Friday, September 21, 2018 - 11:35

Source: Krytyka Magazine, Print Edition, Year XVII, Issue 11-12 (193-194), pages 23-26

"Internal Colonization" — Re-colonization

September 2011

Russian-literature scholars Alexander Etkind and Mark Lipovetsky diverge in their understanding of what brought about the trauma in Russian post-Soviet literature: the individual experience of totalitarianism or the entire modernization experience of Russia, which was marked by an “internal colonization” of its own people. [1]

In recent times the concept of “internal colonization” has been acquiring a noticeable resonance in the Russian humanities. This theory makes use of the achievements of Western postcolonial studies, in particular the analysis of "orientalism" from Edward Said's work. However, it is the position of the colonizer —that is, the one who forms oppositions and appropriates positions of the center  — that dominates in this analysis. It is also worth looking at this theory from the position of the subjugated and colonized “other,”  which creates yet another perspective for an evaluation of the Russian imperial experience. And what is under discussion here above all is the question about vectors of colonialization itself, both internal and external.

The formation of the Russian Empire was a complex and prolonged process. Paul Bushkovitch states that during the Petrine period a transition was already taking place from the dynastic principle of self-determination to a state-based one, and the concept of All-Russian Empire and Great Russian Empire appears in diplomatic documents of that time. The affirmation of an imperial consciousness is especially associated with Russia’s campaigns against the Turks, and also with conquests in the Caucasus. Generally the external colonization of various peoples (Baskirs, Kalmycks, Don Cossacks, Ukrainians, Finns, Crimean Tatars) is inseparable from the imperial Russian project. True, some regions of the Russian Empire, such as Turkestan or Siberia, resembled colonies more, while others — Finland, the Baltic provinces — did so less.

Contemplating textbook subjects of Russian literature in “a comparative context of colonial politics of the 19th century” Alexander Etkind appeals to the experience of the imperial history of Russia, saying: “Second only to the British Empire, Russian possessions stretched from Finland and Poland to Alaska and Manchuria, spanning the later boundaries of the USSR. The wars waged by Russia from 1815 to 1917 were almost all colonial wars, conflicts over territories lying outside the national borders of the participating countries.” [2] However, Etkind notes that “the main paths of Russian colonization were aimed not outside, but at the interior of the metropolis: not into Turkey, not into Poland, and not even at Siberia, but into the villages of Tula, Pomerania, and Orenburg. Here the state distributed landed estates and subdued uprisings. Here community was discovered and folklore was recorded. Ancient customs and strange religions were studied here. From here the capital’s collections obtained deformities and rarities.” [3] Etkind’s conclusion, which he formulates following Chaadaev, is that the taking of control over Russia’s internal regions is analogous to the acquisition of its overseas colonies; hence it is possible to speak about a form of “internal colonization.” [4]

Etkind complements his thesis about “internal colonization,” formulated on the basis of Michel Foucault’s theory of power, with a thesis about “internal orientalism” referencing Edward Said and the idea of knowledge as power. “Knowledge directs colonial power and is in turn generated by it,” he writes. In Etkind’s opinion, the principal difference between Russian orientalism and Western orientalism lies in the fact that “Russia colonized itself, took control over its own people. That was an internal colonization, self-colonization, a secondary colonization of its own territory,” which led to orientalization of its own people as its “other.” This is precisely why Russia’s orientalism is directed into its own people and not into the overseas colonies, in Etkind’s view. An impression arises that under the semblance of “internal colonization” lies a new form of populism — a very influential intellectual and spiritual trend in Russian philosophical thought of the 19th and 20th centuries.

