In Internal Colonization: Russia's Imperial Experience, Etkind has aimed to show a new perspective of the cultural history of Russia. He states that he is determined to take the `risky task' of `incorporating different disciplines, voices, and periods' to create a wide-ranging history of the great empire.
In his introduction, he sets out the two widely accepted and incredibly contradictory views of Russia which have been discussed by students and scholars alike. The first of these is that Russia is a `great country that competes successfully, though unevenly, with other European powers', and the other is that Russia is a country rife with `economic backwardness, unbridled violence, misery, illiteracy, despair, and collapse'. Etkind states from the outset that he believes in both of these analyses of Russia, deeming it paramount to merge the two differing standpoints in order to create something closer to the truth.
The author has used many different quotes and opinions throughout, ranging from Russian historians to sociologists and experts on such constructs as Orientalism, in order to structure his writing. He also draws upon the outlooks of writers as diverse as Rudyard Kipling and Dostoevsky. Many other Russian authors have been woven throughout the text in order to reinforce points.
Internal Colonization is incredibly informative. Etkind outlines the enormous span of the Tsarist empire in his introduction in order to set the scene, and includes a wealth of information with regard to border disputes, revolts and the `imperial resurgence of post-Soviet Russia'. He has focused attention upon three main elements - the historical, cultural and political.
Within Internal Colonization, Etkind discusses the concept of internal colonisation within the framework of Russia, with regard to both classical and more modern definitions of the phrase. The book itself is split into four separate parts which deal with `The Non-Traditional Orient', `Writing from Scratch', `Empire of the Tsars' and `Shaved Man's Burden'. The first of these sections covers education, the language used in Russia, the class war and the concept of `worldliness', the second deals with what it means to `colonize oneself', the third `instability' and `negative hegemony' and the fourth with philosophy under Russian rule, sects and revolution.
References and dates of the more important events have been placed throughout the text, making this an extremely useful book for students. Illustrations have also been used throughout. Headings effectively split up each section and enable the reader to find exactly what they are looking for within the book.
Etkind spans a wide period within Internal Colonization and discusses Russia not just as a separate entity, but from a wider global context. It is an extremely interesting and informative book.
The book is an eclectic collection of themes with the overarching thesis that Russia's state over time is irreparably problematic. Which is of course a thinly disguised exercise in Russophobia - undermining Russia's sovereignty by way of stealthily distorted reading of its history. Readers should bear this in mind. And, the chapters on Russian literature are simply opinionated rubbish.