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Title: Aleksandr A. Semenov (1863-1958) : colonial power, orientalism and Soviet nation-building
Author: Battis, Matthias
ISNI:       0000 0004 6497 842X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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This study explores the life of the prominent Russian Orientalist and colonial administrator Aleksandr Semenov (1873-1958). In the course of his long and versatile career in Central Asia - where he came to in 1901 as a low-ranking member of Turkestan's colonial administration, and where he died in 1958 as the first director of the Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography of Tajikistan's Academy of Sciences - Semenov participated in the transformation of the region from a Tsarist colony into part of what Francine Hirsch has called an 'Empire of Nations'. His influence on national historiography and notions of national identity was especially marked in the case of the Soviet Union's only Persian-speaking republic, Tajikistan, with which Semenov was connected through his interest and expertise in Persianate Central Asia. This thesis even goes so far as to argue that Semenov's scholarship and his work as an advisor to the Soviet government facilitated the very establishment of Tajikistan, which Paul Bergne has described as a nation initially promoted by Russian Orientalists. Further research in Russian archives is required, however, to better substantiate this claim. Rather than focussing on the (early) Soviet period and on so-called national territorial delimitation of Central Asia, as scholars such as Hirsch and Arne Haugen have done, the present study, in the vein of scholars like Vera Tolz and Vladimir Genis, highlights the ways in which both Bolshevik nationalities policy and Soviet Oriental Studies grew out of the studying and ruling of Central Asia in the late imperial period. It does so through an examination of Semenov's career, scholarship and personal networks, and on the basis of his personal archive in Tajikistan's Academy of Sciences, which has not been researched in any systematic way since the early 1970s, and in which no scholar from outside the former Soviet Union has ever worked.
Supervisor: Morrison, Alexander ; Andreyev, Catherine Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council ; Gerda Henkel Stiftung
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Orientalism--Soviet Union ; Soviet Union--Colonies--Administration ; Tajik S.S.R--History--19th century ; Imperialism--Social aspects--Soviet Union