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The international conference «Hierarchies of Territory: Precedence and Interrelationship between Regions in Russian Space, 1700-1991»
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11 октября 2021 - 13 октября 2021
The Russian Federation today consists of over 80 federal units (sub”ekty federatsii), including republics, kraia, autonomous okrugs, oblasts, and so forth. Each of these forms of territorial organization has its own standing and place within the state hierarchy. But this represents just the most basic level of the state’s territorial organization. Each of these units in turn forms part of larger conglomerations or groupings of territories, such as federal or military districts, economic macroregions, or archbishoprics, as well as less determinate political-cultural entities such as the North, the South, Siberia, the Volga Region, and so forth, all of which occupy their own distinct niches within official and popular conceptions of the national area. The variety of these spatial formations and the different ways of “reading” Russian territory that they represent appear all the more striking when one considers the complex historical legacies that inform them. Even past spatial forms that are no longer visible today nonetheless remain deeply resonant and influential.
None of these ways of representing territory, past or present, is autonomous. Instead, each plays a role and has its assigned place within structures of meaning. As such, they reflect the reality that Russian space, like the territory of all states, is organized according to a range of hierarchies that together define the socio-political, economic, and cultural ordering of the state. It’s worth noting that the very understanding of region as a territorial entity is itself fundamentally relational. Put differently, no region can exist on its own. Every region is the product of likenesses, contrasts, and/or connections, real or imagined, with at least one other region. In a basic sense, there can be no North without a South, no center without a periphery. Europe would not be Europe without Asia, and so on.
Building from this conceptual foundation, our conference aims to explore the history of how different definitions of territory and the relations between them emerged and developed within Russian space over the preceding three centuries, taking into account the shifting effects of political and economic power as well as cultural values that defined this long period. We are especially interested in examining the factors that influenced how and why a given region might be seen to be higher or lower or of greater or lesser importance within the different imperial and national hierarchies that characterized Russian space during the imperial and Soviet eras, tracing the dynamics that shaped how these various hierarchies formed, evolved, changed, or, conversely, endured across time even through periods of otherwise momentous political and cultural-historical transformation.
Topics To Be Discussed Include:
Political, economic, and socio-cultural factors influencing the elaboration of territorial hierarchies and the related dynamics of region-building and region-defining. The relative status of territories within the real and imagined geographies of the Russian Empire and the USSR. The meaning of mental maps and the ordering and representation of territorial space that defines these political forms. The process of naming regions — both formally and informally — and how the politics of nomenclature influences regional perceptions and structures as well as policies affecting regional development. The effects of naming on the relative importance and/or marginal status of a given region or territory of the state. The narratives of power (variously defined) that justify territorial hierarchies. The role of regions within power discourses, and their linkages with the distribution of symbolic capital and economic resources within state space. The influence of social and political practices on the formation and reinforcement of regional hierarchies; competition between regions to achieve greater status or to counteract marginalization Concerns with territorial status as reflected in the practices of regional description in the 18th-20th centuries; the visualization of territorial hierarchies in the imperial and Soviet periods The conference will include a young scholars’ section open to graduate student participants from Russian universities. Two weeks prior to the conference selected participants will submit their papers to a panel consisting of one or more expert commentators. The work of the section will then consist of close discussion and feedback on these papers between students and commentators. The working languages of the conference will be Russian and English.