VERA TOLZ, Russia’s own Orient: the politics of identity and Oriental studies in the late Imperial and early Soviet period (book review)
The article explores a particular aspect of the identity policy of the Russian state – an evolution of the official historical narrative describing a genealogy of the nation. It is highly important for legitimization of the political regime as an “explanation” of continuity between collective past, present and future. The research is based on the theoretical frame that conceptualizes a historical component of identity politics and reveals factors that influence its structure in the contemporary Russian context.
The author argues that there were two large periods in the development of the official narrative based on different conceptions – that of “the new Russia” and of “the thousand-years-long Russia”. These periods roughly coincide with presidency of Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin – Dmitry Medvedev. The construction of the new narrative maintaining the Russian identity was complicated by a necessity to match two principally different cultural models of political work at the past – that of “coping with a difficult past / collective trauma” and aimed at consolidation of the nation / nation-building. There were different approaches to this political task in different periods. In the 1990s the official narrative had integrated discourse about “trauma and crime” as a part of legitimization of the post-Soviet transformation, but it could not manage to consolidate the nation. In the 2000s the choice was made for apologetic principle of work with collective past which resulted into the eclectic construction that marginalize the topic of “trauma and crime”. In the 2010s we can see some attempts to make the official narrative more consistent which brings ambivalent results. On the one hand, in the context of the current international conflict the apologetic conception of the national past is securitized as a “weapon” against the foreign and domestic enemies. On the other hand, a new round of discussions about the national history opens some windows of opportunities for actors struggling for “coping with difficult past” agenda.
This article looks into the debate on public attitudes in Russia towards the EU and Europe. The relevance of Europe and of the perception of belonging to Europe for Russian national identity is evaluated. To what extent do the Russians see themselves as European and what criteria fit this notion today after the two post-Soviet decades have drawn to a close? The existing image of the EU is analysed in the context of asserting and consolidating the Russian political nation. Elite and expert group opinions are considered, having in mind their influence on the wider public views on national identity. Historic notions of the West in Russian intellectual discourse are evocated as a valid context for the current debate, and the relevance of the traditional cleavage between westernizers and traditionalists for present day identity politics is evaluated. An important point in this discussion is the Russian and the Western perception of the ‘values gap’. The paper draws upon three groups of sources: public opinion survey data, public political discourse and its media coverage, and academic and expert literature.
The collection includes the articles by the orientalists of Russia and France which are devotes to the different aspects of the evolution of Chinese and Japanese studies in these countries nowadays and in the past, and to the problems of interaction between Russian and French traditions of oriental studies as well.
The article analyzes the directions and forms of use of historical memory in the politics of identity over time-the European Union and the role of Russia's image in the interpretation of the Europeytsy its history and strengthen the European identity. The author, you-allowed three directions of the politics of memory EU: the creation of a positive identity, that is, the production obracall "their" and sense of belonging to the EU; ensuring internal commontion; the creation of the negative is identical to industry through the construction of images of "strangers". The image of Russia is used in the politics of remembrance in all three directions. The author demonstrates that the image of Russia included in the fixed forms of identity politics associated with interPretoria historical past: the establishment of holidays and the celebration of anniversaries; construction and demolition sites; adoption of educational standards, particularly in secondary schools; Museum policy; establishment of institutions of memory. The article States that the interpretation of the image of the past becomes the subject of competition between different political actors engaged in EU policy the European identity