Empire of Nations: Ethnographic Knowledge and the Making of the Soviet Union by Francine HirschEmpire of Nations: Ethnographic Knowledge and the Making of the Soviet Union by Francine Hirsch

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

byFrancine Hirsch

Paperback | May 10, 2005

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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 of Russia and the Soviet Union, Empire of Nations also offers new insights into the connection between ethnography and empire.

Title:Empire of Nations: Ethnographic Knowledge and the Making of the Soviet UnionFormat:PaperbackDimensions:392 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.2 inPublished:May 10, 2005Publisher:Cornell University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0801489083

ISBN - 13:9780801489082

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Table of Contents


Part One. Empire, Nation, and the Scientific State

1. Toward a Revolutionary Alliance

2. The National Idea versus Economic Expediency

Part Two. Cultural Technologies of Rule and the Nature of Soviet Power

3. The 1926 Census and the Conceptual Conquest of Lands and Peoples

4. Border-Making and the Formation of Soviet National Identities

5. Transforming "The Peoples of the USSR": Ethnographic Exhibits and the Evolutionary Timeline

Part Three. The Nazi Threat and the Acceleration of the Bolshevik Revolution

6. State-Sponsored Evolutionism and the Struggle against German Biological Determinism

7. Ethnographic Knowledge and Terror



Editorial Reviews

"Francine Hirsch approaches the formation of the Soviet Union as a process that begins rather than ends when the USSR was created in 1922. Concentrating on the role of ethnographers over the next twenty years, she places these social scientists in the context both of wider European developments and particular local struggles, providing an account that is both comprehensive and rooted in specific experiences. The result is a sophisticated view of the unexpectedly important role played by anthropologists and ethnographers, who through a complicated collaboration with state officials both shaped the forms and categories of Soviet citizenship and simultaneously came under tremendous pressure to bring their own discipline into line."—Douglas Northrop, author of Veiled Empire: Gender and Power in Stalinist Central Asia