Academic Interests

My main research interest centres on the Kuban’ Cossacks, an ethnocultural community based in and around the modern-day Krasnodar region in southern Russia. My doctoral thesis sought to explore whether theories of nationalism might shed light on the Cossack revival on the Kuban’ in the latter stages of the previous century, and concluded that these Cossacks can indeed usefully be understood as a small nation. As I recently argued in Nationalities Papers, this raises interesting implications for our understanding of nation-formation processes in the Former Soviet Union, and in particular suggests we have been perhaps over-reliant on the legacy of Soviet nationalities policies in shaping the post-Soviet ethno-geographic space.

The next academic project I would like to pursue concerns the maintenance of Kuban’ Cossack identity in emigration. Many Cossacks left Russia as it became clear the Reds were going to win the Civil War. Groups settled throughout Europe, some travelling further afield to North and South America. In 2007, the last major community of Kuban’ Cossacks in emigration, based in Howell, New Jersey, handed back to the Russian community the pre-Imperial Kuban’ Cossack regalia. It is tempting to interpret this event as the symbolic culmination of the diaspora’s role in maintaining identity pending a return to the homeland, and this indeed seems to be a widespread view in Russia. However, identity is not static, whether in emigration or in the homeland, and the process seems to me to merit close investigation.

I also have an interest in the output of the author V.I. Likhonosov. He began his career associated with the Village Prose school of Russian authors, being closely allied to Valentin Rasputin. It is tempting to label Likhonosov’s novel Nash Malen’kii Parizh (Our Little Paris) in fact as “Stanitsa prose” – a stanitsa being a Cossack village, but although it deals with some of the same themes, it does so on a much larger canvas. Published during the 1980s, it chronicles Kuban’ Cossack history from the nineteenth century to the 1960s, and was arguably a significant stimulus to the Cossack revival (not that the Cossack activists themselves wish to acknowledge this).