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Backwardness and the Quest for Civilization: Early Soviet Central Asia in Comparative Perspective

Adeeb Khalid
Slavic Review
Vol. 65, No. 2 (Summer, 2006), pp. 231-251
DOI: 10.2307/4148591
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4148591
Page Count: 21
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Backwardness and the Quest for Civilization: Early Soviet Central Asia in Comparative Perspective
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Abstract

Much recent scholarship has seen Soviet Central Asia as directly comparable to the overseas colonies of modern European states. In this article, Adeeb Khalid takes issue with this trend. European colonial rule, he argues, was predicated on the perpetuation of difference, while the Soviets sought to conquer it. Central Asia was indeed subject to colonial rule in the tsarist period, but its transformation in the early Soviet period was the work, instead, of a different kind of polity-an activist, interventionist, mobilizational state that sought to transform its citizenry. Khalid compares the transformations of the early Soviet period in Central Asia with the reforms of the early republic in Turkey, which were strikingly similar in intent and scope. This comparative perspective brings out the substantial differences between colonial empires and modern mobilizational states; confusing the two can only lead to a fundamental misunderstanding of modern history.

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