Visions of empire: Russia's place in an imperial world.
Jane Burbank, Mark Von Hagen, and Anatoly Remnev, eds., Russian Empire: Space, People, Power, 1700-1930. 560 pp. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007. ISBN-13 978-0253219114. $27.95.
Alexander S. Morrison, Russian Rule in Samarkand, 1868-1910:A Comparison with British India. xxx+364 pp. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN-13 978-0199547371. $120.00.
Diversity among subject peoples demanded diverse approaches to governing the tsarist empire. As leaders in St. Petersburg began to pursue models of Western modernization in the 19th century, tensions between standardizing, centralizing tendencies and flexible, accommodative policies intensified. Haphazard, sometimes half-hearted efforts to adapt European nation- and state-building policies from Poland to Central Asia met resistance from subjects as well as local administrators. Each of these three studies concentrates on imperial governance from the vantage point of the varied peripheries in tsarist Russia, at the same time showing the importance of empire to St. Petersburg. Conquest and violence emerge as less central than accommodation and agency, as settlers and subject peoples alike negotiate with relatively small numbers of tsarist overlords and a distant capital. Confusion and false starts, rather than continuity and certainty, mark the imperial endeavor, with complications peaking in the twilight of the tsarist regime and the revolutionary era.
Each of these works claims to offer new directions for a field of Russian history that has exploded since the collapse of the Soviet Union. (1) Jane Burbank and Mark Von Hagen's introduction to Russian Empire asserts a move away from simplistic value judgments that are alleged to dominate contemporary views on empire. (2) Burbank and Von Hagen maintain that empires are seen today as unstable, disruptive, and repressive forces, remnants of a dark past or harbingers of a darker future. They set themselves, and their contributors, the task of studying empire nonjudgmentally as a "state form" (2). Such a definition allows for complexity and agency from below as well as from above, though the volume, arising from two 1996 conferences that united scholars from Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom to discuss post-Soviet approaches to the history of empire, is written overwhelmingly from the colonizer's viewpoint. The book explicitly ties its endeavor to an effort to understand how to reconstitute a multiethnic Russian Federation after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Russian Empire's introduction sees empire in Russia as "a moving target" that could easily be considered "a muddle," given constantly changing goals and practices of governance across its vast expanses (15-16). At the same time, the tsarist state and important swaths of society saw empire as a critical symbol of Russia's power and of its unique ability to draw together so many diverse ethnic groups and control such large stretches of territory. Imperial officials and Russian intellectuals continually sought knowledge in order to govern effectively lands as variegated as the Baltic provinces and the North Caucasus. The regional studies and conceptual pieces of Russian Empire underline the tension between diversity and uniformity among the tsar and his advisors, who sought to streamline administration as well as apply modern concepts of identity to peoples under their control. Burbank and Von Hagen emphasize their own gentle view of empire as a "particular kind of polity where differences among groups were accepted by all as normal ways of being" (10).
Tsentral'naia Aziia also emerged as a collective effort, in this case by several scholars in Russia and at least two in Kazakhstan, to reconsider the tsarist empire through a focus on the lands now called Central Asia. It is the latest volume in a series developed with the help of the Social Science Research Council and the Ford Foundation to apply post-Soviet historical lenses to the study of the peripheries of the tsarist domains. (3) Tsentral'naia Aziia contains a panoply of approaches, from historians still committed to Marxist-Leninist frameworks to those who have implicitly or openly adopted nationalist historiographical stances, and yet others who draw heavily on Western literature and methods. Edited by S. N. Abashin, D. Iu. Arapova, and N. E. Bekhmakhanova, the book claims to combat overly positive as well as overly negative views of empire in contemporary Russia, ones that alternately portray expansion into Central Asia as realized by a progressive, peace-loving neighbor or a bloodthirsty, exploitative colonizer. As the book is designed for a more popular audience, scholars may grow frustrated at the lack of evidence and footnotes to back up some of the more provocative, and at times contradictory, arguments it contains.
Tsentral'naia Aziia's introduction resembles that of Russian Empire in its effort to present a benign, if not frankly favorable, portrayal of empire in Russia. A section of the introduction credited to one of the most thoughtful analysts of tsarist Central Asia, S. N. Abashin, presents the argument that "Russia itself, despite all the costs of the process, brought stability and peace [umirotvorenie] to Central Asia, lifting it from a state of economic and social stagnation, and offering the basis for infrastructure to develop a modern society" (26-27). The statement makes it appear as if Russia, not the colonized peoples, bore the principal costs of imperial expansion. This positive assessment of tsarist activities in Central Asia fits with recent popular histories published in Russia. (4) Imperial and national might are conflated, and such works tacitly or explicitly highlight the link between Russia's loss of its former colonies and the economic collapse of the early 1990s. Abashin himself, in a recent article in Ab Imperio, has expressed regret at the degree to which this volume, as well as others in the Okrainy Rossiskoi imperil series, replicates Russian national narratives instead of trying to understand these regions on their own terms. (5)
Such benign views discount not only the breadth of experiences of colonized peoples but also an entire generation of postcolonial studies that has recognized the violence, power imbalances, and dislocations of empire and colonial situations worldwide, alongside accommodation and crosscultural contacts. (6) Burbank and Von Hagen dismiss outright the value of a comparative approach with other Western empires, where the influence of postcolonialism has been far stronger. Such a dismissal seems strange, given the evidence of several authors in the volume tying tsarist Russia to patterns and policies of broader European colonial expansion, as well as Von Hagen's own comparative work on the Ottoman and Habsburg empires. (7) In Russian Empire, Burbank and Von Hagen nonetheless see conscious borrowings from the West, and imperial governing practices that were comparable to those in the West, as being outweighed by a "profoundly different human landscape" (25). Along with "critical difference[s]" of "political vision and economic structure," this ostensibly renders comparisons between Russia and "bourgeois empires"--apparently the British and French, the only ones mentioned--pointless, even as Burbank and Von Hagen argue that their volume offers insights from the Russian experience that would be valuable for scholars of empires across the globe (25). (8) The dismissal of a comparative approach extends even to territories within the empire, which are treated more or less in isolation, leaving the reader to map out and judge contrasts for him- or herself.
Alexander Morrison, in contrast, argues that common problems of administration and relations with subject peoples facilitate comparative imperial histories. Morrison's work shows an intimate familiarity with British literature on empire, and he has done important archival work in both India and Central Asia. The result is an innovative study on imperial governance concerning aspects as varied as administration, irrigation, law, and religion. Differences as well as similarities of policy and practice across all these domains, he argues, can best be understood in a common framework. Discrepancies between British and Russian economic goals and practices in India and Turkestan, respectively, as well as differing tactics of rule over dissimilar colonized peoples, do not obscure the fact that at bottom both empires pursued parallel expansionist projects: to project might in the center as well as on the periphery; and to raise revenues and control local societies while avoiding excessive costs or constant recourse to force. Morrison argues that 19th-century contemporaries, "British or Russian, French or American," situated the Russian Empire "firmly in the context of nineteenth-century European Imperialism, as another manifestation of Europe's mission civilisatrice, if, perhaps, a more backward one" (8). Morrison reinforces one point made by Burbank and Von Hagen, that the Russian Empire's geographic contiguity should not fundamentally differentiate it from the maritime ones of Great Britain and other European states. It was easier to travel from London to Calcutta in the 19th century than from St. Petersburg to Tashkent. The spatial conception of an unbroken Russia heightened confusion as to whether national or imperial models should be applied to it, but a potential point of comparison still to be studied, I would argue, is European peoples' overland expansion in the new states of North America and Oceania. (9) Even in primarily maritime European empires, geographic as well as conceptual borders between metropole and colonies at times blurred. (10)
This debate over the value of a comparative approach continues in large part due to the self-imposed isolation of too many historians of Russia, who remain unwilling to engage the diversity of literature on other empires. At the same time as Burbank and Von Hagen highlight the richness of experiences within the tsar's lands, all other "bourgeois" empires and their vastly different colonies are lumped into one category. (11) The authors are silent on whether such a "bourgeois" characterization would include Germany, for example, where the monarch played a strong role in dictating expansion, and where economic motives appeared secondary. (12) Perhaps a sense that exploring comparisons with other Western empires will rob imperial Russia of its apparent uniqueness within Europe continues to tug at many historians.
