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Postcommunist studies: once again through the looking glass (darkly)?

  • RICHARD SAKWA

Abstract

Discussion of what is ‘(post)-Soviet studies’ has become one of the most lively sub-fields of the discipline (if, indeed, it is a discipline), reflecting the mood of introspection and self-doubt that prevails in the area today. What precisely, is the subject in question? There is no consensus even over the name. The title of this short review was initially set as ‘post-Soviet studies’. Although from the outset aware of the shortcomings of the term, it was only as I began to think how to approach the subject that I realised that it was impossible—or at least profoundly misleading—to work under such a rubric. The concept of ‘Soviet’ grounds the emerging discipline too narrowly in the experience of a single country. The notion of ‘post-Sovietology’ is also emerging as a contender to describe the field, but that is doubly misleading, inheriting at best a mixed intellectual baggage and controversial legacy of the original subject of ‘Sovietology’, now compounded by the addition of the prefix ‘post’. The subject is indeed as much about the terms it uses and the methodologies it applies as it is about the events and processes it describes.

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Review of International Studies
  • ISSN: 0260-2105
  • EISSN: 1469-9044
  • URL: /core/journals/review-of-international-studies
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