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  • Empire and Belonging in the Eurasian Borderlands ed. by Krista A. Goff and Lewis H. Siegelbaum
  • Ian Lanzillotti (bio)
Krista A. Goff and Lewis H. Siegelbaum, eds. Empire and Belonging in the Eurasian Borderlands. xiii + 266 pp. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2019. Notes. Glossary. Index. Maps. ISBN 9781501736131.

This volume emerged out of a 2016 conference honoring Ronald Grigor Suny, whose work pioneered the study of nations and nationalism in the tsarist and Soviet empires. In bringing the conference papers together for this volume, Krista Goff and Lewis Siegelbaum found that they all dealt, in varied ways, with the generation or exclusion of belonging as a means of ruling over the multiethnic territories of the Ottoman Empire, tsarist Russia, and the Soviet Union. Covering the period from the mid-19th to the late 20th centuries, the collection allows for the tracing of continuities and changes in these modes of belonging and exclusion on both sides of the revolutionary divide. While only two of the articles apply a comparative framework to their studies of modes of belonging, most of the authors offer comparisons with national and imperial belongings in other parts of the world.

Goff and Siegelbaum begin the volume with Janet Klein's article on minoritization (the process through which people are constructed as minorities) in the Ottoman and Russian contexts because it "prefigures … the double-sidedness of imperial and national belongings analyzed in virtually all the other chapters" (7). Specifically, Klein's article emphasizes how minoritization provided a means for communities to appeal for protections under international law but, crucially, it also led state authorities to regard these communities as threats and subject them to repression. Klein reminds us of the importance of historicizing minorities as a category of analysis just as scholars have long done with nations and class.

In their introduction Goff and Siegelbaum note that "in compiling a collection of essays about belonging in Eurasia, [they] produced a book that privileges its negative aspects and consequences" (6). This "dark side of empires and nations" is most prominent in part 1 on "the negation of belonging." Ian Campbell focuses on the 1881 massacre of the Tekke Turkmen at Geok-Tepe. Campbell shows how Russian discourse justified the bloodshed by "present[ing] the Tekkes as becoming part of something greater than what they had been when independent" (47). Most studies of the Russian Empire that have explored the discourse of the "gift of empire" (given through violent conquest) have focused on the Russian conquest of the North Caucasus; Campbell's examination of this theme in the Central Asian context is a welcome addition. Norman Naimark applies a comparative framework to the Armenian genocide to bring out the commonalities of genocide in general and to better understand [End Page 265] the causal factors of this particular case. Also seeking to understand the dynamics of state violence, Matthew Payne argues that the Kazakh nomads' 1916 rebellion against labor conscription in Semirech´e and its violent suppression by tsarist forces and Russian settlers should be viewed as a reaction to the strains of imperial modernization and the pressures of war. Payne shows that the dynamics of violence at work in Semirech´e are reflective of the forces that would shatter intercommunal peace across the empire during the upcoming civil wars. Claire Kaiser's exploration of the expulsion of minority communities from Georgia after World War II provides an important corrective to top-down views of Stalin-era nation building by demonstrating how expulsions, "a Soviet tool of imperial population management," could be used at the local level by Georgian officials for the purposes of nation building (81).

The articles in part 2 focus on the creation of affinities of belonging through drives toward standardization. Jo Laycock focuses on the League of Nations program to resettle Armenian refugees from Anatolia to Soviet Armenia. Examining the interactions between League officials and the Soviet state allows Laycock to connect the history of nation building in the Soviet South Caucasus to transnational histories of interwar refugee resettlements. Laycock argues that resettlement of refugees facilitated the transformation of Soviet Armenia from a diverse imperial space to a more homogenous "national" space. Daniel Schafer...


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