Central Eurasia: The Colonial Experience and Creation of National Identities

Course Syllabus
Winter Quarter 2003


Daniel Waugh
office: Smith 103E
office hours: MTW, 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 some short presentations by graduate students enrolled in the course but no lectures by the instructor. The scheduled weekly meeting of the course is Tuesday, 1:30-3:20 PM, in Denny Hall 306.

The electronic discussion board for the class, E-Post, may be accessed here. You will need to enter your UW userid and password.


There are some readings in common for all students in the class, some choices, and for the graduate students only, apart from the regular assignments, additional readings which will be incorporated into longer essays. 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; more than one instance of plagiarism will result in the receipt of no credit for the course (0.0). Plagiarism may not be a simple as just leaving off quotation marks--altering only the occasional word in someone else's text without proper attribution also is not permissible. Read my page on academic conduct, the UW guide on academic honesty and for other matters of formal procedures the Departmental Policy Statement.. Regular attendance is expected; a portion of the final grade is for class participation. There are no exams.

  • For undergraduates: Essays 4, 5 and 8 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 (l) of the total eight 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 eight essays. As an incentive: if you hand in all eight, your grade will be calculated on the basis of the best seven, plus some extra credit will be given for writing the eighth essay. The essays are due at class on the day that the material is to be discussed (the one exception being essay 8). Late essays will be penalized .5, and after a week has elapsed beyond the due date, 1.0. The latest that I will accept any overdue papers is Friday, March 21, at 2:30 PM. The undergraduate essays are all of equal weight.
  • 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 graduate students: Graduate students must write all eight essays. In the cases where additional reading is being done connected with giving a class report, that reading will used to expand the assigned essay for the week. Thus, if for undergraduates the normal essay length is 4-5 pp., the augmented essays of the graduate students should be 8-10 pp. Three (3) of these reports/augmented essays are required for each graduate student; the choice of books/topics is first come, first served, but with the limitation that the additional reading be in books that the students have not already read for another course. The three augmented essays will be weighted 50% of the grade prior to any bonuses for participation. The oral reports based on this additional reading should last about 10 minutes and be no longer than 15 minutes.
  • Any papers not handed in at class should be given to Prof. Waugh in his office or left in his mailbox in the History Dept. office, 315 Smith. You should keep a secure copy of each paper you hand in as a backup in the event there is any question regarding whether you completed the work. Those wishing any papers back which have not been returned in class by the end of the quarter may either pick them up in person from Prof. Waugh during Spring quarter or leave with the final paper a large, self-addressed envelope with sufficient postage.

    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.
  • The graduate student papers that incorporate the additional readings should be sure to situate those readings in the broader context of the historiography and interpretations regarding the given week's question. In other words, due attention must be given to the particular contribution of the additional book/reading--what does it do which previous studies have not done, how successful is it in achieving its stated goals, etc.?
  • 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 on-line or 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.


    The following books have been ordered (purchase strongly recommended) and will be on reserve in the Odegaard Library. Most, but not all, will be read in their entirety.


  • Andreas Kappeler, The Russian Empire: A Multiethnic History (Longman PB, 2001; ISBN 0-582-23415-8).
  • 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).
  • 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).
  • 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:
  • Edward Allworth, ed., Central Asia: 130 Years of Russian Dominance, A Historical Overview, 3rd ed. (Duke UP PB, 1994; ISBN 0-8332-1521-1).
  • Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 (Cornell UP PB, 2001; ISBN 0-8014-8677-7).
  • 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).
  • In addition, there are various readings either on electronic reserve under Euro 494B through the library or available electronically via various library subscription databases. The former can be accessed through the UW library website; the latter are linked to this syllabus. Be aware that to access at least the latter, you must use your UW computer account and, if you are planning to access the material from home you may need to install the UWick software which can be downloaded from the UW website under Computing or purchased on a floppy disk at the Bookstore. Most of the UW electronic resources are restricted for use by those whith a formal UW connection and cannot be accessed from accounts off campus (e.g., AOL).

    Schedule and assigments:

    Weeks I-II. Russian conquest and rule.

