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Regular version of the site

Book chapter

The Empire-Born Criminal: Atavism, Survivals, Irrational Instincts, and the Fate of Russian Imperial Modernity

P. 31-62.
Mogilner M.

The article examines the plethora of ideas regarding norms and deviations in late imperial Russia. Adap­ting criminal anthropology to the imperial situation, doctors and scientists examined the “natural-born criminal” as a collective category and created a com­pa­rative scale of imperial human diversity that allo­wed them to stigmatize entire groups. In the period between revolutions, the discourse on criminality under­went a semiotic shift from the signifier to the signified, conditioning a new image of the “internal savage,” one that was, however, hybrid and unstable. The following generation of psychiatrists was tasked with overcoming this duality, but this was only achie­ved in the early Soviet period, when the concept of the “natural-born criminal” was replaced by that of the “counterrevolutionary” and acquired an unambiguous, purely sociological sense.