One of the fundamental mechanisms of colonial politics, Etkind stresses, is “work with the cultural distance between power and its subjects — its study, exaggeration, demonstration, minimalization, negation.” (“Foucault and the Thesis of Internal Colonization”) Along with this the peculiarity of Russian modernization and the colonization associated with it is, he believes, “the cultural difference between upper and lower classes — a legacy of an agrarian society,” which constitutes the principal distinction from Western societies and empires. The upper classes, the mainstay of a centralized state, act based on a written culture, while the lower classes act on the basis of an oral one. According to Etkind, these two worlds “were separated by an abyss,” and “communication between them, if it was even possible, turned out to be distorted, risky, and limited,” which is attested by Russian literature from The Captain’s Daughter to Klima Samgina.

Thus, Russian ethnography as an imperial study of the other differs from its British counterpart because it investigates its own people as the other. Russian populism, which became a love affair between the Russian intelligentsia and the people, undoubtedly arose from the conjoining “of social guilt, artistic hopes, and scientific curiosity, all with respect to one’s own people.” Ultimately the populists saw in the people, uncivilized and infantile, a guarantee of a different, non-European path of development. This is precisely what Etkind calls “orientalization of one’s own culture.”

The conclusions to which the author leads consist in the following:

 ● Russia did not venture into distant imperial conquests — “the dynasty is opposed to all attempts at overseas expansion, considering them too difficult, profitless, or immoral: a strange attitude in light of the multidirectional colonialism which in precisely those decades was typical for all allies and adversaries”;

 ● “in cultural, social, and economic dimensions the empire developed from the outside in”;

 ● colonization in Russia has a character of populating, not acquisition — which is why the word “colonization” “is used in two opposite ways when applied to Russia and Europe,” and the paths of Russian and European colonization, according to Etkind, were sufficiently different from one another that it is not easy to reduce them to a single concept;

 ● revolution in Russia and America coincides with decolonization, but in the American case “external decolonization” leads to “national maturation,” while in the Russian case internal decolonization leads to “cyclic processes of its [colonization’s] re-creation in new forms” (“Foucault and the Thesis of Internal Colonization”).

But despite abundant argumentation, the thesis about “internal colonization,” like the thesis concerning orientalism in relations with one’s own other, that is, one’s-own-not-one’s-own people, poses more questions than it gives answers. This was also particularly demonstrated at the conference “Russia’s Internal Colonization,” organized by Alexander Etkind 23-25 March 2010 in Passau (Germany). Most of the speakers emphasized that despite the obvious oneness of internal colonization and modernization, the relationships among external, internal, and self-colonization remain less than entirely clear. Dirk Uffelmann emphasized that "external orientalization can lead to self-orientalization just as it can to self-colonialization.” Etkind tried to introduce a moment of hybridization into the notion of internal colonization (following Homi Bhabha), and Stefan Rodewald, critiquing the binariness of the proposed opposition between the internal and external vectors of colonization, proposed some terminological modifications, in particular regarding discursive strategies. Up to the 1860s he suggests speaking of “an imaginary external colonization of the internal,” and in later discourses — especially in those “which concern south- and west-Russian lands” — of “an imaginary internal colonization of the external.” [5]

In truth, it would be a great simplification to ignore, for example, the distinctiveness of a national consciousness in Ukraine (and related features of anti-colonial movements) at the beginning of the 19th century when, in view of the dual (imperial) identity of the Ukrainian elite, it is still possible to speak about a certain imaginary colonization of Ukraine/Little Russia as its own “internal,” and towards the end of the century when we can certainly speak only of an imaginary internal colonization of the “external.” [6]

Andreas Kappeler, in his article “Mazepites, Little Russians, and Khokhols: Ukrainians in the Ethnic Hierarchy of the Russian Empire,” notes that from the late 18th century, when the Cossack elite began to be co-opted into the imperial nobility, we can say that the center no longer viewed Little Russians as “an independent ethnic group”: “From the time that Little Russia’s nobles were gaining equal status with Russian nobility and was increasingly perceived as Russian, all Ukrainians of the former Hetmanate were considered to be a regional variant of Russians and were dropped from the ethnic hierarchy entirely.” Moreover, an internal colonization of ethnic Ukrainians took place: the majority of them were identified with the peasantry, the uncivilized mass of the common people, the khokhols. However, the rise of nationalism and the formation of the modern Ukrainian nation at the end of the 19th century altered the character of colonization from an internal to an external one. The Russian government changed its tactics of cooperation with the non-Russian elite: not only did the Ukrainian language fall under suspicion after the Polish uprising, but so did the representatives of the Ukrainian political and cultural elite. This fostered an anti-imperial disposition, federalism, and nationalism even among Ukrainian intelligentsia of an all-Russian or pro-Russian inclination (for example Drahomanov and Hrushevsky). Eventually the entire twentieth century abounded with anticolonial movements — on one side liberation struggles of Ukrainians for independence, and on the other various strategies of external colonization to which the governments of the Russian, and later Soviet, empires resorted.


