Ab Imperio (2014), 1

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Ab Imperio (2014), 1
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Kazan', Russland 2014: Selbstverlag des Herausgebers
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Ab Imperio. Studies of New Imperial History and Nationalism in the Post-Soviet Space
Russian Federation
Postanschrift: P.O. Box 157, Kazan' 420015. Tel./Fax: 7-8432-644-018
Kaplunovsky, Alexander

Dear friends and colleagues,

the Editorial Board of Ab Imperio is pleased to present the new issue of our journal: 1/2014. The first thematic issue within Ab Imperio’s 2014 annual program, “Assemblage Points of the Imperial Situation: Places and Spaces of Diversity,” is devoted to the exploration of “Zeit und Raum: Adjacent Spaces, Overlapping Epochs”.

“Ab Imperio” is a peer-reviewed, bilingual (English and Russian) international scholarly journal dedicated to the study of empire and nationalism in the post Soviet space.

The language of each publication (Russian or English) is indicated by a letter in brackets.


Do the “Assemblage Points” Exist?

The Kantian understanding of time and space not only became instrumental for the modern concept of subjectivity but also laid the foundation for the conceptual apparatus of the social sciences. We speak the language of Kantian space and time, and therefore perceive social groups as lasting in time and having clear social and geographic boundaries. To be sure, Kant postulated the categories of space and time as immanent to the observer, while modern social sciences tend to operate with them as “objective” and universal characteristics of groups. These “objective criteria” inform academic chronologies, histories, and geographies, and shape our understanding of modern political communities as “nations,” rooted in shared historical experience and common territoriality. There is an obvious contradiction between the subjectivity of the Kantian perception of temporality and space − and the objectivity of the structuralist representation of social reality using these categories. This contradiction informs the annual theme of the journal in 2014 with its focus on heterogeneous imperial temporality and spatially framed experience of diversity.

The first thematic issue within Ab Imperio’s 2014 annual program, “Assemblage Points of the Imperial Situation: Places and Spaces of Diversity,” focuses on possible roots of the imperial situation in the very condition of spatial or temporal intersection of different groups and processes in imperial society. The initial expectation in regard to the issue “Zeit und Raum: Adjacent Spaces, Overlapping Epochs” was that upon reviewing several cases featuring the structural situation of adjacent institutions, cultures, and temporalities, the elements producing an imperial situation would be revealed. Looking now at the contributions to this issue of Ab Imperio, we see that physical proximity by itself does not necessarily produce complex common social spaces (characterized by coexisting and partially overlapping nomenclatures of social statuses and hierarchies of authority) and asynchronicity. Whether because of the modern language of classification and essentialization or because of the nature of human collectivities, in zones and situations of contact, people rather tend to resist the prospects of amalgamations by reifying old and producing new intergroup barriers and markers of difference.

The long nineteenth century had established the new norm of fashioning the “primordial” and spontaneous hybridity of the imperial situation in the Modiglianesque aesthetics (to borrow a well-known metaphor by Ernest Gellner): that is, as a space produced by the complex and hierarchical dynamics of adjacent multicolor but internally homogeneous “blocs”−collectives. Each of them is ascribed with autonomy and unanimous will. In order to restore the historic agency of individuals (rather than the imagined unanimous collectives), we have to understand the logic of imagination and the language that were responsible for the creation of that Modiglianesque worldview. Therefore, the fact that we do not see vivid evidence of the existence of a certain “mechanism” of producing an imperial situation does not necessarily mean that this mechanism did not exist in a given case. The very language of observers (and of the accounts they left) was structured so as to ignore and directly silence everything ambivalent, multidimensional, “non-national.” Deconstruction of this language (both in historical sources and in the analysis of modern-day scholars) is the priority task and precondition for any prospect of understanding the “construction” of the imperial situation.

