Making Ethnicity, Simon Schlegel offers a history of ethnicity and its political uses in southern Bessarabia, a region that has long been at the crossroads of powerful forces: in the 19th century between the Russian and Ottoman Empires, since World War I between the Soviet Union and Romania, and since the collapse of the Soviet Union between Russia and the European Union’s respective zones of influence.
Drawing on biographical interviews and archival documents, Schlegel argues that ethnic categories gained relevance in the 19th century, as state bureaucrats took over local administration from the church. After mutating into a dangerous instrument of social engineering in the mid-20th century, ethnicity today remains a potent force for securing votes and allocating resources.
Simon Schlegel, Ph.D. (2016) Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, between 2017 and 2019 he coordinated the Civil Peace Service project “Empowering Civil Society for a Transformation of Commemorative Culture” in Kyiv, Ukraine. He is a research associate at Loughborough University.
Table of contents
Acknowledgements List of Maps and Figures Notes
1 Introduction 1 Central Questions 2 History and Anthropology, Some Methodological Implications 3 Locating the Field Site and Choosing a Name for It 4 A Brief Historical Outline 5 Ethnicity, Natsional’nost’, and Nationality: Definitions and Translations 6 Chapter Structure 2 Administering the Periphery from Horseback 1 The State’s Hunger for Tax and Men 2 Colonists out of the State’s Sight 3 Keep It Separate, Keep It Simple 4 Bureaucracy Evolving: the Church Gives Way to the State 5 The Categories of the Census Taker and the Ethnographer 6 Ethnicity in Revolutionary Minds 3 Persuasion and Paranoia—Romania’s Rule in Bessarabia 1918–44 1 Newcomer Elites in a Hostile Land 2 Spying on Minorities 3 Counting and Categorizing Minorities 4 Ethnicity as a Proxy for Trustworthiness 5 Bringing the Past into Line 6 Eugenics and Ethnic Cleansing 4 Politically Desirable Theory and Its Way into Folk Theory 1 The Imperial Roots of Diverging Ethnicity Concepts 2 Self-Identification vs. Ascription—Who Gets to Draw Ethnic Boundaries? 3 State-Approved Concepts of Ethnicity in Post-War Soviet Academia 4 Gut Feeling and Folk Theories of Ethnicity 5 Grand Scheme Planning and the “Primordial Trap” 5 Ethnic Minorities and Soviet Newcomers 1 Ethnicity and the Hierarchy of Trust in Post-War Southern Bessarabia 2 The Stewards of a New Model State 3 Ethnicity Performed in Public 4 Soviet Education and the Friendship of Peoples 5 Stagnation and Revived Ethnic Consciousness 6 Post-Soviet Instability, Clientelism and the Persistence of Ethnic Boundaries 1 The Power of Benefaction 2 The Roots of Clientelism in Ethnic and Non-Ethnic Networks 3 Ethnicity in Local Politics: Three Strategies 4 Political Representation and the Pressure to Choose a Clear-Cut Ethnic Identity 5 When Clear-Cut Boundaries Encounter Fuzzy Identities 7 The Narratives and Techniques that Maintain Ethnic Boundaries 1 Pure and Impure Language 2 Religion’s Ambiguous Role in Marking Ethnicity 3 Common Historical Experience and Collective Memory 4 Processed Folklore 5 Genetic Narratives of Ethnic Belonging 6 Generalizing the Inside, Omitting the Outside 8 Conclusion—Delimiting Ethnic Groups as a Tool of Statecraft 1 The Significance of Ethnicity: Continuities and Ruptures 2 When Ethnic Boundaries Become Obstacles 3 Ethnic Boundaries, Whom Do They Serve? 4 Narratives and Techniques 5 The Trouble with Fuzzy Boundaries 6 Ethnicity as a Beacon of Stability
All interested in the history of ethnicity and nationalism in Russia, Romania, Ukraine and the Soviet Union, and anyone interested in the historical anthropology of Eastern Europe. Keywords: nationalities, nationalism, historical anthropology, memory, language policy, minorities, Ukraine, Soviet Union, Romania, Russia, Moldova, Gagauziya, and Gagauz.