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Constructing Nations in Soviet Central Asia  

Adeeb Khalid

The political map of Soviet Central Asia was radically transformed in 1924. The three existing republics of Turkestan, Bukhara, and Khorezm were dissolved and replaced by a series of republics that each bore the name of a national group. This so-called national-territorial delimitation was initiated by Moscow but carried out by Central Asian cadres. The process moved quite fast and was completed in a matter of months. Yet, this process of creating new republics was neither the beginning, nor the end of nation construction in Central Asia. Nation construction is an ongoing process that cannot be conflated with merely the creation of new boundaries. The idea of the nation had arrived in Central Asia well before the revolution. Central Asian intellectuals had begun to reimagine their communities as nations. The Russian revolution of 1917 transformed the limits of the possible as it heightened national mobilization. Multiple national projects were underway in 1924, and these informed the positions different parties took in the debates of that year, which tended to be quite acrimonious. While authorities in Moscow had to approve the decisions, the debates were driven by Central Asian cadres. The creation of the republics nationalize territory in Soviet Central Asia, but it did not in itself produce fully formed nations. That was a long process facilitated by the existence of the republics and the “passportization” of national identity by the Soviet state. The breakup of the Soviet Union provided another impetus to nation building, as the post-Soviet states have used nationhood as the core of their legitimacy.

Article

Ethnic Conflict in Modern Central Asia  

Sergey Abashin

Pre-modern Central Asia saw a lot of violence and wars that had religious underpinnings or originated from genealogical claims. The colonial and Soviet reforms brought about reconsideration of cultural diversity in the logic of ethnic division. In the 20th century, reference to ethnicity became the main language of spontaneous violence escalation and explanation. With the weakening of Soviet rule, the region saw a series of heated conflicts. The most massive of them were the 1989 pogroms against Meskhi Turks in Uzbekistan and the 1990 clashes in Kyrgyzstan that took the shape of ethnic confrontation between the Kyrgyz majority and the Uzbek minority. Lesser disturbances also emerged in the borderlands and in mixed-ethnicity villages. After the collapse of the USSR, the 1990s saw an increase in social and religious violence in Central Asia. However, despite the violence being different in character, Central Asia had already gained a reputation of a very conflict-ridden region precisely in the ethnic sense. Many experts and politicians listed manifold potential ethnic conflicts about to break out in the region. In 2010, one of these predictions came true in the south of Kyrgyzstan, where a clash erupted between the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. These expert assessments were also borne out by occasional conflicts over land and water arising between communities that live in the border areas. Nevertheless, the label of ethnic conflict does not always explain the reasons for violence. The conflicts in Central Asia arise and develop as a variety of local actions, which have different sequences, logic, and motivation. These actions are performed by very different agents—people, groups, and institutes that have their own interests and dispositions. Social and political slogans sound during the events, while the line of confrontation lies between local communities and particular groups of people, not between “nations” or “ethnic groups.” The label of ethnic conflict simplifies all these entanglements; there is usually a political interest or a certain intellectual tradition behind it, which essentializes and historicizes the reasons for aggression.

Article

Health and Medicine in Modern China  

Jia-Chen Fu

Throughout much of the modern period (late imperial through the 20th century), healing activities have been pluralistic and diverse in nature. There were fluid boundaries between curative and health-promoting activities, and those providing health services came from a variety of backgrounds and trades. The Qing state (1644–1912) adopted a paternalistic though largely hands-off approach to matters of health and medicine until social and political crises of the late 19th century. With the arrival of Protestant medical missionaries and the increasingly strong conflation of Western medicine with modernization, health and medicine in modern China became inextricably tied to the question, “what purpose should health serve?” Chinese medicine too found itself swept up in these currents of defining modernity and modernization. Health and sovereignty in modern China were intertwined in such a fashion that equated a strong, autonomous nation with healthy, disciplined bodies. Individual health behaviors were linked to the status of the nation. Within this formulation, health, especially in the form of public health and modernized medicine, was both predicated on a powerful, centralized state and served as a means for state-building. State responsibility thus included preventing disease as well as minimizing ill health. To achieve these aims, the state needed tools and mechanisms to keep track of its citizens and how they acted. It needed to build a health infrastructure that could manage the health of public spaces and citizens’ bodies. And it needed to do so in ways that were meaningfully resonant to outside observers. These goals served as a kind of through line for much of the 20th century, even as it accommodated different interpretations and degrees of success by the subsequent political regimes, the Republican government (1912–1949), and the People’s Republic of China (1949 to present).