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Podcast: The Empire of the Steppe: Russia's Colonial Experience on the Eurasian Frontiers

Eurasian Empires Seminar Series Lecture by Michael Khodarkovsky, Loyola University, Chicago

Russia was a quintessential Eurasian empire.  Like its imperial symbol, the double-headed eagle facing east and west, Russia emerged in response to challenges and influences from both Europe and the steppe.  While the European dimensions of the Russian empire are more apparent, the role of the Great Eurasian steppe has long remained unrecognized or misunderstood.  The impact of the steppe, it turns out, was a crucial factor in the formation of the Russian state and its imperial political culture.  The influences from the steppe arrived in two waves:  first, when Russia was a subject-state to the Mongols and the Golden Horde during the 13-16th centuries, and second, when Russia, in a dramatic reversal of roles, embarked on building its own colonial empire in the steppe during the 16-19th centuries.  At all times, the evolution of the Russian empire was inseparable from the developments on its Eurasian frontiers.

Michael Khodarkovsky is a historian of the Russian Empire who specializes in the history of Russia's frontier and imperial expansion into the Eurasian borderlands.  His first books examined the relationship between the expanding Russian state and the peoples across the colonial frontier, notably in Where Two Worlds Met: the Russian State and the Kalmyk Nomads, 1600-1771 (Cornell University Press, 1992) and Russia’s Steppe Frontier: The Making of a Colonial Empire, 1500-1800 (Indiana University Press, 2002).  He has explored the impact of organized religion, missionary work, and religious conversion on Russia's non-Christian population in Of Religion and Empire: Missions, Conversion and Tolerance in Tsarist Russia (Cornell University Press, 2001), which he co-edited with Robert Geraci.  His most recent book, Bitter Choices: Loyalty and Betrayal in the Russian Conquest of the North Caucasus (Cornell University Press, 2011), is a history of the North Caucasus during the Russian conquest and written in a non-traditional historical genre.

The 2013-2014 seminar series, Eurasian Empires & Central Asian Peoples: The Backlands in World History, is co-sponsored by the UCLA Program on Central Asia and the Center for Near Eastern Studies. Click here for more information about the series.

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Duration: 59:21


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Published: Monday, July 14, 2014