The Politics of Culture in Soviet Azerbaijan, 1920-40: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Politics of Culture in Soviet Azerbaijan, 1920-40

1st Edition

By Audrey Altstadt


234 pages

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The early Soviet Union’s nationalities policy involved the formation of many national republics, within which "nation building" and "modernization" were undertaken for the benefit of "backward" peoples. This book, in considering how such policies were implemented in Azerbaijan, argues that the Soviet policies were in fact a form of imperialism, with "nation building" and "modernization" imposed firmly along Soviet lines. The book demonstrates that in Azerbaijan, and more widely among western Turkic peoples, the Volga and Crimean Tatars, there were before the onset of Soviet rule, well developed, forward looking, secular, national movements, which were not at all "backward" and were different from the Soviets. The book shows how in the period 1920 to 1940 the two different visions competed with each other, with eventually the pre-Soviet vision of Azerbaijani culture losing out, and the Soviet version dominating in a new Soviet Azerbaijani culture. The book examines the details of this Sovietization of culture: in language policy and the change of the alphabet, in education, higher education and in literature. The book concludes by exploring how pre-Soviet Azerbaijani culture survived to a degree underground, and how it was partially rehabilitated after the death of Stalin and more fully in the late Soviet period.


"An important contribuion to Soviet, Caucasian, Azerbaijani and Middle Eastern Studies, and recommendable for anyone interested in the history of Russification, Russian and Soviet imperial strategies in non-Russian borderlands."

- Zaur Gasimov, Orient-Institut Istanbul, in Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas

Table of Contents


1. The Azerbaijani Enlightenment: Constructing and Disseminating A Turkic Identity

2. Soviet Cultural Policies, 1920-1940: Modernization or Imperialism?

3. Dotting the I's: Alphabet Change and Language Reform in Soviet Azerbaijan

4. Schools: Educating Citizens or "Human Material"?

5. Scholarship Meets Voch-Tech: The Continuous Purge

6. The End of Laughter: Proletarian Literature Is Born


About the Author

Audrey L Altstadt is a Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, US.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in the History of Russia and Eastern Europe

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / Asian American Studies
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies