Reviews

This famous article by American historian Marc von Hagen comprises a novel reflection on the notion of Eurasia posited as a new (but non-exclusive) paradigm for specialists in the social sciences on Russia, the new post-Soviet states, and East Europe.  Von Hagen demonstrates that, as a form, the idea of “Eurasia” goes beyond both the dominant paradigms of Slavic studies, that of “Russia/Orient” and that of “Soviet Union/modernisation”:  It reveals that these two paradigms are complementary rather than contradictory, and enables us to take into account the longue durée of history and demographic, economic and cultural phenomena that are continental in scale.  Indeed, despite the ideological commitments of the Eurasianist theoreticians, the movement actually sought to deconstruct binaries like that opposing Europe’s ‘dynamism’ to Asia’s ‘backwardness’, and was led to stop thinking of the West as the norm of development.  Following this, Von Hagen then relocates the re-emergence of the term “Eurasia” in the scientific current of the 1990s-2000s:  Its re-appearance, he argues, essentially responds to the renewal of interest in the Ottoman, Habsburg and Chinese Empires.  It enables to decentralise the chief historical narrative, which until then had been limited to Moscow and St Petersburg, and thereby to take into account the multiplicity of states to have emerged with the demise of the USSR, and make advances in the domain of regional historiography.  In the last part of his article, he underscores the territorial factor, emphasises the continuity of certain social phenomena beyond the political ruptures of 1987 and 1991, and gives historical depth to contemporary globalisation, which as he points out only got underway with the birth of empires.  Von Hagen then studies the contemporary currents of historiography that have revived notions of Russia/the URSS as empire, evident in the works of authors like Andreas Kappeler, Geoffrey Hosking and Dominic Lieven, but also in discussion forums provided by newspapers such as Kritika, Ab Imperio and Nationalities Papers, as well as in regional historiography schools on the Ukraine and the other post-Soviet spaces.  This stimulating reflection on a much-studied, but far from unanimously accepted concept enables a historical light to be shed on current evolutions in Slavic studies, revealing that the latter are in fact part of more global stakes.

Marlène Laruelle, Woodrow Wilson Centre, Washington, DC
CER: I-2.1-118