Empire of Nations: Ethnographic Knowledge and the Making of the Soviet Union

Empire of Nations: Ethnographic Knowledge and the Making of the Soviet Union

by Francine Hirsch
     
 

ISBN-10: 0801442737

ISBN-13: 9780801442735

Pub. Date: 05/28/2005

Publisher: Cornell University Press

When the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917, they set themselves the task of building socialism in the vast landscape of the former Russian Empire, a territory populated by hundreds of different peoples belonging to a multitude of linguistic, religious, and ethnic groups. Before 1917, the Bolsheviks had called for the national self-determination of all peoples and had…  See more details below

Overview

When the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917, they set themselves the task of building socialism in the vast landscape of the former Russian Empire, a territory populated by hundreds of different peoples belonging to a multitude of linguistic, religious, and ethnic groups. Before 1917, the Bolsheviks had called for the national self-determination of all peoples and had condemned all forms of colonization as exploitative. After attaining power, however, they began to express concern that it would not be possible for Soviet Russia to survive without the cotton of Turkestan and the oil of the Caucasus. In an effort to reconcile their anti-imperialist position with their desire to hold on to as much territory as possible, the Bolsheviks integrated the national idea into the administrative-territorial structure of the new Soviet state.

In Empire of Nations, Francine Hirsch examines the ways in which former imperial ethnographers and local elites provided the Bolsheviks with ethnographic knowledge that shaped the very formation of the new Soviet Union. The ethnographers-who drew inspiration from the Western European colonial context-produced all-union censuses, assisted government commissions charged with delimiting the USSR's internal borders, led expeditions to study "the human being as a productive force," and created ethnographic exhibits about the "Peoples of the USSR." In the 1930s, they would lead the Soviet campaign against Nazi race theories .

Hirsch illuminates the pervasive tension between the colonial-economic and ethnographic definitions of Soviet territory; this tension informed Soviet social, economic, and administrative structures. A major contribution to the history ofRussia and the Soviet Union, Empire of Nations also offers new insights into the connection between ethnography and empire.


About the Author:
Francine Hirsch is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801442735
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
Publication date:
05/28/2005
Series:
Culture and Society after Socialism Series
Pages:
392
Product dimensions:
6.13(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

Table of Contents

Pt. 1Empire, nation, and the scientific state
1Toward a revolutionary alliance21
2The national idea versus economic expediency62
Pt. 2Cultural technologies of rule and the nature of Soviet power
3 The1926 census and the conceptual conquest of lands and peoples101
4Border-making and the formation of Soviet national identities145
5Transforming "the peoples of the USSR" : ethnographic exhibits and the evolutionary timeline187
Pt. 3The Nazi threat and the acceleration of the Bolshevik revolution
6State-sponsored evolutionism and the struggle against German biological determinism231
7Ethnographic knowledge and terror273

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