The Concept of Ethnogenesis in Central Asia: Political Context and Institutional Mediators (1940-50)

By Laruelle, Marlene | Kritika, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

The Concept of Ethnogenesis in Central Asia: Political Context and Institutional Mediators (1940-50)


Laruelle, Marlene, Kritika


The Stalin era is traditionally identified with the "return" of Russian nationalism, which was denigrated by the Bolshevik regime in its early years but later became an increasingly important element of its official discourse in relation both to the other Soviet peoples and to the "brother countries" of the Eastern Bloc. Unlike other authoritarian regimes that were less ideologically oriented, the Communist Party claimed to embody the movement of history and emphasized the interdependence of political action and scientific development: historical discourse, and related disciplines such as ethnology or archaeology, came under powerful ideological pressure and were subjected to frequent outside meddling. From World War II until the death of Stalin in 1953, the historiographies of the USSR's various federal entities were subjected to abrupt changes. However, despite the domination of Zhdanovism, the national historiographies--at least in Central Asia--were able to retain an interpretation of history that valorized the titular nation. The research conducted in the different republics' academies of sciences can therefore be seen as one of the matrices that permitted the symbolic justification and appropriation of the state and its territory: in its choice of historical reference points, the resulting shared sentiment of national identity would never be called into question during the entire second half of the 20th century, not even after the fall of the USSR in 1991.

Autochthonism as a political and narrative matrix for the identities of the Soviet peoples is a well-known subject. Terry Martin has shown how much the Soviet Union was built on the principle of "positive discrimination" toward minorities, who were granted cultural and linguistic rights according to their administrative status as union republics, autonomous regions, and so on. Francine Hirsch's work on the role of ethnologists and local elites in the construction of identity referents, as well as Ronald Suny's on primordialism in Soviet national identities and Yuri Slezkine's on "ethnophilia" in Soviet science, have shed new light on the tight bond between the political environment, the development of the social sciences, and the articulation of discourses on identity. (1) Those studies, however, are mainly concerned with the 1920s and 1930s. The war, the postwar era, and the post-Stalinist upheavals after the mid-1950s remain little known in their impact on Central Asia. Yet it was at just this time, after the large-scale violence of Stalinism had ended, that the elites in the union republics could achieve stability, benefit from greater autonomy in publishing, and take advantage of the institutionalization of the academies of sciences. Autochthonization took shape in the form both of people--through the preference given to the titular nationality in hiring decisions in the human sciences--and of ideas, with the creation of discourses to legitimize the new republican entities.

The historiographic autochthonization of the 1940s-50s that I discuss was made possible when the "archaeological patriotism" available to each republic joined with the conceptualization of the principle of the "ethnogenesis" of eponymous peoples to anchor the notion that there existed an authentic connection among a people, its territory, and the state. This ethnogenetic discourse emerged within the specific context of the late 1930s and was advanced by historians, mainly Russians, who sought to apply in the Central Asian republics the autochthonist principles that had emerged in Russian history. Their discourse had its hour of glory in the last decade of the Stalin era and is considered even now as orthodoxy in the area of ethnogenesis. After a brief introduction on the specific political context of Zhdanovism, this article discusses the diffusion of the concept of ethnogenesis in Central Asia, the carriers of this discourse, and their social space--the republican academies of sciences--before concluding with a consideration of how certain meanings have shifted through the rewriting of history by more nationalist historians in Central Asian academia. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Concept of Ethnogenesis in Central Asia: Political Context and Institutional Mediators (1940-50)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.