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An Empire of Others

An Empire of Others: Creating Ethnographic Knowledge in Imperial Russia and the USSR

Roland Cvetkovski
Alexis Hofmeister
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 415
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  • Book Info
    An Empire of Others
    Book Description:

    Ethnographers helped to perceive, to understand and also to shape imperial as well as Soviet Russia’s cultural diversity. This volume focuses on the contexts in which ethnographic knowledge was created. Usually, ethnographic findings were superseded by imperial discourse: Defining regions, connecting them with ethnic origins and conceiving national entities necessarily implied the mapping of political and historical hierarchies. But beyond these spatial conceptualizations the essays particularly address the specific conditions in which ethnographic knowledge appeared and changed. On the one hand, they turn to the several fields into which ethnographic knowledge poured and materialized, i.e., history, historiography, anthropology or ideology. On the other, they equally consider the impact of the specific formats, i.e., pictures, maps, atlases, lectures, songs, museums, and exhibitions, on academic as well as non-academic manifestations.

    eISBN: 978-615-5225-77-2
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction: On the Making of Ethnographic Knowledge in Russia
    (pp. 1-22)
    Roland Cvetkovski

    As globalization has started crossing common boundaries and has given priority to traffic, transfer, and communication, discontent has also arisen. The rapid circulation of ideas, goods, and values seemed to counteract the need for differentiation, since the previous emphasis on national entities had apparently made it easier to draw clear-cut lines between different cultures. So the distrust of the current processes gave rise to a growing feeling of cultural uncertainty that was partly accompanied even by skepticism towards the state and its agencies. In particular, their responsibility to create well-defined categories and to provide stabilizing guidance for society has been...

  4. Imperial Case Studies: Russian and British Ethnographic Theory
    (pp. 23-48)
    Alexis Hofmeister

    The European attention to groups, classified as “others” in a horizontal sense of geography and culture as well as in a vertical sense of social customs and chronology, continuously increased since the Age of Discovery.¹ This particular fascination of the modern European self with the non-civilized Other first peaked during the Enlightenment, and despite various claims, it has not yet ended. It produced a vast amount of knowledge on traditional customs, religious beliefs, family relations, and everyday-life economics of almost every ethnic group on earth. Yet there is no accepted explanation or general theory for the explosion in quantity and...

  5. Part I: Paradigms

    • Russian Ethnography as a Science: Truths Claimed, Trails Followed
      (pp. 51-80)
      Alexei Elfimov

      Whether ethnography is a science has been a subject of perennial questioning, and perhaps this fact in itself implies that ethnography is probably not one—at any rate, as far as the mainstream contemporary understanding of “science” goes. Yet it has always sought to be one. Whether in the American tradition, where in November 2010 the term “science” was finally, to the dismay of many, omitted from the mission statement of the American Anthropological Association, or in the Russian tradition, where the term, to the dismay of few, remains and is not going anywhere, ethnography has long had both the...

    • Beyond, against, and with Ethnography: Physical Anthropology as a Science of Russian Modernity
      (pp. 81-120)
      Marina Mogilner

      In sharp contrast to half-forgotten Russian physical anthropology, Russian ethnography has always been a legitimate subject of historical research. In some sense, the focus on ethnography and its cultural categories (such asnarodnost’) prevented historians of imperial Russia from noticing and problematizing the influence of the language of race on ethnographic thinking and the politics of knowledge in the empire. According to current widely accepted historiographic wisdom:

      Not only did the racial paradigm fail to take hold in a substantial way in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Russia, the importance of ethnicity was reinforced by the adoption ofnarodnost’as a...

    • Ethnography, Marxism, and Soviet Ideology
      (pp. 121-144)
      Sergei Alymov

      In the history of Soviet ethnography, the introduction of Marxism is among the few episodes that have repeatedly attracted the attention of scholars. Indeed it is (or appears to be) among the most exhaustively studied such episodes. This is quite understandable, for this turning point considerably shaped the development of the discipline throughout the entire Soviet period. The wave of discussions, congresses, and reorganizations that reached its peak in 1929–1932 was described in Soviet historiography as the “creative mastering of Marxism” and, of course, evaluated positively, although the calls of “leftists” to abandon ethnography were mentioned with understandable disgust.¹...

    • Ethnogenesis and Historiography: Historical Narratives for Central Asia in the 1940s and 1950s
      (pp. 145-168)
      Sergey Abashin

      In 1947, at the climax of Stalinist rule, the Academy of Sciences of the Uzbek SSR in Tashkent published the second volume of theHistory of the Peoples of Uzbekistan.² Of this three volumes planned for this work, the second volume was published earliest. The editor of the second volume was the renowned historian Sergei Bakhrushin, then a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union (AN SSSR), head of the Department of Soviet History at the Historical Institute for the Period of Feudalism, and laureate of the Stalin State Prize. The author of the second volume...

