Sufism is a form of Islamic mysticism that has spread
throughout the world. It is divided into paths (tariqas) which contain separate
fraternities. Sufism is based on the special connection
between the master and the followers (murids), implying complete submission for
the sake of truth-seeking. It allows Sufi leaders to quickly turn scattered
groups of people into a monolithic team with iron discipline.
It is not surprising that Sufism was established in the East Caucasus with the arrival of Russian troops in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. United by this ideology, the highlanders resisted the invaders for decades and turned the conquest of the Caucasus into the longest war in Russian history. Since then, the influence of the Sufis showed a tendency to strengthen during the harder times. Zikr — the Sufi rite of remembrance of God — was performed on the ruins of Grozny in the 1990s and during the mass Ingush protests in the fall of 2018.
The lack of understanding and strained relationships between the authorities and the Sufis sometimes turn into time bombs which can explode decades later. That’s why a sound knowledge of Sufism is essential to understand the Caucasus and prevent local conflicts. The photographer worked with the Chechen, Ingush and Kumyk Sufis for almost three years to capture all types of zikrs of the Qadiriyya tariqa practiced in the region.