Morrison's work follows in the footsteps of a number of studies-including, to be fair, my own (13)--that use comparative literature on empires as well as evidence from imperial archives and other sources at once to contextualize Russia's place in a wider imperial world and to reveal both the real and the mythical aspects of Russian uniqueness. Russia's own particular dynamic of integration of its imperial subjects, cited by Burbank and Von Hagen as well as others as a prime source of distinctiveness, can still be framed in a broader colonial context; Paul Werth's article in Russian Empire, discussed below, demonstrates that 19th-century contemporaries were aware of this. A less frequent recourse to racist vocabulary in tsarist Russia does show a degree of exceptionality, but I have argued elsewhere that other discourses, such as dirtiness, a trope facilitating difference also found by Yuri Slezkine in his work on Siberia, served to racialize the colonial relationship. (14) Whatever the case, comparisons help us understand at once the varied goals and strategies of European and North American imperial states and the relationships between the varied systems, spaces, and peoples of the colonizer and the colonized. Yet, despite the numerous empirical studies that have appeared on Russian colonialism in the last decade, we remain within the framework of the theoretical debate in the pages of this journal in 2000, when Adeeb Khalid criticized Nathaniel Knight for taking at face value contemporary discourses of tsarist particularism and rejecting the applicability of Edward Said's ideas on Orientalism. (15) The idea of Russians as "gentle colonizers" with a consciousness of Asia as well as Europe, to take one example, continues to be accepted in a number of works of historical literature, even as Khalid argued that it served primarily as an intellectual device designed to elevate Russia above the West, all the while concealing the oppression and violence that marked all imperial conquests. (16) Vera Tolz has more recently contended that late 19th-century Russian Orientalists blended their own nationalist views into an all-European effort to understand and control colonized territories. (17)
Even including Morrison's work, these volumes together take only small steps toward an approach that places Russia within, instead of alongside, an imperial world. As none of the editors of the two collected books encouraged comparative viewpoints, contributors' analogies across imperial boundaries gain little context or analysis. Even as Morrison reveals a number of intriguing, surface comparisons between the tsarist-controlled Samarkand Valley and different regions of British India, he does not use them to draw broader conclusions on the nature of imperial rule and the colonial relationship in the late 19th-century "age of empire." The main contributions of these works to the literature on empire lie in their empirical research and their emphasis on the potential opportunities as well as the challenges posed by imperial rule. The overwhelming majority of the authors see colonial power as constantly contested and shared between subject peoples and state authorities in a complicated relationship. These arguments reflect, albeit implicitly, one facet of postcolonial studies literature begun by the "subaltern studies" school and furthered by those employing Foucauldian arguments about the relational nature of power to offer agency to those from "below." (18)
Authors and editors struggle to define "empire," a sprawling unit that combined various state forms and held so many unique subject peoples. In his piece in Russian Empire, co-editor Anatoly Remnev sees empire as a "large geopolitical community" (427). Conquest is but a first step of"imperial integration" (430). Burbank and Von Hagen highlight contributor Paul Werth's formulation of the tsarist empire as a "strange hybrid" that "simultaneously drew on several models of state organization: a traditional, dynastic, composite state; an emerging (incomplete) national state; and a modern colonial empire" (170). Morrison's comparative turn shows how each of these models could apply as well to the 19th-century British imperial state and its leaders. The Tsentral'naia Aziia volume avoids a conceptual discussion of empire, leading to another of Abashin's later regrets: that the work ended up primarily as a narrative of Russian endeavors in a space, labeled "Central Asia," that exists in the minds of a current audience rather than those of actors at the time. (19)
This essay proceeds thematically, weaving together important findings as well as shortcomings of these books. The first section deals with the relationship between empire and modernization. The second focuses on the complexities of imperial governance, as local bureaucrats charged with applying modernizing practices dealt with both the central state and the local population. Indigenous elites, whose reactions to tsarist control affected the character of colonial rule and other intermediate strata in colonial societies are the subject of the third section. Portrayals of local societies as a whole follow, before the focus shifts to the end of the imperial era and how the tensions and violence of the era of World War I and the Civil War were manifested on the periphery. Finally, the essay considers the charged politics of imperial historiography in the post-Soviet space revealed at the end of the Tsentral'naia Aziia volume.
Imperial might emerged from the 16th century onward as a crucial pillar of the tsarist autocracy. The conquest of new lands and peoples, culminating in the mid- 19th-century expansion into Central Asia, defined Russia as a powerful state and empire. Over this period, these books highlight important shifts in imperial governing ideology and strategy. By the turn of the 18th century, Russians saw their empire increasingly through European lenses. In the mid-1800s, tsars and tsarist elites turned to Western ideas of a nation-state, with Russia and Russians as the leading force in a more homogenous imperial space. The variegated governing structures and social, administrative, and legal systems established to accommodate local specificities across the empire began to be seen as outmoded. The authors' evidence, however, if not always their arguments, leads to the conclusion that the later conceptual shift had far less impact on the periphery, as well as the core, than its supporters originally envisioned. Uncertainty reigned as administrators and intellectuals considered which imperial regions and peoples could and should be incorporated into a Russified or Russian-dominated nation-state. The cautious, unsystematic, and underfunded nature of homogenizing initiatives appears to have effectively forestalled large-scale violent reaction from non-Russian peoples in the period from the 1863 Polish insurrection to World War I.
Connections between state power and control over territory deepened in the era of Peter the Great, Willard Sunderland argues in Russian Empire. As European ways of seeing the world shifted, the conquest of space played a critical role in tsarist Russia's self-image. Geography emerged as a form of statecraft; maps that displayed farflung possessions became tools of power. A "spatial view of government" acquired new features under Catherine, who sought to render the lands and peoples of her expanding empire more harmonious and productive. Intellectual societies, including the Free Economic Society and the Academy of Sciences, provided public support for this vision. By the end of the 18th century, the idea of empire merged with that of national greatness, as well as the power of the autocrat, in the Russian consciousness. (20)
Sunderland concludes by arguing that "Russian ideas of national and imperial territory tended to merge, and this conceptual overlapping, in turn, became one of the abiding elements of Russian national consciousness" (55). Instead of being pursued in his own piece, however, this viewpoint gains more clarity in the subsequent contribution by Leonid Gorizontov. Gorizontov highlights the confusion between different concepts of core and periphery in the Russian spatial imagination. An image of a uniform, self-contained, pure interior Russia was complicated by the fact that no consensus existed on its borders. Even advocates of the most prevalent idea--that the core lands centered on Moscow--faced challengers who saw Novgorod or Kiev as Russia's heart. The imperial capital of St. Petersburg was thought to be too close to Finland and even Germany, in addition to lacking a history as a Russian region. Russian folk songs expressed an emotional link to the Volga River, but the Volga was home to many non-Russian and non-Orthodox peoples. Was Kazan', mused tsarist elites, with its strong Orthodox religious life, at the edge of interior Russia, or a Slavic outpost in Muslim Asia? Gorizontov concludes that consistent efforts to highlight the empire's importance through space led to continued debates at best, and great frustration at worst.
Expansion risked great expense and potential military defeat as well as conceptual confusion. Incursions into Central Asia emerged as an important test for the tsar as he implemented the Great Reforms. The desire not only to uphold the image of imperial Russia as a great European power but also to reveal it as a modern, progressive state persuaded even skeptics in St. Petersburg to enlarge Russian lands at a time of internal tumult. One of these, Foreign Minister A. S. Gorchakov, authored an oft-cited memorandum to foreign capitals in 1864 justifying conquest in Central Asia. O. V. Boronin's chapter in Tsentral'naia Aziia notes Gorchakov's desire to equate Russian expansion to the "United States in America, France in Algeria, Holland in its colonies, England in India." (21) Their common civilizing mission could, combined with force, tame "Asiatics" who committed "depredations with impunity" along the Russian frontier (65-66). Boronin notes that many Europeans considered this memo a thin cloak to legitimize Russian expansion to the borders of British India. He nonetheless acknowledges the argument made by proponents of conquest at the time: that "constant conflict" within the Central Asian khanates necessitated a push to the south (62). In his monograph, Alexander Morrison also sees a "good deal of truth" in Gorchakov's arguments that frontier instability pushed Russia continually to expand its borders (30). Despite recognizing the violence resulting from tsarist conquests, both authors accept the overarching 19th-century narrative of European modes of governance bringing order to chaotic borderlands.
