Reviews

This volume is part of an ambitious publication project by Russian and international scholars involved in discussions on a re-conceptualisation of empire. Sergei Abashin and his co-authors embark in a laudable effort to pool forces in order to produce a really joint volume on Central Asia’s history as part of the Russian Empire between the colonisation (beginning with the Kazakh steppes in the eighteenth century) and the collapse of the empire in 1917. Without any doubt, this volume offers a valuable synopsis of the available historiography and covers a broad spectre of topics, from conquest to administration, economic development and, last not least, the image of Central Asia in contemporary Russian society. The scope of the volume as well as details accounted for support recent scholarship pointing at the diversity of actors and the inconsistent character of Russia’s colonisation policies. Academic readers will deplore the scarcity of footnotes and the relatively compact bibliography, obviously a concession to a larger readership aimed at by the series Editors. A thematic index instead of an index of names would have facilitated browsing through an array of evidence. Still the annex offers some interesting primary material shedding light upon the practice and the ideology of Tsarist administration of Central Asia. At the same time, the book’s revision of existing (particularly Soviet) scholarship is highly apologetic of Russian colonisation, which allegedly not only brought stability and development to the region, but kept other “dark forces” like China out. Indeed, S. Abashin in a later comment in Ab Imperio regretted that this and other wholesale arguments in the volume (and the series) amounted to a reiteration of established stereotypes rather than a re-evaluation of the regions own self-awareness. This reflects, indeed, a lost opportunity.

Christian Noack, National University of Ireland at Maynooth
CER: II-3.4.C-269