The Methodology and Theory section features an article by Andrew Zimmerman that so appropriately resonates the Germanized title of this issue of Ab Imperio (alluding to the German ideological context of the nineteenth century): “Race against Revolution in Central and Eastern Europe: From Hegel to Weber, from Rural Insurgency to ‘Polonization.’” Zimmerman forcefully reestablishes the roots of racism in counterrevolution as “political reactions to preserve hierarchies of power against democratic revolutions.” By the same token, he dismisses as false the traditional dichotomy of a racial vs. cultural approach to diversity by recovering the essentially “cultural racist” foundations of modern social sciences exemplified by the sociology of Max Weber. According to Zimmerman, Weber turned to the language of cultural racism to counter the danger of “social contamination” of the German economy and society by migrant workers from the Russian Poland and the general trend of proletarization – which he rendered in terms of racial (ethnocultural) contamination. While Zimmerman stresses the counterrevolutionary roots of the Weberian discourse of intergroup insulation, it should be added that the opposing revolutionary trends (which he discusses in connection with the Hegelian tradition) were equally prone to essentializing and purifying groupness, to the extent of purging socially (and racially – e.g., in Haiti) alien elements. Were there “assemblage points” of an imperial situation in the German social context analyzed by Hegel and Weber? German intellectuals and politicians were busy preventing Polish migrants from becoming part of the German society and thus complicating the clear-cut social divisions within the emerging nation-state. However, their own social theorizing followed the logic of the imperial situation by producing an irregular map of human diversity and hegemony, where “class,” “confession,” and “status” functioned as partially interchangeable categories masking (and complicating) the essentially racist episteme.

Two articles in the History section also deal with the role of social knowledge in a heterogeneous society, while breaching some of the established historiographic assumptions. Stanislav Malkin looks into an attempt to actually build an empire by means of rational description and analysis of its population. Subverting an old typology of a “Western overseas” vs. a “continental and contiguous” empire, Malkin argues that many “overseas” British imperial practices of the later period were developed in the late seventeenth- through the first half of the eighteenth century in Scotland, under the direct influence of the continental political culture of Cameralism. Specifically, the so-called Highland problem (understood as pacification and modernization of the Scottish mountain clansmen) was tackled through an early instance of social engineering based on the “political arithmetic” – elementary population statistics. A century before Henry Sumner Maine’s invention of “traditional society,” in an attempt to integrate Scotland with England into Britain, the authorities in London and their agents in Scotland constructed the category of “clan” and operated with this category of distinctive groupness rather than with empirically observed reality. Thus, even conscious integration attempts can lead to reaffirming intergroup boundaries rather than relativizing them. One century later, in the Russian Empire, the reform-minded Russian Navy Ministry initiated another type of population survey: the so-called literary expedition of writers to explore the empire’s diverse littoral territories (as a potential resource of sailors). As shown in the article by Aleksei Vdovin, the accounts produced by the expedition participants reveal a much more assimilationist understanding of intercultural integration based on the assumption of Russia’s civilizing mission among ethnoconfessional minorities. All the participating writers tended to classify peoples of the empire along rigid cultural and even biological hierarchies, quite in line with Zimmerman’s point about the centrality of racial discourse for the nineteenth-century legitimist projects. Both versions of integration − through orderly settlement (Malkin) and through assimilation (Vdovin) – did not envision by themselves anything resembling the imperial situation, and rather aimed at rigid fixation or ultimate elimination of differences.

Diliara Usmanova turns to the Russian parliament (the State Duma) of the revolutionary epoch of 1906−1907, an era when imperial diversity codified by multiple categories of estate, confession, class, or nationality came to clash with modern visions of political community represented through parliamentary institutions. If racism was the conservative answer to revolution, as Zimmerman maintains, then the Russian Revolution of 1905 can be expected to produce the opposite effect of de-essentializing groups. Studying the rhetoric of parliamentary debates in the Russian Duma, Usmanova recovers a more complicated picture. Both revolution-minded and explicitly counterrevolutionary speakers showed a readiness to reify rigid social and cultural divides of groups – both archaic and modern (such as “confession” or “class”). Revolutionary rhetoric no less actively constructed the vision of society as differentiated into sociobiological entities (note the ambivalent connotations of narod as both a social stratum and anthropological category).

