SISRE 490/EURO 490/SISRE 590

Central Eurasia: The Colonial Experience and Creation of National Identities

Course Syllabus
Winter Quarter 2002


Daniel Waugh
office: Smith 103E
office hours: MW, 9:30-11:00, and by appointment
messages: History Department, Smith Hall 315
phone: 206-616-8408 (direct); 206-543-5790 (msg.)

Course web site: http//

Course content:

While September 11 has made many people aware for the first time of the existence of Central Eurasia, those who study the region have long known of its significance historically and for contemporary geo-political concerns. This course addresses two facets of Central Eurasia's modern history: its long experience under tsarist and Soviet colonial rule and the related process by which national identities were created and are now being shaped in the framework of independent states. While the primary concern here is with the regions of Central Eurasia that until 1991 were part of the Soviet Union (Central Asia in the narrower sense) and now constitute the five countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, the subject also encompasses adjoining regions (for example, Xinjiang). This study focussing on Central Eurasia should be of interest to those wishing to develop a comparative perspective on colonialism and nationalism.

Course structure:

This is a reading and discussion course in seminar format, with regular writing assignments to be completed in most cases in advance of discussion. Its success or failure will depend on the first instance on whether students come to class prepared to discuss the assigned material. There will be no lectures by the instructor. While the course is scheduled to meet twice a week, MW, 3:30-5:20, in Thomson 231, on the average there will be only one class meeting a week, as specified below. It is possible that on one of the days indicated as having no class meeting you will be expected to attend a presentation by a visiting speaker.


There are some readings in common for all students in the class, some choices, and for the graduate students only, in addition to the regular assignments, a short research project. All students must complete all of the required written assignments to be eligible to earn credit in the course. That is, there is no option not to do a required essay, regardless of its percentage weight on the overall grade. Plagiarized work does not constitute completion of an assignment and must be properly re-written if a student is to be eligible to earn course credit. Be sure to read the Departmental Policy Statement which is linked here. Regular attendance is expected; a portion of the final grade is for class participation. There are no exams.

  • Essays 4 and 7 are required.
  • Four (4) of the other five (5) short essay assignments are also required, which means that you have the option of not doing one of the total seven essays. In the one week for which there is an essay but you choose not to write it, you must nonetheless come to class prepared for discussion by having done that week's reading. Therefore it is in your interest to write all seven essays; if you hand in the seventh, some extra credit will be given. The essays are due at class on the day that the material is to be discussed. Late essays will be penalized .5, and after a week has elapsed beyond the due date, 1.0. The essays are all of equal weight.
  • In addition to the six required short essays, graduate students are to do a research project which will count 15% of their final grade (this means that the weight of their required short essays is thereby reduced to no more than 85%).
  • Class participation may improve the final grade by as much as 10%. Missing more than one class session may result in a reduction of the final grade.
  • For an explanation of the grading system, click here.

    Expectations regarding papers:

    Each essay should contain:

  • a clear statement of the problem/question;
  • a thesis statement that indicates what you will attempt to argue or demonstrate;
  • proof of your contentions derived from specific readings;
  • a conclusion;
  • punctuation to identify quotations (this means quotation marks, or, for long quotations, indented, single-spaced paragraphs);
  • notes indicating sources of quotations and instances in which you may be paraphrasing and sources of significant facts;
  • a bibliography of works consulted.
  • Papers should be neatly typed, double-spaced with normal (one-inch) margins, and their notes/bibliographies should follow the Chicago Manual of Style guidelines, a copy of which can be obtained in library reference. Grades will be based in the first instance on the clarity and persuasiveness of the argument. It is important that your essays be well-structured and written in correct English. Persuasiveness in part involves the degree to which you demonstrate you are familiar with specific relevant sources and can provide meaningful analysis of their evidence or arguments. Simply cataloguing facts normally does not create effective argument, nor does excessive quotation or paraphrasing. A good paper will demonstrate that you have absorbed your reading and can articulate your argument largely in your own words.

    Graduate student projects:

    Graduate student teams consisting of no more than three-four members each will do a short research project (approx. 15 pp.) to be presented orally on the final day of class and then submitted in written form no later than Thursday, March 21. The projects may be either historical or contemporary in focus on any subject approved by the instructor which is relevant to the content of the course but does not simply duplicate material in the assigned readings. Topics must be approved by no later than the beginning of Week V (Feb. 4), and a preliminary prospectus and bibliography submitted at the beginning of Week VI (Feb. 11).


