Eric D. Weitz argues that the Soviet Union promoted the development of national institutions and consciousness and explicidy rejected the ideology of race. Yet traces of racial politics crept into Soviet nationalities policies, especially between 1937 and 1953. In the Stalin period particular populations were endowed with immutable traits that every member of the group possessed and that were passed from one generation to the next. Recent scholarship, he suggests, has been resistant to drawing out the racial elements in the Stalinist purges of certain nationalities. Francine Hirsch challenges Weitz’s argument, arguing that the Soviet regime had a developed concept of “race,” but did not practice what contemporaries thought of as “racial politics.” Hirsch argues that while the Nazi regime attempted to enact social change by racial means, the Soviet regime aspired to build socialism dirough die manipulation of mass (national and class) consciousness. She contends that it is imperative to analyze the conceptual categories that both regimes used in order to undertake a true comparative analysis. Weiner proposes that Soviet population politics constandy fluctuated between sociological and biological categorization. Although the Soviets often came close to adapting bioracial principles and practices, at no point did they let human heredity become a defining feature of political schemes. Race in the Soviet world applied mainly to concerns for the health of population groups. Despite the capacity to conduct genocidal campaigns and operate death camps, the Soviets never sought the physical extermination of entire groups nor did they stop celebrating the multiethnicity of tiieir polity. The radicalization of state violence in the postwar era was triggered by die nature and role of the war in the Soviet world, the alleged conduct of those who failed to rise to the occasion, and the endemic unstable and unassimilated borderlands, and not by die genetic makeup of the internal enemies. Alaina Lemon’s contribution suggests that scholars seek racialized concepts by treating discourse as situated practice, rather than by separating discourse from practice. This allows consideration of the ways people use language not only to name categories but also to point to social relationships (such as “race”) with or without explicidy naming them as such. Doing so, however, is admittedly more difficult when die only available evidence of past discursive practices are printed texts or interviews. In conclusion, Weitz responds to these critics.
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