Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Subjectivity of Colonialism

While there are objective criteria that define colonial relationships such as alien political control and economic exploitation there is also a subjective element. That is a group of people have to feel that they are colonized and  demonstrate opposition to their political rule by outsiders. Hence far more people have argued that the relationship between England and Ireland was colonial than have posited a colonial relationship between England and Scotland. The existence of systems where outside political domination of ethnically distinct territories exists, but other defining factors of colonialism such as economic exploitation or a subjective view of being colonized do not exist might be defined as semi-colonial. The remaining US territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean such as Guam, Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands seem to be semi-colonial.


Walt Richmond said...

I think maybe the Finnic peoples of Russia fit into this category, too. I've seen very little on resistance to Russian control in their territories.

J. Otto Pohl said...

It depends which Finnic people you mean. I assume you mean the Volga Finns and not people from Finland or Estonia where there was significant resistance to both Tsarist and Soviet rule.

I would also classify the Central Asian republics under Soviet rule as being semi-colonial. They supported membership in the USSR in large part because they benefited economically from it. But, ultimate political power rested in Moscow and largely in the hands of ethnic Russians like Brezhnev.

Walt Richmond said...

Yeah, Volga Finns is what I had in mind.

Wasn't there a general, small-scale, rebellion against Soviet rule in Central Asia all the way into the '30s? Also, as I recall thousands migrated to China to avoid collectivization. That's actually a topic that I haven't seen much written on, although it would be interesting to put into the overall context of forced migration at Russian hands.

J. Otto Pohl said...

Walt: There were various rebellions by the Basmachi against Soviet rule from about 1918-1931. But, after that there was almost no opposition. In the post-WWII era there are is no dissident movement in the region other than those among the deported peoples. A large number of Kazakhs did flee to China in the 1930s and a large number of them returned in the 1950s and 1960s. Bruce Adams did some work on this repatriation in the years just before he died.