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Struggle over Identity

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Nelly Bekus

Part I. Nation in Theory

Chapitre 1. Nation-Formation Strategies in Contemporary Nation-Studies

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1One of the problems of the studies of Belarusian post-communism transformation scenarios is the fact that the majority of them is based on several “basic truths” which, the longer they are used the more self-evident they become. One of these axiomatic truths of Belarusian post-communism implies lack of Belarusian national identity, which gave a stimulus to the rise of the Belarusian authoritarian regime. One of the obvious indications of this fundamental imperfection of the Belarusian nation is the destiny of political forces of its nationalism: downfall of their popularity in the 1990s, their candidates’ failure in the 1994 presidential elections—the only elections held in accordance with international standards, followed by their ousting to the outskirts of political scene. Even still, the political forces of nationalism are viewed as the sole legitimate carrier—representative and proponent of the Belarusian national idea. The weakness of the Belarusian national self-awareness is considered to be the reason for the defeat of po litical nationalist forces and for the failure of democratization in the 1990s.

  • 1 Major representative of the Belarusian political nationalism in present-day Belarus.
  • 2 “Demokratiia i natsionalism kak alfa i omega politicheskogo protsessa,” Adkrytaie gramadstva no. 2 (...)

2There is a certain logic behind this rhetoric. First, it implies that “the nation” comes out as a reality that exists behind the political scene and predetermines the outcome of the events on it. As the Belarusian political scientist Leonid Zlotnikov once noted, “The Belarusian People Front1 adheres to the mystical point of view on the nation’s existence. Nationalists consider a nation as some timeless abstract category.”2 An appeal of the nationalism’s political force to the national consciousness of Belarusians implies that the nation does exist, albeit in a sleeping, unarticulated state. Second, the Belarusian nationalist forces interpret the nation’s awakening and sometimes reduce it to reorientation of public consciousness from socialist values to liberal and democratic ones. This idea proceeds from the conviction that nationalism, liberalism, and democracy are essentially in terrelated. However, the question whether a nation exists prior to national movements or, on the contrary, nations are “produced” by these movements has no single answer in the theories of nation. The linkage between the nationalism and democratic liberalization is also often considered as questionable. Public discourses of nationalism and liberalism both promote societal cohesion, but they do so by different means and in the names of the different political objectives. The general logic in interrelation of these phenomena lies in the fact that a common awareness of belonging to a national unit seems to be a prerequisite for democratization. Precisely in this sense nationalism had to be conducive to democratization in the socialist countries. In this case nationalism turns out to be one of the attributes and instruments of democratization and liberalization of society. Following this logic, the fact of failed democratization in Belarus seems to serve as an argument that proves the Belarusian identity’s weakness.

3Acknowledgement of anti-Belarusian nature of the current Belarusian state derives logically from this assumption. The idea of the Republic of Belarus (governed by A. G. Lukashenka) as an antinational political formation, and an ideology, formulated by the official political discourse as anti-Belarusian is yet another “basic truth” of the Belarusian political opposition, which gained wide following among the Western researchers. The data presented by independent polls is a true paradox to this interpretation of Belarusian reality. It shows that the majority (a little more than a half to be precise) of the society supports the existing regime. This means that alongside the political authorities these Belarusians support, the majority of the people are excluded from the framework of “Be la rusian nation,” as defined in oppositional political discourse. Mean while, it has to be admitted that Belarusian authorities draw up the project of their legitimacy based on the national idea, postulating it as their project for the Belarusian nation. It is logical to presume that Belarusians, voting in favor of the existing regime, find themselves in the descriptions of Belarusian ness that are offered by the official discourse.

4At the same time, the disposition of political forces where nationalist parties find themselves in hard ideological confrontation with the country’s authorities can be seen as a direct confrontation of the “nation” (as Belarusian nationalists understand it) and the state. Some theorists, however (e.g., E. Gellner, E. Hobsbawm, J. Breuilly) declare that what constitutes the nation is the state.