  6. Part II: Representations

    • Symbols, Conventions, and Practices: Visual Representation of Ethnographic Knowledge on Siberia in Early Modern Maps and Reports
      (pp. 171-210)
      Maike Sach

      As cultural artifacts, pictures and images play an eminent role in ethnography in different European and non-European communities and societies using different concepts of images and codes of communication. Pictures (and also immaterial mental images) are thus objects of ethnological research. But they are not only that: the immediacy of images seems to provide depicted objects and scenes with visual evidence of real existence. Pictures are able to support and to complete the meaning of a text, but they do not necessarily need a written explanation to be understood. It was since the formation of ethnology as a modern science,...

    • Empire Complex: Arrangements in the Russian Ethnographic Museum, 1910
      (pp. 211-252)
      Roland Cvetkovski

      If self-reflection marks the first step toward wisdom, then self-knowledge could certainly pass for the achievement of wisdom. Nikolai M. Mogilianskii, ethnographer and head of the Russian Ethnographic Museum in St. Petersburg from 1910 to 1918, must have had something similar in mind when he wrote about the purpose of museums for Russia. All their exhibits, he wrote, taught man to address as well as to cherish the everyday objects that surrounded him and that he usually paid no attention to. But museums did not simply restore the dignity of the object; they achieved much more. To Mogilianskii they even...

    • Learning about the Nation: Ethnographic Representations of Children, Representations of Ethnography for Children
      (pp. 253-278)
      Catriona Kelly

      Russian anthropology (or, as it was known until recently,etnografiia) has historically fixed its gaze on Russian culture itself. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (and into the twenty-first), the discipline was a forum for the discussion and representation of ideas about national identity. It focused above all on the life of the so-callednarod, orVolk, who were understood in much the same terms as the exotic Others dwelling in faraway places portrayed in classical British anthropology. This tie between anthropology and “internal colonization”² in turn had a significant impact on the representation of children, who, throughout the history...

  7. Part III: Peoples

    • Siberian Ruptures: Dilemmas of Ethnography in an Imperial Situation
      (pp. 281-310)
      Sergey Glebov

      The very word “Siberia” is contentious. Originating in the post-Mongol Tatar khanates, “Siberia” never had clear political or geographical boundaries. While it began beyond the Urals and was delimited in the north by the Arctic Ocean, it was never clear whether the steppes of present-day Kazakhstan, the lands along the Amur River, the enormous Yakutoblastor the Maritime Province were part of “Siberia.” Culturally, the mix of nomadic, semi-nomadic, and settled populations—native Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tatars, Khanty and Mansi, Yakuts, Buryats, and others—spoke widely different languages (Turkic, Uralo-Altaic, Paleoasiatic, etc.) and professed different beliefs (Islam, Christianity, Lamaist Buddhism,...

    • Concepts of Ukrainian Folklore and the Transition from Imperial Russia to Stalin’s Soviet Empire
      (pp. 311-340)
      Angela Rustemeyer

      Defined as “the people’s activity”, often with a focus on non-material culture,¹ Ukrainian folklore has been the major object of Ukrainian ethnography as a branch of scientific research. It has also been in the focus of national identity-building in the Russian Empire, in Soviet Ukraine, and with Ukrainian communities abroad. This is not necessarily a contradiction. Folklore studies were not ideologically neutral. They could promote the uses of folklore for the purpose of identity-building. From this point of view, I would like to discuss Ukrainian folklore studies as the core of Ukrainian ethnography in the transition from late imperial Russia...

    • No Love Affair: Ingush and Chechen Imperial Ethnographies
      (pp. 341-368)
      Christian Dettmering

      The history of the Caucasus and its conquest is also a history of the mutual impact of ethnographic knowledge and politics in the Russian Empire. With the Caucasus an ethnically and linguistically highly complex region became part of the Russian Empire. And because of its ethnic and linguistic diversity, the Russian government felt compelled to analyze the region’s ethnic complexity from the very beginning. So when Russia was on the verge of conquering the region in the second half of the eighteenth century, the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg launched a number of expeditions into the Caucasus. These missions...

    • National Inventions: The Imperial Emancipation of the Karaites from Jewishness
      (pp. 369-394)
      Mikhail Kizilov

      Situated at the junction of the trade routes leading from Italy and Byzantium (and later the Ottoman Empire) to Poland, Russia, and the countries of the East, the Crimea had always been an attractive place for carrying out international trade. After the Ottoman conquest of 1475, the peninsula was divided into two parts: Ottoman and Tatar. Those regions, ports, and towns that were most useful from a mercantile and administrative perspective came under Ottoman jurisdiction, while the rest of the Crimea, together with the southern part of contemporary Ukraine and the North Caucasus, was ruled by the Crimean khan. Caffa,...

  8. List of Contributors
    (pp. 395-400)
  9. Index
    (pp. 401-407)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 408-408)