This conversation in Stedelijk Studies is an adaptation of an earlier interview published by Jap Sam Books in Beginning in the Middle: Conversations on the Post-Soviet (December 2022). As part of that publication, it is a critical reflection of the knowledge gained from speaking with and researching several artists working from different yet historically related geographies and perspectives: Azerbaijan, Dagestan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.[i]
The black text was written in September 2021, while the red text reflects our additions and adaptations for the Stedelijk Studies Journal, Issue 12: Diaspora in June 2022.
The work of Alexander Ugay (1978, Kazakhstan) transcends artistic mediums while exploring boundaries of time, place, and memory. His works tend to reveal a tension within the “object”: between a part that is present, a materialized, collective, and ideologized object of memory, vis-à-vis a part that is absent, immaterial, personal, and affective. The first conversation with Alexander Ugay took place in September 2021 and mentioned “disrupted” figures and pathways due to the Korean diaspora. This adapted version delves deeper into the shape of these figures and pathways and reflects on the history of deportations in the Soviet Union. The contribution explores the works of Ugay, one of which Disturbing Construction (Obscuration #7) (2017) became part of the Stedelijk collection in 2021, and simultaneously aims to situate his works within the literature of memory studies and trauma related to imperial rule in general, and Soviet-Korean lives and stories more specifically.
The conversation attempts to disrupt and disturb as delicately as the work of Ugay himself by being more than an interview—revealing the thoughts of our own, layers of different times and conversations with the artist, complemented by pieces of writing by others—and no less than a critical essay or reflection on the complexity of post-Soviet (hi)stories of art. (Hi)stories that are everything but clear-cut and have been left unnoticed far too long, yet are from people whose experience and subtleties we can never completely comprehend, translate, or squeeze into the stories and narratives familiar to us.[ii] It is an attempt, nevertheless, to clarify and unravel; an experiment in which questions and answers, rewritten over time, enable a process of rethinking. In that vein, it is tuned to a modality of the “re-”: not only to return, but to “rehearsal, reversal, rewinding, repairing, renewing, reacquiring, redistributing, readjusting, reallocating,” as presented by Ariella Aïsha Azoulay in her Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism.[iii]
By approaching Ugay’s work from this modality, the conversation touches on the in-betweenness of diasporic communities and the unruly condition of what it means to be (post-)Soviet for people with affective and material ties to Korea in the 21st century.
Elsbeth Dekker & Robbie Schweiger: We must admit that we had a hard time getting our heads around your practice and finding the vocabulary for it. The two following quotes, which we found rather clarifying, helped us to formulate the questions for this interview.
“Ugay strives to make his films into investigations of the spaces of personal and collective memory, the transformation of reality under the pressure of time’s flux, and the structure and topology of cultural territories.”[iv]
“[Ugay’s] concentration on the medium opens up access to realities beyond its boundaries, which, in turn, reveal specific and not always obvious qualities of this medium.”[v]
Drawing on these quotes, could you tell us more about your exploration of the medium?
Alexander Ugay: Well, three points are important to me. First, the medium is the message. While this adage suggests that the medium hides nothing more than it shows, I believe the invisible part of the medium is an extremely important element. If we compare an analogue photo to a crutch, for example, then a digital photo is a prosthesis that belongs to the dark anatomy of this enlarged body. While we often understand how technology operates, we don’t really consider how the dark or invisible parts of the medium affect our perception and consciousness.
The second point is that the medium contains a promise. For me, this is connected with time, or rather with progress—the storm blowing from Paradise, according to Walter Benjamin, propelling the Angel of History into the future.[vi] The procedural nature of progress implies that the latest media, as well as outdated ones, sooner or later turn into ruins; embodying unfulfilled promises from the past, constantly replaced by the needs and desires of the present.
Thirdly, the medium has intentionality. This differs from progress in the sense that technical media are inhuman by nature and the images they produce are not made by hands or, so to say, by human demands. I consider the medium not only as a means, but a body, a thing, if you will, consisting not of molecules but of images. This spatiotemporal entity has weight, length, fate, and memory, and you need to build relationships with it.
