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This issue of the RUDN Journal of Russian History focuses on transnational exchanges between peoples and states. In connection with the journal’s mission, the issue explores the ways that Russia and the USSR promoted their geopolitical interests in interactions with neighboring peoples, many of whom were eventually incorporated into the Rus­sian or Soviet state, as well as the interactions of Russians with diaspora communities. The articles of the issue consider the relationship between domestic and foreign policy factors in the country’s development, including international influences on the develop­ment of the Soviet system.

The article by S.V. Dzhundzhuzov and S.V. Lyubichankovskiy focuses on the Russian Empire’s southeastern frontier zone in the 1730s. The authors investigate re­lations between Russia and nomadic peoples of the Southern Urals and Central Asia, highlighting the geopolitical impact of the Russo-Turkish war of 1735-1739. Using new archival sources, the authors show that the Orenburg Expedition intervened in conflicts between warring steppe peoples and helped curb threats against them from neighboring states. The authors conclude that while Russia used the Expedition to establish a protec­torate over the Kazakh steppe, and later over Central Asia, it also acted as peacemaker and an ally against external forces, inducing nomadic peoples to seek its protection.

D.A. Khitrov analyzes the provincial reform of 1775 in the Kharkiv viceregency, which reorganized the territorial division of the province. In place of historically-estab­lished counties, it established administrative units on the basis of population equality, striving at the same time for maximum accessibility of administrative centers. The author shows the particular importance of this reform for so-called ‘contact zones,’ territories with heterogeneous populations and, in some cases, heterogeneous administrative struc­tures. An example is the territory of Sloboda Ukraine, where, until 1780, the county di­vision (characteristic of the territories occupied by Russian colonization) coexisted with the Ukrainian regimental division, which arose in the second half of the 17th century. Among other sources, the author uses reconstructed maps of the administrative division of the territory of Kharkiv vicegerency before and after the reform.

D.V. Konkin’s article explores the French imprint on the regional policy of the Russian Empire in Crimea during the Napoleonic era. Using both Russian and French sources, the author highlights French interest in the peninsula, showing that Napoleonic France both observed the situation in Crimea carefully and attempted to influence the course of events there by promising the Ottoman Empire to restore Ottoman rule there. The article also analyzes the reaction of the tsarist authorities to these attempts, which posed a threat to Russian territorial integrity. Interestingly, two of the leading figures on the Russian side during the Russo-Turkish conflict of 1806-1812 were French men in the Russian service - E.O. Richelieu, the governor of Novorossiysk, and I.I. Traversay, the head of the Black Sea Fleet.

Two articles in the issue are devoted to interactions between Russia and South Asia. Three prominent specialists in the ethnography and cultures of South Asia from the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) of the RAN, I.Iu. Ko­tin, N.G. Krasnodembskaia, and E.S. Soboleva, have prepared an article on the history of the first Russian ethnographic expedition to India and Ceylon, carried out by the Meerwarth husband-and-wife team in 1914-1918. The authors bring new archival and published sources to bear on this topic and place it in the context of the history of Rus­sia’s transnational contacts and scholarly ties with the outside world. They shed light on many lesser-known aspects of the expedition and the Meerwarths’ activities and analyze their travel itinerary, highlighting the role and tragic fate of the Meerwarths themselves. Thanks to their research, the reader will appreciate the significance of the Meerwarths’ collections and contributions to the development of Indian studies and enthography of South Asia in Russia during the 1920s and 1930s.

The theme of ‘Russians’ discovery of South Asia’ is also the focus of Ranjana Devamitra Senasinghe’s article, centered on unfamiliar pages in the biography of the famous Russian thinker and artist N. K. Roerich. The author reconstructs the geog­raphy and chronology of Roerich’s travels across Ceylon during his Central Asian expe­dition of 1923-1928. Drawing on written documentation as well as Roerich’s paintings from the ‘Ashram’ cycle, the author identifies the dates of the artist’s stay on the island and the specific sites that he visited as well as the personal and spiritual contacts that Roerich made with representatives of religious and secular circles in Ceylon.

Migration and diasporas are the subject of articles by Z.V. Kanukova, B.V. Tua- eva, F.L. Sinitsyn, L.K. Ryabova, and M.I. Kosorukova. Z.V. Kanukova and B.V. Tua- eva chronicle the history of the Persian diaspora in Ossetia in the second half of the 19th century, emphasizing specific features of its adaptation to the Ossetian setting and community building. Their article discusses the contribution of the Persian diaspora to the economic development of Vladikavkaz and the Terek region, based on ethnic entrepreneurship within specific economic niches, as well as intercultural interactions between Persians and other ethnic groups in Vladikavkaz. With respect to community building and cultural preservation, the authors describe the elements of traditional Per­sian culture, including holidays and ritual aspects of daily life, that were transplanted to the new setting, and observe that this diaspora’s communal institutions differed from those of most other diaspora communities.

Articles by F.L. Sinitsyn and L.K. Ryabova and M.I. Kosorukova move forward in time to the early Soviet period. F.L. Sinitsyn’s article centers on cross-border noma­dism between the USSR and neighboring countries, including China, Mongolia, Tuva, Afghanistan and Persia, in the 1920s. Using a rich, primarily archival, source base, the author considers the strategic role played by the nomadic border regions (Buryatia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan), through which transnational exchange and in­ternational contacts between the USSR and its neighbors occurred. The article argues that the Soviet state sought to minimize or completely eliminate cross-border nomadism in order to establish full control over migration processes.

L.K. Ryabova and M.I. Kosorukova look westward to analyze cross-border com­munications between the Russian diaspora in France and the Soviet intelligentsia in the first half of the 1920s. Focusing on the treatment of Russian emigre intellectuals in Soviet literary magazines, such as The Book and the Revolution, Krasnaya Nov, the authors show that a dialogue between the Russian intelligentsia in France and in Soviet Rus­sia was preserved in the first half of the 1920s. Reviews, chronicles of events, literary reviews, and thematic collections devoted to the emigre intellectuals in the Soviet li­terary press suggest that these interactions were less politicized and more often had the character of professional discussion in the field of theory of literature and art than has sometimes been assumed. In this respect, literary interactions between Russian writers in France and in the USSR fostered continuity in the cultural relations of these two countries across the revolutionary divide.

We hope that readers will find the themes of this special issue topical in light the intensification of migration processes and transnational exchanges in today’s world. De­spite their chronological and thematic variety, all of the articles bring new sources to the attention of the scholarly community and discuss important dimensions of migration, diasporas, and transnational exchange between Russians and other peoples.


About the authors

Julie Hessler

1288 University of Oregon

Author for correspondence.

Ph.D. in History, Associate Professor of History, University of Oregon (USA).

Eugene, OR 97403-1288, USA


Copyright (c) 2019 Hessler J.

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