Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 5.4 (2004) 645-650
[Access article in PDF]
Post-Post Historiography, or the Trends of the "Naughts"
With this number of Kritika we complete our fifth volume of the journal and stand at the midpoint of the first decade of the 21st century. Although such landmarks often provide grounds for stocktaking, some of it useful, we have always been a bit skeptical of jubilees, anniversaries, institutional histories, and the other celebratory accessories of the historians' craft. In these columns we have also tilted against the "fetishization of the decade as the default chronological unit of analysis" and historians' congenital reluctance to transcend conventional chronological boundaries. 1 It is possible, however, that our skepticism has been less than rigorous when it comes to historiography. Like many others, we have often thought in terms of the literature of "the 1970s and the 1980s," the post-Soviet historiography of the "1990s," and so on, even though it is clear that many subtle and not-so-subtle continuities often underlie the much-ballyhooed paradigm shifts in the field. Now we would like to take the occasion to raise another question, one that, for a change, is framed by scholarly silence rather than prescriptive proclamations. Why, halfway through the new decade, has no one begun to discuss the historiographical characteristics of the 2000s?
Is it simply because, as much remarked in the popular press, no accepted name for the new decade has taken hold? Some refer to the "double-ohs," the "naughts," and even more contrived appellations, but the more formal "first decade of the 21st century" and the "two-thousands" seem a bit too clunky to generate pithy prognostications. We suspect that this nameless decade's anomalous status—that is, the societywide pattern of talking less about the cultural styles of the 2000s than about those of the decades that preceded it—has something to do with the lack of discussion in our area about how it is distinguishing itself from the 1990s. In addition, two years or so of the new decade were effectively lost to the pundits with the flurry of scholarly anniversaries of the first ten years of post-Soviet historiography, which took place [End Page 645] in 2001 and 2002. 2 While changes in history-writing in the Russian and Eurasian fields between 2000 and 2005 have clearly been less dramatic than those that occurred between 1990 and 1995, a number of questions remain. Are we participating in a mere continuation of the changes ushered in by "1991," a sort of "long 1990s" of historiography? Or is a series of small and subtle shifts—an evolution rather than a break—slowly but surely distinguishing the current phase from the post-Soviet era that immediately preceded it?
On the one hand, there is a case to be made that the 1990s and the 2000s will in the future be viewed as a single period in the history of the field. In the broadest perspective, the founding generations in Russian studies were each marked by specific approaches and understandings of the past (to use the conventional Stichwörter, totalitarianism in the era of high politics and revisionism in the era of social history) that were considered to lie close to the field's center of gravity and attention. Despite a good deal of internal heterogeneity and coexistence with many other trends, specific scholarly movements and well-developed historical schema defined the scholarship of the field's founding generations. In explaining in turn the course of imperial, revolutionary, and Soviet history through their prisms, these schools also tended toward grand explanations and interpretive monism. By contrast, post-Soviet historiography has been characterized by methodological eclecticism, a decisive lack of single dominant "paradigms" and methodologies—in short, what one commentator has dubbed "creative disorder."3 Neither the approaches of the postwar generation of the "fathers" nor that of the post-1968 generation of the "children" could be squeezed into the confines of a single decade. It...