Fig. 1 Alexander Ugay, exhibition views, Model for the Assembly, 175 Gallery, Seoul, 2013. Installation, digital prints, 130 x 700 cm. Courtesy of the artist.
ED & RS: Model for the Assembly (2012) reveals those layers of the medium next to images of the Korean diaspora: historical figures (Korean emperors, Marx, Engels, Stalin), deportations, Sputnik, the Moscow Olympics, E.T., Taoist symbols, machines, and technological developments. Can you explain how we should navigate this work?
AU: Model for the Assembly is a mapping of diasporic memories of “Soviet Koreans,” and to a certain degree my own first step in an unknown process of return. It is based on a questionnaire in which I asked representatives of different generations whether there are particular memories that should never be forgotten. I must admit that the idea of the map corresponds to my personal belief that certain facts and events (implicitly) influence the formation of identity and collective memory.
Two things are key to understanding the map: the location and size of the images. The location of the images follows a chronological order of answers; their size reflects the significance of the event in the memory of the community. What stands out are Stalin’s deportation of Koreans to Kazakhstan and other parts of Central Asia in 1937, and the successful labor activities of Koreans in the USSR. The conjunction of these focal points, however, indicate a serious contradiction; a sense of pride in the success of the Soviet past on the one hand, and a sense of guilt and loss with respect to their homeland on the other.
This state of confusion finds shape in many “disrupted” figures and pathways. My passport, for example, states “nationality: Korean,” yet unofficially we call ourselves Koryo-saram (고려인). In South Korea, they call us Goryeoin. Compatriots from Eurasia living in Korea call us ethnic Koreans. Several months ago, the Korean government removed the remains of General Hong Beom-do from Kazakhstan—from the city of Kyzylorda, where I was born—to his ancestral lands. Historically, the general has functioned as a bridge between the Korean diaspora and national identity, sharing the fate of the deported community while also being considered a national hero for fighting against the Japanese occupation.
I have lived in South Korea for two years and witnessed the return of many people. The sad thing is that their return is not premised on cultural imperatives, but purely on economic ones. Perhaps that’s why the community of “post-Soviet Koreans” is again a diaspora within Korea.
ED & RS: The term diaspora is complex and reveals a certain openness to multiple layers of meaning. It relates to histories of migration, movement, and change; being separated from a place, while still experiencing a sense of belonging—like a phantom limb. It also concerns a certain tension with the rhythm of communities; an in-betweenness of time and space; of where you are and where you feel to be; of cultures. In a speech by See-jeong Chang we found a broad definition which seems to work:
“Emigrants and their descendants, who live outside the country of their birth or ancestry, either on a temporary or permanent basis, yet still maintain affective and material ties to their countries of origin.”[vii]
It reflects what you just mentioned about Model for the Assembly: a state of confusion that finds shape in disrupted figures and pathways. In your work, these disrupted figures and pathways often relate to memories.
In the series Memory Objects, for example, by photographs from different archives, such as Karlag (Karaganda Corrective Labor Camp) and ALZhIR (Akmolinsk Camp of Wives of Traitors to the Motherland), becoming more than a visual presence; they become part of human interactions, histories, and events through the marks, notes, and scribbles visible on their reverse. In the description of the work, our eyes were drawn to the notion of “affective memory.” Can you elaborate on this notion of affective memory?
AU: Affective memory manifests itself in different intensities and through different mechanisms. It can overwhelm us completely, like an involuntary memory or flash between “once” and “now.” In a way, it resembles the strange anxiety we feel when we look at ruins or view the contents of a time capsule. Affective memory, triggered by a living connection, fills in temporary and traumatic gaps. So that we can remember and feel an event outside of time. Photography is important in this regard, not as an image, but as an object with a surface containing a trace, a physical imprint. Something that brings to a point of collapse the distinction between signifier and signified.
