Like Alison, I want to begin by thanking Josh and Eric for allowing me to participate in this conversation. It was a pleasure to read this excellent book and, even more so, to have a chance to engage in this dialogue about it.
To begin, it was fascinating to see some of the issues I have worked on in German history through the very different perspective of Russian history. For example, while autocratic leanings and restrictive citizenship laws have often operated in tandem in Germany, some of Russia’s most autocratic leaders were the most invested in the “attract and hold” policy, which brought foreigners to Russian soil.
I found one of the most interesting parts of the book to be the impact that the sheer size of Russian territory and its near continuous expansion had on its citizenship laws and policies. The continued annexations that lasted well into the late 19th century made it attractive and, indeed, necessary for the Russian state to negotiate conditions of belonging for different newly acquired territories. In one striking case, the 1858 Treaty of Aigun recognized the Russian state’s weak hold on its far Eastern expanses, recognizing that its residents remained Chinese citizens, even while residing on Russian territory. While German historians can and have looked towards the annexations of small parcels of Danish territory in the 1860s and Alsace-Lorraine a few years later, the fact is that annexation was quantitatively and qualitatively different elsewhere on the European continent than it was in Russia.
From what I could tell, size seems to play less of a role in Soviet citizenship policies. And I was curious whether this was indeed the case. If so, why? And if not, how did the territorial expanse of the USSR continue to play a role in determining citizenship policy after the Bolsheviks came to power?
One other intriguing aspect of this book was the degree to which citizenship, throughout the imperial period and, in a different sense, after the formation of the Soviet Union, was a differential category. As Alison addressed, these separate deals and separate categories permeated citizenship law. Physical location, religion and occupation all played a role in rendering a dizzying array of different citizenships. Furthermore, in almost all cases, the responsibilities of citizenship were as, if not more, important than the rights accorded to citizens. As Eric makes clear, there were very important reasons for longterm resident foreigners to remain non-citizens, even after the path to citizenship was eased in 1864. Given that this was the case and that citizenship meant something so very different from what it meant even in the authoritarian Wilhelmine state, is this truly citizenship? In what ways does calling this citizenship help illuminate what is going on in Russia, and–in reverse–how does this work help to illuminate the broader literature on citizenship? Or is there a way to think of this tapestry of belonging in terms outside of the Western/European conception of citizenship?
As a German historian, some of my favorite parts of the book were to see the intersections between German and Russian law. For instance, the resonance of Germany’s Polish expulsions in the Russo-German relationship and in Russian citizenship practice was truly fascinating. Furthermore, as I have written in the past about the group of German workers who hoped to settle in Russia in 1920 to found a utopian socialist colony (it didn’t go well), it was great to see them have a cameo in this book.
Finally, I want to ask a couple more questions about the transition between the Imperial and Soviet periods. Eric is largely convincing that that the 1920s turn towards autoarky represented a significant break from Russian practice rather than a return to the imperial period’s policies. But why? Is this a question of a decisive difference in Bolshevik ideology or a consequence of the greater technological efficiency of the Soviet state? How much does this autoarchic turn relate to a broader interwar trend towards restrictive citizenship? One wonders here if Soviet policy in the 1930s is in anyway comparable to the differently autarchic Nazi state or if the two situations are so different that there is nothing to be gained from such a comparison?