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Historiography and the Politics of Land, Identity, and Belonging in the Twentieth-Century North Caucasus

Intercommunal, socio-economic, and political relations in the North Caucasus have historically revolved around access to this mountain region’s prized pasturage and scare farmland. Given the centrality of the land question in the North Caucasus, it is unsurprising that historiography on land relations in the region has been highly politicized. This presentation examines how indigenous writing on the history of land relations in the central Caucasus—a region inhabited by today’s Kabardians, Balkars, Ossetians, Ingush, and Karachai, and dominated by the princely confederation of Kabarda before the tsarist conquest—has been subject to wide revision in response to changes in local and national political dynamics and the emergence of ethnicized identity politics. In the late-imperial and early-Soviet periods, Karachai, Balkar and Ossetian elites-cum-historians, writing for an audience of imperial policymakers, crafted histories to influence state policies toward land reform. By the 1930s, historians from the region tailored their histories of land relations to the prerogatives of Soviet nationality policies. The ideas contained in these histories impacted the construction of national identities in the Soviet period. Post-Soviet Karachai and Balkar intellectuals, seeking to establish new post-colonial national histories for their peoples, have reinterpreted the history of land relations in order to depict their ancestors as independent of Kabarda’s land-based dominance. This revisionism is part of the Karachai and Balkars’ struggle against their historiographical erasure, which was a product of the exclusion of the Karachai and Balkars from the family of Soviet nations during their deportation and exile to Central Asia from 1944 to 1957 and their subsequent political and cultural marginalization.
Ian Lanzillotti received his PhD in History from The Ohio State University in 2014. Lanzillotti served as a Lecturer in Russian History at Ohio State in Spring 2015 and he will take up a new position as Assistant Professor of European History at Tennessee Wesleyan College in August. Lanzillotti’s research focuses on Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union as multi-ethnic and multi-confessional empires. Lanzillotti’s doctoral research focused on inter- and intra-communal relations, the expansion and evolution of imperial rule and governance, and the causes of peace and violence in the North Caucasus. Lanzillotti is beginning preliminary research on a new project that focuses on ethno-national elites in Russia during the Soviet collapse and early post-Soviet period. This project will explore how non-Russian members of the Soviet academic establishment refashioned themselves as leaders of the ethno-national opposition movements in Russia’s national republics.



Friday, May 22, 2015. 12:00 PM


Encina Hall West, Room 208


CREEES Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies




Open to Stanford affiliates. RSVP requested.