Kazakh historians N. E. Bekmakhanova and N. B. Narbaev argue in Tsentral'naia Aziia that tsarist intervention rescued the nomadic peoples of the region from far less progressive and more violent overlords in the 19th century. They laud "Russia's success at countering Manchurian-Chinese aggression and guaranteeing the protection of Kazakh hordes and the population of southern Siberia, who willingly took the status of Russian subjects [poddanstvo]" (41). Chinese actions compelled the tsarist empire to expand, in this case to the Amur Valley, in Boronin's narrative as well (79-80). Such arguments offer an early sign that the Tsentral'naia Aziia volume will portray Russia not only as a benefactor to steppe and oasis peoples in a modernizing 19th-century world but also as a protector against darker forces, who, not coincidentally, are Russia's rivals for influence in the region today. Such narrative strategies replicate those found by Gary Hamburg in the western borderlands volume in this series. (22) Throughout that volume, according to Hamburg, "the authors' antipathy toward Polonism ... may also represent an indirect acknowledgment that relations between contemporary Russia and Poland are less than cordial." (23)
Sviatoslav Kaspe's article in Russian Empire focuses on the relationship between modernization and ethnopolitics across the empire in the mid- to late 19th century. Connections between Western ideas of state and nationhood on the one hand and a desired modernity on the other, he argues, percolated among intellectuals in the center and on the periphery alike. The 1863 Polish insurrection, however, signaled the dangers of non-Russian nationalism in the empire, just as it sparked exclusivist national feelings within Russian society. The post-reform tsarist state remained determined to direct modernization and standardize the empire's development. Kaspe argues that the idea of "institutional and cultural unification" quickly supplanted notions of imperial diversity following the implementation of the Great Reforms (476). Support within both Russian society and the state for cultural Russification of non-Russian areas grew as Ukrainian, Lithuanian, and other national movements coalesced. The state strained to manage unofficial manifestations of escalating Russian nationalism even as it sought to implement Russifying measures that kindled them. In regions deemed alien and backward, stability was prized over efforts to transform societies. Russification and imperial intervention, therefore, made far less of a mark on the late 19th-century Caucasus and Central Asia than they did in the western territories.
The relationship between nationality and modernization endured, Kaspe argues, throughout the last decades of tsarist rule. Rather than a reactionary move toward an idealized Slavic past, Alexander III's Russification policies expressed a dedication to European-style modernization, albeit with stricter forms of control. Even as compensatory national movements flared, Kaspe argues, "for a fairly long time the nationalist policy chosen by Alexander II and the conservative-repressive course of Alexander III produced results and ensured the preservation of relative ethno-political stability throughout the imperial territory" (488). Kaspe blames an ostensible failure by Tsar Nicholas II to continue with repressive measures for later violence on the periphery. Even as his interpretation of force producing compliance remains isolated in the volume, overwhelming agreement nonetheless exists that in its last decades, the tsarist regime was acutely aware of the fraught relationship between nationalism and modernity.
In their administration of imperial territories, tsarist functionaries balanced modernizing impulses with those that offered flexibility toward non-Russian peoples. Authors in both edited books--and Morrison, too--capture the complexity of ruling over subjects with their own forms of authority, law, and culture. Burbank and Von Hagen's introduction to Russian Empire establishes a consensus, aside from Kaspe, that the empire worked far more effectively as a decentralized entity. The authors remain largely silent, however, on day-to-day inequality and aggression, perpetrated by Russian administrators and settlers alike, on peoples from Poles to Central Asians, regardless of the degree of centralization applied.
Opening with a story of administrative success, Charles Steinwedel argues that the Ural region of Ufa managed to straddle the perceived border between "the steamship [and] the camel," between Europe and Asia (91). Although the majority of its Bashkir population neither spoke Russian nor was Orthodox, either before or after the conquest, the region increasingly became seen as European. As a result, tsarist administrators applied to Bashkir lands key parts of the Great Reforms that were denied to most non-Russian regions, in particular the granting of organs of local self-government (zemstvos). Steinwedel credits this apparently seamless incorporation largely to local Bashkir elites, who not only acquiesced in tsarist rule but also participated effectively as imperial administrators. Local Islamic leaders followed the dictates of the official Muslim Spiritual Assembly to institutionalize the religion within the empire. (24) Tsarist society recognized Bashkir elites who pursued a Russian education as cultured in a Western, European sense. Steinwedel notes that in the empire's last decades, local resistance to the tsar took on all-Russian forms, as Bashkir radicals joined Russian political parties and promoted broader grievances, such as corruption, instead of specifically national ones.
Paul Werth's contribution, drawn from his monograph, shows confusion in efforts to incorporate the Tatar population of the Volga-Kama region into a modernizing empire. (25) As early as 1825, Werth asserts, St. Petersburg began to adopt Western forms of national identity for Russians themselves and for subject peoples. As with other non-Russians, Tatars had been known as inovertsy (of another faith), a difference that could be overcome through conversion. Beginning in the early 19th century, however, tsarist administrators referred to them as inorodtsy (of another people), creating a barrier that was far more difficult to surmount if one wished to acquire the privileges accorded to those considered part of both the Russian nation and the estate (soslovie) system. Tsarist administrators saw the path to integration as henceforth requiring the acquisition of the Russian language as well as European culture, of which Christianity was but one component. In considering strategies to incorporate inorodtsy, officials sought inspiration from other European colonial experiments, including the French in Algeria. Whether Tatars could ever become full members of a Russian-led state remained unclear. Shifting views on nationhood, citizenship, and religion throughout the century prevented any coherent policy on Tatar incorporation into a modernizing society.
Alexander Morrison sees efforts to integrate Central Asian populations as complicating colonial rule in the Samarkand Valley region. Tsarist leaders shared with their imperial counterparts in the British Raj a view of Muslim subjects as being ensconced in backwardness. Unlike the British, however, who were content to allow Indians, Hindu and Muslim alike, to perpetuate an ostensibly traditional society of peasants and lords, Russian officials sought to recruit Central Asians as participants in modernization. Following the conquest of the Samarkand region, tsarist officers deposed the landholding elites, the amlakdars, and designed elections to introduce modern concepts of rule. Elected natives would act as transmitters of modern ideas. Morrison sees the first Turkestan Governor-General K. P. von Kaufman's well-known policy of ignorirovanie (neglect) of local culture and religion as one "designed to demoralize and decapitate the Islamic hierarchy," which had grown dependent on state support (122). (26) Morrison highlights numerous efforts to effect a merger (sblizhenie) of the local population, including the introduction of European education, administration, and concepts of law. D. V. Vasil'ev's chapter in the Tsentral'naia Aziia volume supports this view of integrationist efforts to "Europeanize" (evropeizirovat') the entirety of the steppe and Central Asia, at the very least on administrative terms (86).
Goals of centralization, standardization, and modernization nonetheless remained secondary to stability. Elena Campbell's contribution in Russian Empire displays the priorities of tsarist officials in dealing with Muslim populations following the Great Reforms. Campbell recognizes the growing desires within Russian state and society to enforce their national superiority across the empire. Based on wars in the Caucasus and apostasy among baptized Tatars, the belief that Islam was a dangerous, subversive force became commonplace. She agrees with Morrison that anti-Islamic rhetoric peaked following the rebellion in Turkestan's Ferghana Valley town of Andijon in 1898, which resulted in Governor-General S. M. Dukhovskoi warning of a statewide holy war (ghazavat) against the tsar (325). Even at this point, however, Prime Minister Sergei Witte saw Muslims as sufficiently loyal to the empire and dismissed arguments to intervene more actively in local culture. Fear of potential unrest led government officials to resist efforts by the Orthodox clergy to expand missionary work. Even charges that Islam might act as a vessel for anti-Russian nationalism failed to sway state officials after 1905. Conferences and diatribes on the "Muslim question" did not dim confidence in the Muslim Spiritual Boards established by Catherine the Great to institutionalize the religion as part of the empire. (27)
A similar desire for stability overrode modernizing reforms in the Cossack lands of the Don River, as told in Aleksei Volvenko's contribution to Russian Empire. As was the case with the Bashkir region, the tsarist regime considered the Don sufficiently loyal to be entrusted with organs of self-government. On the Don, however, Cossacks were part of a "closed" caste, with their own administration and social and economic privileges. Many were loath to surrender their autonomy; rumors that the government would turn Cossacks into simple Russian peasants swept through the region following the Great Reforms (351). After a decade, tsarist administrators managed to gather a sufficient number of Cossacks to support the zemstvo and held elections for its representatives. Volvenko argues that the institution never gained legitimacy; its measures to reform tax collection and others were seen to "change the Cossack economy, way of life, and traditions" (358). Cossacks' refusal to pay taxes to the zemstvo prompted the formation of numerous commissions to reconcile the body with local society. In the end, Alexander III, fearing the alienation of a constituency with such a critical role in the tsarist military, ordered the zemstvo's closing on 24 March 1882.
