Racism in Former Soviet Republics: A Critical Account

Monday, 16 July 2018: 16:30
Oral Presentation
Nikolay ZAKHAROV, Södertörn University, Sweden
In assuming that racism is solely a part of the West’s histories and horizons Soviet and post-Soviet polities have largely been ignored. This presentation discusses a set of case studies drawing on a wide range of new evidence and a new theoretical framework which inserts the post-Soviet
experience into our global understanding of racialisation. The self-contradiction within colonialism - to civilize its others while also securing their otherness - has been transformed within the communist experience into an internal civilizing mission intended to secure the privileged otherness on the global stage. The repercussions of this program continues to provide national specificity to the engagement with the concept of race and racism in post-socialist societies. Investing in ‘whiteness’ after the Berlin Wall-era has represented a western, modernist approach for guaranteeing that post-Soviet states states will find their own proper place in the dominant discourses of the developed and civilized First World. Thus, racialization in post-Soviet states operates in a peculiar fashion. On the one hand, it serves in moulding the new nations and is the constitutive process of modernity. On the other hand, racialization processes maintain the idea of exceptionality, that is they became firmly established during many decades of communist power, that the socialist nations are nations created as part of an ‘alternative modernity’. The strategies described above aim at the transformation of the western system of knowledge in the postsocialist space, and they imitate, to differing degrees, the master discourses of the ‘colonizer’.
This nevertheless leads to a creative, interactive processing of the original discourse that activates the strategies of racialization. In this context self-racialization can be understood as an attempt to rediscover the authenticity that has been lost - or stolen by the Soviet regime.