What is not completely understood in general is the marked binarism that Etkind employs, consistently contrasting the Russian and the European imperial experiences. It is unclear why he strives so persistently to dismiss the issue of external colonization. To achieve this, Etkind resorts to the rhetorical device of fashioning an imaginary distinction. And even so he attempts to formulate this distinction in the most unexpected and paradoxical form possible to obtain discursive power over the realia of historical, cultural, and social life, and in this manner — through power — brings about a re-colonization of the object being described. Because of this, the imaginary difference or “cultural difference” (and this, Etkind underscores, is precisely the mechanism of colonial politics) has a dual sense: on one hand it absolutizes the foreignness of the imperial European experience of external colonization, and on the other hand it minimalizes the role of Russian external colonization. In contrast to European empires, which exploited conquered territories, the Russian empire, he says, conversely “gave economic and political privileges to its colonies, creating opportunities for them for self-rule and self-preservation.” “Not colonial or at least not completely colonial” is his perception of the character of the campaigns to subjugate the Caucasus — a region “which after the annexation of Georgia found itself in the middle of imperial territory” (“Foucault and the Thesis of Internal Colonization”). Apparently “not completely colonial” is also thought to apply to the colonization experience of Little Russia, a component of which was the liquidation of the Hetmanate’s autonomy. Neither is anything said of the various strategies to transform external colonization into internal colonization, for example through conferring noble rights on Little Russian Cossack officers, etc.

Etkind does not neglect to point out that the significance of the imperial seizures lies precisely in a formation of “ever new differences among those subjugated,” and the essence of imperial power is located in the creation of “various strategies for manipulating these differences.” In fact, we see a certain manipulation of the facts by Etkind himself. In the very posing of the question of “when Russian colonization began,” he offers a dilemma on the basis of which we are required to choose an answer: “with the occupation of ethnically foreign Kazan, or of ethnically similar Novgorod?” Actually the author is not interested in historical reality; rather the issue is one of a discourse imposed on the reader. He asks: “Where were the Russian colonies — in foreign territories like the Urals and Siberia, where a classical process of mixing of migrant and native populations was taking place, or in Little Russia, where the opposite was true and the inhabitants ethnically resembled those of the Mother Country, shaping cultural-political differences which will prove decisive?” Ultimately he presents the colonization of Ukrainians are an example of non-classical colonization, when an ethnically homogeneous (apparently by its own wishes) population is blended into the empire, forming cultural-political differences of “other-but-self.” Thus in mentioning “cultural-political differences which will prove decisive” he pays tribute to political correctness, but actually does not supply an answer to the question of where, in fact, these Russian colonies were. Neither does he see any particular problem in the external colonization of Little Russia, since its population, he says, is “ethnically similar to that of the Mother Country.”

Etkind’s rhetorical maneuvers grow, constructing their “cultural distances” and devising successive differences, which in reality turn out to be rules of identity and (hidden) power. Ethnic and racial differences in the Russian Empire were not significant, the argument goes, which is why the geographical and economic continuity of the empire “outweighed all other differences — ethnic, linguistic, religious — melting them in a shared imperial pot” (“Russian Literature, the Nineteenth Century: The Novel of Internal Colonization”). But in the meantime there was no melting in this “imperial pot,” nor disappearance either of cultural-political opposition to Russian colonization, or of the struggle for the right to exist of Ukrainian-language literature, theater and scholarship — a struggle that lasts through the entire nineteenth century and continues even in the twentieth.

