself, however, was shot as an “enemy of the people” during the Great Terror.

The life, socio-political and religious activities of Ali-Khadzhi Akushinsky developed differently. He did not oppose the Bolsheviks in arms but after the establishment of Soviet power, the main goal of his life was the restoration of Sharia laws and norms in Dagestan. At the height of the Civil War in October 1919, in the village of Levashi, Dargin District, under his chairmanship, the Defense Council of the North Caucasus and Dagestan was created. This state-religious body has not yet been studied from a historical and legal point of view. It is known that it was called before the formation of new state authorities to head the highest public, political and religious leadership. In other words, the Defense Council of the North Caucasus and Dagestan during the Russian Civil War was supposed to govern Dagestan as the highest body of state power. In this regard, the role of Ali-Haji Akushinsky is extremely interesting. He said:

Our goal is to establish our Muslim nation and our religious foundations ... There is no enmity between us and the Bolsheviks, but in no case should we Muslims adhere to their laws contrary to our Sharia. We conclude an agreement with the Bolsheviks on the terms of non-interference in our religion. They will help us protect our religious interests… (Kakagasanov & Gadzhiev, 1998, p. 106).

The alim stated the same thing in many other public speeches. Unlike N. Gotsinsky, he did not fight against the Soviet regime and did not shed the blood of either the Bolsheviks or his follower. He did not seek enmity with the Bolsheviks, he wanted to agree with them on the non-interference of the Soviet government in the Islamic religion and the way of life of Muslims. The Bolsheviks were not just atheists, but militant atheists. Therefore, the attitude toward religion among the Bolsheviks and the followers of Islam was initially formed on mutually exclusive positions. Nevertheless, the Bolsheviks understood that it was impossible to win and retain power without the active support of authoritative Ulama. Therefore, they often resorted not only to compromises with Muslim ideologists but also to their outright deception. To prove this, we present several facts.

It is known that Ali-Haji Akushinsky, as well as other religious authorities, corresponded with Denikin. In one of these letters dated July 16, 1919, he wrote to the whiteguard general:

The Dagestan people did not invite units of the Volunteer Army within their territory. It did not give any reason for the invasion and all the aggressive actions mentioned. Therefore, the Dagestan people do not recognize any right for the Volunteer Army to impose their will on Dagestan on the issue of the form of the state government, the resolution of which they make dependent on the justly expressed will of all the peoples of Russia ... Dagestan recognizes the full right to manage itself and its affairs following its way of life and the sacred Sharia until the establishment of a nationwide standard of governance in Russia... The Dagestan people do not intend to tolerate acts on anyone's part that contradict their will either within Dagestan itself or from outside until the will of the peoples of Russia is revealed (Kakagasanov & Gadzhiev, 1998, p. 108).

Purpose of the Study

The paper aims to study the essence and principles of interaction between state authorities and the Muslim clergy. Much attention is given to show that its result was the removal of authoritative Muslim ideologists from the possibility of their real participation in the management of Dagestan, as state power was strengthened.

Research Methods

The methodological framework of the paper is the principles of historicism, and dialectics, which presuppose objectivity and truthfulness in the analysis of historical facts, events, and processes. The methods of historical research, such as problem-chronological, system analysis, historical-comparative, and retrospective approaches were used.

The article also cites a letter from Ali-Haji Akushinsky to General A.I. Denikin, in which a high-ranking Dagestan sheikh showed himself to be a far-sighted politician for several reasons. First, he chose the right position, not recognizing Denikin. Secondly, in the letter he repeated several times "about the will of all the peoples of Russia", thus showing that Dagestan is its integral part. Thirdly, he spoke on behalf of the Muslims of all of Dagestan, who were the absolute majority in the Dagestan region. In addition, considerable power was concentrated in the hands of the alim over all Muslims, who treated him with great respect. Fourthly, as a wise religious figure, Ali-Haji Akushinsky noted that "Dagestan recognizes the full right to manage itself and its affairs following its way of life and the sacred Sharia". This, like all other fundamental positions regarding the state structure of Dagestan, fit into the centuries-old traditions and way of life of a multinational people, where Islam was established earlier than other territories that were part of the Russian state (the Russian Empire and its predecessors).

During the Russian Civil War, two of the most influential alims of Dagestan, Ali-Haji Akushinsky and Uzun-Haji Saltinsky, who were joined by other Islamic authorities, demanded an ultimatum from Denikin. He had to clear the cities of Temir-Khan-Shura and Derbent from units of the Volunteer Army, withdraw them beyond the democratization line of Dagestan and refuse any interference in the internal affairs of Dagestan. The Ulama also demanded that the order to appoint the "ruler of Dagestan", Major General Minkaile Khalilov, be canceled and that all support for the officer-bey estate dictatorship over Dagestan be abandoned. Further, we quote Ali-Haji Akushinsky:

If the conditions of the Dagestan people are accepted, I, as the Shaykh al-Islam of Dagestan, undertake not to conduct hostile actions against the Volunteer Army. Otherwise, the Dagestan people reserve freedom of action and responsibility for this will be assigned to Volunteer army (Kakagasanov & Gadzhiev, 1998, p. 111).

In this ultimatum, in our opinion, several fundamental positions are manifested. Alims of Dagestan, demanding from the armed units of the White Guards not to interfere in the internal affairs of Muslim peoples put an ultimatum on the well-known general.


Summing up the results, it can be concluded that Ali-Haji Akushinsky and Uzun-Haji Saltinsky played a big role in establishing Soviet power in the republic. In the fight against the Volunteer Army, they were joined by other religious leaders of Dagestan. There was no own grouping of the Bolshevik Party in Dagestan during the Civil War. Soviet power was established here by representatives of the so-called “socialist group”, which included M. Dakhadaev, after whom the capital of Dagestan, the city of Makhachkala, was named, as well as D. Korkmasov, M. Khizroev, A. Takho-Godi, and others. The “Socialist Group” was actively assisted by the Bolsheviks of other nationalities who came to Dagestan (Jews, Russians, Ossetians, Ukrainians, Georgians, etc.).


The representatives of the "socialist group" had a high sense of social justice. In 1921 the Bolsheviks, especially their leaders, as they strengthened their positions and established Soviet power in Dagestan and, further, in the North Caucasus, began to deviate from the promises to yesterday's opponents that were given during the Civil War. Thus, in the difficult years of the struggle against the Volunteer Army and other opponents of the Soviet regime, the Bolsheviks concluded temporary compromise agreements with Alims Ali-Haji Akushinsky, Uzun-Haji-Saltinsky, and other Islamic authorities, followed by large masses of the people. In subsequent years, they forgot about everything that distinguished them from the Ulama of Dagestan and Islam in general. When some socialist transformations began to be not only anti-religious and acquired the specifics of militant atheism, the attitude of the Soviet authorities towards the Ulama began to change not in their favor.


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23 December 2022

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Dzidzoev, V. D., & Dzidzoeva, S. M. (2022). Bolsheviks And Their Opponents For The First Years Of Soviet Power. In D. K. Bataev, S. A. Gapurov, A. D. Osmaev, V. K. Akaev, L. M. Idigova, M. R. Ovhadov, A. R. Salgiriev, & M. M. Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Knowledge, Man and Civilization- ISCKMC 2022, vol 129. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 372-379). European Publisher.