The Ethnic Roots of Class Universalism: Rethinking the “Russian” Revolutionary Elite

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Abstract

This article retrieves the ethnic roots that underlie a universalist class ideology. Focusing empirically on the emergence of Bolshevism, it provides biographical analysis of the Russian Revolution’s elite, finding that two‐thirds were ethnic minorities from across the Russian Empire. After exploring class and ethnicity as intersectional experiences of varying significance to the Bolsheviks' revolutionary politics, this article suggests that socialism’s class universalism found affinity with those seeking secularism in response to religious tensions, a universalist politics where ethnic violence and sectarianism were exclusionary, and an ethnically neutral and tolerant “imperial” imaginary where Russification and geopolitics were particularly threatening or imperial cultural frameworks predominated. The claim is made that socialism’s class universalism was as much a product of ethnic particularism as it was constituted by it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-705
JournalAmerican Journal of Sociology
Volume114
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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