The white tsar and his “unfaithful” subjects: intercultural diplomacies on Russia's asian frontier


Frontier, Russia, Caucuses, diplomacy, intercultural dialogue, colonial administration

How to Cite

1. Khodarkovsky M. The white tsar and his “unfaithful” subjects: intercultural diplomacies on Russia’s asian frontier // Journal of Frontier Studies. 2018. № 1. C. 68-90.


What is Russia? Is it “a riddle wrapped in a mystery” as the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously described it? A state driven by “messianic expansionism” according to the Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov? A civilization stuck between apocalypse and revolution in the words of the 20th century Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev? Or is it simply a space defined by its vast size, imperial ideology, intertwined cultures, and co-habiting civilizations?

This paper examines how a Russian government approached and conceptualized its relationship with various non-Russian peoples during Russia’s relentless expansion along the southern and eastern frontiers. Throughout the centuries, Russia’s paramount concerns remained geopolitical rather than commercial. From the outset, Russian authorities insisted on the non-Russians’ subordinate political status codified through diplomatic means. Indigenous peoples, however, perceived their relationship with Russia through the prism of their own societies, which exhibited significant structural differences with that of the Russian state. Perceiving the native peoples through a set of distorted mirrors and its own rigid ideology, Russian authorities consistently denied a colonial nature of what was, in fact, Russia’s colonial empire. Inevitably, however, the rise of ethnic and national identities among the non-Russian peoples within the empire pulled down the very imperial structures that helped to create them.


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