- Chapter 4. Nationalism and Socialism: The Soviet Case
- Matthew J. Payne
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- History: Nationality in Imperial and Soviet Russia
Indeed, since the mids Soviet local leaders ruled their republics in a quasi-autonomous regime for a quarter of a century: Moscow demanded political loyalty and economic results but in return turned a blind eye to internal issues. Consequently, the Brezhnev era maximized the inclusion of local elites within the Soviet project, limiting as much as possible the adoption of centralistic measures and presenting deviations and limits to the application of the colonial category to the Uzbek periphery. Monument to Sharaf Rashidov in Jizzakh, photo by author. Reaching this target at any cost became a matter of political stability, legitimacy, and survival for the Uzbek ruling elite.
By this time, the Soviet economy was entering chronic crisis, becoming unsustainable under the weight of military costs, the failures of agricultural policies, and the inefficiencies of redistribution to the peripheries. The Brezhnev social contract was based on self-delusion and self-congratulatory tones while the Soviet system was dramatically floating adrift. The compromise between the center and the periphery would last until the system entered a crisis of stagnation and needed to be reformed.
The affair proceeded at different levels, involving some 58, people from the party, prokuratura, MVD, KGB, and soviets at the local and even central level. This judicial and political imbroglio linking the falsification of cotton production data and corruption involved thousands of party and state officials in Uzbekistan. It was a symptom of a greater incurable disease within the wider Soviet Union itself, a system that collapsed when the top-down hierarchical order — led by ideology, elite politics, social forces, interest groups, administrators, and bureaucrats — broke down.
The reversal of the long process of Korenization and the imposition of exogenous rulers among the highest ranks of the republic meant a sort of Moscow trust administration in the UzSSR and potentially the end of the Soviet non-colonial compromise Cucciolla, Visitors at the Mustaqillik monument in Tashkent in photo by author. The end of the Cotton Affair coincided with the rise of Karimov in The new Uzbek leader promoted his new ideology of independence Mustaqillik , legitimizing national mythologies, rewriting the historical narrative—through politically-directed historiography, literature, new textbooks, monuments, and museums—and reshaping collective memory to make a clear break with what was now being cast as an awkward Soviet past.
This negative commemoration of the Soviet period within this process of crafting a new Uzbek national consciousness blended the memory of suffering and a general sense of post-colonial trauma. Nevertheless, in Uzbekistan nostalgia for Soviet times is still relevant, and the Uzbek people remain divided when judging the Soviet experience in general, and the Cotton Affair—one of the most sensitive topics of their contemporary history—in particular. These contradictions—in analyzing an issue that remains sensitive in both Russia and Uzbekistan—are indicative of the complexity of an as-yet unresolved issue.
An overall evaluation of the Soviet experience in Central Asia that can be shared by both Russians, who perhaps suffered the most and invested the most in the Soviet utopia and Uzbeks who still struggle to assert a cultural identity separate from the past Soviet experience remains elusive. Thus, the purpose of further research is to analyze the period of perestroika from the perspective of additional cases on the periphery, defining the other social, economic, political, and cultural elements that characterized the traumatic transition to independent nation-statehood.
Since then, the colonial dimension of the subsequent Soviet system has been disputed or has been used to refer to very specific aspects, such as the central role of Moscow in forging new national identities or the debate on gender, cultural and social issues Abashin, ; Buttino, ; Kalinovsky, ; Kamp, ; Khalid, ; Levi, ; Morrison, ; Northrop, ; Rywkin, ; Sahadeo, ; Sartori and Trevisani, Abashin S Sovetskii kishlak: Mezhdu kolonializmom i modernizatsiei.
Chapter 4. Nationalism and Socialism: The Soviet Case
Moskva: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie. Central Eurasia Studies Review 7 1 : 2—8. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Cucciolla RM Legitimation through self-victimization. University of Oregon. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Cambridge: Polity Press. Bologna: Il mulino. New York-Oxford: Berghahn Books. Ab Imperio 2: — Houbert J Russia in the geopolitics of settler colonization and decolonization.
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The Round Table. The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs 86 : — Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. Ab Imperio 2. Seattle: University of Washington Press. Among the younger historians of nationality and empire, Nicholas Breyfogle and Willard Sunderland have already made their mark. The second set of essays looks at the frontier in the imperial period, in particular in the nineteenth century.
In all four essays, the main actors are Russians: farmers, government officials, agronomists, soil scientists, inteligenty, workers, and Elena Shulman investigates settlement in the Far East from the late s. Michaela Pohl draws on her oral history work in the Virgin Lands to discuss ethnic relations and Soviet identity.
In many ways this research helps us better make sense of the Soviet Russian experience, multi-faceted, insecure, and subject to myriad government interventions and repressions. One more book deserves at least a mention in our survey of recent works on nationality and empire though, strictly speaking, it focuses on neither.
