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Historiography and National Identity among the Eastern Slavs: Towards a New Framework

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The article surveys Tsarist, Soviet and Western historiography of Russia and how this affected the national identities and inter-ethnic relations among the three eastern Slavs. Western historiography of Russia largely utilised an imperialist and statist historiographical framework created within the Tsarist empire during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Although this framework was imperialist it was gradually accepted as 'objective' by the Western scholarly community. Yet, this historiography was far from being 'objective'. After 1934 Soviet historiography also reverted to the majority of the tenets found in Tsarist historiography. Within Tsarist, Western and Soviet historiographies of 'Russia' eastern Slavic history was nationalised on behalf of the Russian nation which served to either ignore or deny a separate history and identity for Ukrainians and Belarusians. In the post-Soviet era all 15 Soviet successor states are undertaking nation and state building projects which utilise history and myths to inculcate new national identities. The continued utilisation of the Tsarist, Western and Soviet imperial and statist historiographical schema is no longer tenable and serves to undermine civic nation building in the Russian Federation. This article argues in favour of a new, non-imperial framework for histories of 'Russia' territorially based upon the Russian Federation and inclusive of all of its citizens.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2001-07-01

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