- Empire and Belonging in the Eurasian Borderlands ed. by Krista A. Goff and Lewis H. Siegelbaum
What historically have been the experiences of ethnic minorities living in the Eurasian borderlands? Empire and Belonging in the Eurasian Borderlands is an edited volume of thematically and regionally similar papers that resulted from a conference held at the University of Michigan in October 2016. The conference was organized to honor the work of Ronald Grigor Suny and broadly focused on the topics of "nationalism, revolution, and genocide," which were often the subject of his research and teaching (vii). Primarily, the research presented in the volume focuses on the policies crafted by "supervening state authorities" to govern the various peoples found along the Eurasian borderlands. These areas included the Russian/Ottoman and Soviet/Turkish borders. The individual contributions generally investigate the ways that issues of belonging played out in imperial and national contexts.
In chapter 1 Janet Klein provides a general overview of the nineteenth-century phenomenon of minoritization. In both Turkish and Russian contexts, she examines the ways in which certain groups became "marked" as minorities. Before policies could be crafted by state authorities to address whether or not smaller ethnic groups belonged to their territories, they had to be formally branded as such. Thus, many ethnic groups in the Eurasian borderlands came to be formally recognized, named, and defined as minorities. Once defined, often in terms of "other," a wide array of governmental policies could be enacted on them, and as many of the contributors demonstrate, the policies varied widely in scope, from assimilation to extermination.
The rest of the chapters are organized into three parts, each composed of several essays related by the nature of governmental actions on the various groups addressed by each author. In part I, we learn about the ways in which some ethnic minorities became viewed with suspicion, sometimes imagined as agents of the neighboring rival empire, and thus targets for ethnic cleaning or subjected to a genocide. Ian W. Campbell examines the ways in which the historiography has developed regarding the conquest of, or inclusion of, the Transcapsian region and the Tekke Turkmen by the Soviet Union, depending on the narrative. [End Page 244] Norman Naimark's chapter provides a comparative study between the Armenian genocide of 1915 with other cases throughout history in order to identify some of the universal elements of genocide. His discussion of the importance of war is particularly interesting. It shows how the chaos of wartime can give cover to genocidal policies and provide political expediency with regard to national consolidation.
Matthew Payne examines the question of Kirgiz belonging in the context of the 1916 Turkestan rebellion against tsarist military conscription in which hundreds of thousands of Kirgiz were killed. Being marked as an exempt population had denied them full citizenship and recognition and allowed an aggressive wave of Russian agricultural settlement. To the Kirgiz, attempted conscription constituted being tasked with the obligations of citizenship without the recognition and equal standing of citizens. This aggressive state-building exercise, according to Payne, was a prelude to similar actions that would play out several more times within the Soviet Union. Claire Kaiser focuses on the expulsion of borderland minorities in Soviet Georgia in the context of belonging. She demonstrates how post–World War II expulsions of Turkic peoples were part of a homogenization effort along the Soviet/Turkish borderlands.
In part II we learn how the Russian empire, and later the Soviets, went about integrating people groups as the territories they populated evolved from tsarist imperial lands into the new Soviet nation of states. Jo Laycock examines the case of Armenian refugees after the genocide and how they were resettled in a way that was part of a larger nationbuilding endeavor. Daniel Schafer and Jeremy Johnson focus on linguistic aspects of belonging. Schafer demonstrates the effects of empire on the standardization and symbolic representation of Tatar languages. As these linguistic...