Two articles in the History section and one article in Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science section discuss the problem of territorialization of national imagination in Lithuania over the past 120 years. Darius Staliūnas explains why Lithuanian nationalists in Late Imperial Russia chose Vilnius (Vilna) as the capital of the future Lithuanian state, and how they expected to make a national capital out of this city where ethnic Lithuanians constituted no more than 2−3 percent of the population. Violeta Davoliūtė focuses on the post–World War II decade to show how Vilnius actually became Lithuanian, both symbolically and demographically. She points out a paradoxical situation (which she identifies as an imperial situation) – that is, despite the loss of sovereignty after the annexation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union and the decimation of the national elite by Stalin’s purges and the war, the post-1945 influx of Lithuanians from rural areas to Vilnius manifested a mass-scale national revival. The catastrophe of the old elite culture coincided with an unprecedented upward social mobility that (along the model of “peasants into Frenchmen”) provided a broad social foundation for the new Lithuanian national project. Finally, Vasilijus Safronovas examines the modern-day conflicting territorial claims of Lithuania and Russia for the territories of the former East Prussia. He concludes that Lithuanian aspirations for the Russian Kaliningrad region (former Königsberg) as the historical “Little Lithuania” reveal the still strong roots of the Lithuanian national project in the ethnically defined territorial imagination, while Russia’s demands for Lithuanian Klaipeda (former Memel) testify to the persistence of imperial anational arguments based on the principle of “legitimate conquest.” However, this “imperial” principle of legitimacy has been increasingly “ethnicized” in recent decades, to match the clear-cut ethnic nationalist imagery of its Lithuanian opponents. Together these three articles tell the story of an utterly heterogeneous territory and society that had been purged of its ambiguities and overlapping social identities in the course of the twentieth century. As Davoliūtė shows, the imperial situation reveals itself rather in the unexpected turn that this homogenization and nationalization takes. Likewise, in the Newest Mythologies section Rebecca Gould reconstructs the paradoxical mirroring of hegemonic and subaltern roles in the writings of the Georgian nineteenth-century writer Aleksandre Qazbegi (defined as “the anticolonial vernacular on Georgian–Chechen borderlands”). The anticolonial stance of Qazbegi oriented toward pure forms of groupness (when even “ethics became ethnologized”) is conditioned and complicated by the imperial situation, when one’s proximity to the ruling elite (and hence, to hegemony) is defined in alternative categories of language, confession, or social status.

As the contributors to this issue of Ab Imperio suggest, the initial “natural” state of coexistence and simultaneous belonging to multiple forms of groupness (the structural prerequisite for the imperial situation) usually produces only the desire to disentangle those complex social identities – whether by revolutionaries or counterrevolutionaries. Modern instances of the imperial situation emerge accidentally, in the “blind zones” of public discourses, against the will of those attempting to rationalize and classify diversity. The nature of “assemblage points” of the imperial situation remain obscure in the case studies presented in the pages of this issue, and it seems that they are not physical “facts” or “circumstances” but rather only analytically reconstructed conjunctures of societal self-organization. They emerge and function spontaneously, beyond the control and against the will of historical actors interested in clarity and neat organization of the usually “haphazard” social reality. As such, the imperial situation requires a “close reading” of the available evidence and an ability to deconstruct the contemporary notions of time and space that are employed by the modern project of essentialization and codification of differences.

The very language of social analysis – be it “political arithmetic,” populist travelogues, or racialized social theory – tends to obscure and ignore the ruptures, contradictions, and complexities that breed “imperial situations.” In a major attempt to critically deconstruct the very language used by historians to narrate (and thus, interpret) the past, the Ab Imperio team has produced a history course, A New Imperial History of Northern Eurasia scheduled for preprint in this and the following issues of Ab Imperio. The main objective of the new course is to deconstruct the dominant “grand scheme of Russian history” that was founded back in the early nineteenth century and has survived, in a more or less unchanged form, all the subsequent political and historiographic interventions. One of the ways to dismantle this hegemonic scheme envisioning “Russian history” as the history of the “Russians” living in their “organic” space is to problematize the habitual tropes of teleological historical development and clear-cut historical actors, to recover the neglected “assemblage points” of the imperial situation as the “natural” state of heterogeneous societies. We invite our readers to comment on the preprinted chapters thus helping us to elaborate a new telling of Russian imperial history and a new way of thinking about the past when the latter comes to the forefront of politics.

Editors of Ab Imperio:
I. Gerasimov
S. Glebov
A. Kaplunovski
M. Mogilner
A. Semyonov



Zeit und Raum: Adjacent Spaces, Overlapping Epochs

I. Methodology and Theory

From the Editors Do the “Assemblage Points” Exist? (R&E)

Andrew Zimmerman Race against Revolution in Central and Eastern Europe: From Hegel to Weber, from Rural Insurgency to “Polonization” (R)

II. History

Stanislav Malkin The Laboratory of Empire: Political Arithmetic, Social Engineering, and Solving the “Highland Problem” in Great Britain in the Late Seventeenth – First Half of the Eighteenth Century (R)

Alexey Vdovin Russian Ethnography of the 1850s and the Ethos of the Civilizing Mission: The Case of the “Literary Expedition” of the Naval Ministry (R)

Diliara Usmanova The Art of Public Speech in the Revolutionary Legislative Assembly: Rhetorical Portrait of the First and Second State Dumas (1906−07) (R)

Darius Staliūnas Making a National Capital out of a Multiethnic City: Lithuanians and Vilnius in Late Imperial Russia (E)

Violeta Davoliūtė Postwar Reconstruction and the Imperial Sublime in Vilnius during Late Stalinism (E)

IV. Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science

Vasilijus Safronovas East Prussia – The Contested Inheritance? (R)

