A comparative analysis of W. Ivanow’s and A. Bertels’ works on Nasir-i Khusraw and Ismailism: Toward rethinking Central-Asian Ismaili Studies

Document Type

Book Chapter


Stanislav Prozorov, Hakim Elnazarov

Publication (Name of Journal)

Russian scholars on Ismailism


Institute for Educational Development, Karachi


Nestor-Historia Publishers


Despite post-Soviet advancement in Central-Asian Ismaili Studies, Wladimir Ivanow and Andrey Bertels have remained foundational in this field. However, because of the opposing ideological camps in which these two scholars found themselves, their impact has been limited to their own spheres of influence. In this paper, I advocate a re-examination of the ideological positioning of both authors, arguing that each played a critical part within the contexts and constraints of their times. Their respective works, both entitled ‘Nasir-i Khusraw and Ismailism’, constitute examples of this role. These works are Ivanow’s and Bertels’ committed and independent intellectual constructs and are the result of skilful negotiation between (i) their knowledge, values, and skills and (ii) the ideological and structural constraints and possibilities of their times and (iii) their conceptual and methodological tools such as access to data. I further argue that a critical comparative re-reading of both authors’ dedicated and meticulous studies of Ismailism and Nasir-i Khusraw can provide us with nuanced, contested, evolving, and negotiated notions of Nasir-i Khusraw and Central-Asian Ismailism: an understanding that is better informed, de-essentialised, pluralistic, and constructivist.


This work was published before the author (Sarfaroz Niyozov) joined Aga Khan University.