Sheila Fitzpatrick is Bernadotte E. Schmitt Distinguished Service Professor Emerita at the University of Chicago and a Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney. She’s the author numerous books and articles on Soviet history including A Spy in the Archives: A Memoir of Cold War Russia; Tear off the Masks! Identity and Imposture in Twentieth-Century Russia; The Russian Revolution; and Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s. Her most recent book is On Stalin’s Team: The Years of Living Dangerously in Soviet Politics published by Princeton University Press.
Imperial Teen, “Ivanka,” On, 2002.
Sheila Fitzpatrick, “Remembering T. H. Rigby.”
Sheila Fitzpatrick, “Revisionism in Retrospect: A Personal View.”
Ronald Grigor Suny, “Writing Russia: The Work of Sheila Fitzpatrick,” in Writing the Stalin Era: Sheila Fitzpatrick and Soviet Historiography, Golfo Alexopoulos, Julie Hessler, and Kirill Tomoff, eds.
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By Sean — 12 years ago
In his masterful narrative of Imperial Russian history, Russian: People and Empire, Geoffrey Hosking stated that Russian nationhood is caught in an irreconcilable binary between russkii and rossiiskii. The former signifies the ethnic category for Russian, which has its roots in the Slavs who established Kievan Rus’ in the 9th century, while the latter suggests a category for subjects or citizens of the Russian Empire despite their ethnic identity. Russian state and national development, agues Hosking, is in many ways characterized by the effort to reconcile these two concepts. “The great question for Russian leaders during the 19th and 20th centuries,” he wrote, “might be formulated as whether they could inculcate an analogous compound national identity in their empire’s more diverse elements.” (xxi)
Efforts to solve this question abound. Peter the Great attempted to create civic categories with his Table of Ranks, eschewing ethnic difference as something that could be overcome through service and loyalty to the State. Nicholas I addressed the civic and ethnic binary via his Digest of Laws (1832) by codifying Russian estates or soslovie coupled with an aggressive policy of Russification. The Bolsheviks attempted to reconcile russkii and rossisskii by Bolshevizing the problem. They suppressed Russian and ethnic nationalism while celebrating sovietization, preached the vague “national in form, socialist in content,” and attempted to create an overarching national-civic category of Soviet. However, as the collapse of the Soviet Union shows us, both the Tsarist and Soviet systems failed in uniting these seemingly contradictory categories. In fact the recent resurgence of russkii in the form of extreme nationalism and racial violence suggests that like during the late Imperial period, rossiiskii is taking a back seat. It appears that the problematic that plagued Russia’s state building continues to nag its post-Soviet development.
Nothing suggests this more that the current law before the Duma called “On the foundation of State national politics of the Russian Federation.” The bill is full of the problem the binary russkii and rossiisskii poses. Ethnic minorities within the Russian Federation see the bill as yet another attempt to codify Russian ethnic and cultural dominance. The State Council Committee on Culture, Science, Education, and National Affairs of Tatarstan, for example, has denounced the bill as chauvinistic and harking back to the “unrealistic experiment” to create a Soviet nation because it singles out a privileged position for the Russian people (Article 16) and declares that Russian (rossiiskii) citizens are “duty bound”(Article 20) to know the state language of the Russian (Rossiiskii) Federation—Russian (Russkii). Further, Article 21 states that “the violation of the legislation of the Russian Federation on the state national politics is a criminal penalty.” Once again, russkii trumps rossiisskii. In the view of Indus Tahirov, a deputy of Tatarstan’s Parliament, such Articles, especially with its provisions guaranteeing non-Russian’s right to use and preserve their native culture and language, makes the bill
a very insidious law. It gives the impression of defending the Russian people, but in essence it is directed against the Russian people. It appears to compliment the Russian people but actually it sets the Russian people up against all the other peoples. Then there is that terrible article where it states that citizens of the Russian Federation are obliged to know the Russian language. What does it mean: “obliged”? If they have to imprison me, what will they do?
Empire leaves a bad taste in the mouth. And any effort by the Russian majority to create an overarching civic category based on Russia (rossisskii) recalls a well known bitter taste.
The Radio Free Europe article on the matter states that the impetus behind this bill is fears of demographic change in Russia. Russian society is becoming more diverse and the growth of the Muslim population, the Kremlin fears, will one day whittle down Russian ethnic and religious dominance.
However, I feel the problem is more at the heart of Russian concept of nationality than the materialism of demography. It seems, (and by the way Russian concepts of nationality and ethnicity are shamefully understudied and under theorized), that nationality (natsional’nost’) and the people comprise it (narod) are becoming more and more synonymous with the concept of race. Here in the United States, for example, we tend to think of race as biological, and nationality and its members as more civic (though certainly not completely lacking biological markers). Both are more or less distinct categories. However, in Russia, race, nationality and its members (narod) seem to be intersecting more and more because the latter two have always been understood as a biological-cultural category, that is, it is blood and culture. This means that one’s nationality or nation is determined by biological lineage, language, culture and to some extent geographical origin. This conflation of nationality (natsional’nost’) and people (narod) with race seems to be recognized in the Duma bill because two distinct terms are used when speaking of, say, the “Russian nation” in the text. When it talks about the Russian nation as a civic entity it uses “Russian nation” (Rossiisskaia natsia), whereas when denoting an ethno-national entity it uses “Russian people” (Rossisskaia narod).