Having elegantly recognized Ukrainians as almost “self,” Etkind turns to an analysis of the famous painting by Ilya Repin, “Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire.” On the one hand, having accepted the logic of appropriating the distinction of the Little Russians as “other-but-self," Etkind now contrasts them with the completely “foreign,” namely the Turks. On the other hand, he still indicates the Little Russians' “oriental character.” Etkind notes that although the Cossacks are also Eastern, this East is indigenous, Russian (or Little Russian). So it turns out that one’s own people, one’s own other-- which is how, following the author’s thinking, the Russian elite implemented its internal orientalization--are the Ukrainians themselves. Within the bounds of “internal orientalism” Etkind juxtaposes this indigenous East with a more remote and more foreign East — the Turkish one. Moreover, the angle of perspective that creates all cultural distances and differences in the painting “Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks” is, to his mind, entirely rational and Western, and is embodied in the person situated at the center of the picture — the scribe.

The plenipotentiary representatives of the people, the Cossacks, are depicted as an Eastern element, as children of nature, unlettered creators of folk culture. Their abusive exertions are addressed to a subject even more oriental than they themselves: the Turkish sultan. He is absent from the picture, there is only his name, but his distant presence/absence motivates all the participants: a situation characteristic of 'Eastern despotism.' The scribe, who does not look like the Cossacks (but does resemble Gogol), attempts to convey the carnival of folk culture in proper clerical language.

In the person of the scribe between the East of the Cossacks and the East of the sultans stands the West with its literacy and rationality. Every one here is Rusian [i.e. from Rus – Ed.] (or Little Russian); but the cultural distance between the Cossacks and the scribe is obviously not less than to the sultan. The Cossack in the center of the painting is clearly pointing to the back: that is where the sultan is, the letter’s addressee, and that is the geographical east.

Accordingly, the West stands in front of the picture in the person of its author, and also of the viewer. The painting edifies the latter, declaring the powerlessness of writing before the spoken word, of professional culture before folk culture, of the West before the East. But the East is divided in two, which for us is what is most important in all of history: the East of the Cossacks, an object of popular fascination, is radically different from the East of the sultan, an object of traditional orientalism. The subject is refined and ironic. It also contains a parable about the indispensability of the West and of writing: even the Cossacks (and the sultan) need the scribe, and all of them need the painter and the viewer.

In other words, the subject is read both as an oriental utopia of a Eurasian type, and also as its mocking deconstruction. The Second World is addressing the Third World, but they cannot do it without the First.

This rather lengthy quote not only characterizes the object of investigation, namely an other orientalism developed by imperial Russian discourse, but also demonstrates that the critic indisputably identifies himself with the First World (with the West and its methods of deconstruction). And this identification leaves the history of colonial relations and the outlook of the colonialized other outside of his field of vision. But it is worth observing that Repin (who was himself a native of Ukraine) does not portray abstract Cossack characters, but actual persons of that time. The distance between the scribe and the Cossacks, therefore, is not so great at all. Repin found quite a few of his prototypes in the Katerynoslav region, but some of them are simply taken from his St. Petersburg surroundings. In particular, these were the painter Ivan Tsiongliskyi (instructor at the School of the Imperial Society for the Promotion of the Arts, and nephew of the Russian composer Mikhail Glinka); the painter Porfirii Martynovych, who was also a student at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts; St. Petersburg Conservatory professor Oleksandr Rubets; Mariinsky Theatre soloist Fyodor Stravinsky (father of Igor Stravinsky). Also pictured in the painting is the Ukrainian landowner and philanthropist Vasyl Tarnovsky, proprietor of the Kachanivka estate, where Gogol and Kulish were guests, and also Georgii Alekseev, Marshal of the Nobility in Katerynoslav province and Chief Chamberlain of His Majesty’s Court. The prototype for the koshovyj Sirko was the Kiev general Mykhailo Drahomyrov, later the Governor-General of Kiev.

