Vignettes of identity : a photographic analysis of the Koryo Saram, 1932-1941



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The identity of the Koreans of the former Soviet Union has been shaped by a variety of factors, not the least of which was a long period of Soviet rule. Most frequently referred to as Koryo Saram in the region, they are distinctive in that they embody a mélange of Korean, Russian, Soviet and Central Asian characteristics. At first promoted as one of the many national minorities under the affirmative action-like Soviet nationalities policy, changes in the political sphere under Stalin ultimately led to their deportation to Central Asia in 1937. The Koryo Saram were subject to a variety of pressures at the hands of the state apparatus, including a complex and often contradictory nationalities policy, which often dictated that the they simultaneously assume a Korean and Soviet identity. This fact is most vividly displayed in the photographs of the period, which serve as historical documents that preserved these internal conflicts. This thesis examines not only the schism between the party rhetoric and the visual presentation of rhetoric from 1932 to 1941, but also the construction of Soviet Korean identity within this context.