Continued administrative diversity feeds into the arguments in Jane Burbank's chapter in Russian Empire. Despite a growing belief that European nation-state models produced the most effective practices of governance, tsarist elites continued "thinking like an empire" (200). Burbank considers empire here as state practices of social and ethnic differentiation on the one hand and self-administration on the other. Using Russian peasants as her example, Burbank argues that subordinate groups largely accepted this differentiation, which allowed a certain degree of independence in the late 19th century; separate courts, for example. Estate identities and practices, from marriage rituals and registration to property rights, were deeply ingrained empirewide, leading to a preference for "patriarchal autonomy" over being submerged in a larger whole (208). Further, even those "who wanted to put an end to the distinctions among estates found themselves caught in a way of thinking about society that was imbued with collectivizing assumptions and with the particularism endemic to imperial governance" (203). Non-Russian groups, largely apart from the soslovie system, are curiously absent in this article; Burbank nonetheless emphasizes the difficulties of tsarist leaders in moving away from an imperial system that appeared to meet the vital goal of a stable empire.
In Central Asia, even as Morrison stresses the "ultimate goal of sblizhenie, rapprochement, when the Muslims would be subject to the same laws as Russians" (284), his evidence, like Vasil'ev's, shows that this end remained distant throughout the tsarist era. Poorly educated and untrained functionaries, Morrison admits, remained largely indifferent toward sblizhenie in Turkestan. Policy choices in St. Petersburg, designed primarily to reduce costs, as well as the unenthusiastic reaction of the local population to contact with the tsarist state, further undermined integrationist, if not assimilationalist, aims. State initiatives to modernize economic infrastructure, particularly in irrigation, remained minimal. In the end, Morrison's contrast between tsarist visions of incorporation and British separate spheres fades, and would have faded further had he considered the many English thinkers and officials who saw assimilationist potential in the populations of the Raj. (28)
Vasil'ev notes that discussions over how best to integrate Turkestan's local population took a back seat to jurisdictional disputes among central ministries, as well as between the capital and the governor-general. Small numbers of officials representing large numbers of central and regional ministries, each with different goals, led to a muddle. Kaufman and subsequent governors-general in the end chose an indirect style of rule, relying heavily on Central Asian administrators and tinkering with only a few provisions that affected local everyday life. Leading tsarist bureaucrats instead wrestled with each other to establish or increase their own personal power and jurisdiction. Central commissions saw these struggles as linked to widespread embezzlement and corruption (123), though the effect of this corruption on the local population is ignored in this chapter and throughout the Tsentral'naia Aziia book.
Efforts that did attempt to effect some kind of merger turned out poorly. Numerous forms of mixed native-Russian education remained confined to urban centers and attracted only a few thousand students across Turkestan. A collectively authored chapter on changes in local society under tsarist rule in Tsentral'naia Aziia notes that the first generations of students in the post-conquest era preferred the madrasa to Western forms of education (168). In the end, "no measures taken by the tsarist administration with the goal of Russifying the population had any serious effect" (175). Morrison himself details an almost comical modernizing effort by Senator K. K. Palen, leader of one of the many central commissions seeking to integrate Turkestan into the empire. Palen sought to standardize law codes throughout the region in the early 20th century, in part through the introduction of a Russian translation of a British translation of the Hedaya, a manual of Hanafi jurisprudence (275-76). His efforts came to naught. Saving money and avoiding rebellion by a population deemed irrational and fanatical emerge as far more important than sblizhenie.
Morrison concludes that local peasants in the Samarkand Valley were witness to the regime's "inadvertently benevolent neglect" (291). Compared to British India, Turkestan's peasants paid relatively little in taxes, and only a handful had significant contact with tsarist officials. But Morrison's argument of neglect is based on a premise that equates colonial rule only with the direct actions of the colonial officials. Such a premise ignores the complicated web of relationships that characterize colonial societies. Empire in Turkestan, as Sergei Abashin notes at various points in Tsentral'naia Aziia, had multifarious effects on culture, society, and economy; in turn, the colonized population made its own impact on the direction of colonial rule. Such transformations include the rapid development of a cotton-based economy directed toward Russia, which altered the social structure and hierarchies across the region even as most peasants dealt exclusively with local traders (149-58). (29) Had Morrison focused on urban regions within his area of study--despite the title of his book, the city of Samarkand is mentioned only in passing--he would have seen the breadth and importance of the contacts of the tsarist administration and Russian settlers with the local population, including farmers who sold their goods in city bazaars. (30) The book also ends just before the arrival of significant numbers of Russian settlers, whose actions are discussed in greater detail below.
Imperial rule transformed relations of power. Morrison spends a significant part of his book discussing Central Asians who worked as administrators or translators or otherwise interacted professionally with the tsarist regime. As discussed above by Steinwedel and Volvenko, these intermediaries played critical roles in the enforcement of colonial power. Other authors in the edited collections show the fate of non-Russian subjects isolated from, rather than part of, changing structures of power under imperial rule. Slavic settlers held an intermediate position between colonizer and colonized, at once considered valuable and distrusted by tsarist authorities.
Morrison's work highlights the power of intermediaries in tsarist Samarkand and British India. European officials in the colonies, owing to their limited financial and human resources, relied on local elites for their knowledge of newly conquered territories and connections to indigenous populations. Morrison exposes mediators as astute judges of the advantages they could derive from cooperation with the colonizer, not only for themselves but also for their family or village (219). They parceled out knowledge to tsarist officials selectively, frequently frustrating efforts to standardize and calculate measures critical for control of the local economy. In one evocative example, Morrison discusses how village leaders met requests to translate the local unit of measurement for water flowing through canals, known as rash; answers ranged from "water that was knee deep and two soles across" to "a mystery" (209). These mediators, in similar fashion to those in British India, realized that control of knowledge increased their value to colonial officials and their status in colonial society.
Morrison's extensive and interesting discussion, however, is related almost exclusively through the colonizer's eyes. Although he is conscious of the dangers of becoming beholden to his source material, primarily tsarist administrative reports and petitions to the government, he fails to read these sources, in the words of Natalie Zemon Davis, "against the grain." (31) In so doing, in some cases he replicates the error of uncritical acceptance of imperial discourse in another recent study of Russian rule over Muslim subjects, Robert Crews's For Prophet and Tsar. (32) Imperial sources lead Crews to believe mistakenly that Muslims regularly prayed for the tsar, and he takes formulaic honorifics to authorities at the beginning of petitions to signal that "most regarded the tsar as an agent of justice and protection." (33) Morrison uses petitions sent from other Central Asian villagers to tsarist administrators as key evidence that local intermediaries were "deeply corrupt" (286). These conclusions overlook the fact that petitioners, many of whom were engaged in local power struggles with these intermediaries, carefully selected their words to have a maximum impact on tsarist authorities. A number of petitions came from those who had lost their cases in religious courts; an accusation of judicial corruption certainly would be seen as an effective way to overturn the verdict. Morrison also does not see petitioners' targeting of local officials as a result or expression of larger frustrations with the colonial regime. Criticizing electoral corruption, as do many of these petitions, condemns, I would argue, the Russian-imposed system as much as a specific case or individual. The frequently exercised power of the colonial state to fine or imprison those considered disloyal obliged locals to veil direct hostility to the colonial regime. (34) Mediators were safer targets for deeper frustrations with colonial rule as well as for opposing locals who themselves sought the perquisites that came with the colonizers' support. Finally, given that the trope of the corrupt native official appears in Morrison's discussions ranging from land tenure to irrigation to local law, I would have appreciated a discussion of how the author defines and understands this phenomenon, especially as he at one point mentions that corruption can be seen as a form of resistance to colonial rule (182).
Vladimir Bobrovnikov's Russian Empire article on banditry offers a fascinating example of the impacts of colonial discourse and practices on local elites and society in the Caucasus. Bobrovnikov discusses the interplay between tsarist conceptions of locals who were known as abrek, and their actual status in tribal society. In pre-conquest society, "abrek" designated nomads who were cast out of their communities by local elites but allowed to live off the land as isolated groups. Russian observers following the conquest saw them as one of many groups of dangerous bandits roaming the Caucasus. Such representations of a lawless region legitimated tsarist tactics of terror (240). Bobrovnikov argues that for Caucasus residents, abrek, along with other practices deemed part of a culture of violence, including raids and blood feuds, served important roles in establishing social hierarchies and maintaining customary law in a region without central authority. More European views of social order transformed the way local society operated by the late 19th century. Tsarist efforts to change local law and administration altered local understandings of abrek. Abrek could no longer rely on customary law to protect their independent status and lifestyle and turned increasingly to professional banditry in a type of self-fulfilling prophecy. (35) Some sought alliances with Caucasus leaders waging anticolonial wars against tsarist forces. Shifting conceptions and practices of abrek offer an example of how a "complicated interaction between the state, local highland communities, and their military leaders" produced important changes in local societies under foreign rule (261).
