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Passions about Arkaim: Russian Nationalism, the Aryans, and the Politics of Archaeology

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image of Inner Asia

Arkaim is the name given to the site of an ancient town in the Southern Urals, dated to the 17th–16th centuries BC. Discovered in 1987, Arkaim rapidly became more than an archaeological site. It became the focus for an extraordinary congolmeration of ideas linked to ecological and political movements, in particular those of Russian nationalists. Threatened with flooding because of a dam project, Arkaim was made a ‘Museum Reserve’. Soon it became the focus for theories that this was a sacred place and furthermore the home of proto-Slavs. The break-up of the Soviet Union was followed by attempts by Russian nationalists to demonstrate the legitimacy of their domination of the former empire. The article shows how quasi historical claims expanded into myth and fantasy, linked to the emergence of new cults. Arkaim became the city not only of proto Slavs but of Zarathustra and the Aryans too. Such inventions are related to local politics and ethnic tensions as well as to wider Russian nationalism.


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