‘The subject of identity, both personal and collective, is on the agenda in the West, as well as in post-Soviet Russia… The current intellectual climate encourages us to regard every expression of meaning and every assertion of identity as susceptible to reinterpretation’ (Laura Engelstein and Stephanie Sandler, Self and Story in Russian History, p. 4). And indeed, identity has become the focus of a great deal of theorising in contemporary social science. Whereas formerly the individual was characterised chiefly by his membership of a social class or group whose history could be reconstructed by a social historian, nowadays we prefer to stress the multiplicity, and especially the fluidity, of such groupings. A recent article by Rogers Brubaker acknowledges the importance of this concept of identity, while trying to show that it covers a multiplicity of uses and tends to blur the boundaries between a number of different notions.Rogers Brubaker, ‘Au delà de l'“identité”’, Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales, 139 (September 2001), 66–85. See also Rogers Brubaker and Frederick Cooper, ‘Beyond Identity’, Theory and Society, 29 (2000), 1–47. Brubaker criticises this over-use and proposes its replacement by multiple concepts. It is true enough that social scientists have used the term somewhat indiscriminately: ‘attributed identity’, ‘acknowledged identity’, ‘group identity’, ‘individual identity’, and so on. On the other hand, David Kertzer and Dominique Arel are more positive: ‘The past decade has seen a great outpouring of interest in the nature of collective identities of various kinds.’ They see a close relationship between ‘state modernity and the impetus to categorize’, and hence stress the importance of ‘the official state certification of collective identities’.David I. Kertzer and Dominique Arel, eds., Census and Identity. The Politics of Race, Ethnicity, and Language in National Censuses (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). They argue for the usefulness of a concept which may be broad, but does make it possible to group together various ways in which individuals and community relate to each other, or individuals to communities and states, or individuals to their own history. And indeed, this constant interaction between self and state, a relationship created through a multiplicity of categories constructed by administrators, individual perceptions and political authorities, builds up a multiplicity of collective and individual identities.