In This Review

Laboratory of Socialist Development: Cold War Politics and Decolonization in Soviet Tajikistan
Laboratory of Socialist Development: Cold War Politics and Decolonization in Soviet Tajikistan
By Artemy M. Kalinovsky
Cornell University Press, 2018, 336 pp
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How did the Soviet Union mobilize for modernization and industrialization after Joseph Stalin died, in 1953, and the communist leadership ceased to rely on terror and mass forced labor? In researching grand projects in Soviet Tajikistan, such as the construction of the Nurek Dam, Kalinovsky discovered that leaders grew more careful in order to avoid the disastrous consequences of Stalin’s ruthless industrialization. They repeatedly revised their plans, as well, when they learned that their presumptions were wrong: for instance, when they realized that Central Asian peasants were not anxious to move to cities. Kalinovsky’s illuminating book puts special emphasis on the ironies, contradictions, and tensions involved in Soviet modernization. Despite the communist state’s staunch anticolonialism and anti-imperialism, its policies in Central Asia acquired an unmistakable imperial quality. One example was the attempt to bring kulturnost to far-flung territories by introducing “civilized” behavioral norms and European art forms. As the Soviet Union collapsed, the Soviet-educated intelligentsia of the newly independent Central Asian states complained about the loss of their culture: a classic postcolonial grievance.