Russian settlers played crucial but complicated roles as agents of colonial authority. O. I. Brusina's chapter in Tsentral'naia Aziia notes that frontier contacts acted as generators of new identities as well as new relations of power. Her view is echoed by Shane O'Rourke, whose article in Russian Empire, discussed in greater depth below, argues that the arrival and behavior of Russian settlers reinforced Cossacks' views of their own distinctiveness. Brusina's primary focus is on the mass migration at the turn of the 20th century--first unofficially, then officially as a panacea pushed by Prime Minister P. A. Stolypin to overcome rural stagnation and unrest. Over a million Slavs poured into the steppe, and close to a million entered Turkestan, from the beginning of the century to World War I. Despite brief mentions of statutes allowing settlers to carry rifles in a dangerous environment, Brusina stresses exchanges of knowledge, trade, and labor, which, she argues, provided advantages for the indigenous population and settlers alike (226). Her positive view of Russian settlement, however, stops short of Anatoly Remnev's in his chapter in Russian Empire. Remnev asserts that migration in Siberia was guided by "a special type of Russian official [who] emerged in the Asiatic borderlands: the conveyor of civilizing values, imperial norms, and imperial techniques" (435). Together with "peaceful peasant settlers" (442), such officials deployed "a certain tolerance" (443) toward the non-Russian population.
Views of the benevolent Russian settler reach their pinnacle in Bekmakhanova's Tsentral'naia Aziia chapter. The author condemns the tsarist regime for its settlement policies and wartime requisitioning that provoked the massive 1916 rebellion against tsarist rule on the steppe and in Central Asia. Bekmakhanova nonetheless asserts the highly dubious claim that "Russian and Ukrainian peasant settlers supported the struggle of the indigenous peasantry against tsarist power" (290). (36) Certainly aware of the volume of documented evidence of violence between settlers and locals in 1916 and 1917, much of which was revealed by Soviet historians in the 1920s, the author claims that "multiple police reports" support her view (290). (37) Her evidence, however, consists of one short, unreferenced quotation (290). Using techniques similar to many Soviet historians, who by the late 1930s were following an official line of seeing tsarist Russian settlers as "big brothers," Bekmakhanova concentrates blame for post-rebellion reprisals against the local population on particular individuals, generally officials, who committed "excesses." (38)
The representations of local, pre-conquest societies in these works demonstrate generational shifts in historiography. The majority of the authors in Tsentral'naia Aziia adhere to dated Soviet, and indeed Western, views of non-Western societies as premodern and backward. (39) Bykov sees steppe nomadic society before the Russian conquest as "static, unchanging, [and] traditional" (192). D. Iu. Arapov claims that the semi-autonomous regions of Bukhara and Khiva had a "typically stagnant character" before the deepening of contacts with the Russians at the end of the 19th century (292). These portrayals foreshadow the book's stress on the progress that Russia brought to the region. In agriculture, for example, "archaic" ways of working land changed with the observance of "European care and scrupulousness" brought by Russian settlers (298). (40) P. P. Litvinov's chapter on religion, even as it effectively discusses debates between tsarist administrators who saw Islam as a force for stability and those who considered it inherently violent, betrays his own view of a "deeply Islamicized" population that demonstrated "fanaticism and hostility toward the arriving civilization" (245-46).
A vibrant, rather than stagnant, society and complex culture highlight Morrison's portrayal of pre-conquest Central Asia. Water management in the Samarkand Valley was hardly, as Arapov contends for the region as a whole, reminiscent of the "Middle Ages" (298). Instead, it was highly sophisticated, evolved to suit an economy involved in significant trade both west and east. Morrison also displays care in discussing the cultural and social dynamics in the region. He counters views of Islam as a monolithic and omnipotent force in local society. In the application of justice, Morrison shows how leaders of khanates eager to centralize their own power employed civil law alongside Sharia (245-47). With Bobrovnikov, Morrison sees the Russian conquest as disturbing a functioning and vigorous society.
Abashin presents sophisticated views of local society without completely divorcing himself from Tsentral'naia Aziia's central argument of a benevolent Russian influence. He explicitly disavows stereotypical treatments of local culture that predominate in the Russian historiography of Central Asia. Abashin stresses the complicated, syncretic character of Central Asian Islam, which blended local practices with broader philosophies. Islam emerges as a source of identity with multiple meanings. Russian rule, in bringing the local population into a colonial world, allowed for new ways to see the religion, including Jadidism. Abashin also seeks to puncture conceptions of local backwardness as compared to European and Russian enlightenment. In discussing the treatment of women in Central Asia, Abashin highlights the decidedly minority view of tsarist-era Orientalist V. P. Nalivkin that the "tyranny of men is significantly less than in Europe" (203).
A later chapter, co-written with Vasil'ev, demonstrates Abashin's recognition of Orientalist stereotypes. Owing much to Said, Abashin and Vasil'ev challenge fixed and often demeaning representations of the Central Asian "other" present in the tsarist era, and although they do not mention it directly, in numerous chapters of Tsentral'naia Aziia. The two offer similarities between British and Russian colonial imagery, both of which used "the East" as a parody of Europe and a foil for European superiority (318). Abashin's section on tsarist efforts to discern national identities among the local population foreshadows this argument. Russian ethnographers and administrators discounted the complexity of family, tribal, village, and religious identities that circulated in steppe and oasis regions. Rather, using European criteria, they discerned a region divided by peoples (narody). Divisions were determined in part by attaching demeaning characteristics to groups with apparent similarities in culture, language, and economic activities. Tajiks were dishonest; Uzbeks, more inclined to serious crime. Personal appearance and clothing, based on how exotic locals appeared to tsarist ethnographers, also separated peoples (265). Political motivations, including a desire to undercut potential pan-Turkism, drove administrative efforts at division. Abashin nonetheless argues that European ideas of nationality, transmitted through Russia, had important influences on Central Asian intellectuals. Kazakh intellectuals took the language and customs of local tribes as "raw material" for identifying a national group. A similar process occurred in Turkestan, as Abashin outlines with frequent references to Adeeb Khalid's works on the modernist Jadids. (41)
In other places, Abashin keeps more in tone with his colleagues, citing tsarist sources to characterize local agriculture as "extremely primitive" (141). Contact with Russians leads to new crops and to Abashin's conclusion, using one reference to a statistic in Nalivkin's work, that "unconditionally, we can say, that the standard of living of the local population increased [under tsarist rule]" (153). Abashin as well, despite the number of comparisons he makes between the British and Russian empires in his co-written chapter on Orientalism, remains reluctant to let go of the image of the tsarist empire as sui generis. One of the chapter's claims of tsarist uniqueness, that non-Russians, particularly Tatars and Bashkirs, were participants in the tsarist Orientalist enterprise, is nicely refuted by Morrison, who in his book shows significant participation by Indians in the parallel British endeavor (82).
Even as the weight of these books leans toward the consideration of the tsarist empire as a relatively benevolent, if not progressive force, non-Russian sentiment is seen as sharpening across the empire in the early 20th century in response to ill-conceived and incomplete standardizing efforts. Rustem Tsiunchuk's contribution to Russian Empire finds emergent non-Russian elites, after initial reluctance to embrace democratizing initiatives, using the first two sessions of the post-1905 Duma as an effective forum of political engagement. They allowed national minorities to assert ethnic and regional self-consciousness as well as join Russian-led political movements. This experience of political socialization facilitated these elites' transition to nationalist leaders when the regime greatly restricted non-Russian representation beginning with the Third Duma in 1907. The fleeting chance for a unified empirewide political culture was lost, and the seed of political mobilization planted among non-Russian nationalities.
Even then, however, significant unrest and violence is discussed in the edited volumes only in the context of war and revolution. A chapter by Bekmakhanova in Tsentral'naia Aziia considers the 1916 rebellion a class-based revolt against tsarist rule rather than a judgment on empire. Shane O'Rourke and Irina Novikova's contributions to Russian Empire offer case studies of revolutionary and Civil War-era national resistance. O'Rourke examines the Don Cossacks following the collapse of the zemstvo. He argues that "a combination of a discrete collective identity and acute political, economic, and social crisis, beginning in the 1870s but accelerating dramatically in 1917-1920, created the circumstances for the Cossack nation to emerge on the Don steppe" (218). From the 16th century, Cossack hosts developed not only unique political institutions but also common patterns of everyday life. O'Rourke nonetheless sees social, generational, and other divides confounding unitary Civil War efforts, which had turned violent, to repel Russian rule. Cossacks, as a consequence, were forced into the Soviet state. At the same time, with an eye to present debates over Cossack nationhood, the author claims that the "civil war marked the transition of the Don Cossacks from a separate but subordinate community to a nation" (234).
