Accepted Paper:

has pdf download Intellectual and political contexts of the theory of "etnos" in Russian and Ukrainian ethnography (1880s-1920s)  


Sergei Alymov (Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

The paper aims to contextualize the term "etnos" in modern Russian ethnography. It was intellectual product of a group of scholars in Saint-Petersburg in 1880s - 1920s.The paper explores ideological context of this thinking and document scholars' involvement in the Ukrainian national movement.

Paper long abstract:

The concept of ethnos figures in the history of anthropology in Russia and some European traditions as a principal subject matter of anthropology/ethnology and significant alternative to such conceptualizations as culture or society. The paper aims to contextualize the first appearance of the term "etnos" in modern Russian language ethnography in 1908 by N. Mogilianskii. Among these multiple contexts are his critique of evolutionist anthropology, debates about establishment of the department of ethnography at the Saint-Petersburg University.

The idea of "etnos" was an intellectual product of a group of scholars who were active at the Saint-Petersburg University, Russian Anthropological Society and Russian Museum (E. Petri, D. Koropchevskii, F. Volkov, N. Mogilianskii). They were trained in natural sciences, were experts in physical anthropology and geography, did ethnographical and archaeological research. They criticized the idea of race and envisioned "etnos" and "people" as alternative to racial classifications. They naturalized ethnic identities and produced elaborated methods of research that would document biological, cultural, and linguistic traits as manifestations of "ethnos".

The paper also aims to explore an ideological and political context of this thinking. Fedor Volkov, who offered the most impressing example of multidisciplinary description of an ethnos in edition titled "The Ukrainian People in its Past and Present", and his disciple Mogilianskii were active in the Ukrainian national movement and contributed to political and cultural autonomy of the Ukraine. The paper draws on original research in Russian and Ukrainian archives.

Panel P060
Themes in the history of anthropology and ethnology in Europe [Europeanist network]