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Much recent scholarship has seen Soviet Central Asia as directly comparable to the overseas colonies of modern European states. In this article, Adeeb Khalid takes issue with this trend. European colonial rule, he argues, was predicated on the perpetuation of difference, while the Soviets sought to conquer it. Central Asia was indeed subject to colonial rule in the tsarist period, but its transformation in the early Soviet period was the work, instead, of a different kind of polity—an activist, interventionist, mobilizational state that sought to transform its citizenry. Khalid compares the transformations of the early Soviet period in Central Asia with the reforms of the early republic in Turkey, which were strikingly similar in intent and scope. This comparative perspective brings out the substantial differences between colonial empires and modern mobilizational states; confusing the two can only lead to a fundamental misunderstanding of modern history.
In this essay, Adrienne Edgar compares Soviet policies toward Central Asian women in the interwar period with gender policies in two other types of Muslim societies—those ruled by European colonizers and those governed by indigenous national elites. She argues that the Soviet “emancipation” of Muslim women in the 1920s and 1930s had little in common with the policies of French and British colonial rulers. Instead, it resembled much more closely the gender reforms of the neighboring independent Muslim states of Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan. In these Muslim states, as in the Soviet Union, the drive for female emancipation was part of an attempt to create a modern, homogeneous, and mobilized population. Because many Central Asians perceived the Soviet state as fundamentally alien, however, the political dynamic that emerged in response to Soviet gender reforms resembled the situation in the colonized Middle East, where feminism and nationalism came to be seen as mutually antagonistic.
Soviet nationality policy was one of several political responses to cultural diversity in the interwar period. Peter A. Blitstein situates that policy in its comparative context, contrasting the Soviet Union to its eastern European neighbors and to British and French rule in Africa. Contrary to the nationalizing policies of the new states of eastern Europe, which sought national unity at the expense of ethnic minorities, Soviet nationality policy was initially based on practices of differentiation. Contrary to the colonial policies of Britain and France, which were based on ethnic and racial differentiation, Soviet policy sought to integrate all peoples into one state. In the mid-to-late 1930s, however, Soviet policy took a nationalizing turn similar to its neighbors in eastern Europe, without completely abandoning policies of ethnic differentiation. We should thus understand the Soviet approach as a unique hybrid of contradictory practices of nationalization and differentiation
Empire has become a common analytical frame through which the Soviet state and its collapse are interpreted. Commenting on the other contributions to this forum, Mark R. Beissinger examines the limits and utility of this concept, arguing that empire needs to be understood, not as a clearly bounded transhistorical model, but as a Wittgensteinian “family resemblance” whose meaning and referents have altered significantly over time. The article then probes the ways the concept of empire has been redeployed in the Soviet context, addressing in particular the role of nationalism in the making of empire, the injustices associated with empire, and the contested boundary between the multinational empire and the multinational state. It concludes by arguing for a more interpretive approach to Soviet empire as a way of relating to authority rather than a common set of political practices.
As Pål Kolstø explores in this article, attitudes towards Lev Tolstoi's religious teaching differed wildly among Russian Orthodox believers at the turn of the last century. Some felt that his philosophical notions were remarkably congenial to church doctrine, while others saw Tolstoianism as the radical negation of everything the church stood for. An image often conjured up was Tolstoi as the Antichrist. To some, it was precisely the features that made others see Tolstoi as an Orthodox double that led them to this conclusion: The Antichrist will manage to lead the faithful astray precisely because he will seem to imitate Christ himself. This was the point where the most extreme positions in the Orthodox debate on Tolstoi and Tolstoianism converged. All told, some 85 books and booklets and 260 articles on Tolstoi were published by professed Orthodox authors, many of them laymen. Taken together, they bear witness to the breadth and vitality of Orthodox public opinion.
In the last decade, the international copyright environment has been transformed by the rise of digital technology and by a new emphasis on intellectual property as a key to global economic growth. Recent trends have coincided with developments in the postcommunist nations of central and eastern Europe and Eurasia and have changed the rules for the use and dissemination of works originating in these nations. In this article, Janice T. Pilch examines recent developments in a historical context, from the origins of the international copyright system in the mid-nineteenth century and the establishment of U.S. copyright relations with central and east European nations in the early twentieth century, to integration within the international copyright regime today. The chronology details the application of U.S. copyright law to works from these nations, illustrating the effects of copyright restoration in the mid-1990s to foreign works that had previously been in the public domain in the United States, a development of foremost concern to scholars, educators, and librarians whose efforts depend on the continued availability of information.