Empire De/Centered: New Spatial Histories of Russia and the Soviet Union, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Empire De/Centered

New Spatial Histories of Russia and the Soviet Union, 1st Edition

Edited by Maxim Waldstein, Sanna Turoma


362 pages

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In 1991 the Soviet empire collapsed, at a stroke throwing the certainties of the Cold War world into flux. Yet despite the dramatic end of this 'last empire', the idea of empire is still alive and well, its language and concepts feeding into public debate and academic research. Bringing together a multidisciplinary and international group of authors to study Soviet society and culture through the categories empire and space, this collection demonstrates the enduring legacy of empire with regard to Russia, whose history has been marked by a particularly close and ambiguous relationship between nation and empire building, and between national and imperial identities. Parallel with this discussion of empire, the volume also highlights the centrality of geographical space and spatial imaginings in Russian and Soviet intellectual traditions and social practices; underlining how Russia's vast geographical dimensions have profoundly informed Russia's state and nation building, both in practice and concept. Combining concepts of space and empire, the collection offers a reconsideration of Soviet imperial legacy by studying its cultural and societal underpinnings from previously unexplored perspectives. In so doing it provides a reconceptualization of the theoretical and methodological foundations of contemporary imperial and spatial studies, through the example of the experience provided by Soviet society and culture.


'This is a useful collection of informative and insightful essays that adds to a growing literature on questions of space and empire. The topic is well conceived, and the editors effectively convey its significance in a clear and often provocative manner in their introduction. Specialists will find much of value here, though, given the specificity of the essays, scholars outside Russian and Soviet studies will be rather less likely to explore its contents.' Europe-Asia Studies '… Empire De/Centered is a highly informative volume, which makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of how the Russian and Soviet self has been discursively constructed, challenging a common misperception that in the Moscow-dominated political space, imagined communities could only be defined as either an empire or a nation.' Slavic Review ’A highly engaging collection, Empire De/Centered covers a wide variety of subjects in disciplines ranging from political economy to visual arts. The themes of geographical space, imperial narrative, and national identity hold these diverse essays firmly together. … this volume will be a valuable and enjoyable read for Slavists as well as for scholars of empire in general.’ Journal of Historical Geography ’The editors of and contributors to this volume are to be congratulated on producing an excellent book…the contributors provide many insights into Russian history and successfully demonstrate how, with its particular spatial configuration, the Russian imperial experience challenges received wisdom concerning modern empires with their metropolises (the ’mother country’) and overseas colonies, and also concerning the concepts of ’nation’ and ’empire’ themselves.’ SEER

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: empire and space: Russian and the Soviet Union in focus, Sanna Turoma and Maxim Waldstein; Part I Eurasianism and Intellectual Construction of Space: The empire of language: space and structuralism in Russia’s Eurasianism, Sergey Glebov; Between Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia: Georgii Vernadskii’s search for identity, Igor Torbakov; Space as a destiny: legitimizing the Russian empire through geography and cosmos, Marlène Laruelle. Part II Spatial Science and Geographical Knowledge: The mapping of illiberal modernity: spatial science, ideology and the state in early 20th-century Russia, Nick Baron; Regionalization, imperial legacy and the Soviet geographical tradition, Marina Loskutova. Part III Political and Cultural Economy of the (Post-)Soviet Space: The controlled space of socialist internationalism and its transgression: COMECON energy projects between 1970 and 1990, Ulrich Best; The rearrangement of the post-Soviet space and the representation of Russia as a Eurasian bridge, Katri Pynnöniemi; Debating Soviet imperialism in contemporary Poland: on the polish uses of postcolonial theory and their contexts, Tomasz Zarycki. Part IV Representing Empire: Media, Art, Literature: Playing games with Empire: Finnish political imaginaries on the early Soviet state, Anni Kangas; Imperiia re/constructed: narratives of space and nation in 1960s Soviet Russian culture, Sanna Turoma; Picturing infinity: space race and the cosmic landscape, Iina Kohonen; Eccentric orbit: mapping Russian culture in the near abroad, Kevin M.F. Platt; Bibliography; Index.

About the Editors

Dr Sanna Turoma, Research Fellow at the Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland. Dr Maxim Waldstein, Amsterdam University College, The Netherlands.

About the Series

Empire and the Making of the Modern World, 1650-2000

This monograph series seeks to explore the complexities of the relationships among empires, modernity and global history. In so doing, it wishes to challenge the orthodoxy that the experience of modernity was located exclusively in the west, and that the non-western world was brought into the modern age through conquest, mimicry and association. To the contrary, modernity had its origins in the interaction between the two worlds.

In this sense the imperial experience was not an adjunct to western modernization, but was constitutive of it. Thus the origins of the defining features of modernity - the bureaucratic state, market economy, governance, and so on - have to be sought in the imperial encounter, as do the categories such as race, sexuality and citizenship which constitute the modern individual. This necessarily complicates perspectives on the nature of the relationships between the western and non-western worlds, nation and empire, and 'centre' and 'periphery'.

To examine these issues the series presents work that is interdisciplinary and comparative in its approach; in this respect disciplines including economics, geography, literature, politics, intellectual history, anthropology, science, legal studies, psychoanalysis and cultural studies have much potential, and will all feature. Equally, we consider race, gender and class vital categories to the study of imperial experiences. We aim, therefore, to provide a forum for dialogues among different modes of writing the histories of empires and the modern. Much valuable work on empires is currently undertaken outside the western academy and has yet to receive due attention. This is an imbalance the series intends to address and so we are particularly interested in contributions from such scholars. Also important to us are transnational and comparative perspectives on the imperial experiences of western and non-western worlds.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Modern / 20th Century