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Godless Imagination of Islam in the Soviet Interwar Posters, 1918-1940

  • Vladimir Bobrovnikov
Thursday 1 March 2018
Free to visit, drinks after
WHAT's NEW?! Spring Lecture Series
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden
Bashkir poster on collectivization and Islam

The discourse of visual propaganda

Visual propaganda played an enormous role in the history of the twentieth century. It addressed mostly subaltern masses in imperial centers and colonies of great powers, including the vast territories in the east and south of the former Russian Empire. Posters created for (and with the assistance of) Muslims between the two world wars in the Soviet Orient (including the Crimea, Volga region, Urals, and Siberia, on the Caucasus and in the Central Asia) represent a still poorly studied layer in the history of Soviet propaganda. They include enormous body of texts written in different Oriental languages in Arabic, modified Latin and later Cyrillic scripts.

So far, the posters have been studied primarily in the context of art history. However, visual propaganda is critical for cultural history as well. In this lecture Vladimir Bobrovnikov will discuss the posters’ language, relation to public policy, cultural background, in other words – the discourse of propaganda putting it in a changing historical context of the interwar Soviet Orient. Special attention will be paid to the relationship between knowledge and power, the role of different social actors in the state visual propaganda, its perception and rejection by the Soviet Muslim believers, similarities between the Soviet, Western and Nazi visual propaganda related to the religion.

About Vladimir Bobrovnikov

Vladimir Bobrovnikov works at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg and the Institute for Oriental Studies in Moscow. He has an academic background in history, anthropology and Arabic. His major field of expertise is Islam in tsarist and Soviet Russia, as well as the history of Orientology and Orientalism in the colonial and socialist countries. From 1992 he has been conducting field and archival work in Russiaʼs Caucasus, mostly in Dagestan. He is the author of Custom, Law and Violence Among the North Caucasus Muslims (2002), “Islam in the Russian Empire” (The Cambridge History of Russia, 2006), Posters of the Soviet Orient (2013), and co-editor of Muslims in the New Imperial History (2017). Most of his works are based on the rich private collections of Arabic documents, periodicals and photos from Russiaʼs Caucasus. Bobrovnikov is currently fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS) in Amsterdam carrying out the project on comparative investigation of colonial Shariʽa justice in Russian Caucasus, French Algeria and Dutch Indonesia.

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