The Exemplary Life of Сarl Hagenbeck, the Animal Trader and Organizer of the “Human Zoos”, in the Soviet Editions of the 1920s — late 1950s: Anti-Colonial Struggle, Scientific Progress, Spectacular Culture and the Construction of Political Identity
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The Exemplary Life of Сarl Hagenbeck, the Animal Trader and Organizer of the “Human Zoos”, in the Soviet Editions of the 1920s — late 1950s: Anti-Colonial Struggle, Scientific Progress, Spectacular Culture and the Construction of Political Identity
Annotation
PII
S207987840008088-5-1
DOI
10.18254/S207987840008088-5
Publication type
Article
Status
Published
Authors
Evgeny Savitsky 
Affiliation:
Russian State University for the Humanities
Institute of World History RAS
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow
Abstract

The heyday of ethnic exhibitions in Europe and the USA was from the mid-19th century until the end of the 1930s, when the development of ethnographic cinema, as well as political events related to World War II, the Holocaust, and decolonization made such exhibitions unpopular. In particular, the demonstrations of “savages” in zoos, as if anticipating the reduction of people to an animal state in concentration camps, have become an odious example of the inhumanity of colonialism. In the USSR, such exhibitions were consistently condemned, which was consonant with the general anti-colonial rhetoric of the Soviet government since the 1920s. It is all the more surprising that the USSR published books by one of the main organizers of the "human zoos" Carl Hagenbeck. The article discusses the features of representing the activities of Hagenbeck in the USSR by the example of the 1957 publication of his book “On Beasts and Men”. Both the Soviet preface to the book and the illustrations show that Hagenbek’s activity was interpreted mainly positively, and even more so, as a worthy example for educating the young generation of Soviet citizens. An appeal to the young reader, giving the book a pedagogical character, distinguishes the 1957 edition from both the pre-revolutionary edition of 1912 and the early German editions of the book of Hagenbeck. The fact that a new translation was made for the 1957 edition testifies to the special significance attached to this book. A study of Hagenbeck's reception reveals how, despite the anti-colonial foreign policy rhetoric, elements of colonial culture were reproduced and normalized in Soviet society in the second half of the 1950s through the discourse of popular science, becoming part of the political identity of Soviet people. Attention is also paid to the economic contacts of the USSR with the Hagenbeck company in the interwar period, which made it possible to make export of animals a source of significant foreign exchange earnings, as well as to the importance of Hagenbeck's approaches for Soviet circus art, which also contributed to a positive perception of the activities of this German businessman.

Keywords
Carl Hagenbeck, ethnic exhibition, human zoo, Russia, USSR, colonialism, political identity
Received
28.04.2019
Publication date
30.12.2019
Number of characters
37189
Number of purchasers
3
Views
26
Readers community rating
0.0 (0 votes)
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