History as Therapy. Alternative History and Nationalist Imaginings in Russia, 1991-2014
Additional Publication Information
In 2009, we wrote a book entitled Nationalist Imaginings of the Russian Past. Anatolii Fomenko and the Rise of Alternative History. Its focus was the explosion of 'alternative' history, a publishing phenomenon that emerged in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The leading light in this movement was, and remains, Anatolii Fomenko, a Sovietera mathematician who claimed that the standard historical chronology was hopelessly inaccurate and that conventional history had failed to notice the existence of a remarkable Slav-Turk empire that dominated much of the world before modern times. Ridiculed by the academic establishment, Fomenko had his revenge when his books outsold the conventional historians many times over. Fomenko's books inspired countless imitators and critics writing within the field of 'alternative history'. The common themes of these writers are the greatness of Russia and the Western plot against Russian history. For Russians disillusioned with their initial experience of capitalism and democracy, alternative history offered a therapy in which the problems of today gave way to new images of past glory. We are grateful for this opportunity to update and substantially revise the earlier book. Pseudo-history has continued to flourish not just in Russia, but throughout the former Soviet space. Alternative historians aim to show that the greatness of Russia extended far back in time and that its power and influence reverberated from Eurasia to the New World. In recent years, the geopolitical strategy of the Putin regime and the imperial dreams of alternative history have synchronized. This book explains the rise of alternative history within an older historical pattern. In each period of Russian history, a new regime has insisted upon the rewriting of the past to suit the needs of the present. Long before it was fashionable to do so, alternative historians wrote the ideological script for a new Russian Empire. Alternative history serves as a warning not just to the degree to which nationalism is gathering strength in the former Soviet space, but also how difficult it will be to contain this force in the future.