  • Class meeting, Tue., Jan. 7. Introduction to class.
  • Reading:

  • Kappeler, Russian Empire, Introduction, Chs. 1-2, 4-5, 6 (sec. 4, pp. 234-238), 7. Ch. 3 and the other parts of Ch. 6 are recommended. If you cannot read all this material in equal detail within a week, you will have the opportunity to re-read and review Chs. 6 and 7 in connection with subsequent weeks's discussion. The purpose of this reading is to provide you with an overview of the development of the Russian Empire as a multiethnic state. Any decent Russian history textbook (e.g., Nicholas Riasanovsky, A History of Russia) offers a conventional treatment of "Imperial Russia," but Kappeler's emphasis is unique. Portions of the required chapters will not have a direct bearing on Central Asia, but it is important that you contextualize the material which is relevant to the region on which we are focussing.
  • Using any appropriate source (e.g., encyclopedia, textbook), learn enough about the creation of another multi-ethnic empire (e.g., British, Habsburg, Ottoman) in order to compare and contrast the process of empire formation with the Russian case.
  • Recommended:
  • Allworth, CA: 130 yrs., Chs. 1, 4, 5, 11 (through p. 284), 12 (through p. 330). (Skim in 2, 3). This is for those who would wish a substantially more detailed account of the history involving Central Asia.
  • Roy, New Central Asia, Introduction, 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 Kappeler but may prove useful as a short overview, given its specific Central Asian focus.
  • Graduate student report based on: Michael Khodarkovsky, Russia's Steppe Frontier: The Making of a Colonial Empire, 1500-1800 (Indiana Univ. Press, 2002).

    Essay 1 (due at class, Tue., Jan. 14):

    Write a short essay (4-5 pp.) based mainly on the assigned reading explaining what you view as the distinctive features of Russian imperial expansion. What were the motivations and what were the methods; were they in any way different from what you see in the case of another multi-ethnic empire? As far as Russia itself is concerned, is there anything distinctive about the Russian government's involvement with Central Asia and Central Asians (as compared to other parts and peoples of the Empire)? Note that the question for next week will ask you to examine in detail the nature of colonial administration in the Russian Empire, although obviously that topic is in some ways inseparable from the question of expansion itself.

    Part of the process of doing the reading and writing the essay should involve jotting down other questions which you would wish to answer but whose answers are not to be found directly in the reading. Your questions may provide material for fruitful class discussion.

  • Class meeting, Tue., Jan. 14. Graduate student report; class discussion of first set of readings and essay.
  • Weeks II-III. Patterns of imperial administration.


  • Brower and Lazzerini, Russia's Orient, Chs. 3, 6, 7.
  • Kappeler, review/finish Chs. 4-7; anticipating next week, Chs. 8-9
  • Roy, Ch. 2 (some overlap).
  • Graduate student reports, each focussed on one of the following:

  • Virginia Martin, Law and Custom in the Steppe: The Kazakhs of the Middle Horde and Russian Colonialism in the Nineteenth Century (Curzon, 2001);
  • Robert Geraci, Window on the East: National and Imperial Identities in Late Tsarist Russia (Cornell, 2001) (Note: In the case of this book, the issue of Russian government policy regarding Muslims, whether or not they are technically in Central Asia, is considered to be relevant to the week's question.);
  • Richard A. Pierce, Russian Central Asia, 1867-1917 (UCalif. Pr., 1960), or, if available, Daniel Brower, Turkestan and the Fate of the Russian Empire (Routledge, 2002).
  • Essay 2 (due at class, Tue., Jan. 21):

    Write a short (4-5 pp.) essay on the nature of Russian colonial rule. What were the features of Russian colonial policies? Did the policies regarding Central Asia differ from those regarding other parts of the Empire? Were Muslims (anywhere in the Empire) and/or Central Asians the subject of particularly discriminatory policies? Insofar as you are able, comment on similarities or differences between Russian colonial rule and that by the government of another of the colonial empires.

  • Class meeting, Tue., Jan. 21. Graduate presentations; discussion of readings and essay.
  • Week IV. Responses to Russian rule; end of empire, I.


