[OPE] review of Boris Kagarlitsky's Empire of the periphery: Russia and the world system London 2007, 384pp.

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Sun Apr 05 2009 - 18:24:43 EDT

Empire of the periphery: is an outline history of the successive polities from the early Rus centred on Kiev, through early modern Muscovy, to the tsarist empire of the Romanovs, the USSR, and today's 'post- Soviet' Russian Federation. We tend to call these polities in shorthand 'Russia', and I will do so for convenience in this review. But it is worth bearing in mind several points which make this shorthand misleading. First, much of what was early Rus is in today's Ukraine. Second, neither the empire of the Romanovs nor the USSR was a nation-state of Russian-speakers, even in the sense that the 10th-11th century Engla land was a nation-state of speakers of Ænglisc (both identified themselves in cosmopolitan terms: the tsarist regime as the 'third Rome', the successor of Byzantium; the USSR by its claim to be soviet and socialist). Third, even today's Russian Federation, shorn of many of the subordinate nationalities of the tsarist empire and USSR, is still a multinational political entity - and also does not include substantial territories populated by Russian-speakers.

Boris Kagarlitsky is not a specialist professional historian, but a political scientist and activist. Empire of the periphery is written with present-day purposes in mind: to combat the revival in today's Russian Federation of the pre-1917 'westerniser' and 'Slavophile' discourses of Russian history. The first blames Russia's historical woes and present problems on Russia's 'Asiatic backwardness' and failure to become more like western Europe. The second (including Stalinist-nationalist variants) sees them as resulting from attempts to impose unnaturally 'western' or 'liberal' ideas on the Slavs.

In place of these discourses, Kagarlitsky argues that the character of Russian history flows neither from isolated 'Asiatic backwardness', nor from isolated 'Slavic' development, but precisely from Russia's engagement in successive world systems. This interpretation draws heavily on those of the Bolshevik medievalist and early-modernist historian, Mikhail Pokrovsky, and of the more recent 'world systems theory' school of Andre Gunder Frank, Immanuel Wallerstein and others.

Complete text http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/763/studying.html

ope mailing list
Received on Sun Apr 5 18:35:30 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue May 12 2009 - 15:26:04 EDT