Колониальные интеллектуалы: между просвещенческой и представительской ролью

Translated title of the contribution: Colonial Intellectuals: Caught between the Enlightenment and Representation of their People

Alima Bissenova, Assel Mukasheva

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It is almost an established consensus among historians of Kazakhstan nowadays that the most important actors in the process of “imagining” the Kazakh nation were Kazakh intellectuals, who also happened to be members of the Alash party founded in 1917. The lives of many of them were tragically cut short in the purges of the 1930s, and the majority of them were rehabilitated and recognized as national heroes only in the late-Soviet period. This led to their full canonization and romanticization in the subsequent post-Soviet period. The romanticizing nationalist discourse, however, neglected to mention their historical colonial hybridity, Russian and European orientation in both personal styles and aspirations, and their frequent detachment from the hopes of the regular people “on the ground.” In the documents and texts from the early 20th century, we often find “grassroots” criticisms of the Russian-educated intellectuals, particularly of their distance from the people and their lack of understanding of the people’s desires. As Benedict Anderson noted, in the colonies of European empires, nationalism traditionally was the project of bilingual intellectuals. The first Kazakh intellectuals were no exception to this “paved” schema of the conception of nationalism in the bosom of the empire. First and foremost, they were “translators” of the European enlightenment matrix and European culture into “local” language, as champions of modernization. Understanding that in order for negotiations with imperial structures to be successful, they needed to speak with them in the “common language” of enlightenment and modernization, many Kazakh intellectuals fell into the trap of “colonial mimicry” described by Homi K. Bhaba.
Translated title of the contributionColonial Intellectuals: Caught between the Enlightenment and Representation of their People
Original languageRussian
Pages (from-to)445
Number of pages459
JournalNovoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • colonial intellectuals, colonialism, nationalism, enlightenment, modernization, Russian Empire, Central Asia


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