Spaces and times of liminality: Russian and Soviet expansion endeavors in the European post-Soviet realm

Authors: Márton Berki*, Eötvös Loránd University, Margit Kőszegi, Eötvös Loránd University, Géza Barta, Eötvös Loránd University, Zsolt Bottlik, Eötvös Loránd University, Tamás Illés, Eötvös Loránd University
Topics: Political Geography, Ethnic Geography, East Europe
Keywords: liminality, expansion, transformation, structure, post-Soviet
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Washington 6, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Based on the concept of liminality, our paper focuses on societal transformations brought about by Russian/Soviet expansion endeavors in various areas of the European post-Soviet realm. The notion of liminality, originally elaborated by Arnold van Gennep and subsequently expanded by Victor Turner, denotes transitions (‘threshold’ situations) during which social hierarchies temporarily dissolve, the continuity of prior traditions are questioned, and formerly fix structures become uncertain. During these periods, the dissolution of order evokes ambiguous, fluid and malleable situations that enable the establishment of another fix structure. With the help of this concept, we examine liminal periods which triggered all-encompassing transformations in the areas affected by the expansion endeavors of Russian/Soviet power. Concerning their impacts, we identify four liminal time periods that are discussed on the example of the affected nations and their respective territories and agency. First, we provide an overview of the liminality experienced by Crimean Tatar communities as a result of the 18th century Russian expansion towards the Black Sea. After that, on the example of Chechens, we describe liminality in the Caucasian region that was generated by the Soviet socialist state, the successor of the Tsarist Empire. Following that, the politico-economic transition of the late-20th century created an opportunity to leave the liminality of the Soviet era behind, which is discussed in the context of the changes taking place in the Baltic states. Lastly, by exploring the background of the current situation in Ukraine, reflections are made on the external factors of prolonged liminality in Ukrainian society.

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