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Nationalism and Historiography in Central Eurasia

Class at Faculty of Social Sciences |


Course Content



Reading Materials   1


(October 3)  

The program of the course, online and personal participation, presentations 2

National Past, Historiography, and Historians (October 10)

Key Topics:

Nationalism and Historiography.

- Varieties of Nationalism

- Creation of National Myths  

Who are history makers?

- Role of historians and politicians in the history and myth-making process.


John Coakley, "Mobilizing the Past: Nationalist Images of History,“ Nationalism and Ethnic Policies, 10(4), (2005), Pp. 531-560 (Taylor & Francis Database)

Marlene Laruelle, "National narrative, ethnology, and academia in post-Soviet Uzbekistan. Journal of Eurasian Studies, 1 (2010), pp. 102-110.

Daniel Woolf,  "Of Nations, Nationalism, and National Identity: Reflections on the Historiographic Organization of the Past", in: Q. Edward Wang & Franz Fillafer (eds.), The Many Faces of Clio Cross-Cultural Approaches to Historiography, New York: Berghahn Books (2006), pp. 71-103.

The alternative to Woolf:

Stephan Berger, Constructing the Nations through History. In: Stephan Berger and Christoph Conrad (eds.): The Past as History. National Identity and Historical Consciousness in Modern Europe. Palgrave Macmillan (2015), pp. 1-27.  

Background reading on nationalism:

Eric Hobsbawm, Inventing Traditions. In: Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger. The Invention of Traditions, Cambridge University Press, 1983, pp. 1-15.

Galiev, Anuar, Mythologization of History and Invention of Traditions in Kazakhstan. Oriente Moderno, 96(1), 2016, pp. 46-63.

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities. Verso, 2006, p. 67-82.  3

Primordialism, Identity, Ethnicity, Ethnogenesis in the post-Soviet area

(October 17)

Key topics:

Primordialism constructions.  Ethnicity and Ethnogenesis in post-Soviet Area


Victor A. Shnirelman, „Politics of Ethnogenesis in the USSR and after,“ Bulletin of the National Museum of Ethnology 30(1), (2005), pp: 93–119,

Gregor R. Suny, Constructing Primordialism: Old Histories for New Nations. Journal of Modern History, Vol 73, Issue 4 (December 2001), pp. 862-896. 4

Construction of National Narratives in the Soviet times

(October 24)

Key topics:

Soviet national constructivism. Marrism (theory of language turned to be ethnogenesis). Marxist Historiography


Marlene Laruelle, “The Concept of Ethnogenesis in Central Asia. Political Context and Institutional Mediators (1940-50),“ Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, 9 (1), (Winter 2008), pp. 169-188.

Sergei Abashin, “Ethnogenesis and Historiography: Historical Narratives for Central Asia in the 1940s and 1950s”. In: Roland Cvetkovski and Alexis Hofmeister (eds.) An empire of others: Creating ethnographic knowledge in imperial Russia and the USSR. Central European University Press, 2014., 2014, pp. 145-68.  

Presentation: Marrism as a basic of the Soviet historiography 5

Colonialism, post-colonialism and decolonialism in Central Asian and Caucasus historiography

(October 31)

Key topics:

Central Asia and Caucasus. Colonies as usual? The application of colonial, post-colonial and de-colonial discourse in the former Russian/Soviet area

Svetlana Gorshenina, “Orientalism, Postcolonial and

Decolonial Frames on Central Asia: Theoretical Relevance and

Applicability.” In: Jeroen Van den Bosch; Adrien Fauve; Bruno

De Cordier (eds.), “European Handbook of Central Asian Studies:

History, Politics, and Societies” ibidem Verlag, 2021, p. 177-241.  

