Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, erupted into world history as the most large-scale war on European soil since World War II. The unprecedented war prompts an urgent call for a critical reassessment of Russian imperialism, raising anew the question of the Soviet Union’s geopolitical status and nation-building legacy. While scholars have extensively studied the economic, social, and political stakes of Soviet communism and totalitarianism, much of the Anglophone academic discourse remains driven by the so-called “Red Scare” that to this day overshadows and obscures the USSR’s role as the heir and promulgator of Russian Empire’s colonial agenda.
Unsettling the Soviet Union’s “friendship of the peoples” paradigm, this symposium foregrounds the perspectives of the marginalized ethnic and racial minorities by bringing together scholars from the various disciplines that can offer novel methods and theories for analyzing the Soviet Union as a colonial empire: anthropology, ethnomusicology, history, literary studies, religious studies, and Slavic studies.
Participants will present on themes including racialization, colonial resistance, cultural assimilation, nation-building, urban development, historical memory, and environmental colonialism. They will reflect on how cultural specificities within their examined geographic regions may challenge historiographic periodization that has traditionally focused on shifting policies of the various state leaders. How have cultural workers and local bureaucrats shaped the discourse of nation-building in their respective republics? What alternative modes of colonial relationality can provide a more nuanced perspective on Soviet minority politics than the classic center/periphery binary? How did environmental, historical, and social factors contribute to the dissolution of the USSR? And ultimately, how can the reassessment of the Soviet legacy enhance our understanding of present-day geopolitics and provide tools for resisting further expansionist aggression?
This event will be in person at the Heyman Center and live-streamed online. Please register for both in-person and virtual attendance via the link.
Please email [email protected] to request disability accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.
April 14, 2023 Friday
Associate Professor of Anthropology and Music
Assistant Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures
Postdoctoral Fellow, Society of Fellows at the Heyman Center for the Humanities; Assistant Professor in Music Theory & Race, Department of Music
Visiting Professor of Anthropology
The New School; Head of the Department of Social Anthropology (The Institute of Ethnology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine)
Lecturer of Russian and East European Languages and Literatures
Professor and Chair of Anthropology
New York University
Professor and Chair of History
California State University, Los Angeles
Harriman Assistant Professor of Russian and Soviet History
Associate Professor, History
University of Maryland
Associate Professor, Critical Music Studies
Stony Brook University
Assistant Professor, Department of Religion
Ronald Grigor Suny
William H. Sewell Jr Distinguished University Professor of History
University of Michigan
Columbia University; The Armenian and Georgian Area Specialist (Library of Congress)