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History of constructing of political space and mobility: Political imagination, social practices and material infrastructure

Department: Center for Historical Research

The Projects consists of 2 parts: 1) «Constructing of political space in historical perspective: comparative-historical analysis»; 2) « Material infrastructures, regimes of mobility and technologies: transportation systems in historical perspective».

Part 1

The project was implemented as part of the HSE Basic research program.

1. Research object: This study deals with the specifics of the phenomena of political space in historical empires, the borderlines and borderline culture of the Baltic region primarily in early modern and modern period and the problems of border-creation in the environmental policy context.

2. Research purpose: studying diachronically the process of political space construction using the tools of political borderline, imperial nationality, scientific study and scientific exploration of space allow to reveal the role of the historical heritage of classical empires in shaping modern political and symbolic geography. The history of borders and borderline culture in the prospective of modernity in the Baltic region of Europe. The data from different historical epochs (primarily – the time of the drawing up of Early Modern states) gives us the opportunity to study the phenomena of moving/permeable (“mobile”) borders. These phenomena greatly influenced the plotting of cross-border regions.

3. Empirical base of the research: The “Porubezhnye acty” (Borederline Deeds) and Novgorodskye acty”(Novgorod Deeds) collections in the Research Archives, St.Petersburg Institute for History; Archives of Russian academy f Sciences

4. Research results:  1) studying the correlation of post-imperial and post-colonial history; 2) studying local particularities of post-imperial society development, reception of imperial ideas of national governing in breaking empires; 3) studying social history in shaping the borderlands of Early Modern states; 4) studying concrete particularities of ethnic and political history in the area of borderlands in Baltic space; 5) studying the possibilities for using social sciences methods (prosopography) in studying Early Modern Northern Europe

5. Implementation of the research results:  The obtained results are an important basis for a deeper comparative-historical study of political space construction in historical empires, and also of the phenomena of borderland in Early Modern period

6. International partners

Jane Burbank, University of New York, Professor of History\ http://history.fas.nyu.edu/object/janeburbank

Elisabeth Löfstrand, Stockholm University, Studiedirektor (http://www.slav.su.se/forskning/forskningsomraden/rusistik/elisabeth-lofstrand

Mark von Hagen, Arizona State University, Professor of History\ https://shprs.clas.asu.edu/directory/1099657

Part 2

1. Object of Research: commercialization of travel, transportation technologies and material infrastructures, guidebooks as travel literature and social and commercial institutions, the emergence of tourist industry in Russia in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century

2. Goal of Research: to study the emergence of different cultures of travel in Russian Empire and the perception of landscapes and how these process were connected to the development of transportation technologies and public services, focusing on the narrative strategies of the guidebooks

3. Empirical Base of Research: 373 Guidebooks, which were published in Russian language in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century

4. Results of Research:  Focusing on the travel guidebooks’ narrative as an instrument for establishing common knowledge of the particular territory and its inhabitants and for sustaining a powerful sense of belonging to that territory as a native land, the research project explored the close link between the processes of commercialization of travel, development of transportation technologies, knowledge production, and nation building.  Commercial travelers, vacationers, and later tourists formed a growing market for guidebooks. Supplying passengers with descriptions of sites, which were mixed with useful practical information on hotels and restaurants, authors of guidebooks recommended how to travel cheaply, advised what ought to be seen and how it should be appreciated.

The guidebooks contained detailed descriptions of historic and natural sites, including a variety of social groups and their occupations: peasants, coachmen, haulers, cattle drovers, craftspeople, merchants, and provincial nobility as well as a number of ethnic groups. It included an impressive amount of information on local geography, with particular attention to hydrographic system, agriculture, labor, trade and commerce.

Though in contrast to Murray’s and Baedeker’s guides, the copies of Russian guides were published in lesser numbers the emergence these guides also related to expansion of consumption, on the one hand, and nationalism, on the other hand. The authors of the guides addressed their narratives to readers from lower-income groups and taught them to consume time and space. The travel guides offered middle-class city dwellers an escape from the confines of their urban environment and experience of new vistas. The guides contributed to the rise of an emotional sense of a collective self and to the strengthening of new national ties that bound together geographical spaces, historical times, and people.

5. Level of implementation,  recommendations  on implementation or outcomes of the implementation of Results: The results on the research project were presented on the international conference; article’s manuscripts were prepared based on the results of the project. 

Field of application:Social sciences and Humanities, research and teaching process


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