Russia's Steppe Frontier: The Making of a Colonial Empire, 1500-1800
Publish Date: 2002-02-01
Author: Michael Khodarkovsky
From the time of the decline of the Mongol Golden Horde to the end of the 18th century, the Russian government expanded its influence and power throughout its southern borderlands. The process of incorporating these lands and peoples into the Russian Empire was not only a military and political struggle, but also a contest between the conceptual worlds of the indigenous peoples and the Russians. Drawing on sources and archival materials in Russian and Turkic languages, Michael Khodarkovsky draws a complex picture of the encounter between the Russian authorities and border peoples. Not surprisingly, both sides viewed the other through the distorted lenses of their own societies, but what they saw had important consequences for the evolution of the Russian Empire and the fate of the indigenous peoples. Because of the constant conflicts on the southern frontier, Russia became a society organised for war while the native societies were slowly but irreversibly transformed under the influence of Russia's policies, markets, and institutions. Imperial vision was articulated in terms of the universal monarchy, and blurred the separation between the metropolis and colonies, between peoples within and outside the imperial boundaries, and between the administrative and legal institutions in the metropolitan area and colonial periphery. For example, Russians pitted Muslims against adherents to local religions in a bid to convert the population to Orthodox Christianity. Russia's Steppe Frontier is an original and invaluable resource for understanding Russia's imperial experience.