Heretics and Colonizers: Forging Russia's Empire in the South Caucasus

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In Heretics and Colonizers, Nicholas B. Breyfogle explores the dynamic intersection of Russian borderland colonization and popular religious culture. He reconstructs the story of the religious sectarians (Dukhobors, Molokans, and Subbotniks) who settled, either voluntarily or by force, in the newly conquered lands of Transcaucasia in the nineteenth century. By ordering this migration in 1830, Nicholas I attempted at once to cleanse Russian Orthodoxy of heresies and to populate the newly annexed lands with ethnic Slavs who would shoulder the burden of imperial construction.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Heretics and Colonizers builds on the vision of the Russian Empire as a complex and multilevel system marked by social and administrative diversity. It is a very important book that should appeal to students of religion, nationalism, and empire in both Russian and European contexts."—American Historical Review

"Breyfogle's book is an important contribution to the social, cultural, and environmental history of Russian imperialism and popular religiosity."—Slavic Review

"The long history of Russia's self-colonization has been marked by a combination of compulsion and voluntarism. Here Nicholas B. Breyfogle explores a fascinating element of that history, which illustrates graphically the contradictions in the policies pursued by the Russian state."—Slavonic and East European Review

"This is a book that all specialists in imperial Russia, the Caucasus, and Russian religion need to read. It should also be required for those interested in Russian frontiers or environmental history. It is, finally, accessible and well suited to classroom use."—Canadian American Slavic Studies

"Heretics and Colonizers is a rich, expansively argued, and panoramic book that will transform the way in which historians of late imperial Russia conceptualize its polity and society. Nicholas B. Breyfogle tells his story in great detail, skillfully referring to European, African, and North American history and incorporating stunning archival research from a panoply of central and local government archives. Breyfogle's meditations on the proactive and community-based character of Russian peasant behavior and voice are fascinating. This remarkable book about the sectarian Russian peasants who made an empire will be required reading in the field."—Frank Wcislo, Vanderbilt University

"In the growing literature on the Russian Empire, Nicholas B. Breyfogle's book on the tsarist colonization of Transcaucasia stands out as an exemplary account of how the changing attitudes of the autocracy toward its imperial peripheries, and the activities of exiled dissenters, shaped the nature of Russian colonialism. From a place to send religious heretics, the South Caucasus became a region to be integrated into the empire and colonized by hardworking 'Russians.' This rich work opens up the southern borderlands for readers interested in Russia's imperial history, the story of empires, and the unique experience of the faithful as they struggled to survive on the frontier."—Ronald Grigor Suny, The University of Chicago

"Heretics and Colonizers is a methodologically rich, historiographically sophisticated, and exhaustively researched story of how religious exiles became, up to a point, unwitting agents of empire in the Transcaucasus. Nicholas B. Breyfogle has written a model history of the tense and tentative meeting point of colonization, empire building, and popular religiosity."—Thomas M. Barrett, St. Mary's College of Maryland

"An outstanding work of scholarship, Heretics and Colonizers offers fresh insight into the subtle and complex relationships between religious sectarianism, tsarist nation-building, and frontier identity. By delving into the lives of Dukhobors, Molokans, and Subbotniks in the Caucasus, Nicholas B. Breyfogle reveals the rich tapestry of Russia's sectarian past. It is the most comprehensive, the most reliable, and the most readable book on this subject and period that I have encountered."—Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, Doukhobor Genealogy Website

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801442421
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 372
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Nicholas B. Breyfogle is Associate Professor of History at The Ohio State University. He is coeditor of Peopling the Russian Periphery: Borderland Colonization in Eurasian History and the online magazine Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective.

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Table of Contents

1 Toleration through isolation : the edict of 1830 and the origins of Russian colonization in Transcaucasia 17
2 To a land of promise : sectarians and the resettlement experience 49
3 "In the bosom of an alien climate" : ecology, economy, and colonization 87
4 Heretics into colonizers : changing roles and transforming identities on the imperial periphery 128
5 Frontier encounters : conflict and coexistence between colonists and South Caucasians 173
6 From colonial settlers to pacifist insurgents : the origins of the Dukhobor movement, 1887-1895 217
7 Peasant pacifism and imperial insecurities : the burning of weapons, 1895-1899 260
The end of an era and its meanings 299
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