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Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 3.4 (2002) 746-754

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Wayne Dowler, Classroom and Empire: The Politics of Schooling Russia's Eastern Nationalities, 1860-1917. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001. 296 pp. ISBN 0-7735-2099-6. $65.00.
Toivo Flink, Maaorjuuden ja vallankumouksen puristuksessa: Inkerin ja Pietarin suomalaisten sivistys-, kulttuuri- ja itsetuntopyrkimyskiä vuosina 1861-1917[Squeezed by Serfdom and Revolution: The Ingrian and St. Petersburg Finns' Endeavors for Education, Culture, and Self-Consciousness, 1861-1917]. Turku, Finland: Turun Yliopisto, 2000. 456 pp. ISBN 951-29-1765-3.
Nina Emil'evna Vashkau, Shkola v nemetskikh koloniiakh Povolzh'ia 1764-1917 gg. Volgograd: Izdatel'stvo Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta, 1998. 208 pp. ISBN 5-85534-154-2.

During the final decades of the tsarist regime Russian officials struggled with the many challenges inherent in governing a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-lingual empire that was still expanding. Among the perennial problems of economic modernization, political and administrative reform, social diversification, and migration was the particularly perplexing challenge of integrating more than 100 different ethnic groups into the tsarist state. To accomplish this objective, the government periodically employed coercive policies, including administrative and cultural Russification, 1 that were routinely deplored by non-Russian nationalists. As a general rule, the tsarist government did a fair to poor job in tackling many of the problems associated with governing the empire, as did most imperial powers at the time. Yet categorical pronouncements about the negative impact of Russian policies on the state's non-Russian population or the forcefulness of Russification fail to capture the nuances of how regional and local policies developed or to explain the variety of local outcomes.

In the last decade a wealth of new studies, based largely on newly uncovered archival and published materials, have investigated the Russian regime's interaction with the state's ethnic and religious minorities. Authors of these studies havedismissed previous views that the tsarist regime deployed a single set of coercive policies toward the empire's non-Russian and non-Orthodox inhabitants. [End Page 746] Rather, the authors of these studies generally agree that the Russian government attempted a variety of policies in a wide range of local conditions; the results varied widely and were not fully anticipated. 2

The volumes reviewed here make substantial contributions to our understanding of imperial policy toward non-Russians by focusing on changes in educational policy and practice in specific regions of the empire. Both directly and indirectly, these authors address the many challenges of using formalized schooling to integrate the Romanov empire's multiethnic population. Using a combination of archival material, newspapers, published documents, memoirs, and the existing secondary literature, the authors of these volumes present striking examples of the dramatic changes and variations in the schooling of non-Russians during the last five decades of the tsarist regime. Taken together, these volumes provide a glimpse of the variety of educational systems - some run by the imperial government, some operated by non-Orthodox religious organizations, and others run as private school networks - that competed for influence at the local level. These authors demonstrate that educational policy and practice toward non-Russians often responded to local concerns and developments. Far from being an [End Page 747] all-powerful regime with the ability to force its way on every issue, the imperial government described in these volumes struggled (and ultimately failed) to find a coherent set of policies that could systematize educational policy and practice for the empire's non-Russian speakers and win their loyalty to tsar and fatherland.

It is natural that formalized education was one of the many battlegrounds upon which the struggle to control Russia was fought. Government officials, Russian nationalists, non-Russian elites, and secular reformers alike included education, particularly its linguistic and religious components, in their battles to influence the content and direction...


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