Reviews

Essentially this book is a compilation of articles previously published by the author, who has been conducting research into the history of Bashkiria for more than twenty years.  Although it contains some newly-written chapters, original articles have been rewritten in full scale in order to form a complete history of the Bashkirs from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth century. The basic concept is that of a history of Bashkiria “as a consistent protest by Bashkirs against Russian colonisation and against the Russian government’s nationality policies (42).”  The author writes that the aim of the book is to state chronologically the process of the annexation and assimilation of Bashkiria by Russia “on the basis of such problems as the rights of land inheritance, which is one of characteristics of the history of Bashkirs, taxation systems, forced conversion to Orthodoxy, labour and military service (35).”  

The first three chapters consist of a brief description of the history of Bashkiria before the mid-sixteenth century, followed by a depiction of the annexation of the region by Muscovy, and of a string of rebellions by Bashkirs, on the basis of various primary sources including shajaras, genealogical records in Bashkir.  It seems remarkable for the reviewer that the Muscovite state highly esteemed and propitiated the upper strata of Bashkir society after the annexation, while lower strata were heavily burdened—the upper classes tending to support the government in the repeated riots.  Chapters 4 to 8, which form the core of the book, take a closer look at various issues in eighteenth-century Bashkiria through the construction of the city of Orenburg, colonisation and exploitation of the southern Ural region, and the so-called Pugachev rebellion.  The most outstanding chapter is the eighth, which consists of a prosopography of some sort of Bashkir leader Salavat Yulaev and his father.  In this chapter the author succeeds in drawing a lively picture of the ‘Pugachev rebellion’ and of Russian colonisation seen by Bashkirs.  The ninth chapter offers an analysis of the ‘canton’ administration system from the end of the eighteenth to the middle of the nineteenth century, and in the tenth chapter the author discusses the nationality policy of the Russian Empire with reference to not only Bashkiria, but to the Volga-Ural region in general.  He focuses on religion and education as fields of implementation of an assimilation policy for non-Russians, and points out three forms of resistance by non-Russian early modern nations against the authority: escape, petition and rebellion.  As a conclusion, Toyokawa K. states that a large burden was foisted on peripheral regions by agricultural and industrial colonisation carried out by the Russian government, while the Bashkirs continued to object to all of these policies.

Recently indeed, researchers have been paying more attention to the cooperative rather than to the conflicting sides of relations between the Russian government and non-Russian nations in the context of Russian imperialism. Thus in spite of the book’s recent publication the approach of the author in considering a history of Bashkiria “as a consistent protest by Bashkirs (42)” appears slightly old fashioned.  Moreover, few references can be found in the present work to recent research concerning Russian imperialism.  As such, the book misses the status of a reference work in this field.  However, it remains undoubtedly a solid and competent work as a complete history of Bashkiria, with a balanced point of view with respect to such arguments as “voluntary annexation” and “peasant war”.  In this quality, it is to be hoped that it will bring contribution to the development of historical research on the history of Russian imperialism seen from a regional perspective.

Hamamoto Mami, Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science, Tokyo
CER: I-3.2.C-220