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15 Ab Imperio, 2/2003 From the EDITORS BORDER CROSSINGS… In his classical work of 1983, Ernst Gellner wrote that nationalism as a political doctrine presupposes the congruence of political and ethnic boundaries .1 Apparently, the imperial management of administrative-territorial space makes such congruence practically impossible in an empire and the project of empire-wide nation-building based on cultural and linguistic uniformity has always shown itself to be a utopian endeavor. Such congruence is unlikely to be found in the historical experience of non-dominant nationalities whose nation-building projects appear in this sense essentially similar to the nation-building projects of the dominant nationality, i.e. they all represent an attempt to straightjacket the palimpsestic layers of historical experiences and the complex texture of social, economic, and cultural relations in order to fit them into the imagined and clear cut social and territorial “body” of a nation-in-the-making. It is legitimate, however, to ponder if the problem of boundaries and frontiers in heterogeneous imperial societies can be reduced to the given and legally stipulated boundaries of territorial and estate units? Should scholars exclusively concentrate on historically evolving mental projections that strove to establish borders around political, social, and cultural spaces or should they take into account the experience of individuals and social groups who actually stumbled over the delimitation lines and border checkpoints? A dynamically developing society transgresses the old and creates new dividing lines quite indepen1 Ernest Gellner. Nations and Nationalism. Oxford, 1983. P. 1. 16 From the Editors, Border Crossings… dently of governmental regulations. Very often, these lines are observable only during “border crossings.” Ab Imperio devotes the second issue of 2003 to the exploration of external borders in imperial society, one aspect of the 2003 annual theme investigating problems of frontiers and zones of liminality in the history of the Russian empire and Soviet Union. Editors and contributors to the present issue aspire to use border crossings to discover and verify the external borders of imperial society and to grasp the specificity of that society as it revealed therein. The present issues’ materials focus specifically on the function of frontiers and boundaries as indicators of the state of affairs and “assets” for the further development of society writ large. A “frontier” research perspective allows the discovery of new dimensions in the history of states and societies and overcomes the shortcomings of nation- and ethnocentric narratives: Border is the zone of accelerated semiotic processes, which are more intense on the periphery of the civilized world and from where they stream to the core structures and depose them.2 This issue explores political and economic migrations, and exile and emigration – “border crossings” that are perhaps more pronounced and more common than other examples. The history of migration, exile, and deportations has gained momentum with the rise of history “from below.”Traditional political history or the history of high culture traditionally overlooked the historical experiences of migration. The discovery of history of migration, exile, and displacement made these histories a source of methodological innovations in the context of post-modern critique of historically formed dominant narratives, with the help of which the obscure figure of migrant and refugee became a key for understanding the dynamics of modern society. The history of population movement in Western historiography is linked with the central problem of social and political history of the Modern Era – the migration of populations from former colonies to the Western metropoles. The noticeable presence of former colonial subjects in the centers of Western Europe’s dismantled empires, whose historical experience is usually rendered as classical nation-building, makes it necessary to reconsider the history ofWestern European national formation in a hitherto ignored imperial context, presenting itself as a pre-history of globalization, a phenomenon 2 Iu. M. Lotman. O semiosfere // Izbrannye statii v trekh tomakh. Vol. 1. Tallin, 1992. P. 15. 17 Ab Imperio, 2/2003 more familiar to the modern eye. At the same time, the history of population movement is at the center of debates on modern nationalism, to which scholars attribute an overlapping of categories of citizenship, ethnicity, and race. Migration history’s centrality to modern history is attested byAmerican sociological...


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