  • Kappeler, Chs. 8-9.
  • Roy, Ch. 3 (some overlap).
  • Brower and Lazzerini, Chs. 8-10, 12-13.
  • Suny, Revenge, Chs. 1-2
  • "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."
  • Gulnar Kendirbay, "The national liberation movement of the Kazakh intelligentsia at the beginning of the 20th century," Central Asian Survey, 16/4 (1997), 487-515 (electronic reserve).
  • An appropriate short reading based on a source such as an encyclopedia or textbook regarding the emerging national "intelligentsia" in some country outside of the Russian empire. This does not necessarily have to be from the 19th century but could be drawn from later in the 20th century.
  • Recommended:
  • Allworth, Chs. 6-9, 13 (through p. 372), 14.
  • 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)(reserve).
  • Graduate student reports, each based on one of the following:

  • Chokhan Valikhanov;
  • Ismail Bey Gasprinskii. For these two subjects, reading list to be developed in consultation with the instructor; the work may well involve using at least some material not in English.
  • Adeeb Khalid, The Politics of Muslim Cultural reform: Jadidism in Central Asia (UCalif., 1998), in electronic book via UW library.
  • Essay 3:

    Write a short (4-5 pp.) essay on the responses of Central Asians (include in this other Turkic peoples even if not in Central Asia proper) 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" and the question of the role of Western (Euopean/Russian) education and ideas in the development of the responses. 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? Note that the phenomenon of emerging national "intelligentsia" inspired by "European education" and ideas is a common one in many parts of the world. Insofar as you have been able to locate information on such a comparative example, introduce into your discussion appropriate comparisons or contrasts with what you observe for the Central Asian case.

  • Class meeting, Tue., Jan. 28. Graduate reports; discussion of readings and essay.
  • Week V. Soviet colonialism.


  • Kappeler, Ch. 10
  • Suny, Chs. 1-4
  • Roy, Introd., Chs. 1, 4.
  • Yuri Slezkine, "The USSR as a Communal Apartment, or How a Socialist State promoted Ethnic Particularism," Slavic Review, 53/2 (1994), 414-452 (JSTOR, accessible via your UW computer account).
  • Francine Hirsch, "Toward an Empire of Nations: Border-Making and the Formation of Soviet National Identities," The Russian Review, 59 (April 2000), 201-226 (available on-line via your UW account). Note that this issue of Russian Review has two other interesting articles on Soviet policies in Central Asia and a response to the three by Yuri Slezkine entitled "Imperialism As the Highest Stage of Socialism." It would be worth your while to read all of the pieces.
  • Recommended:
  • Allworth, Ch. 9, 11 (from p. 284), 12 (from p. 330), 13 (from p. 372).
  • Martin, Affirmative Action Empire, Chs. 1, 2 (from p. 56), 4-5.
  • Christopher Kaplonski, "Creating National Identity in Socialist Mongolia," Central Asian Survey, 17/1 (1998), pp. 35-49 (on-line via your UW account).
  • Graduate student report, each based on one of the following:

  • Martin, entire (but selective);
  • Gregory Massell, The Surrogate Proletariat: Moslem Women and Revolutionary Strategies in Soviet Central Asia, 1919-1929 (Princeton UP, 1974);
  • Shoshana Keller, To Moscow, Not Mecca: The Soviet Campaign against Islam in Central Asia, 1917-1941 (Praeger, 2001)
  • Linda Benson and Ingvar Svanberg, China's Last Nomads: The History and Culture of China's Kazaks (M.E. Sharpe, 1998) (should you choose this, incorporate into your essay comparisons between Soviet and Chinese policies.)
  • Essay 4 (required):

    Write a short (4-5 pp.) essay comparing and contrasting Soviet and tsarist colonial policies. Was the Soviet experience just "more of the same," or were there fundamental differences?

  • Class meeting, Tue., Feb. 4. Graduate reports; discussion of readings and essay.
  • Weeks VI-VII. Theories of Nationalism.

  • Tue., Feb. 11. No class.
  • 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.
  • John Hutchinson, "Ethnicity and Modern Nations," Ethnic and Racial Studies, 23/4 (2000), 651-669 (electronic reserve).
  • Dmitry Gorenburg, "Identity change in Bashkortostan: Tatars into Bashkirs and back," Ethnic and Racial Studies, 22/3 (1999), pp. 554-580 (electronic reserve).
  • Recommended: Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed, esp. Introduction and Ch. 1.
  • Graduate student report(s):

    Choose one writer on nationalism/ethnicity/national identity discussed by Smith (e.g., Gellner) or theorist whose ideas seem to be particularly relevant (e.g., Bourdieu), read the most relevant book by that author, and incorporate a discussion of his ideas into your essay. If more than one grad. student chooses to do this extra reading, each much select a different author.