Irina Novikova details the twists and turns of the relationship between the Finnish national movement and the Provisional Government in Petrograd in 1917. She blames increased Finnish radicalism on the Provisional Government's failure to take advantage of a surge in sympathy for Russia after the fall of the tsar. The confusion, and at times paralysis, that reigned in the tsarist regime's successor makes it an easy punching bag, though Novikova does note that in its last weeks, the Provisional Government offered virtual autonomy to Finland, pending ratification by a Constituent Assembly. Novikova's story of Finnish nationalist actions mirrors those across the empire in 1917: willingness to cooperate with a new regime faded as wartime hardships endured, decisions on the future of the empire were delayed, and radical nationalists seeking autonomy, if not independence, gained political strength. (42)
Rarely do appendices make gripping reading, but the first two in Tsentral'naia Aziia reveal the tense national politics that have infiltrated, if not overwhelmed, debates over histories of the tsarist empire in the post-Soviet space. S. V. Timchenko and V. V. Gerasimova use their respective appendices to vilify much of the literature on empire that has appeared in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan over the last decade. Breaking the book's practice, where authorship is credited only in fine print following the table of contents, these appendices proudly display the writers' names and cities, presumably, of residence. Timchenko (Almaty) and Gerasimova (Tashkent) seek contemporary "Russophobia" in works of history ranging from school texts to dissertations. Their inquiry is limited not only by this one-sided approach but also by the fact that neither author appears able to read the local language--only material written in Russian is considered. Timchenko condemns the Kazakh historian M. K. Kozybaev for portraying tsarist soldiers in western Siberia as part of a "conquest" and "occupation," rather than highlighting their protection of local nomads against threats from the east and south (346). K. K. Kenzhebekov, whose dissertation characterizes tsarist forces as military colonizers, is accused of equating the Russian presence in Kazakhstan with "fascist Germany and its policies during the occupation of Soviet territories" (348). Timchenko joins Gerasimova in asserting that such works lack "objectivity," a common Soviet and post-Soviet slight against authors who express opposing viewpoints. Timchenko does portray the extent of shifts in representations of the tsarist conquest in establishment Kazakh histories. Whereas the 1993 Kazakh Academy of Sciences History of Kazakhstan from Ancient Times to the Present stresses a voluntary acceptance of Russian subjecthood, the 2000 version uses terms such as Russification, expulsion, genocide, and ethnocide to characterize the Russian influence on the Kazakh peoples and their lands. (43)
Late 1990s Russian-language Uzbek portrayals of a militaristic and expansionist tsarist state constitute Gerasimova's main target as well. Her most pointed attacks are aimed at the Uzbek historian Zh. Rakhimov. (44) She denounces his claims that Russian missions to Central Asian khanates before the conquest were part of a battle for control between the tsarist and British empires. Instead, they should be seen as scientific. Rakhimov's assertions, according to Gerasimova, show his "[s]pymania [shpionomaniia], twisting of facts, and a Russophobic position" (367). She is offended by Rakhimov's attacks on "eminent actors--General Adjutant K. P. von Kaufman, General M. G. Cherniaev, M. D. Skobelev" (368). These are the very three who are lauded in the popular Russian work Geroi imperii, published in 2000, which sought to rehabilitate ideas of empire in contemporary Russia through a heroic portrayal of frontier leaders. (45) The khanate of Kokand emerges in Rakhimov's work and Gerasimova's reaction as a crude proxy for contemporary Uzbekistan. Kokand's leader in the early years of tsarist power, Khudoiar Khan, is either a staunch fighter against foreign incursions or a degenerate despot. Kokand's rebellion against tsarist rule in 1874-76 is either a protonational liberation movement or an unpopular khan's desperate effort to hold power. Gerasimova accuses Rakhimov of "forgetting" that Kokandians undertook violent raids, "destroying and killing, and taking captive women and children" of those Kazakh nomads who preferred to live under the tsar (373). Gerasimova subsequently turns to a school text that Rakhimov authored in 2001, which she seeks to expose as a "fruitful harvest of lies and hate" (373). (46) Her criticisms center on Rakhimov's portrayals of mass violence during the 1860s conquest, including the murders of women, children, and the elderly, and of tsarist officers as "careerists," "chauvinists," and "thieves" (375-76). Only several pages later do we find out that the schoolbook was withdrawn from classrooms after two years, replaced by a less "Russophobic" one.
Gerasimova and Timchenko miss the chance to engage in a nuanced discussion of shifting political and nationalist imperatives across the post-Soviet space and their impact on the historiography of newly independent states. Timchenko ends his contribution somewhat ominously by dividing Kazakh historiography into "moderate" and "radical" schools. The former, apparently typified by the Kazakhs who contributed to Tsentral'naia Aziia, presents an "objective" view that balances benefits and costs of the tsarist "unification" (prisoedinenie, the term used in the Soviet period and by most authors in this collection). (47) The latter pushes a "false and damaging" image of Russian actions in and influence on Kazakh lands (359).
Tsentral'naia Aziia offers an important marker of the state of post-Soviet historiography of the tsarist empire. Authors betray, to different extents, their training within a Marxist-Leninist framework. Even more notable, however, is the book's Russian-centered framework. A few chapters, like those from Boronin and Vasil'ev, offer a solid discussion of the process of conquest and administration, but these are hardly groundbreaking--though, to be fair, the book is aimed at a popular audience. Tsentral'naia Aziia exposes a connection between the exclusivist historiography of the Soviet era, when historians of the USSR were expected to focus only on events in "their" nation or republic, and the exclusivist historiography of the present, when historians are subject to national, and nationalist, politics in a still evolving post-Soviet space. (48) No sources, primary or secondary, in Central Asian languages are used; locals' words in these pages, through Russian-language material, support views of tsarist munificence.
The image of Russia as the bringer of "progress," deemed a uniquely European and an inherently beneficial concept, represents another important continuity from the tsarist and Soviet eras, with the important exception of the 1920s and early 1930s. As all the contributors to Tsentral'naia Aziia are established historians, the thrust of a new generation trained after the collapse remains unclear. How will they consider tsarist Russia's place in an imperial world? How many will follow the path of Abashin in learning local languages as well as Western postcolonial methods, challenging the views of their seniors? Will nationalist imperatives and the continuities with Soviet categories of analysis and methods carry over into future works on the impact of empire? Tsentral'naia Aziia represents a lost opportunity to engage the steppe and Turkestan in light of the greater availability of sources and the expanding literature on the region in the West, Russia, and across Central Asia over the last decades.
Russian Empire presents a complicated dynamic between imperial visions of governance and experiences in non-Russian lands. Unforeseen outcomes of policies and encounters undermined state goals and played critical roles in the evolution of tsarist politics and society. Bringing an understanding of the profundity and challenges of empire to the center is an important contribution in a field where its effects have largely been relegated to the periphery. Empire emerges as unwieldy, a constant "work in progress" (15), but one that proved more benign than the alternative of a homogenizing Russian-led nation-state, or, seemingly, "bourgeois" Western imperial states. This effort to rehabilitate the tsarist empire among Russian Empire's collective of Russian and Western historians, though less explicit than the one in Tsentral'naia Aziia, constitutes the book's principal weakness. Non-Western or non-Russian voices, absent from the collective of authors, are also virtually absent from the text. Stories are told almost exclusively from the colonizer's viewpoint, even if sources come from regional instead of central periodicals and archives.
Alexander Morrison has gone to great lengths to place the tsarist empire within an imperial world, visiting libraries and archives in New Delhi and London as well as in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Tashkent. He makes an important case in his introduction for the value and the applicability of comparative histories of Russian imperial rule. Similarities and differences between Turkestan and the Raj offer substantial food for thought. The book, however, does not quite live up to its subtitle as a "comparison with British India." Each of the chapters presents a few separate pages on any number of different territories of the Raj, but no overall comparative framework is established. Morrison's empirical work, nonetheless, displays at once a broad and deep understanding of the way colonial rule functioned in the Samarkand Valley. His depictions of the administrators themselves and of their efforts to understand and reform local land tenure, irrigation, the judiciary, and religion stand as significant achievements. I see Morrison's main flaw in his failure to read critically the source material, to understand that natives' words written to colonial administrators may not be telling us the whole story of how local society was transformed under colonial rule. Given Morrison's sensitivity to local Samarkand culture elsewhere in the book, I was surprised to see how easily he fell into the trap of duplicating tsarist administrators' views.