Thus it is neither “others” nor “the people” that we see in Repin’s painting, but representatives of Russia’s imperial elite and of the Little Russian elite that was integrated into the imperial culture. And the portrayal of the scribe, in which Etkind envisages a Gogolian type, is taken from Dmytro Yavornytsky, the well-known Ukrainian ethnographer, historian and writer, who was a devoted scholar of Cossackdom and Repin’s principal consultant. So to look for a scribe who “does not look like the Cossacks (but does resemble Gogol)” in the painting is naiveté: the “others” are almost all “Cossacks,” for which Ukrainians, Great Russians, and Tatars all served as prototypes. And Gogol could be present in it perhaps as an artifice which would point to the style of the picture itself — namely, colonial masquerade. After all, Gogol is the creator of an essentially new genre in imperial literature: the genre of colonial stylization, of which Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka is a textbook example.

Another question arising in connection with Repin’s painting concerns the perspective of the image itself. The scribe (Yavornytsky) really does command writing, and whereas he represents the colonialization of the subject, that means that it is precisely the colonial subject who commands authentic writing. Is he a foreigner at this colonial masquerade? Yes and no. He is not a stranger among the other Cossacks, since he shares with them the element of carnival laughter. In his memoirs Repin says that he picked up and recreated Yavornytsky’s smile while he was perusing a magazine with humorous illustrations. But the scribe is also a stranger among the “Cossacks” — the others have dressed up for a masquerade and have taken on their roles, but he, almost like an author among his heroes, exists both within the picture and also outside of it. And his mission is not, as Etkind says, to convey the curse-laden oral language of the Cossacks “in correct clerical language.” More likely the scribe himself invents the next phrase while they are laughing at the preceding one.

An important role is played here by an impulse of muscles associated with laughing. As the famous theoretician of anti-colonialism Frantz Fanon noted, in encountering the colonial order a colonized aborigine feels entrapped, and this is expressed as a distinctive sustained muscular tension. It is as if he were waiting patiently for the colonizer to find himself undefended and then attack. This kind of perpetual muscle tonus is reinforced by the native’s persistent desire to take the place of the colonizer. The colonizer, in turn, is an exhibitionist by nature. He is simply excessively concerned with his own security, and therefore constantly demonstrates his power and in every moment reminds the subjugated of his authority. Such relations resemble a certain symbiosis and demonstrate a mutual psycho-affective dependency between the subjugated and the subjugator. These relations are built on an extreme and irreconcilable contraposition, which forms and continuously supports an aggressiveness that requires release and manifests itself both in muscles and body. Release of the tension accumulated in the aborigine’s muscles flares up as bloody encounters of inter-tribal strife and interpersonal conflicts. But one of the forms of anti-colonial resistance, especially at the stage of its rise and separation from the mass of rebel-leaders, becomes laughter, which brings muscular relaxation to the subjugated and at least momentarily liberates him from dependency. Laughter is a privilege of the colonial elite; it allows the expression of desires and reorganizes aggressiveness, substituting for it feelings of community, and especially national community. If Repin’s painting is perceived as a colonial masquerade, then the scribe conveys in his letter this same psycho-affective liberation from colonial tension, achieved through the help of laughter.


The image of the scribe can be identified as the symbolic location of the author: this is how the author records and attests to a certain past, within which (inside of which) he would like to reside. The Cossack past becomes a mirror, a dream, an illusion inside which the author situates himself. The painting depicts various subjects of the empire, but the scribe is copied from the person of Yavornytsky —  a Ukrainophile and Cossackophile. Thus the representative of the imperial center identifies himself precisely with Ukrainophilia and Cossackophilia, and in so doing includes himself in the colonial masquerade.