In Memory Objects, I wanted to show that a photograph bears its own memory through its traces; to show the work of time also in relation to a memory that might have lost actual living witnesses. Time destroys a thing, layer by layer, turning it into a disturbing surface. A living connection not only arises due to the strength of emotionality and imagination, creating possibilities to experience something that has not been experienced, but also through the presence of a silent object—a witness to history itself.
Fig. 2 Alexander Ugay, part of the series Memory Objects, 2012–2013. Photographs from family archives of the artist, C-print on Dibond, 25 x 25 cm. Courtesy of the artist.
ED & RS: Before we dive into this idea of objects being a witness to history, we want to briefly reflect on the history of the Central Asian Korean diaspora, as this history is probably unknown to many readers.
From the 1860s onward, the easternmost territories of Imperial Russia experienced several waves of Korean migration due to sociopolitical circumstances.[viii] After the Bolshevik Revolution (1917) and consolidation of Soviet rule in the Far East, Korean migrants were accommodated in special villages, where they had their own institutions (schools, newspapers, hospitals, theaters, etc.) with Korean as the official language.[ix] In the course of the 1920s, however, circumstances started to change.
Korean communities suffered occasional repressions and were heavily affected by the collectivization and dekulakization campaigns of the 1930s.[x] In Moscow, ethnic minorities in border zones were being considered a “threat to Soviet security.”[xi] In 1937, over 170,000 Soviet Koreans were deported from the Far East to special settlements in the Kazakh and Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republics.[xii] The journey lasted between 30 and 40 days.[xiii] At least 500 people succumbed before reaching their unknown destination, while hunger and sickness during the first years after deportation caused an estimated number of up to 50,000 deaths.[xiv]
The deportation of Soviet Koreans was the first part of larger Stalinist policies to forcefully displace entire nationalities within the Soviet Union.[xv] Traces of all these waves of migration are still present in the (formerly) occupied Soviet territories; reflected, mirrored, and witnessed by the many Soviet Koreans living there, but also in all the traces left behind.
Could you expand on the idea of objects being a witness to history, the passing of time, and how this relates to diasporic communities? Particularly in terms of your own Korean diaspora?
AU: An object might be considered as simply a historical (arti)fact, but if we understand time as the difference between an object from itself—in the sense of a life cycle—then we can say that the object contains time and has memory of its own. In certain situations and with a necessary amount of effort, this memory and time can be retrieved as evidence or presence.
The memory of the Korean diaspora in Central Asia, following Jan Assmann’s concept of the “floating gap,” has crossed borders for more than eighty years, which basically means that it is now in a state of transition, from communicative (living) memory to a collective (institutional) memory.[xvi] A peculiar moment in history, when objects, places and things are becoming the only silent witnesses.
Another important thing in this regard is the sub-ethnos of Koryo-saram, whose passionate drives, “passionarity,” and ideas are a definite “result” of the twentieth century.[xvii] For over five generations, our drives and ideas have been lingering between a sense of guilt and justice; being formed in an era of unconditional victories and defeats. But this duality is anti-dialectical, as Alain Badiou explained when he defined the twentieth century as a time of almost unthinkable violence. It turns out that we are both a victim and an executioner in one person.
Returning to the floating gap, this is not only a change in the framework of memory but also a “weak call” for a distinction between history as chronology and time as temporality. This distinction, I believe, has an effect on an understanding of “who we are,” as it provides that question with a more existential character. From the perspective of history, I am an object of the epoch, not an eyewitness; something close to evidence or a fact among other things. Within the framework of time, however, I can become a subject who considers all this evidence, including myself, in the process of rethinking what it means to be (post-)Soviet in the historical and living memory of Koryo-saram in the twenty-first century.
