Postkolonialismi pealetung post -sovetoloogias: kas paradigmamuutuse künnisel? The Rise of Post-Colonialism in Post-Soviet Studies: Witnessing the Paradigm Change

Epp Annus

Abstract


This article analyses the current state of research in studies of Soviet colonialism and considers inner tensions within this emerging field. By now, dozens of monographs and hundreds of articles touch upon the various aspects of Soviet postcolonialism, yet the field is fragmented and full of inner contradictions and unanswered questions: What is the relationship of research in Soviet colonialism to postcolonial studies in general? What is its relationship to traditional Sovietology? Areas of tension are found through historical and geographical perspectives, in the Russian neglect of its own Soviet imperialism, and in the long-distance scholarship dominant in the area. This paper argues that what we are witnessing now is the pains of a paradigm change, further aggravated by special complexities within the field. The article offers a historical overview of the development of studies of Soviet colonialism and shows that a decisive turn took place in the first decade of the twenty-first century. In 1990s, postcolonial perspectives were more widely employed in analyses of Tsarist-era Russian history. In the 2000s, several important monographs about the Soviet Union were published, yet, interestingly, their main focus was the inter-war period, before the Baltic states were annexed to the Soviet Union. Thus, for research into Baltic Soviet history, these collections and monographs can only provide background information. As for the post-WWII era, most important work from the perspective of Baltic studies – that is, general arguments about the developments in Soviet Union – remain on the level of single articles, the best known of these being David Chioni Moore’s „Is the Post- in Postcolonial the Post- in Post-Soviet? Toward a Global Postcolonial Critique“ (2001). The article makes a distinction between the general term „empire-studies“ and the more restricted notion of „studies of colonialism“; it further distuinguishes post colonial studies as a sub-category of studies of colonialism. Empire-studies approaches the Soviet Union as a multinational empire, but not necessarily a colonial one. Studies of colonialism argue that Soviet Union was indeed a colonial enterprise where subordinated nations and ethnicities were exploited in the interests of the central power. Postcolonial Soviet studies would apply a postcolonial critique to the research of the area: this would involve a bricolage analysis of power-relations, mechanisms of desire, the hybridity of the colonial subject, and its traumatic identity; it would shift the focus of research from the politico-historical features to socio-cultural features of the period. Though the notions „colonial“ and „postcolonial“ are widely in use in contemporary Soviet studies, the postcolonial turn is far from complete.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7592/methis.v5i7.533

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