5The answer to the questions about the ontological status of nation, its relation to the nationalist movement and the linkage between nationalism and democratic liberalization lay in the conceptual framework on which the phenomenon of nation and nationalism is placed. It was hardly possible to review all the existing theories of the national development and nationalism in this book. This chapter examines how theories that are most methodologically charged for analyzing a nation in the contemporary context work when applied to an analysis of emerging and developing of the Belarusian nation.

  • 3 “Small” nations are the nations that do not have a tradition of political independence and “were d (...)

6In the literature on nationalism, one can assume the modernist and the ethnocultural schools of thinking to be the most significant. A special place in the literature on Eastern European nationalism is occupied by Hroch’s publications in which he studies the phenomenon of “small” nations’ nationalism.3

7Fundamental distinction between the modernist and the ethnocultural theories is displayed in their approaches to a number of issues that are a matter of principle in comprehension of the nation. Above all, it is a formulation of a kind of “nation ontology”—whether a nation is an existing objective phenomenon or it belongs to the “imagined,” invented, constructed world. Representatives of the modernist school, under whose umbrella a number of significant theories of nation have been developed, emphasize the conscious construction of a nation, the function of nationalism as a political interest group and the subjectivity of national characteristics. For all major representatives of this school—Ernest Gellner, Be nedict Anderson, Eric Hobsbawm—it is characteristic to refuse to treat a nation and nationalism as something objectively given; for them, the nation is not only recent, it is novel, and is a product of the process of modernization.

  • 4 Anthony D. Smith, National Identity (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1991), 49.
  • 5 Smith, National Identity, 77.
  • 6 Smith, National Identity, 91–92.

8Within the ethnocultural school, represented by Anthony Smith, a nation is defined through objective characteristics that express ethnocultural identity. “Nation is a named human population sharing a historic territory, common myths and historical memories, a mass, public culture, a common eco no my and common legal rights and duties of all members.”4 “Nation” and “national,” in Smith’s concept, have a special authentic status; that is why “nationalism signifies the awakening of the nation and its members to its true collective ‘self,’ so that it, and they, obey only the ‘inner voice’ of the purified community.”5 At the same time A. Smith’s nationalism deals with the material of cultural identities and cultural nations, it is “a form of culture—an ideology, a language, a mythology, symbolism and consciousness—that has achieved global resonance and the nation is a type of identity whose meaning and priority is presupposed by this form of culture.”6

  • 7 Anthony D. Smith, Myths and Memories of the Nation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 14.
  • 8 Antonina Kłoskowska, Kultury narodowe u korzeni (Warsaw: PWN, 1996), 74.
  • 9 Hroch, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe, 3.
  • 10 Hroch, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe, 12.

9Smith realizes that one of the latent contradictions of his theory is the fact that the major symbolic and cultural elements of an ethnocultural approach (and its nation as a phenomenon of objective reality) belong to a subjective order, as they focus on the perceptions, memories, beliefs, and values of individuals and communities. He overcomes this contradiction explaining that the long-term patterning of these elements “produces a structure of relations and processes that is independent of those beliefs and perceptions, one which can provide a framework for the socialization of successive generations of ethnic and national members.”7 Nationalism, according to Smith, carries its power from the “real feelings” of peoples “rooted,” not least through “territorializing” forces of nationalism, in the social landscape of the modern world and its values. The idea of cultural nature of the nation was also developed by a Polish sociologist Antonina Kłoskowska. The language, political system, and practices of day-to-dayness are basic forms of a definite idea of nation manifestation. However, according to Kłoskowska, it is culture that predetermines an existence of the nation and the functioning of the symbolic culture is dependent on individual. Cultural symbols can only be actually realized in the relation of subject of cultures to them. Thus, in Kłoskowska’s view, “the issue of the nation in the historical perspective should be related to the consciousness of the people who experienced national culture in real life.”8 Hroch, on the contrary, defines the nation as an element of “real” order. In his book on social preconditions for nation-building he stresses the objective character of his concept of a nation. “In contrast with the subjectivist conception of the nation as the product of nationalism, the national will and spiritual forces, we posit the conception of the nation as a constituent of social reality of historical origin. We consider the origin of the modern nation as the fundamental reality and nationalism as a phenomenon derived from the existence of that nation.”9 For Hroch an existing nation is a natural community, joined with a relevant state of the collective mind: “national consciousness and objective relations between the members of a nation form an indivisible unity […] There is no modern nation without national consciousness, i.e. an awareness of membership in the nation, coupled with a view that this membership is an inherently valuable quality.”10 For all its political nature, nationalism’s task is to awaken the national consciousness and to implement in the political practice the natural aspirations of a nation to be shaped into a state. In this aspect Hroch’s interpretation of nationalism as a political ideology almost approaches the modernists’ point of view, according to which nationalism is a political instrument whereby national bourgeoisie “converts” wide popular masses.