The simultaneous emphasis on the significance and the uncertainties of empire, at the center as well as on the periphery, links these works and marks their most significant combined contribution to the field of Russian imperial history. The regime proved reactive as often as proactive in its administration of varied peripheries, and local populations had significant roles in shaping the character of colonial rule. At the same time, empire was about power, and colonizers across tsarist lands found a multitude of ways to repress the colonized population and exploit their lands for either individual, collective, or state benefit. In the two collected studies, the desire to rehabilitate aspects of tsarist rule as positive legacies that might, perhaps, be replicated in today's Russia limits a full investigation of the darker sides of empire. Even Morrison's main intellectual debt to comparative colonial studies comes from the so-called Cambridge school of Indian history, which is hostile to critical analyses of colonial discourse and sees British actions in India as hapless, if not benign. (49) Integrating tsarist Russia into the global "age of empire" in the late 19th and early 20th centuries remains a distant prospect, despite the multiple analogies exposed in these works. Daily life under colonial rule, the everyday encounters that sparked shifting identities, practices, and hierarchies, for Russians as well as non-Russians, constitutes another area sorely lacking. Future studies, I hope, will follow these books' strengths on the complexity of imperial rule, extending them to the individual colonial encounters that undermined as much as enforced visions of empire.
Institute of European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies
Ottawa, ON K1S-5B6, Canada
When the publications of a Kritika staff member are reviewed, that person is excluded from all editorial decisions associated with the review.
(1) On this explosion, see "The Imperial Turn," Kritika 7, 4 (2006): 705-12. See n. 15 for studies on imperial rule in Russia over the last decade.
(2) Burbank and Von Hagen assert that these views are dominant popular perceptions and do not address their impact on scholarly literature (Russian Empire, 1).
(3) The other volumes in this series are M. D. Dolbilov and A. I. Miller, eds., Zapadnye okrainy Rossiiskoi imperil (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2006); L. M. Dameshek and A. V. Remnev, eds., Sibir' v sostave Rassiiskoi imperil (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2007); and V. O. Bobrovnikov and I. L. Babich, eds., Severnyi Kavkaz v sostave Rossiiskoi imperil (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2007). For a discussion of this series, see "Studies of New Imperial History and Nationalism in the Post-Soviet Space," Ab Imperio, no. 4 (2008).
(4) The best example of this in the case of Central Asia is Evgenii Glushenko, Stroiteli imperil: Portrety kolonial'nykh deiatelei (Moscow: XXI vek-Soglasie, 2000); and Glushenko, Geroi imperii: Portrety rossiiskikh kolonial' nykh deiatelei (Moscow: XXI vek-Soglasie, 2001). For a review of the former, see Willard Sunderland, "The Empire's Men at the Empire's Edges," Kritika 5, 3 (2004): 515-25. On Russian histories of the borderlands more generally, see Gary Hamburg, "Imperial Entanglements: Two New Histories of Russia's Western and Southern Borderlands," Kritika 9, 2 (2008): 407-31.
(5) Sergei Abashin, "Razmyshleniia o 'Tsentral'noi Azii v sostave Rossiiskoi imperil,'" Ab Imperio, no. 4 (2008): 457-59.
(6) For an excellent summary of postcolonial-studies literature, with a thorough bibliography, see Barbara Bush, Imperialism and Postcolonialism (London: Pearson, 2006). See also Robert J. C. Young, Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction (London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2001). The Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History also serves as an excellent resource for ongoing research. Burbank and Von Hagen's view follows in the footsteps of recent Russian historiography on empire, particularly I. Gerasimov et al., eds., Novaia imperskaia istoriia pastsovetskogo prostranstva (Kazan': Tsentr issledovanii natsionalizma i imperil, 2004). The introduction to this book asserts that postcolonial literature reifies differences between East and West and discounts the effects of mutual relationships between peoples.
(7) Mark Von Hagen and Karen Barkey, eds., After Empire: Multiethnic Societies and NationBuilding--The Soviet Union and the Russian, Ottoman, and Habsburg Empires (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1997).
(8) One of the differences posited in the introduction, the confusion between nation-state and imperial forms, has been discussed effectively for Western empires in Antoinette Burton, ed., After the Imperial Turn: Thinking With and Through the Nation (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003).
(9) Comparisons between overland North American expansion and overseas European ones have come slowly but accelerated in the post-2001 era. For the article that brought these comparisons into the mainstream, see Ann Laura Stoler, "Tense and Tender Ties: The Politics of Comparison in North American History and (Post)Colonial Studies," Journal of American History 88, 3 (2001): 829-65. For a discussion on American "exceptionalism" and how this has slowed comparative histories, see Paul A. Kramer, "Empire, Exceptions, and Anglo-Saxons: Race and Rule between the British and United States Empires, 1880-1910," Journal of American History 88, 4 (2002): 1315-53. See also Adele Perry, On the Edge of Empire: Gender, Race, and the Making of British Columbia, 1849-1871 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001); and Ann Laura Stoler, ed., Haunted by Empire: Geographies of Intimacy in North American History (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006).
(10) Michael Hechter's model of "internal colonialism" has blurred the boundary between core and periphery in the British Empire: Hechter, Internal Colonialism: The Celtic Fringe in British National Development, 1536-1966 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975). See also Linda Colley, Britains: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992). On confusion between core and periphery in the French case, see Robert Aldrich, Greater France: A History of French Overseas Expansion (London: Palgrave, 1996); and Aldrich, Vestiges of the Colonial Empire in France (London: Palgrave, 2004). For the German case, see Vejas Liulevicius, War Land on the Eastern Front: Culture, National Identity, and German Occupation in World War I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).
(11) The introduction's bibliography includes only four works on other nation-states and empires from, in the editors' words, "this huge scholarship" (Russian Empire, 28 n. 13).
(12) On German colonialism, see Michael Perraudin and Jurgen Zimmerer, eds., German Colonialism and National Identity (London: Routledge, 2009); and Isabel V. Hull, Absolute Destruction: Military Culture and the Practices of War in Germany (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004).
(13) Jeff Sahadeo, Russian Colonial Society in Tashkent, 1865-1923 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007).
(14) I also argue that one reason for this lack of recourse to racist vocabulary, though it can be found in tsarist discourse, was a sense of marginality among Russians themselves as Slavs as opposed to Western or Northern Europeans in evolving 19th-century racial hierarchies (Russian Colonial Society, 85-87). See also Yuri Slezkine, Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994). For a spirited exchange on race in the early Soviet period, see the discussion of Eric Weitz, "Racial Politics without the Concept of Race: Reevaluating Soviet Ethnic and National Purges" Slavic Review 61, 1 (2002): 1-65.
(15) Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Random House, 1977). The debate appeared in "Ex Tempore: Orientalism in Russia," Kritika 1, 4 (2000): 691-727. A selection of works on empire in tsarist Russia over the last decade includes Nicholas B. Breyfogle, Abby Schrader, and Willard Sunderland, eds., Peopling the Russian Periphery: Borderland Colonization in Eurasian History (London: Routledge, 2007); Robert Crews, For Prophet and Tsar: Islam and Empire in Russia and Central Asia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007); Sahadeo, Russian Colonial Society in Tashkent;, Nicholas B. Breyfogle, Heretics and Colonizers: Forging Russia's Empire in the South Caucasus (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006); Willard Sunderland, Taming the Wild Field." Colonization and Empire on the Russian Steppe (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004); Andreas Kappeler, The Russian Empire: A Multiethnic History, trans. Alfred Clayton (London: Longman, 2004); Dominic Lieven, Empire: The Russian Empire andIts Rivals (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002); Daniel R. Brower, Turkestan and the Fate of the Russian Empire (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2002); Michael Khodarkovsky, Russia's Steppe Frontier: The Making of a Colonial Empire, 1500-1800 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002); Paul Werth, At the Margins of Orthodoxy: Mission, Governance, and Confessional Politics in Russia's Volga-Korea Region, 1827-1905 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002); Austin Jersild, Orientalism and Empire: North Caucasus Peoples and the Georgian Frontier, 1845-1917 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2002); Virginia Martin, Law and Custom in the Steppe: The Kazakhs of the Middle Horde and Russian Colonialism in the Nineteenth Century (London: Curzon, 2001); Robert Geraci, Window on the East: National and Imperial Identities in Late Tsarist Russia (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001); and Thomas Barrett, At the Edge of Empire: The Terek Cossacks and the North Caucasus Frontier 1700-1860 (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1999).
