Colonial analogy: on the use and abuse of the post-colonial studies language in the post-Soviet context

Colonial analogy:
on the use and abuse of the post-colonial studies language in the post-Soviet context

Article received: 2023.05.12. Accepted: 2023.06.30

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2023.06.09

For citation:

Malakhov V.S., Letnyakov D.E. Colonial analogy: on the use and abuse of the post-colonial studies language in the post-Soviet context. – Polis. Political Studies. 2023. No. 6. P. 113-127. (In Russ.). EDN: TXNCBZ

The article was prepared in the framework of a research grant funded by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation (grant ID: 075-15-2022-326).


The authors argue that it is theoretically incorrect to describe the Soviet period in the history of post-Soviet nation-states as a colonial one. Such a description reflects a misunderstanding of the specifics of the socialist project and ethnic reductionism. In addition, as far as such a description has normative connotations, it leads to the mutual alienation of researchers on a geographical basis, inviting (a) a stigmatization of representatives of the former center of the union state as neo-imperialist and (b) a self-victimization of representatives of the former periphery as passive objects of manipulation. The paper suggests that the refocusing of research from “post-socialism” to “post-colonialism” was an epistemological consolidation of political and ideological transformations – it was the way the shifts in the field of politics that occurred at the turn of the 1980s-1990s were reflected in the academic field. The refusal to discuss the fundamental features of the Soviet project implies that there is no alternative to capitalism. Considering the Soviet project in colonial terms, the agents of knowledge join the agents of power who emerged victorious from the Cold War and set such optics for viewing this project that completely ignores its revolutionary-utopian, mobilization and emancipatory dimension. The authors call for caution in applying the “post-colonial” vocabulary to the analysis of post-Soviet societies. Although they acknowledge that using the conceptual framework of post-colonial studies might be useful in revealing hidden power hierarchies and elements of discursive violence, they nevertheless believe that the direct transfer of this framework to the post-Soviet context is fraught with serious epistemological costs.

postcolonial studies, postsocialism, colonialism, post-Soviet societies, Russia, methodological nationalism.


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Content No. 6, 2023

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