Whether or not they specifically used the word rasa , Russians certainly were not immune from racialized categorizing.
Matthew J. Payne
For this reviewer the most important contribution of this book is to ask the simple question: what was the logic behind the sometimes benevolent, sometimes crudely repressive Soviet policies toward non-Russians. In past historiography, it is more or less taken for granted that Soviet power was inherently repressive, centralizing, and inimical to cultural diversity not that Pipes would ever use that phrase.
Indeed, this belief is extremely wide-spread nowadays in formerly communist countries. Martin shows, following the path-breaking work by Yuri Slezkine, that on the contrary, the USSR was from the start dedicated to fixing nationality and in some cases even creating it. This policy aimed to promote local cultures in this book, especially Belarusian and Ukrainian , providing special opportunities for individuals of these nationalities to rise in professional and party hierarchies.
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In reality, most Russians proved unwilling to send their children to Ukrainian or Belarusian schools and found ways to short-circuit policies aimed at promoting their non-Russian colleagues and comrades. Whether or not one accepts that the famine was a genocide aimed specifically at the Ukrainian nation, it is clear that by the early s ethnic particularism had come to be seen as a threat to Soviet power.
The modern state, to state a banality, is primarily an information state. In order to more efficiently administer a population, it needs a great deal of statistical information. For the ethnographers this was a matter of professional pride and enthusiasm, for the Soviet leadership a matter of practical necessity.
At the same time, this difference in motivations made a clash between the two inevitable. Unlike contemporary German ethnographers, Soviet ethnographers with some exceptions that Hirsch notes resolutely resisted biological and racial explanations. Very soon, however, already from the s economic and political prerogatives of modernization were sweeping away all other considerations.
The study of empire would seem a natural match with this huge and well-funded teaching and, increasingly, research enterprise, but until recently few practitioners of Russian imperial history have been prominent in this field; David Christian is a notable exception. Too bulky and sophisticated to be a textbook, it is conversely too sweeping in scope to be considered a specialist monograph. This very important book shows the intellectual sparks that can fly when empire is intelligently incorporated into the world history narrative and it is to be hoped that this example will spawn other hybrids lying somewhere between our own narrowly-focused, specialist-oriented monographs and necessarily simplified and seldom scintillating textbook treatments.
The western territories of the Russian Empire were always perceived as the most important and in some ways the most threatening regions of non-Russian population. All of the books I will discuss in this section cover the imperial period. This reflects the fact that from and, indeed, before , Poland has been analyzed in a separate historiography as is the case for Finland and, to a lesser extent, for the Baltic countries now including Lithuania , Belarus, and Ukraine.
Unfortunately historical writing about all of these areas, with the partial exception of Poland, tends to be exclusively in the national language, closing off this historiography to all but the most intrepid or polyglotenous. The books selected for discussion show a good cross-section of topics, approaches, and geographical foci. One of the pioneers of historical research in this western region is Daniel Beauvois whose works have not lost their importance for anyone interested in the history of Polish, Belarusian, and Ukrainian nations and cultures.
In any case, the enormous contribution that Daniel Beauvois has made to the history of this region can hardly be overstated. In a multi-authored book of this kind a certain amount of stylistic diversity is inevitable.
History: Nationality in Imperial and Soviet Russia
In any case, it seems likely that most readers will pick and choose the chapters most germane to their own specific interests. One very useful aspect of this volume is the inclusion at the end of four historiographic essays by Polish Andrzej Nowak , Ukrainian V. Kravchenko , Belarusian S.
leivajumsa.ml Since the majority of the population affected by the events and policies described in this book belonged to these four nationalities regrettably no similar essay by a specialist in Jewish history of the region is included , it is only fitting that we are acquainted with the main trends in these national historiographies. Each of these essays provides an excellent bibliography of works for further study. The volume ends with some thirty pages of useful graphs and tables on population, territory, schools, military service, and high tsarist officials serving here from to Belarusians tend to get short shrift in the historiography and unfortunately this essay will be no exception.
Happily, this situation appears to be changing. In the past decade Mikhail Dolbilov has produced a number of detailed, sophisticated, and profoundly archive-informed publications. In this huge book pages long! The Jewish case is also interesting in this context: Dolbilov shows that at first Jews were seen, at least potentially and by some, as allies against the Poles but very rapidly judeophobic sentiments and distrust of converts rose to the surface.
True, this story of potential assimilation in the s and s being dashed by the pogroms of and reinvigorated government repression is rather well known, but not in the specific context of the Northwestern territory. The Catholic-Pole nexus is also well known but the at times quite activist attempts to convert Catholic peasants and the details of attempts to introduce Russian into Belarusian Catholic churches are, if not unknown, then at least never before documented so carefully.