10In this way, both M. Hroch and A. Smith ontologically define the nation in terms of objective reality, thus opposing their concept to that of modernist’s nation as consciously constructed. At the same time, the instrumental part of the definition of nationalism as a political ideology in Hroch’s interpretation to a great extent coincides with how Hobsbawm and other modernists see it—nationalism is a political ideology aimed at awakening wide masses.

  • 11 Hroch, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe, 23.
  • 12 Hroch, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe, 12.
  • 13 Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983), 48–49.

11Hroch describes the three fundamental phases of the national movement: Phase A (the period of scholarly interest), Phase B (the period of patriotic agitation), and Phase C (the rise of a mass national movement).11 Symbolic culture is the order in which Smith’s nationalism finds its place; however, in Hroch’s scheme it is present just at the first stage of nationalism development, at the time when learned researchers of Phase A “discover” the ethnic group and lay the basis of a “national identity.” A modern nation-building process starts with the collection of information about the history, language, and customs of the non-dominant ethnic group, which later becomes the important element in patriotic agitation. This intellectual activity and its subject-matter—elements of symbolic culture and history—also have instrumental meaning for Hroch in the political process of nation-building. At the same time, he posits a nation’s existence as independent of the nationalist movement, and in this sense a nation-building process is a process of national awakening seen as an indication of the national interest that had existed before and outside nationalism: “national ideology is effective where it reflects (even though in a merely illusory fashion) the interests of the groups to which it makes its appeal, or contains at least in part the kind of programme which is close to their in terests.”12 With this definition of the nation as existing and expressing itself through national striving instead of being engendered by it and being its creation, Hroch again opposes modernism. For Gellner, however, as well as for Hobsbawm, “nations as a natural, God-given way of classifying men, as an inherent […] political destiny, are myths; nationalism, which sometimes invents them, and often obliterates pre-existing cultures: that is a reality.”13

  • 14 John Hutchinson, The Dynamics of Cultural Nationalism: The Gaelic Revival and the Creation of Iris (...)
  • 15 Walker Connor, “Nation-Building or Nation-Destroying?” World Politics 24 (1972): 319–55.
  • 16 Smith, Myths and Memories of the Nation, 10.
  • 17 Miroslav Hroch, “From National Movement to the Fully-formed Nation: The Nation-Building Process in (...)
  • 18 Hroch, “From National Movement to the Fully-formed Nation,” 79.

12Another line of divergence between theories of nation is the status of the past in the nation’s present. Modernists negate any connection and continuity between a modern nation and its pre-modern tradition, the nations for them are modern phenomena and the product of nationalist ideologies, which themselves are expression of modern, industrial society. In this perspective, nations are embedded in purely modern conditions. Although nationalists are free to use the past and elements of symbolic culture for the ideological purposes, they are not restricted by any “reality of the past.” At the same time, ideas developed by ethnosymbolists or historic culturalists—such as A. D. Smith, J. Hutchinson14 and W. Connor15— effectively convince that the nation cannot afford to get rid of its past and neglect its origins. From this point of view, modern nationhood, even with its alleged “break with the past” (which means introducing and allowing standardization to face the demands of modernity), also confronts the need of rescuing or rediscovering cultural originality. Moreover, as An tho ny Smith writes, it is the sense of common past and a shaped destiny that serves as the ideological motor driving the modern state forward. A central theme of historical ethno-symbolism, in Smith’s view, is “the relationship of shared memories to collective cultural identities: memory, almost by definition, is integral to cultural identity, and the cultivation of shared memories is essential to the survival and destiny of such collective identities.”16 In this respect, Hroch again is closer to Smith’s ideas, as he in scribes the past and the memory into the definition of a nation. Ac cording to him, a nation is integrated by a combination of several kinds of objective relati onships and their subjective reflection in collective consciousness. The first of them is “a ‘memory’ of some common past, treated as a ‘destiny’ of the group—or at least of its core constituent.”17 Two others are “the density of linguistic or cultural ties enabling a high degree of social communication and a conception of the equality of all members of the group organized as a civil society.”18

  • 19 Hroch, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe, 174; Karl W. Deutsch, Nationalism and S (...)
  • 20 Hroch, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe, 174.