Accordingly, the otherness of the scribe is not reducible to the fact that he is westernized while the Cossacks in the picture are easternized. It would be useless to seek in Repin an almost one’s own East, since the masquerade-East of the Cossacks is a costumed staging and a discourse about colonialism itself. This masquerade does not so much depict the Eastern flavor of the newly discovered Little Russian people--with whom the Empress wanted to get acquainted in Gogol’s “The Night Before Christmas” --as much as it points to the existence of a completely different identity. This is precisely the colonial Little Russian elite, which, masked and in secret, opposes the seemingly homogeneous imperial community. In other words, if this is the East for the imperial center, then it is an East that is “entirely-not-its-own."

Dialogism and laughing carnivalization in Repin have an anti-imperial sense and speak to the falseness (untruth) of the empire. The colonized Third World turns out to be closer to the First (Western) World because it is ironic, and because, despite its apparently obvious carnival spontaneity, it is rational and masquerade-like. At the same time the Second (imperial) World remains in the power of its illusory grandeur and strength, which require rational unmasking. Together with Yavornytsky, Repin does exactly this.

What is at the center of this discourse? The unity of the Empire and homogeneity of the people of Rus? The national culture of laughter and the naturalness of the Little Russian nationality so beloved by the romantic writers? The assimilated and subdued nearer East (Cossackdom), or the victorious and regnant West as personified by the scribe and writing, and also the western identity of the deconstructor himself?

Answers to these questions can be given by altering the viewer's perspective from that proposed by Etkind. He says the Cossack behind the scribe points towards the location of the sultan, to whom the letter is addressed, but why not consider that the Cossack is pointing not to the East, but to the North. Then Repin’s painting would acquire a new, anti-colonial meaning: distanced from the metropolis, the carnival Cossack state, which is obliged to have both an ataman and a scribe, suggests that Russian internal orientalism is an illusion. The subdued and “almost one’s own” East is in fact not innocent or subjugated. Furthermore, the letter to the Turkish sultan could have been also directed to the Russian czar.

Postcolonial criticism emphasizes the great importance of the authorial position, which re-describes the colonial situation. From the perspective of “internal colonization” and “internal orientalism” Etkind unequivocally associates himself with the West and writing, retelling again and again the Russian utopia about the romance of the intelligentsia with the people, and including in this romance relationships with external colonies.

Thus, when looking at the “deconstruction of deconstruction” it becomes noticeable that the thesis about the exclusively “internal” nature of the colonization of Little Russia is at least incomplete. The discursive strategy that deals in cultural differences creates and conceals these differences as desired. Precisely “our” adapted and somewhat simplified Ukrainian Cossack East is considered to be an unconflicted part of one’s own Russian people. It turns out that “internal colonization” operates, above all, in respect to this not quite Russian, already previously colonized people. For precisely this reason the orientalization and othering of the Cossacks in Repin’s picture look like an imaginary internal colonization of the externally colonized or, more simply, re-colonization. Ignoring the perspective from the side of the colonized “other” leads to a new colonialism, this time through writing, analysis, and intellectual authority.

Let me return to where this article began, namely the discussion between Mark Lipovetsky and Alexander Etkind about the Russian post-Soviet novel. Taking into account the experience, traumatic and unprocessed by memory, of imperial consciousness that crosses the boundaries of “internal colonization” can significantly widen our perception concerning the reasons for historical “overlap” and the monstrousness permeating the contemporary Russian novel. It recreates not only a repressed memory of totalitarianism, but also the transgressions of colonialism.

An imprint of the post-colonial experience is found in the deep structures of post-Soviet novels in Ukrainian literature, too. Its main tension lies in the experience of post-colonial distress. In the writings of Oksana Zabuzhko it is expressed through colonial trauma, which determines not only the characters’ vicissitudes, but influences the psycho-emotional sphere, corporeality, psychology, geography, poetry, love and sex. From this trauma emerges the theme of love coupled with the Ukrainianization of Russian-speaking lovers, and above all, the myth about the brotherly solidarity of two painter-sorcerers, representatives of a colonized culture, in the famous novel Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex. Included here are impressions about the weakness of the father broken by the totalitarian machine, and the constantly hungry and frigid mother, traumatized by her experience of Holodomor. But most essentially, the colonial experience turns out to be the collective unconscious of the entire people, which determines the content of the characters and collisions bound up mainly with familial, lineal, and national destiny. After all, the main theme of Fieldwork is that of the survival of the (national) family.

