Abstract: The Soviet project was as thoroughly atheist as any geopolitical system seen on the world stage. Yet in a way that V.I. Lenin could have never imagined, one of the main objectives of Soviet authorities has now become a significant factor in Central Asian Muslims converting to Christianity. Russification is the term normally used to describe the social process, whereby non-Russian peoples of the Soviet Union became acculturated into Russian patterns of life, thought and worldview during the Soviet era. The result was that many Muslims inhabited both Soviet/Russian and Muslim cultural space, thus creating a new cultural identity that facilitated religious conversion away from Islam. This field research report uses the lens of personal conversion stories to examine some aspects of this phenomenon. Also, the range of personal experiences points towards the need to understand Russification as a spectrum of acculturation.
Abstract: Post-Soviet Central Asia has inherited a set of circumstances conducive to the revitalization of religion. The renewal of Muslim awareness and identity in Central Asia may not be surprising, but the growth of Christianity is, especially in its Protestant form within indigenous Muslim communities. This article, based on qualitative field research, reviews one example of this development: the process of conversion to Protestant Christianity among Muslim Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan. A prominent aspect of this social movement has been the ways in which Kyrgyz Christians have entered into a dynamic process of engaging with issues of identity and what it means to be Kyrgyz – a process that has sought to locate their new Christian religious identity within, rather than on the margins of, familial and ethnic identity, and one that challenges the normative understanding of Kyrgyz identity: that to be Kyrgyz is to be Muslim. While providing the context for Kyrgyz conversion, this discussion primarily focuses on the way Kyrgyz Christians utilize a number of different discursive strategies to contest normative Kyrgyz identity constructs and to legitimize a Kyrgyz Christian identity.