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The Bolsheviks and the Russian Empire

by: Liliana Riga
published by: Cambridge University Press
pp: 324
ISBN: 9781107014220
price: 99 $

Book's frontpage

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.


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.

About the author

Liliana Riga, University of Edinburgh
Liliana Riga is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. She holds a BA in political science from the University of California, Berkeley, an MA in political science from Columbia University and a PhD in sociology from McGill University. She is an Honorary Fellow at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and has taught sociology at McGill University, the University of Strathclyde and the University of Edinburgh. Her work has appeared in, among other publications, the American Journal of Sociology, Sociology, Nations and Nationalism and Comparative Studies in Society and History. An article drawn from material from this book appeared in the American Journal of Sociology and was awarded Honorable Mention in 2009 for Best Article in Comparative Historical Sociology by the American Sociological Association.


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