Institute for the Humanities Dissertation Seminar: Nikolai Yadrintsev and the Case of the Three Karakorums: ‘Nomadic Archaeology’ as a Language of Integration

Date / Time

November 17, 2021

2:00 pm - 4:00 pm


Ismael Biyashev, Department of History
2021-2022 Resident Graduate Scholar

Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, from 2-4 p.m., via Zoom
Zoom link here 

Nikolai Yadrintsev and the Case of the Three Karakorums: ‘Nomadic Archaeology’ as a Language of Integration

Please contact for pre-circulated paper.

My wider dissertation project is framed by and seeks to explain, the paradoxical rise of “nomadic archaeology” in the Russian Empire in the mid 19th century, which emerged from the ostensible incompatibility of the two phenomena: nomadism and archaeology. Turn-of-the-century science generally understood nomads and nomadic cultures as “primitive”, “transient”, and implicitly incapable of historicity. Meanwhile, archaeology as a science aimed precisely to prove the historical rootedness and historicity of a given group through “objective” material evidence. In the case of the Russian Empire there was an added element of complexity, as nomads– the “atavistic survivals” of bygone eras- were also a part of the diverse mix of imperial subjects with competing agendas and visions of the future in a rapidly modernizing polity.

“The Case of the Three Karakorums”  highlights the attempts of a group of exile-scholars based in Siberia, calling themselves Regionalists [Oblastniki] ] to conceive of and instrumentalize the XIII-century “nomadic site” of Karakorum, the capital of Genghis Khan’s heirs in Mongolia in their wider project of constructing a regional identity and “deep history” for Siberia. I show how the Regionalists’ understanding of nomadism as an archaeological issue influenced their methods of interacting with, and interpreting, archaeological artifacts. On the basis of this case, I also elucidate the vision of the Siberian Regionalists’ imagined space of empire. I demonstrate the potential and the limits of “nomadic archaeology” as a language of modernity, as it appeared in the context of the identarian project of Siberian Oblastnichestvo.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email