Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Oriental studies and foreign policy : Russian/Soviet 'Iranology' and Russo-Iranian relations in late Imperial Russia and the early USSR
Author: Volkov, Denis Vladimirovich
ISNI:       0000 0004 5919 986X
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2015
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
Russia and Iran have been subject to mutual influence since the reign of Shah Abbas I (1588-1629). For most of the time this relationship was not one of equals: since the early nineteenth century and lasting at least until 1946, Russia and then the USSR, in strong competition with Britain, had been gradually, and for the most part steadily, increasing its political, cultural and economic influence within Iran up to very high levels. Nevertheless, the history of Russian/Soviet-Iranian relations still remains understudied, particularly in English-language scholarship. One of the main reasons for this gap must be sought in the hampered access of Western researchers to Russian archives during the Soviet time, which made them draw on Russian-language literature, traditionally pre-occupied with the history of social movements, and with the mechanical retelling of political and economic processes. Thus the cultural and political ties of the two countries on institutional and individual levels (especially during the period surrounding 1917), the influence of Russia, and then of the USSR, on Iran and vice versa, in political, economic and cultural spheres through the activities of individuals, as well as the methods and tools used by the “Big Northern neighbour” during the execution of its foreign policy towards Iran did not receive proper attention, and thus lack detailed analysis. This research addresses the lack of detailed analysis of the power/knowledge nexus in relation to Russia’s Persian/Iranian Studies – the largest and most influential sub-domain within Russia’s Oriental Studies during the late Imperial and the early Soviet periods. The specific focus of this study is the involvement of Russian ‘civilian’ (academic) and ‘practical’ (military officers, diplomats, and missionaries) Persian Studies scholarship in Russian foreign policy towards Persia/Iran from the end of the nineteenth century up to 1941 – a period witnessing some of the most crucial events in the history of both countries. It is during this period that Persia/Iran was the pivot of Russia’s Eastern foreign policy but at the same time almost every significant development inside Russia as well as in her Western policies also had an immediate impact on this country – the state of affairs that ultimately culminated in the second Soviet invasion of Iran in 1941. My thesis is based on extensive research in eleven important political, military and academic archives of Russia and Georgia, which allowed me to consult a significant amount of hitherto unpublished, often still unprocessed and only recently declassified, primary sources. While engaging with notions such as Orientalism, my analysis aims at transcending Edward Said’s concept of a mere complicity of knowledge with imperial power. My theoretical approach builds on Michel Foucault’s conceptualisation of the interplay of power/knowledge relations, his notion of discourse, and his writings on the role of the intellectual. While demonstrating the full applicability of the Foucauldian model to the Russian case through the study of the power/knowledge nexus in late Imperial and early Soviet Russia’s Persian Studies, or Iranology, I focus on the activities of scholars and experts within their own professional domains and analyse what motivated them and how their own views, beliefs and intentions correlated with their work, how their activities were influenced by the hegemonic discourses within Russian society. I analyse the interaction of these intellectuals with state structures and their participation in the process of shaping and conducting foreign policy towards Iran, both as part of the Russian scholarly community as a whole and as individuals on the personal level. For the first time my work explores at such level of detail the specific institutional practices of Russia’s Oriental Studies, including the organisation of scholarly intelligence networks, the taking advantage of state power for the promotion of institutional interests, the profound engagement with Russia’s domestic and foreign policy discourses of the time, etc. In addition, the thesis presents a detailed assessment of the organisation of Iranology as a leading sub-domain within the broader scholarly field of Oriental Studies in the period from the end of the nineteenth century to 1941 and analyses the principles and mechanisms of its involvement in Russia’s foreign policy towards Persia/Iran.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Russian Orientalism ; foreign policy ; late Imperial Russia ; early Soviet Russia ; Persian Studies ; Iranian Studies ; power/knowledge relations ; Orientology ; Iranology ; Persia ; Iran ; Intellectual History ; Middle Eastern Studies ; Russian Studies