21.01.22, online: Russian „Orient“. Archaeology and Imperial Cultural Policy, 1856-1914
In the age of imperialism, the European great powers not only relied on military strength but also scholary expertise to assert their domination over the "Orient". The cultural and social effects of the close intertwining of imperial politics and scholarship can be felt to this very day. The close link between academic fieldwork and geopolitical objectives is also a theme in the history of archaeology. The preservation of historical remains was praised as a sign of civility and cultural superiority, while the handling of antiquities by colonized peoples was all too often considered uncivilized or barbaric. As a result, archaeology benefited greatly from territorial expansion and colonization in many ways. Until recently, the Russian Empire has not been studied as an imperial power that, like other European countries, generated colonial knowledge to exercise control over subaltern subjects and to assert itself in international competition. This blind spot has led to the fact that the involvement of archaeologists in the imperial politics of the Russian Empire, especially in its cultural projects, is still insufficiently studied.
The participants will explore the question of how Russian scholars contributed to the realization of imperial agendas: What significance did the "Orient" have for the self-identification of the Russian elites? How did Russian cultural policy make use of archaeology and how did it face international competition? What similarities and differences can be found between Russian and Western European imperial cultural projects?
The conference is organized within the framework of the DFG project "Russian Scholars in the ‘Near East’: Archaeological Expeditions and Imperial Cultural Politics".