13Social communication, according to Hroch, is especially meaningful in the process of political nation-building, in his observation “the national movement was taken up most enthusiastically on the part of the territory of a small nation which displayed the highest relative level of social communication.”19 In this case the level of development and intensity of the social communication in society is connected with the transition to capitalism, as Hroch claims, the main instrument of the communication process “were the market relationships which developed out of a small scale commodity production, and only secondarily the development of the educational system.”20

14Following this logic of strict correlation between the national development and the capitalist transition Hroch specifies several individual types of the national development in dependence of the phase of the industrial and historical development of society at the moment when “national awakening” takes place. These are “integrated,” “delayed,” “early,” and “disintegrated” types of national development.

15In an integrated state the industrial revolution starts before the bourgeois revolution and occurs at a time when national agitation is already taking place. The national movement attains a mass character during or shortly after the revolution.

  • 21 Hroch, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe, 28.
  • 22 The analysis of the Belarusian national development in the context of Hroch’s theory: Yaroslav Shi (...)
  • 23 Hroch, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe, 27–30.

16What was characteristic for this type was that the newly formed modern nation relatively quickly gained a complete class structure and worked out its national programme in the course of the revolution. In a delayed state of the national development, national agitation emerged before the political revolution and the industrial revolution, but the transition to Phase C, the mass national movement, was delayed, so it first took place when the class-conscious proletariat was already organized, or even after the coming of the working-class movement. The formation of the modern nation therefore took place belatedly […] Whether this phase-shift was caused by uneven economic development on the territory […] patriotic agitation in these cases became intimately involved in the crystallized class contradictions of capitalist society.21 To illustrate this type of national development Hroch gives the example of Latvia and Slovakia, but Belarus also fits this category.22 In an early state the nation is formed before the bourgeois revolution, and this process could well be completed even before the industrial revolution. Finally, in a disintegrated state national agitation begins after the bourgeois revolution and the coming of industrial revolution; as a result national movements of this type enter the mass phase very late or not at all.23

  • 24 Ernest Gellner, “The Coming of Nationalism and Its Interpretation: The Myths of Nation and Class,” (...)

17According to Hroch, a nation is an attribute of building capitalism, and this is characteristic not only for the nation-building process of the nineteenth century, but also for the developments in late twentieth-century Eastern Europe. As Gellner writes, the basic logic of Hroch’s approach “is to relate nationalism to a single and stark transition, namely, that from preindustrial to capitalist society.”24 At the same time, Gellner notes lack of interest in Hroch’s works to the implication for nationalism of the transition from capitalist to socialism. Gellner admits that Hroch’s standpoint is congruent with his own idea that nationalism is directly connected with industrialization.

  • 25 Gellner, “The Coming of Nationalism and Its Interpretation,” 111.
  • 26 Gellner, “The Coming of Nationalism and Its Interpretation,” 109.
  • 27 Gellner, “The Coming of Nationalism and Its Interpretation,” 107.
  • 28 Gellner, “The Coming of Nationalism and Its Interpretation,” 109–10.

