Reviews

Noticing the absence of cultural anthropology in Russia and the fortune, in this country, of historical ethnography and of ethno-sociology (the study of ethnicity through sociological methods), the author, a leading figure of Soviet and Russian ethnographic studies, observes the tremendous influence of ethnology on the mass culture of the former Soviet and present-day Russian society, notably on the formation of national identities, and on the emergence of national movements since the years preceding the fall of the USSR—to the extent that ethnology now constitutes a potential obstacle to the perception of Russia as a national state, and of Russia’s population as a united people or nation.

These considerations are confirmed by the following paper (Cheshko S. V., “Ot sovetskoi etnografii k rossiiskoi etnologii [From Soviet Ethnography to the Ethnology of Russia],” ibid.: 8-10), the author of which assesses the contribution of Soviet ethnographers to the public debates of the mid-1980s onwards about the national processes in the USSR—notably through orders from the state and the party central institutions.  An aspect of the ever-growing fortune of ethnology in the post-Soviet period has been marked by the multiplication of alternative high-quality independent research centres (notably in the regions), and by new interest in the impact of cultural globalisation.

A third contribution (Iamskov A. N., “O spetsifike rossiiskoi etnografii v ee vospriiatii geografami [On the Specificity of Russia’s Ethnography as Perceived by Geographers],” 11-3), not deprived of irony and self-derision, shortly analyses the biased perception of ethnology by Russian geographers, for whom its main figure is nobody else than Lev N. Gumilev, and its main issue the ethno-genesis of human groups and their mutual, predominantly conflicting relationship—largely diffused in the last two decades by the Soviet and Russian mass-media.  The author also stresses the direct impact of the (mainly foreign-based) financing of research in present-day Russia upon the determination of research themes in which ethnography often plays a secondary, auxiliary if not ancillary role.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-1.2.A-50