Moscow conquered the Kazan Khanate in the mid-sixteenth century and then immediately faced the challenge of how to incorporate its rival’s large multiethnic, non-Christian population. In this article, M. Romaniello argues that the Muscovites responded to the challenge by treating the Kazan region as another part of their composite monarchy. For roughly a hundred years following the conquest, life on the land on the Middle Volga changed very little. The reigning approach was one of “local accommodation,” though, as M. Romaniello points out, this accommodation was complicated. Non-Russians were able to present testimony within the Russian legal system and were granted various exemptions or privileges in accordance with their rank, yet they were also relegated to lower positions than Russians in the social hierarchy (non-Russian pomeshchiki, for example, had fewer privileges than Russian military servitors). Orthodox converts likewise could not become fully “Russian” because “ethnic difference kept non-Russian converts legally separate from their [new] co-religionists” (457). By the mid-17th century, Moscow began to move away from local accommodation and towards a more direct form of integration, reflecting the increasing centralisation of the state. Many non-Russian legal distinctions were gradually revoked. Pressure to convert increased. But M. Romaniello’s key point seems to be that the poorly defined but nonetheless persistent sense of an abiding ethnic difference between Russians and non-Russians that was codified in law and administration during the first century of Muscovite power remained an integral aspect of the Russian system in the Volga region even as the state moved towards a more unified monarchical order.

Willard Sunderland, University of Cincinnati, OH
CER: II-3.2.C-187