18In Gellner’s theory a nation is interpreted as a peculiar necessity for structurization and standardization of society which had historically emerged in the epoch of industrial society: “Industrial society […] could hardly be organized on any base other than national one.”25 Industrial society requires standardization, because at this precisely historical stage “the formal rules of operation of the society, at work and in politics, both permit and, above all, require members of the society to have the same culture.”26 In Gellner’s interpretation the concept of nation can exist only in the context of the state, and it has a cultural nature. The logic of a nation’s emergence is described by Gellner as an expansion of high culture trigge red by the objective course of the industrial revolution. The new epoch brought about transformation in the nature of labor, “work has become semantic, and work requires impersonal context-free communication between individuals, members of broad mass. This can only be done if the members of that broad mass share the same rules for formulating and decoding messages. In other words, they must share the same culture. And it will be a high culture, for this standardized skill can only be acquired in formal schooling.”27 That is why an especially important role in nation formation is assigned to the state, because only the state “can perform the task of quality control in this most important of all industries, that is the production of socially acceptable, industrially operational human beings.”28

  • 29 Gellner, “The Coming of Nationalism and Its Interpretation,” 110.
  • 30 Gellner, Nations and Nationalism, 1.

19Nation-states Gellner defines as political units systematically and proudly differentiated from each other by culture. “Given the competition of various states for overlapping catchment areas, the only way a given culture can protect itself against another one, which already has its particular protector-state, is to acquire one of its own, if it does not already possess one.”29 In this context nationalism means “a principle which holds that the political and national unit should be congruent,”30 a basic thesis for many proponents of the modernist school of nation-state. Thus, a nation is de fined as a product of nationalism expressed in a cultural form and inculcated in the industrial development of society. According to Gellner, nation-building means not so much awakening of the nation to self-consciousness, but the invention of it. Dependent on the particulars of the political tradition, this process takes place with a greater or lesser degree of national propagandists’ participation. Nation-building inevitably results in creation of a homogeneous standardized national culture that coincides with the borders of state and is created with its direct participation.

  • 31 Eric J. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 9–10.
  • 32 Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 10.

20Eric Hobsbawm also sees nations as dynamic constructs of historical capitalism. A few assumptions are critical for his concept of the nation: following Gellner, he defines “nationalism” as a principle that holds that political and national unit should be matching; therefore, a “nation” is a social entity only insofar as it relates to a certain kind of a modern national state, the “nation-state.” According to Hobsbawm, nations and their associated phenomena must be analyzed in terms of political, technical, administrative, economic, and other conditions and requirements.31 Also, like Gellner, Hobsbawm stresses the element of artifactual invention and social engine ering that enters into the making of the nation, but he also considers nations as “dual phenomena constructed essentially from the above, but which cannot be understood unless also analysed from below […] in terms of the assumptions, hopes, needs, longings and interests of ordinary people.”32

  • 33 Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution 1789–1848 (New York : Mentor, 1962), 170.

21In the historical perspective of nationalism-making Hobsbawm distinguishes two stages, with their own types of nationalism: an earlier nineteenth-century mass civic-political and a late-nineteenth-century divisive ethnolinguistic nationalism. The rise of a state-creating modern nationalism, he suggests, was principally a product of the need of capitalist elites to control the recently mobilized and enfranchised masses through the use of national invented traditions. The great proponents of nation-building in Europe were “the lower and middle professional, administrative and intellectual strata, in other words, the educated strata.”33

  • 34 Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Capital, 1848–1875 (London: Cardinal, 1988), 107.
  • 35 Jim Mac Laughlin, Reimagining the Nation-State. The Contested Terrains of Nation-Buildings (London (...)
  • 36 Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 34.
  • 37 Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire (New Delhi: Rupta Publications, 1992), 73.
  • 38 Eric J. Hobsbawm, “Some Reflections on the Break-up of Britain,” New Left Review 105 (1977): 4.

22The decisive importance of the institutions and culture of the ruling classes or the educated elites for Hobsbawm was the criterion of what he terms “historic” nationhood.34 The basis of this sense of nationhood was economic and political, and not necessarily “ethnic.” He goes on to imply that small nations (he uses the example of the Irish nation), were “unhistorical” or “semi-historical.” This position makes Hobsbawm one of the strongest advocates of “big-nation” nationalism, who, “like other champions of the ‘big-nation,’ assumed that the nation must not be only national—it must also be ‘progressive’.”35 Indeed, in Hobsbawm’s view, nation-building in the nineteenth century was a prerogative of major capitalist states. The fate of small nations was to live the consequences of big nation making, and even more, they “had everything to gain by merging into greater nations, and making their contributions to humanity through this.”36 In this case their own requirements were considered as regressive and irrational, being against “the law of progress.” The requirement of the right of self-determination pronounced by small nations could be assessed as attempts of Western Europe “Balkanization” before major state-nations are able to manifest their possibilities of modernization.37 At the same time, according to Hobsbawm, building of big and progressive nation-states in no way was an aim in itself: “such nations were the building blocks of world capitalism during a lengthy period of its development, and with it of bourgeois society in the ‘developed’ world […] They represented that crucial element—the creation of internal conditions (e.g. ‘a national market’) and the external conditions for the development of the ‘national economy’ through state organization and action. The case for such nation-state was not nationalist in the current sense, inasmuch as it did not envisage a world of nation-states irrespective of size and resources, but only one viable state of medium to a large size.”38