ED & RS: An intricate work that focuses on evidence and ambiguities of history and time is your Obscuration Series. According to Yuliya Sorokina, an obscuraton functions like a pinhole camera, “where the walls are not only the structure and the surface of the object, but also the receiver of the photographic image (inside the object is coated with a layer of photosensitive material). Installed in a symbolic place […], an obscuration becomes part of its architectural space, a symbolic object, and a photographic image at the same time. After an image is captured the object is opened and developed.”[xviii] Can you elaborate on this idea of an obscuraton in relation to a piece of the series Disturbing Construction and, more specifically, the references within this piece to Tony Smith’s We Lost (1962) and the “Triumph of Astana” building (2006)?
AU: The obscuraton itself is a rather disturbing object. It is a camera, an image, a physical object, a reference, a registration of surroundings—all at once. Something visible and invisible, empty and full, open and closed. To a certain extent, every obscuraton relates to the works of Tony Smith, to his minimalist practice and thoughts of presence and absence in architectural spaces. The obscuraton is a method to document places of memory and events by uncovering connections and relationships that are often not registered. In every space or environment, there are tense, ambiguous relationships at work between place and form, just as between history and memory; showing things, while obscuring others.
Disturbing Construction is an attempt to situate post-Soviet imagery, which is somewhere in-between total visibility dictated by the authorities and repressed alternative images that appeal to us from an invisible zone. In this regard, it was particularly important for me to understand what the “post-Soviet” meant as a mental equivalent of the image. Soviet architecture reveals some interesting intersections, being ideological in its form and of personal significance as a space, and part of a collective as well as a personal imagination. Architecture is also a medium with its own promise. It starts with a good idea, a scientific formula or a prototype, but in practice it can never keep the promise for a “bright tomorrow.” The imagery of those buildings, its ideology, strives for visibility and presence, but everything that is incongruent to this imagery (including its failures) is made invisible and absent, remaining in the realm of personal imagery.
The obscuraton in the form of the Triumph of Astana, a landmark of post-Soviet mentality, documents the ambiguities of Khrushchyovkas—typical Soviet apartment constructions of the 1960s that have lost their promise. It is quite a personal work, as I understand these buildings from the inside: I was born and raised in these constructions, and, as for today, am still surrounded by them.
Fig. 3 Alexander Ugay, Disturbing Construction (Obscuration #7), 2017. Installation, wood, black-and-white photography and C-prints. Collection of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Courtesy of the artist.
ED & RS: We have touched on some important aspects now, which we believe relate to your (visual) translation of the Korean diaspora. Recapitulating, we became witnesses to a process of questioning artistic mediums; to a quest of finding place in this world—accompanied by a state of being “in-between” and an unknown process of return; to an understanding of hopes and promises; and an exploration of perception and vision—blurring boundaries of signifier and signified, as well as subject and object. We were taken along with the idea of an object not being a historical (arti)fact, but something that has time, place, and memory by itself. Something that disturbs, yet enables a process to rethink what it means to live and continue to be living in the twenty-first century. Something invoking collective and personal imagery. We became witnesses to dialectics or forms of ostensible tensions, to absent presences.
It reminds us, mentioning her work again, of Azoulay’s Potential History and the tension she observes in regards to photographs and archival documents; that these materials always keep “more than what was intended,” even though this can be obscured.[xix] She argues, however, that this information cannot be tamed by imperial narratives and these “items” are not something “of a completed past, but rather the active elements of a common present.” Something that touches on a shared life, that carries “information about that life: decrees and rulings responsible for its design, claims to challenge it, documentation of its mode of repression, proposals for change, and other information ensuring its continuance.”[xx]
With that in mind, we want to return to Disturbing Construction and give free rein to our associations on the information of the past, but also of the shared lives and common present it contains. To us, this particular work stirs thoughts about the skyline of Astana, the (new) capital of Kazakhstan. Skyscrapers that mirror the rise of a new nation, while many of them are abandoned or have never been used. A hollow form, like a shell, present but empty. Could we say these “shells” are full of promise?