V. ABC: Empire & Nationalism Studies

Project AI

History Course “A New Imperial History of Northern Eurasia”

From the Editors How to Recognize a New History and What to Expect from It? (R)

Chapter 1. Political Ecology: Formation of the Region of Northern Eurasia (R)

Chapter 2. Mechanisms of Political and Cultural Self-Organization of the First Polities in Northern Eurasia: Formation of the Rous Land (R)

VI. Newest Mythologies

Rebecca Gould Aleksandre Qazbegi’s Mountaineer Prosaics: The Anticolonial Vernacular on Georgian–Chechen Borderlands (E)

VII. Book Reviews

Patrick Seriot. Les langues ne sont pas des choses. Discours sur langue et souffrance identitaire en Europe centrale et orientale. Paris: Editions PETRA, 2010. 296 pp. ISBN: 978-2-84743-026-4.
Ian Surman (R)

Geoffrey Hosking (Guest Editor). “Trust and Distrust in the USSR”: Special Issue of Slavonic & East European Review. 2013. Vol. 91. No. 1. 154 pp. ISBN: 978-1-78188-018-0.
Jonathan Waterlow (E)

Viktor Gorobets'. “Volimo tsaria skhidnogo...” Ukrains'kii Get'manat ta rosiis'ka dinastiia do i pislia Pereiaslava. Kiiv: Kritika, 2007. 462 s. Pokazhchik. ISBN: 966-7679-89-6.
Liliia Berezhnaia (R)

Elise Kimerling Wirtschafter, Religion and Enlightenment in Catherinian Russia: The Teachings of Metropolitan Platon (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2013). 193 pp. Bibliography. Index. ISBN: 978-0-87580-469-9.
Andrei Lazarev (R)

Robert E. Jones, Bread upon the Waters: The St. Petersburg Grain Trade and the Russian Economy, 1703−1811 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013). 298 pp. Bibliography. Index. ISBN: 978-0-8229-4428-7.
Julia Leikin (E)

O. Iu. Malinova-Tziafeta. Iz goroda na dachu: sotsiokul'turnye faktory osvoeniia dachnogo prostranstva vokrug Peterburga (1860–1914). Sankt-Peterburg: Izdatel'stvo Evropeiskogo universiteta v Sankt-Peterburge, 2013. 336 s., il. ISBN: 978-5-94380-137-2.
Anna Ananieva/Julian Windmöller (E)

Petr Nikolaevich Savitskii (1895–1968). A Bibliography of His Published Works / Petr Nikolaevich Savitskii (1895–1968). Bibliografiia opublikovannykh rabot / Sostavitel' i avtor vvedeniia Martin Baissvenger. Praga: Natsional'naia biblioteka Cheshskoi respubliki. Slavianskaia biblioteka, 2008. 111 s. Spisok periodicheskikh izdanii; Alfavitnyi ukazatel' nazvanii. ISBN: 978-80-7050-543-4.
Aleksandr Antoshchenko (R)

Adam Kożuchowski, The Afterlife of Austria-Hungary: The Image of the Habsburg Monarchy in Interwar Europe (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013). 232 pp., ills. Bibliography. Index. ISBN: 978-0-8229-6265-6.
Tiffany Wilson (E)

Roger D. Markwick and Euridice Charon Cardona, Soviet Women on the Frontline in the Second World War (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). xxiv, 305 pp. Index. ISBN: 978-0-230-57952-1.
Tetyana Dzyadevych (E)

Anne E. Gorsuch and Diane P. Koenker (Eds.), Socialist Sixties: Crossing Borders in the Second World (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2013). vii+ 338 pp., ills. Index. Paperback. ISBN: 978-0253-00937-1.
Anna Ivanova (R)

Mary C. Neuburger, Balkan Smoke: Tobacco and the Making of Modern Bulgaria (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013). 307 pp., maps, ills. Bibliography. Index. ISBN: 978-0-8014-5084-6.
Alison Orton (E)

Mischa Gabowitsch, Putin kaputt!? Russlands neue Protestkultur (Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2013). 438 s. ISBN: 978-3-518-12661-5.
Nikolay Zakharov (E)

Harry Miller, State Versus Gentry in Early Qing Dynasty China, 1644−1699 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). 186 pp. Bibliography. Index. ISBN: 978-1-137-33405-3.
Huiying Chen (E)

Mark Carey, In the Shadow of Melting Glaciers: Climate Change and Andean Society (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). vii + 273 pp. Bibliography. Index. ISBN: 978-0-19-539606-5.
Nicolas E. Gordon (E)

List of Contributors

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