  • 39 Mac Laughlin, Reimagining the Nation-State, 103–4.

23Thus, Hobsbawm gives a clear impression of being opposed to separatist nationalism perse. He sees ideological significance of nationalism in small nations, which did not have a powerful national industrial middle class or well-organized industrial proletariat, as expressed in the progress of church-building, in the spread of elementary education, in the success of the provincial press, and in the improvements in any means of communication that could bring ordinary people out of their parochial worlds and lead them on to the “institutional” or “procedural landscape” of the modern nation-state.39 In his later texts Hobsbawm describes the period between 1880 and 1918 as a new phase of modern nationalism. There are a few particularities that distinguish this new nationalism from the “historical nation-building.” Here no longer works the “threshold” principle— when in the new conditions a body of people, provided they consider themselves a nation, could now claim the right of self-determination. Besides, language, ethnicity, or religion now became the decisive criteria of potential nationhood.

  • 40 Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 142.

24The next period, between 1918 and 1950, Hobsbawm describes as the apogee of nationalism, because it was dominated by the nationalism of established nation-states. This period saw essential changes in the technology of formation and expression of the national identity related to the rise of new mass-media—the press, cinema, and the radio. New technologies and means of communication brought about new possibilities in bridging the gap between the private and the public worlds, or, as he writes, in making “what were in effect national symbols, part of the life of every individual.”40

25The education system, electronic mass media, and civil rituals, in Hobs bawm’s concept, played a crucial role in translation of the political ideo logy of nationalism to the level of individual perception and receptivity. Hobsbawn, like Gellner, attributed a critical role in the national identity formation to the state; nationalism for him is a dual phenomenon—a political ideology and a subjective conviction. At the same time, an individual for him is not just some raw material in the production of the subjects of the nation, but also an independent agent of nation-building that possesses his own private territory and is able to react to the national propaganda in various ways.

  • 41 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1983), 6–7. Cited in Mac Laughlin, Reimagi (...)

26The subjective nature of the concept of the nation is even stronger ex pressed in the theory of Benedict Anderson. According to Anderson, the nation is ‘an imagined political community’ which developed in the aftermath of the French revolution and during the course of the industrial and commercial revolutions. “It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation can never hope to meet all their fellow members. Never theless, in the mind of each citizen there resides an image of the national community tied together, usually by a common history, a shared geography or national territory, a common culture, common religion and common language.”41 Thus, according to Anderson, nations were historical and geographical creations whose imagining was conditioned by the historical and geographical circumstances in which they developed.

  • 42 Mac Laughlin, Reimagining the Nation-State, 99.

27At the same time, nations as imagined communities, each with its own style of life and thinking, were also building blocks of modernity and territorial expressions of national capitalism. It is no accident that the beginning of the nationalism’s development is related to Western Europe. It coincided with the emergence of the national bourgeoisie in these countries. Nations “happen” when and where people-as-creators of the nation can imagine themselves as a part of the nation, and as a part of national collectivity. It is the bourgeoisie who “invited” the masses into history. Anderson, like many other students of nationalism, stresses the role of nationalists who are responsible for the way and style of imagining nation. Indeed, acknowledgement of the bourgeoisie’s role as the main force of nationalism became a sort of cross-theory truth. For B. Anderson—as for E. Hobsbawm, A. Smith, and others—the progress of nationalism was intimately bound up with the emergence of secularized middle-class intelligentsia. A special meaning is given by Anderson to the merger of capitalism with the print technology in the late eighteen and early nineteenth centuries, which gave birth to print capitalism both as an industry and as a mass medium. It created a possibility of a new form of imagined community that was completely different from the great global communities of the past. “The old everyday certainties of pre-modern life—belief in an afterlife, acceptance of loss of freedom, belief in the rights of monarchies and landed elites—became meaningless. The new thought was spread chiefly through the secular channels of newspapers and other products of print capitalism. These in turn made possible a new form of ‘imagined community,’ the nation.”42 Unlike other modernists, Anderson sees nationalism not as a political ideology comparable to other ideologies, but rather, as an integrative belief system.