However, in Yuri Andrukhovych’s Recreations the colonial and totalitarian experiences are expressed through a bifurcation of each of the characters, who look to the past and attempt to replay that past somehow, to repeat it, to re-embody themselves in it, in order to restore a full- value and full-blooded identity of one’s own “I,” stolen by history. That long-gone history—  the Austro-Hungarian melancholy of pre-war Lviv, the ancestral sonority of the pre-Soviet Galician village — all this reflects in Recreations the traumatic experience of Andrukhovych’s wandering hero-adventurers. The "recreations," then, are at the same time both a break and a renewal, to which the heroes aspire, but which they are unable to attain. They are attempting not only to vanquish the experience of colonization, but are also themselves colonized by their own past. Colonization by a stolen and divided past locks into a circle of repetitions and simulations. Such is the fate of the postcolonial subject. In Moscoviada this subject is already trying not so much to restore his own “I” as obtaining revenge on the empire, by fragmenting it and inverting the “top” and the “bottom,” the center and the periphery, and also by engaging in voluntaristic-aggressive renaming of toponyms in the metropolis, in this manner assaulting the already powerless late-Soviet body of the empire at its very center. Doubtless, it is precisely the postcolonial world view that feeds these first post-Soviet Ukrainian novels appearing in the 1990s.

In general the construction of a postcolonial consciousness in the post-Soviet space presents itself as an especially interesting process. In particular, the late 20th century Ukrainian postcolonial consciousness, marked by an overcoming of cultural provincialism and marginality, is infected by an imaginary revanchism and resentful emotions born of anti-colonial protest. It is precisely literature that became the means of revising such postcolonial mental models and trying out various forms of cultural identification. The newest Ukrainian literature of the 1990s is engendered by socio-cultural reflection aimed at trying to understand the relationship between the metropolis and the colony, “one’s own” and “other,” the governing and the governed, the personal and the social, male and female, mono- and polycultural, authentic and stylized, and on the whole signals a new situation: entry into the zone of postcolonial dialogue.


[1] Mark Lipovetsky, Alexander Etkind: “Vozvrashchenie tritona: Sovetskaia katastrofa i postsovetskii roman.” Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2008, No. 4. Accessed at

[2] Alexander Etkind: “Russkaia literatura, XIX vek: Roman vnutrennei kolonizatsii.” Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2003,No. 59. Accessed at

[3] Alexander Etkind. “Fuko i tezis vnutrennei kolonizatsii: postkoloniial'nii vzgliad na sovetskoe proshloe,” 8.

[4] Andreas Kappeler maintains that the notion of “internal colony” was employed by Ukrainian economists of the 1920s (Volobuev, Slabchenko, Yavorsky), and was later adopted and more widely developed by Michail Gechter in his work Internal Colonialism: The Celtic Fringe in British National Development, 1536-1966 (Berkley, 1975); see Andreas Kappeler, “Mazepintsy, Malorossy, Khokhly: Ukrainians in the Ethnic Hierarchy of the Russian Empire.” Culture, Nation and Identity, 178-179.

[5] Review of conference materials, see Heinrich Kirschbaum: “Konferentsiya ‘Vnuternnaia kolonizatsiia v Rossii’.” Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2010, No. 105. Accessed at

[6] For more detail about the dual (“amphibian-like”) identity of the Ukrainian elite at the end of the  19th century, see “‘Kotliarevshchyna’: koloniyal'nyi kich” in Tamara Hundorova, Kich i literatura. Travestii (Kyiv: Fact, 2006), 92-122.

Translated by: 
George Hawrysch