New Books Network

Botakoz Kassymbekova’s Despite Cultures: Early Soviet Rule in Tajikistan (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016) is a terrific study of early Soviet rule in Tajikistan...

Botakoz Kassymbekova’s Despite Cultures: Early Soviet Rule in Tajikistan (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016) is a terrific study of early Soviet rule in Tajikistan based on extensive archival research. Her work explores technologies of governance used in early Soviet Tajikistan in order to implement Soviet plans for industrialization and collectivization. The study highlights the importance of individual leaders who used such technologies to try and adhere to the commands coming from the Politburo. This is essential reading for anyone interested in how the early Soviet government sought to overcome ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity across a vast space. In a field often bogged down with unsatisfying comparisons to Western-style colonialism, Kassymbekova’s work shows new directions that historians of Central Asia and the Soviet Union can take in order to problematize the application of terms such as “empire,” “imperialism,” and “colonialism” in the Soviet context. She shows that the nature of rule in the Soviet Tajikistan, as elsewhere in the Soviet Union was ever-changing and often could not be easily defined purely by these theoretical concepts.


Nicholas Seay is a PhD candidate at The Ohio State University.