Khalid, Adeeb. "Introduction: Locating the (post-) colonial in Soviet history." Central Asian Survey, Vol. 26, No. 4, 2007, p. 465-473.   6

The Myth of Creation of the Nations

(November 7)

Key topics:

Ethnic and Civic nations concepts. Primordialism in Soviet and post-Soviet times in Central Asia and the Caucasus


Victor A. Shnirelman, “Fostered primordialism: the identity and ancestry of the North Caucasian Turks in the Soviet and post-Soviet milieu.” In Tadayuki Hayashi (ed.) The Construction and Deconstruction of National Histories in Slavic Eurasia. Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University (2003), pp. 53–86

Smith, Graham – Law, Vivien – Wilson, Andrew – Bohr, Annette – Allworth Edward, “Nation-building in the Post-Soviet Borderlands,” Cambridge University Press, 2011, chapter 3. 7

The Myth of the Golden Age

(November 14)

Key topics: Why should the nation feel its greatness? National myth of the Golden Age. The connection of the Golden Age with contemporary times


Marlene Laruelle, „The Return of the Aryan Myth: Tajikistan in Search of a Secularized Ideology,“ Nationalities Papers, 35(1), 2007, pp. 51-70 (Taylor & Francis Database).

Batiashvili, Natia (2012). The “Myth” of the Self: The Georgian National Narratives and Quest for Georgianess. In: Memory and Political Change (Aleida Assmann, Shortt, Linda, eds.), Palgrave, Basingtone, pp. 186-200  


Manas epos as a state- and nation-building element in Kyrgyzstan (Sára) 8

The Myth of Resistance: The Basmachi Movement and Anti-Colonial Struggle 

(November 21)

Key topics:

The fight for independence, anti-colonial struggle in the past and today

Readings (at least 2 texts):

Martha B. Olcott, “The Basmachi or Freemen's Revolt in Turkestan 1918-1924“, Soviet Studies, Vol. 33, I ssue 3 (July 1981), pp. 352-369

Slavomir Horák, “The Battle of Göktepe in the Turkmen post-Soviet historical discourse,“Central Asian Survey. October 14, 2014.

Aminat Chokobaeva, “Born for Misery and Woe. National Memory and the 1916 Great Revolt in Kyrgyzstan.” In: Maria Omelicheva, Nationalisms and Identity Construction in Central Asia: Dimensions, Dynamics, and Directions. Rowman and Littlefield, 2014, pp. 37-51. 9

The Historiography of the Colonial Empire

(November 28)

Key topic:

Looking from the colonizer view?

How Russia looked and looks at its former territories in the Caucasus and Central Asia?  

Yilmaz, Harun. “A Family Quarrel: Azerbaijani Historians against Soviet Iranologists”, Iranian Studies, Vol. 48, No. 5, 2015, p. 769-783.

Oybek, Makhmudov, “The ‘Virtual Reality’ of colonial Turkestan: how Russian officers viewed and represented the participation of the local population in the 1916 revolt”. In: Aminat Chokobaeva, Cloé Drieu and Alexander Morrison, The Central Asian Revolt of 1916. A Collapsing Empire in the Age of War and Revolution. Manchester University Press, 2016, p. 95-125 (chapter 4).  

Presentation topics suggestions:

Russian Tsarist and British Colonial discourses

Turkish discourse of Central Asia and Azerbaijan/Caucasus 10

National Historiography, Élite Ideology, and Nation-Building in the Northern Caucasus

(December 5)

Guest seminar

Key topics:

Current regimes place in the history and history in the current regimes


Aurélie Campana, „Collective Memory and Violence: The Use of Myths in the Chechen Separatist Ideology, 1991–1994,“ Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs,  29(1), (2009), pp. 43-56. (Taylor & Francis Database).

Halbach, Uwe; Isaeva, Manarsha, Dagestan: Russia's most troublesome republic: political and religious developments on the "Mountain of Tongues". SWP Research Paper No. 7, Berlin, 2015.

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The course introduces the students into the nationalism through creation history and (mis)using of the history for the state- and nation-building with focus on Central Eurasian Area (Central Asia/Caucasus) with the cases related to wider area (Middle East, Post Soviet Area, Central/Eastern Europe). Apart from some overview of theoretical concepts, the case studies of various historical myths will be examined.