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Russia's Steppe Frontier

The Making of a Colonial Empire, 1500-1800

Michael Khodarkovsky

Publication Year: 2002

"... a tremendously important contribution to the field of Russian history and the comparative study of empires and frontiers. There is no comparable work in any language.... The book presents an intricate and gripping narrative of a vast sweep of histories, weaving them together into a comprehensive and comprehensible chronology." -- Valerie Kivelson

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 presents a complex picture of the encounter between the Russian authorities and native peoples.

Russia's Steppe Frontier is an original and invaluable resource for understanding Russia's imperial experience.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Indiana-Michigan Series in Russian and East European Studies

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

This book is the product of a decade of research and writing, and it would have certainly taken much longer without the timely and generous support of various foundations. In 1992–93 a fellowship from the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies of the Woodrow Wilson Center allowed me to initiate the project at the Library of Congress, and a grant from the International...

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pp. 1-6

The two largest Christian empires, the Roman and the Byzantine, shared the same destiny: their messengers of death arrived from across their frontiers. These facts were well known in sixteenth-century Moscow: that the Roman empire collapsed in the fifth century C.E., drained of its resources and exhausted by a long and ultimately unsuccessful resistance to Germanic “barbarians...

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The Sociology of the Frontier, or Why Peace Was Impossible

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pp. 7-46

A party of 120 Russians arrived at the Yaik River to trade their grain for salt and fish with the Yaik Cossacks. They were returning to their village in the central Volga region when they were surprised by a war party of 600 Kazakhs and Karakalpaks. All were seized and taken away to become slaves and laborers. One of them, Mikhail Andreev, was able to escape from his Kazakh...

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Frontier Concepts and Policies in Muscovy

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pp. 47-76

There were no borders south of Muscovy, for borders required that neighboring peoples define and agree upon common lines of partition. Demarcating a conventional border in the steppe was simply impossible given the absence of the notion of territorial sovereignty among the nomads and the...

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Taming the “Wild Steppe,” 1480–1600s

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pp. 77-125

Throughout more than two hundred years of its history, the Golden Horde, a powerful confederation of nomadic and seminomadic tribes dominating the vast territory from western Siberia to Moscow, withstood numerous challenges from constituents of its enormous empire as well as outsiders. But by the late 1470s the Golden Horde was in irreversible decline. It had become...

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From Steppe Frontier to Imperial Borderlands, 1600–1800

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pp. 126-183

The beginning of the seventeenth century brought a temporary reversal in the traditional roles of Muscovy’s relations with its steppe neighbors. Throughout the sixteenth century, as the Muscovite state was becoming increasingly autocratic, the steppe nomadic societies were torn by incessant...

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Concepts and Policies in the Imperial Borderlands, 1690s–1800

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pp. 184-220

For a century and a half after Moscow’s conquest of Kazan, Russia’s rapid and forceful expansion pushed its frontiers farther south and east, taking Russian settlers far afield: to the foothills of the Caucasus as well as the shores of the Pacific Ocean. By the early eighteenth century, the initial stage of expansion was largely over. Undergirded by the new and continuing...

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pp. 221-229

Situated on the westernmost periphery of the Eurasian steppe, Russia’s frontiers in the south and southeast were similar to those of other states and empires on the edges of the steppe, such as the northern and northwestern frontiers of China and the northern and eastern frontiers of Persia. The intermittent eruptions of the nomadic tribes emerging from the heart of...


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pp. 230-232

List of Abbreviations

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pp. 233-234


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pp. 235-268


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pp. 269-281


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pp. 283-290

E-ISBN-13: 9780253108777
E-ISBN-10: 0253108772
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253339898

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 16 b&w photos, 10 maps, 1 index
Publication Year: 2002

Series Title: Indiana-Michigan Series in Russian and East European Studies