    The following books have been ordered (not all of every book will be assigned):


  • Edward Allworth, ed., Central Asia: 130 Years of Russian Dominance, A Historical Overview, 3rd ed. (Duke UP PB, 1994; ISBN 0-8332-1521-1).
  • Daniel R. Brower and Edward J. Lazzerini, eds. Russia's Orient: Imperial Borderlands and Peoples, 1700-1917 (Indiana UP PB, 1997; ISBN 0-253-21113-1).
  • Theodore Levin, The Hundred Thousand Fools of God: Musical Travels in Central Asia (and Queens, New York) (Indiana UP PB, 1999; ISBN: 0-253-21310X.
  • Olivier Roy, The New Central Asia: The Creation of Nations (NY UP PB, 2000; ISBN 0-8147-7555-1).
  • Anthony D. Smith, Nationalism and Modernism: A critical survey of recent theories of nations and nationalism (Routledge PB, 1998; ISBN 0415-06341-8).
  • Graham Smith et al., Nation-building in the Post Soviet Borderlands: The Politics of National Identities (Cambridge UP PB, 1998; ISBN 0-521-59968-7).
  • Recommended:
  • Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 (Cornell UP PB, 2001; ISBN 0-8014-8677-7).
  • Ronald Grigor Suny, The Revenge of the Past: Nationalism, Revolution, and the Collapse of the Soviet Union (Stanford UP PB, 1993; ISBN 0-8047-2247-1).
  • Not ordered, but also strongly recommended:
  • Rogers Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the national question in the New Europe (Cambridge UP PB, 1996; ISBN 0521-57649).
  • Andreas Kappeler, The Russian Empire: A Multiethnic History (Longman PB, 2001; ISBN 0-582-23415-8).
  • Schedule and assigments:

  • Weeks I-II. Russian conquest and rule.
  • Mon., Jan. 7. Introduction to class.
  • Wed., Jan. 9. No class.
  • Mon., Jan. 14. Discussion of first set of readings and essay.
  • Reading:

  • Allworth, CA: 130 yrs., Chs. 1, 4, 5, 11 (through p. 284), 12 (through p. 330). (Skim in 2, 3).
  • Roy, Chs. 1, 2. Note: You will want to come back to Ch. 1 later in the course, since some of its material will be more meaningful then in the context of reading the rest of the book. Ch. 2 repeats material in Allworth in shorter form and might well be skimmed before Allworth.
  • Brower and Lazzerini, Chs. 3, 6, 7.
  • Recommended, especially for those with no background on Russian history: Kappeler, Chs. 1, 4-5, 7. Any decent Russian history textbook (e.g., Nicholas Riasanovsky, A History of Russia) will do for an overview, but Kappeler's is unique in focussing on the multiethnic nature of the Russian Empire.
  • Essay 1:

    Write a short essay (4-5 pp.) based mainly on the assigned reading explaining what you view as the distinctive features of the Russian conquest and colonial administration of Central Asia. Are we dealing here with a kind of colonialism which seems to fit the pattern of other imperial/colonial experiences? Bring your essay to class on Monday, Jan. 14.

    In the process of doing the reading and writing the essay, jot down several questions which you would wish to answer (including ones for which the readings would seem not to provide answers)--these may provide material for fruitful class discussion.

  • Weeks II-III. Central Asians' response to Russian rule.
  • Wed., Jan. 16. No class.
  • Mon., Jan. 21. No class (MLK holiday).
  • Wed., Jan. 23. Discussion of assignment below.
  • Reading:

  • Allworth, Chs. 6-9, 13 (through p. 372), 14 (a few parts of this are more relevant to the Week IV assignment)
  • Roy, Ch. 3 (some overlap).
  • Brower and Lazzerini, Chs. 8-10, 12-13.
  • "Nasihatlar of Abbas Kulu Agha Bakikhanli," intr. and tr. by Audrey L. Altstadt.
  • Edward J. Lazzerini, "Ismail Bey Gasprinskii's Perevodchik/Tercuman: A Clarion of Modernism."
  • Recommended:
  • Kappeler, Chs. 8-9
  • ;
  • Suny, Chs. 1-2.
  • Mark von Hagen, Ch. 6 ("The Russian Empire"), in von Hagen and Karen Barkey, eds., After Empire: Multiethnic Societies and Nation-Building. The soviet Union and the Russian, Ottoman, and Habsburg Empires (Westview PB, 1997; ISBN 0-8133-2964-7).
  • Essay 2:

    Write a short (4-5 pp.) essay on the responses of Central Asians to Russian rule. In particular you should address the issue of the degree to which traditional (i.e., non-Western, non-Russian) culture served as the focal point for "resistance." How does one explain the range of responses; did any of them provide possible solutions to the problems created for Central Asians by tsarist colonial rule? Does it seem inevitable that movements for reform and change could only contribute to the dissolution of the tsarist state?