The Russian concept of nationality, therefore, forecloses the creation of a purely civic identity because the civic category rossiisskii cannot be separated from its ethno-biological roots. Rossiisskii is inherently based on an ethnic concept: Russia is a geographical territory where Russians (russkii) are its foundation. Nothing says this more than the first line of Article 16: “The Russian people (russkii narod) are recognized as the “state-forming” (rosudarstvoobrazuiushchii) people who have constituted itself in all territories of the Russian Federation.” No other ethnic group is given such a primary and privileged position in the law. In fact, no other ethnic group is specifically named. They are silenced as they are subsumed into the general category of narod. The Russian people’s (Russkii narod) primacy is only furthered by the following statement:
Organs of state power of the Russian (Rossiiskii) Federation, organs of state power subject to the Russian Federation and organs of local government under working and implementation of federal, regional and local programs of social-economic and national-cultural development of the peoples (narod) of the Russian Federation are duty bound to take into consideration the needs and interests of the Russian people (russkii narod). (Article 16)
How can an overarching civic category based on rossiisskii be created if it must make particular consideration of the “needs and interests” of the ethnic category of russkii? The above statement seems to negate that possibility thus making the bill “On the foundation of State national politics of the Russian Federation” to end up being yet another failed attempt.Post Views: 467
By Sean — 11 years ago
Presidential Archive of the Russian Federation, f. 3, op. 3, d. 65, l. 32.
Captain 1st Department of the Scientific Research Chemical Institute of the RKKA
17 October 1935
It was revealed upon examination of the envelope:
A trace of the substance was not complely preserved on the envelope and the possibility of conducting a thorough chemical analysis is excluded.
The envelope emits a weak smell that is a distant resemblance to excrement or a meat product (intestines used in the production of sausage or similar).
It can be assumed that the specimen that is contained in the envelope (in certainly possible it was wrapped in still another paper) is of animal origin, however to what degree cannot be considered proven.
Captain 1st Department NIKI RKKA
This document was published in Istochnik, 3, 1993.Post Views: 1,910
By Sean — 10 years ago
Smoke on the fuckin’ water. If you think soon to be Russian prez Dmitiri Medvedev is a square, think again. Forget the Russian pretension for opera and ballet. Dima is a metalist, a head bangin’, shout at the devil, Rock afficionado.
One of Medvedev’s dreams came true. Last week, Deep Purple, one of his favorites, rocked a Gazprom party to celebrate his vacating the chairman seat. Even better is that Ian Gillian, Purple’s lead vocalist, gave an account of the gig in the London Times.
I don’t know if playing a Gazprom party really classifies as a “tennis and bar mitzvah gig.” The Russian elite spares no expense in showcasing their wealth. As Gillian describes,
Security was high but being checked by the guards was a lot less dehumanising than going through most commercial airports. The hospitality was fantastic. They provided my normal two boiled eggs, slices of toast, beers and whisky – and I have to say my eggs were cooked to perfection.
To be sure this was a far different scene than when Deep Purple played in the Soviet Union. Purple were icons behind the iron curtain. Their records were copied using the plates of x-ray machines or recorded on tape, sold in Russia’s urban centers or traded through the mail. The use of x-ray machines to copy records, or “rock on bones” (rok na kostiakh) dates back to the 1950s, when Soviet music fans used their connections to burn jazz, rock, samba, tango, and spirituals, on plastic x-ray plates. As Artemii Troitsky described the method,
These were actual x-ray plates–chest cavities, spinal cords, broken bones–rounded at the edges with scissors, with a small hole in the center and grooves that were barely visible on the surface. Such an extravagant choice of raw material for these ‘flexidiscs’ is really explained: x-ray plates were the cheapest and most readily available source of necessary plastic.
Who knows if any of this “necessary plastic” donning the tunes of Deep Purple still exist as commodities, but if they do, I wouldn’t be surprised if Medvedev has one.
Rock was the shit among Soviet youth in the 1970s and 1980s. As Alexei Yurchak describes in his excellent Everything was Forever, Until it was No More, Komsomol leaders used their connections and access to resources to put on gigs of their aspiring rocker friends. But the real point of ecstasy was when their favorites toured the Soviet Union. As Gillian recalls
We would play a stadium for a week and whole villages would turn up with their chickens and goats and make campfires. They wouldn’t know why they were there but there was an event going on and they wanted to be part of it. And when we played they went mental.
The Gazprom gig lacked the going mental part but it wasn’t as “straight” as some other corporate gigs played by the Purple. Young Russian suits got a bit loose though guarded as they looked “nervously over at their bosses to see whether they could loosen their ties. It was as if they were asking, “How much fun are we allowed to have?”
After their set, which was followed by Tina Turner, Gillian and his crew met with Medvedev and Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller in back room for drinks. According to Gillian, “When we met Medvedev he had this stupid grin on his face because he was meeting his favorite band.”
Putin was also there. But rock ain’t his thing. Gillian did notice him dancing with his tie loose during the opening act, which included a opera singer and a dance troupe.
Not Dima though. The devil got his due that night. I only wonder who will play the inaugural party. The Prince of Darkness, anyone?
Photo: ReutersPost Views: 603