On Thursday, September 21, the regular research seminar "Boundaries of History" was held. Alberto Masoero presented his paper titled "Which Orient? Potanin, Iuzhakov, Ukhtomskii and their (very) different political understanding of Eurasian hybridity."
Alberto Masoero, a former professor of Russian history at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, currently teaches at the Department of Political Science at the University of Genoa. His current research interests focus on the conceptualization and transformation of territory in the Siberian periphery during the last decades of the Imperial period, at the intersection of intellectual, legal, and social history.
The report was devoted to the three points of view on the Eurasian identity and the destiny of the Russian east. These positions had very diverse motivations and functioned in practice to articulate very different or even conflicting ideas about Russia as a state and a political community. Each of these ideas can be connected with a certain person, namely with the Siberian patriot and federalist Grigory Nikolaevich Potanin (1835-1920), a populist Sergey Nikolaevich Yuzhakov (1849 - 1910) and a supporter of the monarchy Esper Esperovich Ukhtomsky (1861-1921).
When Potanin thought of a possible Siberian identity as of a hybrid of European and Asian, he did not look for a scientific proof of the unity of postimperial space. He sought the answer to the question: who is a Siberian and why is he different from a Russian? Nationality was a problematic concept since various linguistic, ethnographic and religious criteria emphasized the otherness of inorodtsy 'инородцы' (the category of the subjects of the Russian Empire for all non-Slavic inhabitants), rather than the integration of Siberia as a region and a potential political community. Thus, the idea of separating Siberia from the Russian Empire or granting it an autonomous status emerged. Potanin considered the Siberians a separate nation, which needs its own democratic freedoms.
On the other hand, Yuzhakov believed that peasants should populate Siberia, and the state must invest in the Asian part of the country. However, "the development of capitalism in Russia" appeared as a threat to the formation of peasant communes. Peasant migration to the east should be volunteer, but at the same time strictly communal. The author of this theory and his supporters thought that Russia should choose a path that does not intersect with capitalism. The country was to become a hypothetical peasant Empire, what in turn would lead to the possession of a significant power in the near future.
Ukhtomsky also saw a great potential in Siberia for the future development of the country, hence making a conclusion that it is necessary to protect the East from the attacks of various colonial powers. Unlike Potanin he saw no problems in the unity of the Russian Empire with Siberia because he believed that the Asian peoples who lived there were not very different from the Russian majority. The supporter of the monarchy believed that the Russian Empire was destined to become a force within which the West and the East would get on. A harmonious existence with the Siberian peoples should be conducive to a confrontation with Europe, which otherwise, according to Ukhtomsky, would simply suppress the Empire.
Report: Nikita Zubarev
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