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Intermarriage and the Friendship of Peoples: Ethnic Mixing in Soviet Central Asia (with Adrienne Edgar)
October 21, 2022 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
In marked contrast to its Cold War rivals, the Soviet Union celebrated mixed marriages among its diverse ethnic groups as a sign of the unbreakable friendship of peoples and the imminent emergence of a single “Soviet people.” Yet the official Soviet view of ethnic nationality became increasingly primordial and even racialized beginning in the 1960s, and in this context, Adrienne Edgar argues, mixed families and individuals found it impossible to transcend ethnicity, fully embrace their complex identities, and become simply “Soviet.” Looking back on their lives in the Soviet Union, ethnically mixed people often reported that the “official” nationality in their identity documents did not match their subjective feelings of identity; that they were unable to speak “their own” native language; and that their ambiguous physical appearance prevented them from claiming the nationality with which they most identified. In all these ways, mixed couples and families were acutely and painfully affected by the growth of ethnic primordialism and by the tensions between the national and supranational projects in the Soviet Union. Edgar’s conclusions are based on more than eighty in-depth oral history interviews with members of mixed families in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, along with published and unpublished Soviet documents, scholarly and popular articles from the Soviet press, memoirs and films, and interviews with Soviet-era sociologists and ethnographers.
Watch the event recording on YouTube here.
Adrienne Edgar is professor of Russian and Central Asian history at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She holds a B.A. in Russian from Oberlin College, an M.A. in international affairs and Middle East studies from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in Russian history from U.C. Berkeley. She has received research grants and fellowships from the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), the Mellon Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Open Society Institute (Soros Foundation) and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and has held post-doctoral and visiting scholar appointments at Harvard University, McGill University, the Alexander von Humboldt University (Berlin) and the University of Heidelberg (Germany). Edgar’s first book, Tribal Nation: The Making of Soviet Turkmenistan, was published by Princeton University Press in 2004. Edgar is co-editor, with Benjamin Frommer, of Intermarriage from Central Europe to Central Asia: Mixed Families in the Age of Extremes (University of Nebraska Press, 2020). Her second monograph, Intermarriage and the Friendship of Peoples: Ethnic Mixing in Soviet Central Asia, was published by Cornell University Press in May 2022. Edgar serves on the editorial boards of Central Asian Survey and Kritika and recently completed a three-year term on the board of directors of the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES).