Individuals, Institutions and Discourses: Knowledge and Power in Russia's Iranian Studies of the Late Imperial, Soviet and Post-Soviet Periods

  • Denis V. Volkov Middle Eastern Studies, University of Manchester
Keywords: Power/Knowledge, Iranian Studies, Soviet Oriental Studies, Russo-Iranian Relations


The scholarship on late Imperial Russia's Oriental studies is divided by a disagreement over the applicability of Edward Said's Orientalism to the Russian case. Moreover, in a broader sense, since the mid 1990s, Western scholarship has not been unanimous on the applicability of the underlying Foucauldian notions to late Imperial and Soviet Russia. While presenting a systematic study of Soviet and post-Soviet scholarship (mostly unfamiliar to Western readership), this article offers an assessment of the institutional and individual practices adopted within Russia's Oriental studies from the late nineteenth century to the present. The article aims to provide an analysis that goes far beyond the Saidian restrictive East-West dichotomy and his concept of two-vector relations between knowledge and state power. It offers a new reading, based on the deconstruction of the interplay of the manifold multi-vector power/knowledge relations that is clearly identifiable in Russia's long twentieth-century Iranian studies.

Author Biography

Denis V. Volkov, Middle Eastern Studies, University of Manchester

received his Ph.D. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Manchester, UK. After graduating from Moscow State University (MA in Oriental Studies) in 1995, he spent almost 15 years in Iran, working in the field of interstate economic cooperation between Russia and Iran. Now his research interests include the history and the present of Russian-Iranian relations, Russia’s Oriental studies, intellectual history, Russian and Iranian nationalism, and Russian émigrés after 1917.