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Red Orientalism: Mikhail Pavlovich and Marxist Oriental Studies In Early Soviet Russia

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Marxist Oriental Studies in early Soviet Russia emerged in opposition to the 'bourgeois' Russian tradition of classical Oriental scholarship; rather than studying texts and history, Bolshevik Orientalists saw their task in providing the Soviet government with the necessary political and socio-economic knowledge to support the liberation of the contemporary East from colonialism and imperialism. After a failed attempt to stir revolutions in the Muslim World via a 'Congress of the Peoples of the East' in Baku in 1920 and a 'University of Social Sciences for Workers of the Orient' in the same city, the Bolsheviks established an Oriental Studies teaching institute as well as an Oriental Studies Association in Moscow, both under Stalin's Commissariat for Nationalities. The article traces the biography of the key figure in these organizations, Mikhail P. Pavlovich (1871-1927). Pavlovich was not a professional Orientalist but a prolific Marxist writer and propaganda lecturer on military affairs, world transportation lines, imperialism and colonialism—arguably the issues that made the Bolsheviks interested in the Orient. While Pavlovich's Marxist Oriental Studies (and his journal Novyi Vostok, 'The New Orient') were 'anti-Orientalist' in their rhetoric, it can be shown that they used the same notions and methods for which they condemned Western Oriental Studies.

Affiliations: 1: Amsterdam


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