The Donkey Wars: Satire, Free Speech, and Political Imagination in the Muslim Caucasus


ACLS Fellowship Program




As scholars of the Muslim world have long known, satire has had a robust and varied role in social life across a broadly drawn community of believers, calling the sanctimonious, satraps, and sinners of all stripes to recognize themselves in archly cast caricatures. This satire was most often and most effectively directed by Muslims themselves from within their own communities. One of the best known examples of this tradition from the Eurasian world was the popular, long-running Azerbaijani-language magazine, Molla Nasreddin. The Donkey Wars tracks the life and times of this journal in order to cast light on local responses to authoritarianism and rapid social change some 100 years ago in an often overlooked corner of the Muslim world, as well as to testify to the enduring relevance of satire as an expression of competing social forces today.