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Using a wide range sources, this book explores the ways in which the Russians governed their empire in Siberia from 1598 to 1725. Paying particular attention to the role of the Siberian Cossaks, the author takes a thorough assessment of how the institutions of imperial government functioned in seventeenth century Russia.
It raises important questions concerning the nature of the Russian autocracy in the early modern period, investigating the neglected relations of a vital part of the Empire with the metropolitan centre, and examines how the Russian authorities were able to control such a vast and distant frontier given the limited means at its disposal. It argues that despite this great physical distance, the representations of the Tsar’s rule in the symbols, texts and gestures that permeated Siberian institutions were close at hand, thus allowing the promotion of political stability and favourable terms of trade. Investigating the role of the Siberian Cossacks, the book explains how the institutions of empire facilitated their position as traders via the sharing of cultural practices, attitudes and expectations of behaviour across large distances among the members of organisations or personal networks.
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Christoph Witzenrath is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Aberdeen. He was formerly Assistant Lecturer at Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany. His research interests include medieval, early-modern European, Russian and Soviet history.Review:
'Specialists who are interested in early modern institutions, the problem of autocracy, and Russian empire-building will find it well worth their time to wade through its welter of details and fascinating case studies.' - Brian J. Boeck, DePaul University, Russian Review, 2008
'This book is both carefully researched and convincingly argued. While locating his work in a broad spectrum of the secondary literature, Witzenrath helpfully summarizes current understandings of workings of Muscovite authority. His research then significantly extends our perception of the extra-institutional functioning of Russian society in the long seventeenth century. The focus on Russia’s Siberian colony is particularly important; the diverse arrangements which allowed the extension (and transformation) of Russian administrative and social functions into its regions and colonies have not received the attention they deserve.' - CAROL B. STEVENS Colgate University, American Historical Review, 2008
'Christoph Witzenrath's scholarship is fundamentally sound and he has contributed enormously to our understanding of Siberian history and the role of the cossacks' - Thomas Nelson, University of Canterbury, New Zealand Slavonic Journal, 2007
'Witzenrath produced a commendable volume that joins the ranks of a swelling literature on seventeenth-century Muscovite local government. Not only Russian specialists, but scholars of the early modern Americas and the Eurasian and African peripheries will gain by reading his noteworthy investigation.' - H-Soz-u-Kult, December 2009
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