The Legacy of Ethnogenesis in Russia

In the former Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin (1879-1953), ethnography became a branch of the historical sciences, oriented according to Marxist historical materialism. The pioneering work of Boris Dolgikh, starting with his thesis defended in 1946, has inspired numerous works on the history of Siberian Native peoples. Many were conceived as studies of "ethnogenesis." Given the objective definition of the concept of ethnos central in Soviet ethnography, and the assumption that ethnoses generally develop in situ with minimal diffusion, it was possible, as for example Ilia Gurvich illustrated in several of his works, to study developments over long periods extending back into prehistory. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the study of the history of northern Russian Native peoples tends to align with the methods and assumptions of western scholarship, as exemplified in the broad overviews of James Forsyth and Yuri Slezkine, in the research of Igor Krupnik and Peter Schweitzer on the Yupik (Asian Eskimos), or in the account of the Nenets by Golovnev and Osherenko (1999).

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