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This comparative historical sociology of the Bolshevik revolutionaries offers a reinterpretation of political radicalization in the last years of the Russian Empire. Finding that two-thirds of the Bolshevik leadership were ethnic minorities – Ukrainians, Latvians, Georgians, Jews, and others – this book examines the shared experiences of assimilation and socioethnic exclusion that underlay their class universalism. It suggests that imperial policies toward the Empire's diversity radicalized class and ethnicity as intersectional experiences, creating an assimilated but excluded elite: lower-class Russians and middle-class minorities universalized particular exclusions as they disproportionately sustained the economic and political burdens of maintaining the multiethnic Russian Empire. The Bolsheviks' social identities and routes to revolutionary radicalism show especially how a class-universalist politics was appealing to those seeking secularism in response to religious tensions, a universalist politics where ethnic and geopolitical insecurities were exclusionary, and a tolerant “imperial” imaginary where Russification and illiberal repressions were most keenly felt.Read more
- Presents a new interpretation of the Bolshevik Revolution
- Offers a study in political radicalization, which links ethnicity/religion and political identities, so has important implications for understanding political radicalism today
- Provides insights into the roles of nationalism and ethnicity in the politics of multiethnic states and empires
Reviews & endorsements
"This brilliant study makes us think in new ways about the Bolshevik Revolution and its intersection with ethnicity. Through a detailed examination of the life courses, radicalizing experiences, and paths to politics of the Bolshevik elite, Liliana Riga deftly illuminates why significant numbers of non-Russians were attracted to an extreme left-wing movement that framed its actions in class-based, non-national terms. In doing so, she not only demonstrates the complexity of motivations underlying revolutionary activity, but problematizes the entire category of 'Russian' Revolution."
Mark R. Beissinger, Princeton UniversitySee more reviews
"Although Bolshevism was an ideology of revolutionary class universalism, it was not just a response to class conflict. Two-thirds of Bolshevik leaders were members of ethnic minority groups who found revolutionary class universalism especially appealing because imperial state policy rendered them culturally assimilated yet socially and politically excluded. Bolshevism had a strong ethnic inflection that few scholars have examined. To bring it to light, Riga painstakingly traces the impact of state policy toward ethnic minorities on the ideological development of ninety-three Bolshevik leaders between 1917 and 1923. She has produced a work that is highly original in its use of data and in its interpretive framework. It will provoke debate among historians, political scientists, and sociologists interested in the Russian Revolution and, more generally, in the radicalization of intellectuals."
Robert Brym, University of Toronto
"One rarely comes across a book that changes the grammar of social science: The Bolsheviks and the Russian Empire has that character. Riga shows that Bolshevik identity rests on the character of the empire in which it was born, arguing that class universalism had ethnic roots. The scholarship is superb, with conviction coming from detailed analyses of varied regions within the Tsarist empire. This book is a masterpiece."
John A. Hall, McGill University
"This is an impressive book that draws upon a very wide range of secondary sources. It is elegant and cohesive."
Ian D. Thatcher, Slavonic and East European Review
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- Date Published: July 2014
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9781107425064
- length: 328 pages
- dimensions: 234 x 156 x 19 mm
- weight: 0.51kg
- contains: 3 tables
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
Part I. Identity and Empire:
1. Reconceptualizing Bolshevism
2. Social identities and imperial rule
Part II. Imperial Strategies and Routes to Radicalism in Contexts:
3. The Jewish Bolsheviks
4. The Polish and Lithuanian Bolsheviks
5. The Ukranian Bolsheviks
6. The Latvian Bolsheviks
7. The South Caucasian Bolsheviks
8. The Russian Bolsheviks.
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