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  • Anatolii Remnev and the Regions of the Russian Empire
  • Leonid Gorizontov (bio)

A clear indication of the importance of Anatolii Viktorovich Remnev (1955–2012) for the field of Russian history is the commemorative conferences and panels that have been held since his untimely death. Two sessions of the Central Eurasian Studies Society conference, held at the Harriman Institute of Columbia University in October 2014, were dedicated to Remnev: a panel discussion on “Imagining Space and Peoples in Siberia” and a memorial round table gathering specialists from Russia, the United States, and Kazakhstan. In addition, a special conference marking what would have been Remnev’s 60th birthday was held at his home institution of Omsk State University in October 2015. These events speak not only to Remnev’s impressive scholarly achievements but also to the deep affection his memory continues to evoke among his colleagues, students, and fellow scholars, both around Russia and throughout the world.

Although the regional dimension of Russian imperial history occupies a central place in Remnev’s œuvre, his academic journey began with a different set of problems. While still a schoolboy, Remnev discovered the memoirs of Sergei Iu. Witte in his family’s library, and the book sparked an interest in the political history and higher bureaucracy of post-Emancipation Russia, which grew to become the subject of his undergraduate work.1

The three volumes of Witte’s memoirs, published in the USSR in 1960, enjoyed a following among history students at the end of the 1970s, not only in Omsk but in Moscow as well. Though Witte’s recollections were not quite “forbidden fruit,” Soviet students at the time were expected to begin their studies of late imperial Russia with Lenin rather than Witte. Yet the great statesman’s memoirs were fascinating, offering a uniquely panoramic [End Page 901] and engaging view of multiple aspects of government life from domestic and foreign affairs to economic and nationality policies while presenting a vivid portrait gallery of the last Romanovs and many of the country’s high officials. The work also touches on the agenda of the empire’s regions, including regions beyond the Urals, which, for a variety of reasons, loomed large in government thinking in the late imperial decades. Witte’s recollections were edited by Arkadii L. Sidorov (1900–1966), the mentor of several members of the so-called New Direction (novoe napravlenie) that was taking hold in scholarship on the late empire and running into pushback from the Soviet establishment in the early 1970s. Departing from the standard orthodoxy, this group of historians—in a way that was quite rebellious for the time—suggested that Russia faced a variety of possible paths of development on the eve of the October Revolution. The first volume of the memoirs was prepared by the Leningraders Rafail Sh. Ganelin (1926–2014) and Boris V. Anan’ich (1931–2015), both of whom then participated in reissuing a new comprehensive edition of the memoirs in 2003.

After completing his second year at the newly established Omsk State University and being selected to transfer to Leningrad State in 1979 to complete his studies, Remnev had no difficulty choosing his new academic adviser. At the time, Anan’ich combined teaching at the university with duties at the Leningrad Division of the Institute of History of the USSR (under the auspices of the Academy of Sciences), and he agreed to take the newly arrived Siberian under his wing.2 A renowned specialist on the economic history of the 19th and early 20th centuries, Anan’ich had always been interested in efforts to create a “united government” (ob”edinennoe pravitel’stvo) capable of developing and executing collective decisions. He shared this interest with Remnev, and Remnev decided to focus his own research on the Committee of Ministers in the postreform period.3 He graduated from university at the age of 27, later than usual for Soviet students at the time (primarily due to his three-year service in the Pacific Fleet), and he continued on at Leningrad State for his postgraduate studies, defending his candidate’s thesis there in 1986.

The history of state institutions and, by extension, of domestic policy during the imperial...