  • 43 Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 110.
  • 44 Anderson, Imagined Communities, 134.
  • 45 In this context it is worthwhile to mention the concept of Antonina Kłoskowska who wrote that, tho (...)

28Anderson also emphasizes the language issue. For Hobsbawm, for in stance, linguistic nationalism has an applied, and in essence a political meaning. “At all events problems of power, status, politics and ideology and not of communication or even culture, lie at the heart of the nationalism of language,”43 Hobsbawm writes in Nations and Nationalism since 1780. For Anderson the language plays a more meaningful role. It is an expression of a particular closeness of national relations, it is both intimate and natural. And despite its intimacy, it identifies a form of collective membership that can be acquired. “What limits one’s access to other languages is not their imperviousness but one’s own mortality […] Seen as both a historical fatality and as a community imagined through language, the nation presents itself as simultaneously open and closed.”44 Our existence, in Anderson’s opinion, is largely determined by the language, and that is why print capitalism had a decisive meaning in the determination of a social being in the modern world. “Print-language is what invents nationalism, not a particular language per se.”45 Print-languages were national and they mapped out the terrain upon which the modern nation-state was constructed. They served to the unification of disunited societies, creating homogeneous territories, at least vernacularly.

  • 46 Anderson, Imagined Communities, 184–5.

29Similarly to Gellner and Hobsbawm, Anderson assigned a special role in nation formation to the state. The state certainly has been directly and indirectly responsible for fostering whole new styles of “imagining,” which in turn have helped construct “imagined communities” of nations all across Asia and Africa. This is because the modern state has not merely aspired “to create, under its control, a human landscape of perfect visibility.”46 The modern state fostered new ways of becoming “visible;” it gave everyone and everything within the state’s domain a label, a serial number, a place or a name, and it thereby made everyone, and everything, highly visible in the procedural landscape of the modern nation-state. These styles of “imagining” were products of the new system for monitoring and itemizing people in the procedural or “programmed” landscapes of the modern nation-state and its territorial possessions.

  • 47 Mac Laughlin, Reimagining the Nation-State, 228.

30Viewed in this context, the modern “imagined community” of the nation was not just a cultural construct, as Jim Mac Laughlin writes; it was a scientific construct because it became a product of census collection, cartography, land surveying, and the relentless driving force of modern—and increasingly national—capitalism. Anderson describes the essence and role of these processes in the context of nation-building using examples from post-colonial countries in the Third World from the 1950s on. But the meaning of Anderson’s theory exceeds the boundaries of the time and region. Similar processes could be observed in other countries and in different times: mapping the nation and collecting data on its population size and distribution were not just exercises in cartography and demography. They made visible the basic outline of the nation as a territory and as a social formation. “Cartography and the collection of statistics […] equip ped nation-builders with the means whereby they could ‘imagine’ and literally ‘visualise’ the modern […] nation for the first time.”47 The meaning of Anderson’s concept is not only in its definition of the nation as imagined community, it also enables us to reconsider the sense of the articulation of the national identity. Thus, Anderson demonstrates that imaginative power of nation-building agents was exerted at different levels. It was promoted and maintained through the labor and discursive practice of a whole range of players, institutions, and social groups, including the press and the political establishment.

Notes

1 Major representative of the Belarusian political nationalism in present-day Belarus.

2 “Demokratiia i natsionalism kak alfa i omega politicheskogo protsessa,” Adkrytaie gramadstva no. 2 (11) (2001), http://data.minsk.by/opensociety/2.01/5.html.

