In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • The Rise and Fall of Russia's Far Eastern Republic, 1905–1922: Nationalisms, Imperialisms, and Regionalisms in and after the Russian Empire by Ivan Sablin
  • Paul J. Welch Behringer (bio)
Ivan Sablin, The Rise and Fall of Russia's Far Eastern Republic, 1905–1922: Nationalisms, Imperialisms, and Regionalisms in and after the Russian Empire ( New York: Routledge, 2019). 300 pp., ill. Bibliography. Index. ISBN: 978-1-138-31730-7.

Ivan Sablin, a research group leader at the University of Heidelberg, has published an important book that will be required reading for anyone studying the history of the Russian Far East in the revolutionary and civil war periods. In this book Sablin, a prolific writer and intrepid researcher who works with archival documents in several languages, expands on his many published articles on the subject.1 Readers familiar with his previous work will recognize some of the book's arguments and evidence, but Sablin does an excellent job of bringing all these threads together [End Page 301] in a coherent and detailed regional history.

Sablin has written the first detailed monograph in English on the Far Eastern Republic (FER). Although other historians have touched on the republic's history (nearly all histories of the Russian Civil War mention it), sustained analyses of the Soviet buffer state are few.2 And none of them approach the deep archival research conducted by Sablin and presented in The Rise and Fall. In addition to working in Russian archives in Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, Ulan-Ude, and Moscow, he draws on some U.S. and Japanese primary documents. Sablin also incorporates findings from the post-Soviet Russian-language secondary literature on the FER.3

It would have been laudable enough if that were the extent of Sablin's contributions. But the author also attempts to expand on the way historians conceptualize the Far Eastern Republic's regional significance. This is often treated as a discreet and strange episode that lasted only from 1920 to 1922. Sablin demonstrates how competing strands of regional and national identity interacted with the geopolitical contest among empires, influencing the creation of the FER as well as its demise. Rather than simply focusing on the action in the FER's capital (Verkhneudinsk and later Chita), Sablin takes a wider regional approach, explaining why the FER succeeded where its competitors (such as the left-leaning zemstvo government in Vladivostok or S. D. Merkulov's Priamur Provisional Government) failed. Sablin is also in conversation with the New Imperial History and the latest research on nationalism in the Russian and Soviet empires, which have left the Russian Far East in this period relatively unexamined.

Sablin builds his case over the course of an introduction, five chapters, and a conclusion. Although the book follows a roughly chronological narrative, the author's conceptual framework sometimes causes him to jump back and forth in time, which, along with some dense and [End Page 302] awkward prose, occasionally makes it hard for the reader to follow the course of events or to find information quickly. Nevertheless, Sablin's interpretations are well constructed and convincing. The maps and illustrations throughout the book are excellent. An extensive bibliography follows each chapter.

In the introduction, Sablin gives an overview of the Russian Far East up to 1905 – Russia's eastward imperial expansion, conflicts with the Qing and Japanese empires, and the region's place in the administration and imagination of the Russian Empire. He also provides a useful summary of the English- and Russian-language historiography on the Russian Far East, lays out his conceptual framework, and describes his sources and methods.

Sablin's overarching argument is that the advocates of three types of identity competed to dominate the FER's creation, state-building policies, and foreign relations. The regionalists were led by A. M. Krasnoshchekov, the FER's first head of government and foreign minister, who envisioned an autonomous state structure within a larger Soviet federation. In Krasnoshchekov's conception, the FER would be based on a regional, multiethnic identity. It was Krasnoshchekov who sold the idea of the FER buffer state to Moscow in the first place (and not, as Soviet-era historians often claimed, Lenin's brainchild). The...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 301-306
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.