Late Tsarist and Early Soviet Nationality and Cultural Policy
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Winner of the Adele Mellen Prize for Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship
This is a monograph on late Imperial Russian and Soviet policies toward the language of the Buryats, a native people of southeastern Siberia’s Lake Baikal region. This work can do much to expand our knowledge of an oft-overlooked area of Russian and Soviet national policy. Although the Buryats are Siberia’s largest indigenous group (numbering around 500,000), they have received far less attention than other non-Russians by scholars of Russia’s treatment of its minority peoples and their cultures. On a more general level, the book will provide an opportunity to introduce readers to a unique and vibrant native Siberian culture. Finally, this study can help deepen our understanding of the challenges facing the cultural survival of all indigenous peoples in the modern age – a matter of urgent importance in the current context of globalization.
"Today’s Buryats live divided in three countries: in Siberian Russian, in Northern Mongolia and in the northernmost part of China’s Inner Mongolia. The cultural history and the fate of the language and letters of this small Siberian nation and the destiny of her men of letters in the multinational giant empire of Russia – first in the growing and decaying monarchy, and then in the fledgling Soviet state – is the topic of Robert Montgomery’s treatise ... The author sums up the results of the Latinization that was later imposed by Moscow; the consequences of Stalin’s Great Purges for the Buryats; and the fate of the Buddhist monasteries during the Great Patriotic War and after, in the "thaw" of the Khrushchev years, in the re-frozen period of "stagnation" under Brezhnev, in the more lax Gorbachev era, and after the fall of the Soviet Empire. He shows the difficulties facing Buryat cultural rebirth at the turn of the twenty-first century, but he does maintain hope for the survival of the Buryat language and the Buryats’ cultural heritage. Robert Montgomery’s book is the first English-language monograph about Buryat literacy and language policy and is written with great sympathy for the Buryat people." – (from the Preface) György Kara, Professor of Mongolian, Department of Central Eurasian Studies, Indiana University; Professor of Inner Asian Studies, ELTE University of Budapest; Member, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
"Montgomery's study will certainly be used by all who seek to follow the Imperial Russian and Soviet attempts to use language policy for political ends. An index, bibliography, map, and photos all add to the usefulness of this book. The bibliography will be especially useful to those wishing to add to their knowledge of southeast Siberian history and culture." - The Russian Review
"Making an argument that language is the crux of ethnonational identity, Robert W. Montgomery contributes to our understanding of the history and historiography of the Mongolian Buryat people of Siberia. The cultural ramifications of language and religious policies are stressed, with the significance of Buddhist educational traditions and partial 1920s "nativization" explained especially well." – Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer, Research Professor, Georgetown University
" ... This book is a critically valuable addition to studies of late imperial Russia and early Soviet cultural policies, as well as to the growing body of literature on empire and imperialism. The author’s meticulously researched, expertly handled, and splendidly written book is much broader than its title suggests. He uses the evolution of government policies toward the Buryat language during the twilight of the Tsarist autocracy and in the early Soviet era as a prism through which to examine the development of nationality and cultural policies from 1801-1928 ... All serious students of Russian history and current affairs would profit from reading this valuable new work." – Alexander Rabinowitch, Professor Emeritus of History, Indiana University
Table of Contents
Foreword by György Kara
1. The Buryats’ Language and Culture before 1801
2. Buryat Language Policy under the Late Autocracy, 1801-1917
3. Buryat Language Issues between the February Revolution and the Creation of the B.-M. A.S.S.R.
4. Language Policy in the Buryat-Mongolian A.S.S.R., 1923-1928
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