AU: If we start talking about hopes and promises, skyscrapers are probably not the best example; their height is proportional to totalitarianism and/or neoliberalism. Moreover, I do not agree with the phrase “a new nation.” Here, we should recall Putin’s scandalous words that, before Nazarbayev [president of Kazakhstan, 1991–2019], the Kazakhs had no statehood. I believe nation-building is about renewal, about returning to oneself through the study of trauma inflicted by the Soviet regime: colonization, Holodomor (famine), repression, a destroyed intelligentsia, Russification, a dried-up sea, a nuclear test site.
At different levels, all these historical events and aspects of reality, or should we say parts of the lives of people, require attention, reflection, and compensation. The new capital and the big buildings are of course part of the whole process, yet they obscure other, more intricate, parts. I see two main problems here. The first is that the same people burdened with Soviet infantilism and lack of responsibility have been in power for almost thirty years. The second has to do with the proximity of Russia, with its aggressive and strong influence on the economy, politics, and cultural processes in Kazakhstan.
Working through trauma, restoring past bonds and building relationships after all that has happened should be based on mutual respect and equality. Russia does not seem to move in this direction. In addition, the country suffers from actual phobias, with regards to China, for example. Looking at the situation in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, we cannot say they are unfounded. Returning to hope and the hopeful, the most important thing is that more and more people are waking up and are ready to speak out.
ED & RS: This seems to have another meaning today. How do you reflect on the sentences above in the light of the current Russian aggression?
AU: The basic meaning of the above, stated almost a year ago, has not changed much. It just became more obvious how important it is to work through the traumatic events of the past in the post-Soviet space. If we look at a conditional map of potential and frozen conflicts, we will see at least a dozen disputed territories inside Russia, as well as on its borders. The very concept—a frozen conflict—indicates no ending, but a repetition due to lessons that still have not been learned. In Russia, the popular slogan “we can repeat” illustrates this well. It brings to the fore a certain distinction between return and repetition; while something ontologically important and singular can or should return, the meaningless (unperceived, misunderstood) repeats.
It would be wrong to put blame or guilt of a structural situation on just one circumstance, for example, Putin’s madness or propaganda. As the Russian writer Sergei Dovlatov once said, “We endlessly curse comrade Stalin, and, of course, for the cause. And yet, I want to ask — who wrote the four million denunciations?” We are all to blame for our unwillingness to take responsibility, and in this sense, the post-Soviet person can become a prerequisite for the radicality and banality of evil, as discussed by Hannah Arendt.
Of course it is difficult to predict, but it seems clear that the crooked mirror of the Russian sublime—covered by an amalgam of a “special path,” the “Russian World,” and other forms of superiority—has cracked.[xxi] Regardless of the outcome of this war, it is obvious that the imperial discourse is crumbling down from the political and social agenda in Russia and, in fact, will mean the end of the post-Soviet as a whole.
ED & RS: Your answers reveal a sort of “reparation language” focusing on cracks, injustices and responsibility, blameworthiness, return, and what we could call (cautiously) a horizon of hope. This is something that continues to fascinate us, something that is extremely hard to answer, but how should we fill in this notion of repair related to histories of violence, and what is the role of art in all this?
AU: Yes, this question is really voluminous and complex. Essentially, it points to another question: How to live on? The past itself is filled with melancholic ether, with the waste of time. Happy moments that cannot be returned, mistakes of the past that cannot be corrected. A traumatic past can block and supplant memories, thereby affecting the character and, consequently, the fate of people, their present and their futures. An attempt of recovery, or repair, can occur at different levels and encompasses various processes and stages. It can manifest itself on the scale of public policy, but also on a more communal or individual level, through cultural processes, memorial acts, or just everyday life.
Repair is a very complex and fragile process that should not be taken lightly. Trauma and loss are part of psychological life and contain a certain division between before and after. Simultaneously, it is the beginning of movement and formation. After a violent trauma, it is probably impossible to fully recover or retrieve a previous state, but you can find yourself in a different space and time. In the context of decolonization, one must understand that it is impossible to return to the origins, to some ideal reality before colonization. This understanding opens up the possibility of an “unknown return,” which is not understood or seen, but wanted.
