No. 34 - 06/2022:
Revisiting Soviet Modernity in the Non-Russian Periphery

edited by Olena Palko and Fabian Baumann


Editorial by Olena Palko and Fabian Baumann
Constructing Identities, Ascribing Nationalities: The Polish Minority in Ukraine During Late-imperial and Early-Soviet Rule by Olena Palko

This article investigates underlying state intentions behind the counting and standardizing minority populations in view of the dire need to modernize the country. It takes a close look at the statistics regarding the Polish minority provided by the 1897 Imperial and 1926 Soviet censuses to understand how, within a span of only thirty years, the abstract figures of language, religion, and social status came to represent rigidly ascribed and hereditary national categories. The article also explores how the category of “nationality” was understood and how its meaning, political, and economic significance changed in the decades between these two censuses.

Soviet “Modernizing” Strategies towards Jews in the Ukrainian Town of Berdychiv by Bozhena Kozakevych

Berdychiv, a traditional center of Jewish culture and religion, was subjected to an intense “modernization” drive after the Soviet seizure of power. The Bolsheviks aimed to create a new society by tearing down old social structures and replacing them with secular, socialist alternatives. But in the early years of the Soviet Union, the question of how to realize this project was still a matter of experimentation. This paper discusses the sovietization efforts in Berdychiv during the 1920s and looks at how they transformed the town. It does so by focusing on the Soviet nationalities and religion policies with respect to the Jewish population, Berdychiv’s largest ethnic group. It argues that the early Soviet leadership managed to create a Jewish proletarian culture and forced a rift between the generations, thus causing lasting changes in the town’s social fabric.

“Face to the Countryside!”: A Thorny Path for Soviet Public Healthcare in an Interwar Belarusian Province by Andrei Zamoiski

This article demonstrates the complications of rural healthcare modernization in the context of the Belarusian Socialist Soviet Republic. While reforming public healthcare, the Bolsheviks managed to revive pre-revolutionary networks and provide the rural population with basic medical assistance. Various propaganda campaigns by the medical administration also aimed to improve sanitary condition and the state of healthcare in the countryside. However, due to political transformations in the interwar Soviet state, many of these plans ultimately proved unsuccessful at the local level.

Between Modernity and Neo-Tradition: Patronage Politics and Bacteriophage Research in Interwar Soviet Georgia by Timothy Blauvelt

The bacteriophage, championed by the microbiologist Giorgi Eliava, appealed to the early Bolsheviks’ aspirations to create a more effective and rational society based on the mass provision of modern healthcare. Eliava used his connections among the Soviet Georgian elite to accomplish the creation of a major bacteriophage institute in Tbilisi. Yet, paradoxically, by the late 1930s Eliava’s status and success put him on a collision course with the secret police-based network of that was increasingly ascendant in the Transcaucasian leadership. This article explores the hybridity of modern aspirations and informal politics that underlay Stalinism in practice in the interwar Soviet periphery.

Soviet Medical Expeditions in Tuva and the Making of Tuvinian Healthcare, 1928-1936 by Vsevolod Bashkuev

This paper aims to expose the role of Soviet medical expeditions in the construction of modern healthcare in the Tuvinian People’s Republic. Based on archival sources, the study traces the activities of four successive medical teams working in Tuva from 1928 to 1936. The first expedition thoroughly reconnoitered the health situation in the republic, picking out the most troublesome areas, diseases, and spheres of life. The ones that followed consolidated the initiative of the first team, turning healthcare in Tuva into a state affair and an international venture with political undertones.

The Soviet East through a Ukrainian Lens: The Travelogues of the Ukrainian Expedition to Kyrgyzstan in 1929 by Iryna Pupurs

Based on an in-depth reading of the two travelogues written by the leaders of the Soviet Ukrainian expedition to Khan Tengri in the early 1930s, this article investigates the role of Soviet propaganda in determining the economic, social, and cultural modernization of Central Asia. The author analyzes ethnic hierarchies and stereotypes based on these Ukrainian travelers’ descriptions of three populations in the region, namely the Kyrgyz (as natives), the Dungan (as “exotic” migrants from China) and the Ukrainians (as European settlers). The author also draws readers’ attention to the ambivalent role Ukrainians played in the process of colonizing Central Asia.

Full text of issue

Euxeinos 34

Revisiting Soviet Modernity in the Non-Russian Periphery edited by Olena Palko and Fabian Baumann