    Essay 5 (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 may 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.

  • Class meeting, Tue., Feb. 18. Graduate reports, discussion of essay and readings.
  • Week VIII. Nationalism and the end of the Soviet Union.


  • Suny, entire (you have read much of this already).
  • Roy, Chs. 5-7 (good idea to get running start by reviewing beginning of book).
  • Shirin Akiner, "Melting pot, salad bowl--cauldron? Manipulation and mobilization of ethnic and religious identities in Central Asia, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 20-2 (1997), pp. 362-398 (electronic reserve).
  • Reading of your choice (at least two serious analytical 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.
  • Recommended:
  • Allworth, Chs. 17, 18.
  • Victor Zaslavsky, "The Soviet Union," Ch. 7 in von Hagen and Barkey, eds., After Empire (reserve).
  • Graduate student report (s):

    Choose one of the "newly independent states" that emerged from the Soviet Union, read the equivalent of at least one book on it, and analyze that example in the context of answering the essay question.

    Essay 6:

    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? In writing this essay, be sure to incorporate appropriate theoretical perspectives based on your reading of Anthony D. Smith et al. in the previous two weeks.

  • Class meeting, Tue., Feb. 25. Graduate reports, discussion of essay and readings.
  • Week IX. Post-Soviet construction of national identities.


  • 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.
  • John Schoeberlein-Engel, "The Prospects for Uzbek National Identity," Central Asia Monitor, 1996/2, 12-20 (to be available through a CD-ROM at a library workstation).
  • Stephen Hegarty, "The Rehabilitation of Temur: Reconstructing National History in Contemporary Uzbekistan," Central Asia Monitor, 1995/1, 28-35 (to be available via CD-ROM from a library workstation)
  • Bhavna Dave, "National Revival in Kazakhstan: Language Shift and Identity Change," Post-Soviet Affairs, 12/1 (1996), pp. 51-72 (electronic reserve).
  • Shahram Akbarzadeh, "National Identity and Political Legitimacy in Turkmenistan," Nationalities Papers, 27/2 (1999), 271-290 (available on-line via your UW account)
  • Locate and read one or two recent news articles concerning the "rediscovery" or "invention" of history or cultural "tradition" in the interests of constructing or reinforcing national identity in some country other than those of the former Soviet Union.
  • Recommended:
    Sean R. Roberts, "Negotiating Locality, Islam, and National Culture in a Changing Borderlands: the Revival of the Mäshräp Ritual among Young Uighur Men in the Ili Valley," Central Asian Survey, 17/4 (1998), pp. 673-699 (on-line via your UW account).
  • Graduate student report(s):

  • Bruce Privatsky, Muslim Turkistan : Kazak religion and collective memory (Curzon, 2001)
  • Mehrdad Haghaeghi, Islam and Politics in Central Asia (St. Martin's, 1995)
  • Dru Gladney, Muslim Chinese: Ethnic Nationalism in the People's Republic (Harvard, 1996) (should you choose this book, incorporate into your essay comparisons with post-Soviet Central Asia.)
  • Essay 7:

    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? Where does Islam fit in the construction of national identities? Are the phenomena you see in Central Asia unique in the world today?

  • Class meeting, Tue., Mar. 4. Graduate reports, discussion of essay and readings.
  • Week X. Survival/revival of traditional cultures.


  • Levin, entire.
  • Relevant material in Graham Smith, et al.
  • Recommended: Allworth, Ch. 15; relevant material in other chapters already read.
  • Essay 8 (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? Insights about religion as an essential part of traditional culture are obviously relevant here. You should be sure to bring to bear relevant material from any of the earlier readings in the course.

    Note: While you should come to class on Mar. 11 prepared to discuss this essay (that presumably means you will have at least drafted your paper), you may turn in the paper no later than Friday, Mar. 21, at 2:30 PM. Any other papers which may be overdue are to be turned in at that time as well--i.e., it is the absolute deadline for completing the work for the course.

  • Class meeting, Tue., Mar. 11. Discussion of essay and readings.