(16) Adeeb Khalid, "Russian History and the Debate over Orientalism," Kritika 1, 4 (2000): 691-99.
(17) Tolz argues that Russian scholars' insecurity over the status of their nation, due to its embryonic state in the late 19th century as well as its position on the periphery of Europe, led them to critiques of Western imperialism that served as forerunners to the ideas expressed by Edward Said. At the same time, Tolz sees Russian Orientalist scholars as clearly connected to colleagues from Great Britain to Germany and extremely sensitive to how their views were received across Europe ("European, National, and [Anti-]Imperial: The Formation of Academic Oriental Studies in Late Tsarist Russia," Kritika 9, 1 : 53-81).
(18) The Subaltern Studies Group arose in India in the 1980s, inspired by Antonio Gramsci's emphasis on the "subaltern"--those who are left out of the structures of power. They found the views of this Italian Marxist more in keeping with their desire to focus on peasants and other lower-class actors who had been largely ignored to that point in histories of empire, as well as in works by Marx himself, who saw progress only in advancement toward a Western-style industrialized society. See Ranajit Guha and Gayatri Spivak, eds., Selected Subaltern Studies (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988); and David Ludden, Reading Subaltern Studies: Critical History, Contested Meaning, and the Globalization of South Asia (London: Anthem, 2002). Subaltern studies scholars are some of many working in the postcolonial field who borrowed from Foucault. On Foucault and power, see Michel Foucault, "The Subject and Power," in Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. 2nd ed., ed. Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982).
(19) Abashin, "Razmyshleniia o 'Tsentral'noi Azii v sostave Rossiiskoi imperil.'"
(20) Sunderland here borrows from Richard Wortman. See Wortman, Scenarios of Power: Myth and Ceremony in Russian Monarchy, 2 vols. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995-2000).
(21) For the complete text of the Gorchakov memorandum, see James Cracraft, Major Problems in the History of Imperial Russia (Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath, 1994), 410-11.
(22) Dolbilov and Miller, eds., Zapadnye okrainy Rossiiskoi imperil
(23) Hamburg, "Imperial Entanglements."
(24) This theme has been developed by Crews, For Prophet and Tsar.
(25) Werth, At the Margins of Orthodoxy. On the Volga Tatars, see also Crews, For Prophet and Tsar; Geraci, Window on the Ease, Robert P. Geraci and Michael Khodarkovsky, eds., Of Religion and Empire: Missions, Conversion, and Tolerance in Tsarist Russia (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001); Azade-Ayse Rorlich, The Valga Tatars: A Profile in National Resistance (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1986); Chantal Lemercier-Quelquejay, Giles Veinstein, and S. Enders Wimbush, eds., Passe Turco-Tatar, present sovietique: Etudes offertes a Alexandre Bennigsen (Louvain: Peeters, 1986).
(26) On the policy of ignorirovanie, see Daniel R. Brower, Turkestan and the Fate of the Russian Empire (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003).
(27) On the Spiritual Boards, see Crews, For Prophet and Tsar.
(28) See, for example, Peter van der Veer, Imperial Encounters.. Religion and Modernity in India and Britain (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001); and Philip Alfred Buckner and R. Douglas Francis, eds., Rediscovering the British World (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2005).
(29) On this and other social and economic changes, see Adeeb Khalid's foundational work on imperial Turkestan, The Politics of Muslim Cultural Reform: Jadidism in Central Asia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 45-79. On the importance of trade in Turkestan, see Scott Levi, The Indian Diaspora in Central Asia and Its Trade, 1550-1900 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2002).
(30) On intellectual exchanges, see Khalid, The Politics of Muslim Cultural Reform. On the urban contact zone, see Sahadeo, Russian Colonial Society in Tashkent.
(31) Zemon Davis here is extending Walter Benjamin's urging that we "rub history against the grain"; see Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984). On the use of archives in colonial situations, see Antoinette Burton, ed., Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions, and the Writing of History (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005).
(32) Morrison takes Crews to task for this and other shortcomings in his review of For Prophet and Tsar; see Slavonic and East European Review 86, 3 (2008): 553-57.
(33) Crews, For Prophet and Tsar, 86. He goes even further in the introduction to the book, stating that many Muslims saw themselves as needing "the tsarist state to live according to God's plan" (9). Other reviews of Crews's book make similar criticisms: see Gary Hamburg, "Imperial Entanglements." Michael Khodarkovsky states that "even more puzzling is the author's uncritical approach to the documents, which he inevitably takes at face value" (American Historical Review 112, 5 : 1491-93). My own review of the book is in Central Asian Survey 27, 1 (2008): 105-6.
(34) See Sahadeo, "Epidemic and Empire: Ethnicity, Class, and 'Civilization' in the 1892 Tashkent Cholera Riot," Slavic Review 64, 1 (2005): 117-39.
(35) Rebecca Gould criticizes Bobrovnikov's equation of post-conquest abrek with banditry in her generally positive evaluation of his studies on the subject ("Transgressive Sanctity: The Abrek in Chechen Culture," Kritika 8, 2 : 271-306).
(36) Given its importance in Central Asian and imperial Russian history, the 1916 rebellion remains understudied. For views that stress the violence of Russian settlers, see Edward Dennis Sokol, The Revolt of 1916 in Russian Central Asia (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1954); and Daniel R. Brower, "Kyrgyz Nomads and Russian Pioneers: Colonization and Ethnic Conflict in the Turkestan Revolt of 1916," Jahrbucher fur Geschichte Osteuropas 44, 1 (1996): 41-53.
(37) Soviet historians in that first decade strongly condemned tsarist-era "Great Russian chauvinism," epitomized in their view by Russian settlers in Asiatic lands; see, for example, Turar Ryskulov, Revoliutsiia i korennoe naselenie Turkestana (Tashkent: Uzbekskoe gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stvo, 1925); and P. G. Galuzo, Turkestan-koloniia (Ocherk istorii Turkestana at zavoevaniia russkimi do revoliutsii 1917 goda) (Moscow: Izdanie Universiteta trudiashchikhsia Vostoka imeni I. V. Stalina, 1929).
(38) For an excellent account of the shifting historiographies of the tsarist empire, see Lowell Tillett, The Great Friendship: Soviet Historians on the Non-Russian Nationalities (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1969).
(39) On this evolution, see Michael M. J. Fischer's introduction to the "instructive period piece" (xiv) of Elizabeth E. Bacon, Central Asians under Russian Rule: A Study in Culture Change, 2nd ed. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1980).
(40) Tsarist administrators generally saw Russian peasants as poor conveyors of modern agricultural technology: see Breyfogle, Heretics and Colonizers; and Sahadeo, Russian Colonial Society, 149-51.
(41) Khalid, The Politics of Muslim Cultural Reform.
(42) See Ronald Grigor Suny, The Revenge of the Past." Nationalism, Revolution, and the Collapse of the Soviet Union (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993).
(43) M. K. Kozybaev, ed., Istoriia Kazakhstana s drevneishikh vremen do nashikh dnei: Ocherk (Almaty: Daiur, 1993); M. Kh. Azylbekov, ed., Istoriia Kazakhstana s drevneishikh vremen do nashikh dnei, 5 vols. (Almaty: Atamura, 1997-2000).
(44) She refers here to Zh. Rakhimov, Ispol'zovanie arkhivnykh materialov pri izuchenii istorii Uzbekistana (Tashkent: Uzbekiston, 1997).
(45) On Geroi imperii, see n. 4.
(46) Zh. Rakhimov, Istoriia Uzbekistana (Vtoraia polovina XIX v.-nachalo XX v.): 9 klass (Tashkent: Uzbekiston, 2001).
(47) On prisoedinenie and the evolution of terminology to discuss the conquest, see Tillett, The Great Friendship.
(48) On this Soviet practice, see Khalid, Islam after Communism: Religion and Politics in Central Asia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 96.
(49) The Cambridge school of Indian history dates back to the 19th century. Its central tenet was best summarized by the chair of modern history at Cambridge in 1869, J. R. Seeley, who argued that the British Empire was established "in a fit of absence of mind." For a prominent example of the scholarship of the school, see C. A. Bayly's works, beginning with, Rulers, Townsmen, and Bazaars: North Indian Society in the Age of British Expansion, 1770-1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983). For a criticism of the Cambridge school, see Nicholas B. Dirks, Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001). I am indebted to Adeeb Khalid for this reference to the Cambridge school. See his review of Morrison's book in Slavic Review 69, 1 (2010): 242-43.
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|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2010|
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