Russia's Own Orient: The Politics of Identity and Oriental Studies in the Late Imperial and Early Soviet Periods

Russia's Own Orient: The Politics of Identity and Oriental Studies in the Late Imperial and Early Soviet Periods

by Vera Tolz
     
 

Russia's own Orient examines how intellectuals in early twentieth-century Russia offered a new and radical critique of the ways in which Oriental cultures were understood at the time. Out of the ferment of revolution and war, a group of scholars in St. Petersburg articulated fresh ideas about the relationship between power and knowledge, and about Europe and Asia

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Overview

Russia's own Orient examines how intellectuals in early twentieth-century Russia offered a new and radical critique of the ways in which Oriental cultures were understood at the time. Out of the ferment of revolution and war, a group of scholars in St. Petersburg articulated fresh ideas about the relationship between power and knowledge, and about Europe and Asia as mere political and cultural constructs. Their ideas anticipated the work of Edward Said and post-colonial scholarship by half a century. The similarities between the two groups were, in fact, genealogical. Said was indebted, via Arab intellectuals of the 1960s who studied in the Soviet Union, to the revisionist ideas of Russian Orientologists of the fin de siecle.

But why did this body of Russian scholarship of the early twentieth century turn out to be so innovative? Should we agree with a popular claim of the Russian elites about their country's particular affinity with the 'Orient'? There is no single answer to this question. The early twentieth century was a period when all over Europe a fascination with things 'Oriental' engendered the questioning of many nineteenth-century assumptions and prejudices. In that sense, the revisionism of Russian Orientologists was part of a pan-European trend. And yet, Tolz also argues that a set of political, social, and cultural factors, which were specific to Russia, allowed its imperial scholars to engage in an unusual dialogue with representatives of the empire's non-European minorities. It is together that they were able to articulate a powerful long-lasting critique of modern imperialism and colonialism, and to shape ethnic politics in Russia across the divide of the 1917 revolutions.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A 'must read' for courses in historiography and graduate students in all fields... Russia's Own Orient is an excellent addition to Oxford's fine series on moder European history." —The Historian

"Russia's Own Orient will make a wonderful purchase for library collections in Russian History and cultural studies. It is certain to interest scholars who work on anything connected with images of the East in Russian culture, Tsarist and Soviet nationalities policy, empire, or for that matter, Russian academic culture." —Slavic and East European Journal

"The publication of this important monograph was been worth the wait...Vera Tolz's study of Russia's own Orient should force some rethinking and political soul-searching after nearly forty years." —he Russian Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199594443
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
04/08/2011
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Vera Tolz is Sir William Mather Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Manchester. She is the author of Russia: Inventing the Nation (London, 2001); Russian Academicians and the Revolution: Combining Professionalism and Politics (London, 1997) and The USSR's Emerging Multiparty System (New York, 1990); she is also co-editor of Nation and Gender in Contemporary Europe (Manchester, 2005); European Democratization since 1800 (London, 2000) and The Demise of the USSR: From Communism to Independence (London, 1995).

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