This collective volume is devoted to the history of Slavic settlers and settlement from the sixteenth century to the 1960s, viz. during the Muscovite, Imperial and Soviet periods that correspond to the book’s three parts. The authors analyse the consequences of colonisation or new settlements for Russians as well as for those other people of Central Eurasia concerned by these migration dynamics. The diversity of the approaches by different authors offers valuable insights into the multifaceted migration process. The book is composed of twelve articles: Part One: Muscovy, Expansion, and the Limits of Migration – Kivelson Valerie, “Claiming Siberia: Colonial Possession and Property Holding in the Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries,” 21-40; Boeck Brian J., “Containment vs. Colonization: Muscovite approaches to Settling the Steppe,” 41-60; Romaniello Matthew W., “Grant, Settle, Negotiate: Military Servitors in the Middle Volga Region,” 61-77; Part Two: Colonization on the Imperial Russian Border – Moon David, “Agriculture and the Environment on the Steppes in the Nineteenth Century,” 81-105; Znamenski Andrew A., “The ‘Ethic of Empire’ on the Siberian Borderland: The Peculiar Case of the ‘Rock People,’ 1791-1878,” 106-27; Steinwedel Charles, “Resettling People, Unsettling the Empire: Migration and the Challenge of Governance, 1861-1917,” 128-47; Sahadeo Jeff, “Progress or Peril: Migrants and Locals in Russian Tashkent, 1906-14,” 148-65; Part Three: Population Politics and the soviet Experiment – Cavanaugh Cassandra, “Acclimatization, the Shifting Science of Settlement,” 169-88; Viola Lynne, “The Aesthetic of Stalinist Planning and the World of the Special Villages,” 189-212; Shulman Elena, “‘Those Who Hurry to the Far East’: Readers, Dreamers, and Volunteers,” 213-37; Pohl Michaela, “The ‘Planet of One Hundred Languages’: Ethnic Relations and Soviet Identity in the Virgin Lands,” 238-61; Part Four: Conclusions – Rieber Alfred J., “Colonizing Eurasia,” 265-79.
The first migrations are discussed by V. Kivelson who analyses how Muscovite adventurers and administrators re-enacted their Russian understandings of property and possession in the Siberian expanses, and how it participated, with mapping, to a division into indigenous ethnographic and political units that were progressively incorporating as imperial subjects. At the same period, the Black Sea steppes, seen as lands of abundance, were also a target of conquest and ‘pacification’ against nomadic populations, but on military bases (for boundary-making concerns) with the use of Cossacks mercenaries, and the peasants’ exodus from Rus’ was not particularly encouraged at the beginning (B. J. Boeck). The military aspect of colonisation is also discussed by M. W. Romaniello for the Volga region, with a focus on cavalry (pomeshchiki) in the armed forces and their persistent negotiation with central government for improving their social position and wealth thanks to the system of pomest’e (land grants).
The Imperial period is first examined by D. Moon, who analyses the large-scale agricultural settlement of the open steppe regions (basins of the Volga and Don Rivers, plains to the north of the Caucasus and south-west of the Urals), the consequences (economic, environmental, human) of the development of arable farming for the region itself and for the nomadic pastoralists, and the perception of the process by government, military officials and the scientists who pointed out some of its sometimes dramatic impacts. On the Siberian side, the case study of ‘rock people’ (kamenshchiki), viz. Russian settlers, predominantly Old Believers, in the Altai Mountains, before mass colonisation in the 1860s, allows A. A. Znamenski to shed light on their peculiar status, while Ch. Steinwedel deals with state colonial and resettlement policies (especially the Temporary Rules of 1904), their implementation and lack of control in the late imperial period. More specialised on Central Eurasian history, J. Sahadeo’s article describes the consequences of the last wave of migration to Turkistan (1906), mostly composed by Russians from lower-classes, whose presence deeply destabilised the socioeconomic and colonial order in the region.
For the Soviet period, the scientific discourses of acclimatisation to new health and climate conditions, that Russian migrants to Central Asia met, constitute an interesting insight offered by C. Cavanaugh in both colonial and Soviet states in Central Asia and their attitudes toward the indigenous populations. While L. Viola deals, in details, with the organisation of ‘special villages,’ E. Shulman brings into the collection a reflection on gender matters, analysing the way policy settlement was implemented in order to attract women for peopling Russia’s Far East. Last, M. Pohl focuses on the Virgin Land opening in 1954-56, on the last large-scale migration generated by it, and on its consequences on ethnic interrelationships between Russians, Kazakhs and especially Caucasus people (Ingush and Chechen) settled there beforehand, with short considerations on the Chechen Sufi movement in exile (with interest in the Wis Hajj tariqat created in Akmolinsk). Her paper aims at renewing Soviet and post-independence Kazakh historiographies.