In this situation, art can be a form of relationship between time, memory, the desired, and the ineffable. By virtue of its specificity, art cannot solve the problem of “everyone and forever,” but as a practice and experience of the sensible, it makes it possible to turn to anxiety and to those things that lay behind it—the undercurrents. It enables a space of imagery and creates possibilities to bridge the gap between “How to live?” and “Where to go?” There are no guarantees, but there is a potential opportunity; a chance that personal and intersubjective perceptions and experiences (fate, in the end) meet with a hidden or undeciphered part of reality, which allows us to acquire meaning and wholeness.
Fig. 4 Alexander Ugay working on Obscuration #10, 2022. Courtesy of the artist.
ED & RS: In your latest correspondence you mentioned you have been traveling in the Primorsky Krai and visited places of memory of the Korean diaspora in Central Asia to work on your latest piece of the Obscuration Series. How do these concrete movements open up the possibility of what you call an “unknown return”?
AU: For me, this idea can be an alternative way of documenting places of memory and events. The difference from other existing obscuratons is that the intention is not directed to a place or point in space, but to something that has not happened (yet). The obscuraton was alternately installed in two crucial places for the Korean diaspora, uniting the light of these two places—through the fifty-two holes of the camera—on one single inner photosensitive surface. The first twenty-six holes were exposed by the Tumen River (두만강, Tumannaya), on the border of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and Russia, the crossing point of the first settlers in 1860. Another twenty-six holes were exposed at the foot of Mount Bastobe, Kazakhstan, the first drop-off point during the deportation in 1937.
The obscuraton itself has the form of a stamping press; a machine turning unorganized matter into a certain form through pressure and clipping. The dark side of stamping and, more generally, things made from molds, is present in the parts that are taken away or not there; an alienation from the meanings of labor, as well as the alienation from an original that is absent or sometimes lost forever. In that sense, the stamping press as form of the medium and photography as the medium of the form collects the optical-semantic connections of places and events that run like a red thread through the fate of the Korean diaspora.
It could be an encrypted piece of evidence of an unknown homeland—the calling of a certain return. An unknown homeland, like a lost paradise, does not exist in the regular world. One cannot return to a homeland as to the promised land, because this place exists solely in time and imagination rather than in actual space. An unknown return lies in the ability to detect forms of collectivity different from existing ones. To find ways to be Korean beyond the stigma of “North and South” or “friend or foe”; to do justice to differences, while maintaining the need for shared forms of life.
About the Authors
Elsbeth Dekker is an art historian, legal scholar and PhD Candidate at the Faculty of Law, Legal Theory and Legal History, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Robbie Schweiger is an art historian, scholar of Russian and Eurasian Studies and independent curator. He is a member of the research staff at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.
[i] For the publication of this (modified) conversation, we are greatly indebted to the editors of Stedelijk Studies for allowing us to elaborate on our previous talks with Alexander Ugay, as well as to those who commented on earlier drafts: the careful proofreading by Eleonoor Jap Sam and Aaron Bogart, and thorough notes and suggestions by the anonymous peer reviewer. Moreover, we wish to acknowledge all artists and conversation partners who contributed to the publication of Beginning in the Middle, without whom we could not have gathered our information. Most of all, we want to thank Alexander Ugay for his patience and generosity in answering our (constant flow of) questions and also revising our answers while continually providing us with challenging thoughts, perspectives, and insights on art and society at large. Any mistakes or omissions are, of course, our own.
[ii] See the introduction to Elsbeth Dekker and Robbie Schweiger, Beginning in the Middle: Conversations on the Post-Soviet (Jap Sam Books: Prinsenbeek, 2022).
[vi] Walter Benjamin, “Über den Begriff der Geschichte” (1940), in Walter Benjamin, Illuminationen (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1977), 255.
