Monday, September 22, 2008

The Vodka-Hashish Line

On my drive to Hampshire, I have been listening to lectures by Kenneth Harl on the Era of the Crusades. I found an amusing point in the lecture today and I thought I'll share it here. While talking about the Turks and their conversion to Islam in 9th-10th centuries, Harl mentioned a Vodka-Hashish line to see whether tribes converted to Christianity or Islam. Here is his description:
Some scholars have argued that Central Asian steppe nomads were almost destined to convert to Islam because of their religious tradition and their location relative to the “vodka-hashish” dividing line. In the forest zones of Russia, where vodka was consumed, Christianity prevailed. The steppe nomads who used hashish inclined to Islam.
Yup - an alcohol ban cost Muslims not only some fun but also Russia. Ok, so hashish balanced it out a bit. By the 11th century most of the Turkomen people had embraced Sunni Islam who found certain elements of Islam congenial such as devotion to ancestors and the tradition of the Shaman. I guess some aspects of Sufism match in this direction. In any case, this vodka-hashish line works quite well with one exception: The Khazars. This was a Turkomen nomadic tribe on the hashish side of the line, but they decided to accept Judaism as their religion - probably to keep later historians on their feet. They have their own really fascinating history.

5 comments:

Matthew said...

If you enjoy both, does that make you a Unitarian?

Salman Hameed said...

ha! Yes, and you may find Sunday sermons much more interesting...

Andy said...

The only problem is that at that time Vodka hasn't been invented yet - there was no distilling process available. And in general, I found that Harl's lectures are riddled with inaccuracies. For example, in "the Vikings" series of lectures by the same author he makes matter-of-fact statements about the origins of the word "slav". He fails to mention that the "facts" he uses are really just one of 5 existing hypotheses, and considered to be the least likely. In fact, in most sources this hypothesis isn't even mentioned. I'm not even talking about blatant stuff like saying that "Novhorod" means "Hilly city", when a simple translation from russian would tell you it means "New City".

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Thelonius said...

Andy, I believe Harl was talking about the old norse name for the city, Holmgar├░r, rather than the old church slavonic name.