3 “Small” nations are the nations that do not have a tradition of political independence and “were dominated by a ruling class of more or less alien nationality,” and they “were in subjection to a ruling nation for such a long period that the relation of subjection took on a structural character for both parties.” Miroslav Hroch, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe. A Comparative Analysis of the Social Composition of Patriotic Groups among the Smaller European Nations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 8–9.

4 Anthony D. Smith, National Identity (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1991), 49.

5 Smith, National Identity, 77.

6 Smith, National Identity, 91–92.

7 Anthony D. Smith, Myths and Memories of the Nation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 14.

8 Antonina Kłoskowska, Kultury narodowe u korzeni (Warsaw: PWN, 1996), 74.

9 Hroch, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe, 3.

10 Hroch, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe, 12.

11 Hroch, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe, 23.

12 Hroch, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe, 12.

13 Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983), 48–49.

14 John Hutchinson, The Dynamics of Cultural Nationalism: The Gaelic Revival and the Creation of Irish Nation State (London: Allen and Unwin, 1987).

15 Walker Connor, “Nation-Building or Nation-Destroying?” World Politics 24 (1972): 319–55.

16 Smith, Myths and Memories of the Nation, 10.

17 Miroslav Hroch, “From National Movement to the Fully-formed Nation: The Nation-Building Process in Europe” in Mapping the Nation, ed. G. Balakrishnan (London: Verso, 1996), 79.

18 Hroch, “From National Movement to the Fully-formed Nation,” 79.

19 Hroch, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe, 174; Karl W. Deutsch, Nationalism and Social Communication. An Enquiry into the Foundations of Nationality (Cambridge: MA, 1953).

20 Hroch, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe, 174.

21 Hroch, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe, 28.

22 The analysis of the Belarusian national development in the context of Hroch’s theory: Yaroslav Shimov, “Belorussia: Vostochnoevropeiskii paradoks,” Neprikosnovennyi zapas no. 3 (47) (2006), http://magazines.russ.ru/nz/2006/47/sh11.html. Main conclusion he makes is that development of the Belarusian nation compared to other nations in the Eastern Europe looks as somewhat slowed.

23 Hroch, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe, 27–30.

24 Ernest Gellner, “The Coming of Nationalism and Its Interpretation: The Myths of Nation and Class,” in Mapping the Nation, ed. G. Balakrishnan (London: Verso, 1996), 135.

25 Gellner, “The Coming of Nationalism and Its Interpretation,” 111.

26 Gellner, “The Coming of Nationalism and Its Interpretation,” 109.

27 Gellner, “The Coming of Nationalism and Its Interpretation,” 107.

28 Gellner, “The Coming of Nationalism and Its Interpretation,” 109–10.

29 Gellner, “The Coming of Nationalism and Its Interpretation,” 110.

30 Gellner, Nations and Nationalism, 1.

31 Eric J. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 9–10.

32 Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 10.

33 Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution 1789–1848 (New York : Mentor, 1962), 170.

34 Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Capital, 1848–1875 (London: Cardinal, 1988), 107.

35 Jim Mac Laughlin, Reimagining the Nation-State. The Contested Terrains of Nation-Buildings (London: Pluto, 2001), 112.

36 Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 34.

37 Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire (New Delhi: Rupta Publications, 1992), 73.

38 Eric J. Hobsbawm, “Some Reflections on the Break-up of Britain,” New Left Review 105 (1977): 4.

39 Mac Laughlin, Reimagining the Nation-State, 103–4.

40 Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 142.

41 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1983), 6–7. Cited in Mac Laughlin, Reimagining the Nation-State, 97.

42 Mac Laughlin, Reimagining the Nation-State, 99.

43 Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 110.

44 Anderson, Imagined Communities, 134.

45 In this context it is worthwhile to mention the concept of Antonina Kłoskowska who wrote that, though the language is undoubtedly a very important element of nationness, “one cannot reduce participation in the nation to the direct communication and content transferred through it. The participation requires presence of imagined meanings and active semiotic factors” Kłoskowska, “Kultury narodowe u korzeni,” 108.

46 Anderson, Imagined Communities, 184–5.

47 Mac Laughlin, Reimagining the Nation-State, 228.

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