[vii] See-jeong Chang, “Korean Diaspora: From History to Present Day,” in Korean Diaspora – Central Asia, Siberia and Beyond, eds. J. Reckel and M. Schatz (Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Göttingen, 2020), 16.
[viii] First, due to the economic hardship of the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars; second, from 1910 onward, due to the occupation of Korea by Japan. This second wave of migrants comprised mainly political dissidents associated with the Korean Independence Movement. See Chang, “Korean Diaspora,” 19.
[ix] This was part of the Soviet nationalities policy of the 1920s. “According to the official policy of korenizatsiya (literally, ‘taking root’ or indigenization), the affairs of all ethnic groups at all levels from Union Republics to clan Soviets were to be run by the representatives of those ethnic groups. This involved the preferential recruitment of ‘nationals’ to party, government, judicial, trade unions and educational institutions, as well as the preferential ‘proletarianization’ of mostly rural non-Russian populations.” See Yuri Slezkine, “The USSR as a Communal Apartment, Or How a Socialist State Promoted Ethnic Particularism,” Slavic Review 53, no. 2 (Summer 1994): 414–452.
[x] From 1928 the Soviet Union introduced a policy of collectivization that integrated agricultural land and labor into collectively (kolkhozes) and state-controlled farms (sovkhozes). Dekulakization happened simultaneously, as millions of kulaks (prosperous farmers) were repressed. It led to great violence, sadly present duirng the Soviet famine of 1930–1933, which claimed many casualties (estimates run up to almost nine million people) in major grain-producing parts of the Soviet Union. See Nikolai Bugay, The Deportation of Peoples in the Soviet Union (New York: Nova Science Publishers, 1996), 27.
[xi] The Soviet Koreans were labeled as a “threat to Soviet security” for different political and economic reasons. Mostly, it was convenient in crushing resistance in the countryside toward collectivization and dekulakization. See Alexander Kim, “Deportation and Repression of the Soviet Koreans during the 1930s: Reasons and Results,” in Reckel and Schatz, Korean Diaspora, 99–107.
[xiii] Ji-Yeon O. Jo, Homing: An Affective Topography of Ethnic Korean Return Migration (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2017), 46.
[xiv] Margarethe Adams, Steppe Dreams: Time, Mediation, and Postsocialist Celebrations in Kazakhstan (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020), 150; Norman E. Saul, Historical Dictionary of Russian and Soviet Foreign Policy (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), 105.
[xv] Michael Ellman, “Soviet Repression Statistics: Some Comments,” Europe-Asia Studies 54, no. 7 (2002): 1158.
[xvi] Jan Assmann, Cultural Memory and Early Civilization (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 54.
[xvii] The term “passionarity” (пассионарность) was coined by ethnographer and historian Lev Nikolayevich Gumilyov and signifies something close to an energetic drive or ability within communities to move onward; the urge and capacity to enforce and embrace change in social and natural fabrics. Lev N. Gumilyov, Ethnogenesis and the Biosphere (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1990).
[xxi] By reviving ideas of a “special path” and “Russian World” (Русский мир), Russia is trying to find ways to position itself in the “civilized” world order historically, spiritually, culturally, and politically. Both terms echo a Russian imperialist/Soviet modernist expansionism (and sense of superiority) and have been associated with the current war in Ukraine. See Aleksandr Kubyshkin and Aleksandr Sergunin, “The Problem of the ‘Special Path’ in Russian Foreign Policy (From the 1990s to the Early Twenty-First Century),” Russian Politics and Law 50, no. 6, (November/December 2012): 7–18; Daniel P. Payne, “Spiritual Security, the Russkiy Mir, and the Russian Orthodox Church: The Influence of the Russian Orthodox Church on Russia’s Foreign Policy Regarding Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and Armenia,” Traditional Religion and Political Power: Examining the Role of the Church in Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine and Moldova, ed. Adam Hug (London: Foreign Policy Centre, 2015), 65–70.