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The indigenous elites and the construction of ethnic identities in the North Caucasus 0
Practically every word in the title of this essay could be a subject of arguments, discussions, and qualifications. What is the indigenous? How indigenous, for instance, were those members of a local society who had been brought to Russia at an early age, educated in Russian schools, and then returned to the native regions to serve in some official capacity? And who are the elites? Are we to include only the local landed aristocracy, i.e. the nobles, or the elected notables as well? What about those societies, like the Chechens, who did not have the traditional elites? And of course, terms like ‘ethnicity’, ‘identity’ and their construction are heavily burdened with semantic and ideological presumptions. I do not use the term ‘construction’ in order to take sides in the hollow debate about how primordial verses were constructed. Instead, I am using it merely to indicate the process and the extent to which the existing identities were both preserved and transformed.