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Communists like us: ethnicized modernity and the idea of 'the West' in the Soviet Union

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Alastair Bonnett


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This article offers a portrait of communism in the USSR as an ethnicized form of modernity; a form defined in relation to the idea of `the West'. First, I introduce the `racialized modernity' thesis and suggest that notions of race and racialization are neither adequate nor appropriate categories to apply to the reification of modernity in the USSR. I then turn to western views of Russia, emphasizing the role accorded to Russians of the `not quite European' Europeans. These two sections provide the background to a discussion of the development of an ethnopolitical form of communist modernity — a form in which the proletariat was simultaneously an ethnic and political category — which is introduced in the rest of the article. Section six is somewhat different, charting the abandonment of the communist vision. The so-called `return to Europe', although a supposedly stalled and certainly an ambiguous process, is presented here in terms of the reanimation of western and Russian myths of communism as a non-European `hiatus' in Russian history. Central to this process is the ethnic othering of communism through its representation as an Asian contamination of western tradition.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bonnett A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Ethnicities

Year: 2002

Volume: 2

Issue: 4

Pages: 435-467

ISSN (print): 1468-7968

ISSN (electronic): 1741-2706


DOI: 10.1177/14687968020020040101


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