Citizenship under Pressure: Naturalisation Policies from the Late XIX Century until the Aftermath of the World War I
The period between the late nineteenth century and the first post-war years appears to be a crucible of symbolic importance in the production of some of the most incisive moves taken by States in matters of citizenship. Following the collapse of the European and Ottoman Empires and the explosive consequences of the First world war, citizenship was put “under pressure”: there was no State authority in Europe that did not reformulate the identity assumptions of belonging and the procedures for authenticating them. Establishing each individual’s relationship to their home State became a priority. Foreigners and migrants, such as Jewish communities and other linguistic, ethnic and religious minorities were the first to be affected by these measures, while the dichotomous division between citizens and non-citizens applied to both the belligerent and the neutral countries. Arising from the need to solve specific problems and to regulate the system of belonging in general terms, the administrative procedures that were introduced used identification criteria that were often inadequate, if not openly contradictory or impracticable, but which nevertheless carried on into the following decades, and often are present still today in the discipline of integration processes and migratory phenomena. Through the analysis of case studies and thanks to methodological instruments of a “history of citizenships in practice,” we will attempt to elucidate the distinctive characteristics of this normative-administrative, political and identity review process, and to hypothesise some at least possible interpretative models.
Aleksandr Turbin looks at the ethnically diversified merchant communities of the far east of Russia, investigating the means with which Russian citizenship was acquired, and their evolution, within the dynamics of inclusion animating the Priamurye region during the thirty years preceding the war. He pays particular attention to the rhetoric of the discourse concerning the inclusion and exclusion of individuals on the grounds of local, national, racial and other forms of classification. To understand more fully the nature and role to be attributed to Russian citizenship, the author made a comparison not only of local or regional contexts, but also of global processes, by considering the relationship between elements present within the empire and by measuring them against those of other empires of the time. This approach reveals the constant search for alternative languages with which to discuss the relationship between sovereignty, political community and individuals, bringing into question a teleological narrative on the transformation of Russian citizenship.