  • Week IV. Soviet colonialism.
  • Mon., Jan. 28. No class.
  • Wed., Jan. 30. Discussion of this week's assignment.
  • Reading:

  • Roy, Ch. 4.
  • Allworth, Ch. 9, 11 (from p. 284), 12 (from p. 330), 13 (from p. 372).
  • Yuri Slezkine, "The USSR as a Communal Apartment, or How a Socialist State promoted Ethnic Particularism," Slavic Review, 53/2 (1994), 414-452 (electronic reserve).
  • Recommended:
  • Martin, Chs. 1, 2 (from p. 56), 4-5.
  • Suny, Ch. 3 (through p. 116).
  • Essay 3:

    Write a short (4-5 pp.) essay comparing and contrasting Soviet and tsarist colonial policies.

    Week V-VI. Theories of Nationalism.

  • Mon., Feb. 4. No class.
  • Wed., Feb. 6. No class.
  • Mon., Feb. 11. Discussion of assignment below.
  • Reading:

  • Anthony D. Smith, entire. I personally find the subject of Ch. 6 to be of particular interest, although perhaps you would disagree.
  • Miroslav Hroch, "From National Movement to the fully-Formed Nation: The Nation-Building Process in Europe," in Geoff Eley and Ronald Grigor Suny, eds., Becoming National: A Reader (Oxford UP PB, 1996; ISBN 0-19-509661-4), pp. 60-79 (electronic reserve). I recommend in this book as well the Introduction, Sec. I and the rest of Sec. II.
  • In addition, read at least an article or two or chapter or two by one of the other important authors whom Smith discusses--your choice.; also, I highly recommend Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed, esp. Introduction and Ch. 1.
  • Essay 4 (required):

    Given what you have learned to date both about Russian/Soviet realities and about theories of nationalism, which of the approaches/theories discussed by Smith would seem to be most relevant for discussing nationalism(s) in Central Asia prior to the 1980s? In your 4-5 pp. essay, apart for commenting on phenomena that my be analyzable using one or more approach, be sure to consider what aspects of "reality" seem to fall outside of any of the analytical models. You should treat this paper in part as preparation for writing the next two essays, since the analytical tools explored here will be relevant to those assignments.

    Weeks VI-VII. Nationalism and the end of the Soviet Union.

  • Wed., Feb. 13. No class.
  • Mon., Feb. 18. No class--Presidents' Day holiday.
  • Wed., Feb. 20. Discussion of assignment below.
  • Readings:

  • Roy, Chs. 5-7 (good idea to get running start by reviewing beginning of book).
  • Reading of your choice (at least a handful of articles or the equivalent) on the emergence of national independence movements in at least one country other than a Central Asian one and on the role of those movements in the end of the Soviet Union and breakup of the Communist Bloc.
  • Optional: Allworth, Chs. 17, 18.
  • Recommended:
  • Suny, Ch. 4.
  • Victor Zaslavsky, "The Soviet Union," Ch. 7 in von Hagen and Barkey, eds., After Empire.
  • Essay 5:

    Write a short essay (4-5 pp.) on the role of nationalism bringing about the end of the Soviet regime. To what degree are there similarities or differences compared to the situation at the end of the tsarist regime? What similarities or differences are there between Central Asia and other parts of the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe?

    Week VIII. Post-Soviet construction of national identities.

  • Mon., Feb. 27. No class.
  • Wed., Mar. 1. Discussion of this week's assignment.
  • Readings:

  • Roy, Ch. 8-10.
  • Graham Smith et al., Chs. 1, 4, 7, 9; recommended at least dipping in to other parts of the book for comparative ideas.
  • possibly two or three short pieces on the rewriting of history and on national symbols.
  • Essay 6:

    Write a short (4-5 pp.) essay analyzing the degree to which national identity in Central Asia since 1991 seems to be an artificial construct. Are there differences among the Central Asian countries in this regard? To what extent do Soviet-era institutions and policies seem to provide the basis for the post-1991 phenomena and for, perhaps, some kind of meaningful construction of national identity?

    Weeks IX-X. Survival/revival of traditional cultures.

  • Mon. Mar. 4. No class.
  • Wed., Mar. 6. No class.
  • Mon., Mar. 11. Discussion of Central Asian musical culture.
  • Wed., Mar. 13. Graduate student groups present summaries and lead discussion of their projects.
  • Readings:

  • Allworth, Ch. 15; relevant material in other chapters already read.
  • Levin, entire.
  • Relevant material in Graham Smith, et al.
  • Essay 7 (required):

    In 6-7 pp., address the question: To what extent did colonial rule in Central Asia (especially in the Soviet period) undermine traditional culture, or, alternatively, provide the basis for its survival and, eventually, revival? Among other things, consider what has been irretrievably lost and what has changed in what has apparently been preserved. Although your main example here in the new reading for this week is music, do you think that one of the arts provides sufficient basis to venture some generalizations for other areas of culture?