Reviews

Post-Soviet space and societies constitute exceptional laboratories for observation of the most varied diaspora phenomena, and of expressions of collective identities linked with these phenomena.  All specialists of the Caucasus and of Central Asia, the contributors to the present volume propose analyses in various dimensions of duration.  The collection of their papers recalls us that the exoduses engendered by the Russian conquest have been succeeded by forced migrations organised by the Soviet power first in the 1920s, then on a mass level from the 1930s to the 1950s.  These populations nowadays make of the basis of diaspora-style communities, all corresponding, in spite of their variety, to the definition given by Walker Connor—i.e., “a segment of a people living outside the boundaries of its homeland”.  However, the analyses provided here distinguish themselves by a specific interest in the militant expressions of national identity in diaspora contexts.  The volume deals at large with the creation of nationalities by the Bolsheviks, with the conduction of territorial partitions in order to reduce the weigh of communal solidarities, with the fixation of distinct languages for each titular nation, etc.  What is suggested by most authors of the present volume is that things have turned out finer than their designers had imagined, since they would bring to a discussion the ideological identity of the homo sovieticus.  None of the numerous diasporas registered in the soviet Union escaped this very process of mythicisation of a real or putative fatherland. Many are engaged since the end of the Soviet period in an international lobbying activity in favour of countries of origin, so contributing to the present development of trans-nationalisms.  The book is made of a dozen of chapters of uneven length and content.  A first, theoretical chapter (Joelle Demmers, “Nationalism from Without: Theorizing the role of Diasporas in Contemporary Conflicts,” 10-20) is followed by a typological contribution through the case of Kazakhstan (Shirin Akiner, “Towards a Typology of Diasporas in Kazakhstan,” 21-65).  Then comes a series of case studies, on the Russians in Central Asia (Kulbhushan Warikoo, “Russians in Post-Soviet Central Asia: Issues and Concerns,” 66-79), the Azerbaijani and Armenian expatriates (Stephen H. Astourian, “State, Homeland and Diaspora: The Armenian and Azerbaijani Cases,” 80-112; Armine Ishkanian, “Diaspora and Global civil Society: The Impact of Transnational Diasporic Activism on Armenia’s Post-Soviet Transition,” 113-39), the Afghan diasporas (Natalya Khan, “Afghan Communities in Uzbekistan: A Preliminary Case Study,” 140-7; Eden Naby, “The Afghan Diaspora: Reflections on the Imagined Country,” 169-83), the Uighurs in  Central Asia (Ablet Kamalov, “Uighur Community in 1990s Central Asia: A Decade of Change,” 148-68), the Assyrians in the Middle East and Central Eurasia (Eden Naby, “The Assyrian Diaspora: Cultural Survival in the Absence of State Structure”), and an interesting overall reflection on Islam in China (Dru Gladney, “Islam in China: Transnationalism or Transgression,” 184-213 [reviewed in infra 752]).

Bayram Balci, French Institute of Central Asian Studies, Tashkent
CER: I-2.1-114