Empire Speaks Out

Languages of Rationalization and Self-Description in the Russian Empire


Historians habitually write about empires that expand, wage wars, and collapse, as if empires were self-evident and self-conscious entities with a distinct and clear sense of purpose. The stories of empires are told in the language of modern nation-centred social sciences: multi-cultural and heterogeneous empires of the past appear either as huge “nations” with a common language, culture, and territory, or as amalgamations of would-be nations striving to gain independence. Empire Speaks Out reconstructs the historical encounter of the Russian Empire of the seventeenth through the early twentieth centuries with the complex challenge of modernity. It does so by taking the self-awareness of empire seriously, and by looking into how bureaucrats, ideologues, politicians, scholars, and modern professionals described the ethnic, cultural, and social diversity of the empire. “Empire” then reveals itself not through deliberate and well-conceived actions of some mysterious political body, but as a series of “imperial situations” that different people encounter and perceive in common categories. The rationalization of previously intuitive social practices as imperial languages is the central theme of the collection.

This book is published with support from Volkswagen Foundation, within the collective research project “Languages of Self Description and Representation in the Russian Empire”

Prices from (excl. shipping):

Add to Cart
Jan Kusber is Professor and Chair of East European History at Johannes-Gutenberg-University, Mainz. Among his publications are Krieg und Revolution in Rußland, 1904-1906 (1997), Eliten- und Volksbildung im Zarenreich während des 18. und in der ersten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts (2004).
Ilya Gerasimov, Ph.D. (2000) in History, Rutgers University, is Executive Editor of the Ab Imperio quarterly. Among his publications in several languages is Modernism and Public Reform in Late Imperial Russia: Rural Professionals and Self-Organization, 1905-30 (Palgrave, 2009).
Alexander Semyonov, Ph.D. (2006) in History, Central European University, is Associate Professor of History, Smolny College of Liberal Arts and Sciences/St. Petersburg State University, Russia. He has published extensively on the topics of empire and Russian liberal politics.
"die Aufsätze führen besser als jede aufgetürmte Abstraktion vor, auf welchen Gleisen sich eine ertragreiche russländische Imperiumsforschung bewegen kann"

Matthias Stadelmann, Institut für Geschichte, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg in H-Soz-u-Kult (October 2010)
Part 1. Defining Empire in a Dialogue

Ilya Gerasimov, Sergey Glebov, Jan Kusber, Marina Mogilner, Alexander Semyonov
New Imperial History and the Challenges of Empire

Ann Laura Stoler
Refiguring Imperial Terrains: On Comparison and Gradations of Sovereignty

Part 2. The Challenge of Unification and Resistance

Jan Kusber
Governance, Education and the Problems of Empire in the Age of Catherine II

Hans-Christian Petersen
“Us” and “Them”? Polish Perceptions of the Russian Empire between Homogeneity and Diversity (1815–1863)

Sergey Glebov
Siberian Middle Ground: Languages of Rule and Accommodation on the Siberian Frontier

Part 3. The Challenge of Transformation and Rationalization

Marina Mogilner
Russian Physical Anthropology of the Nineteenth–Early Twentieth Centuries: Imperial Race, Colonial Other, Degenerate Types, and the Russian Racial Body

Alexander Semyonov
“The Real and Live Ethnographic Map of Russia”: The Russian Empire in the Mirror of the State Duma

Ilya Gerasimov
Redefining Empire: Social Engineering in Late Imperial Russia

Students of multinational empires and imperial polities in both Europe and Asia, those interested in Russian and Soviet history, political scientists that study the post-Soviet transition.
  • Collapse
  • Expand