Law and Empire in Late Tsarist Russia
Youth in post-Soviet Central Asia
Dr Stefan B. Kirmse
My current research project “Law and Empire in Late Tsarist Russia” focuses on cultural policy and minority rights in the Russian Empire. It combines an investigation of law and law-enforcement with an analysis of imperial rule over a multicultural empire, paying particular attention to the empire’s Muslim population. Examining the gradual spread of state institutions into the open steppes of “New Russia” on the Black Sea littoral and the woodlands of the Middle Volga region, it explores the degree to which this expansion helped the integration of previously remote and alien peripheries with the core of the empire.
By focusing on courts and police in Crimea and Kazan, two regions that stood out for their cultural diversity, the book places the discussion of centralization and legal reform in the context of the empire’s management of territorial and cultural diversity. The focus on multicultural terrains not only offers opportunities for studying the ways in which the empire’s diverse population saw and used state institutions but is also useful for reviewing the spectrum of imperial policies between homogenization and the recognition of difference. Muslim Tatars, Chuvash, Mordvins and others were among the most important minorities in Kazan whereas Tatars, Jews, Karaites, Greeks, Armenians, and European “colonists” formed sizable communities in Crimea. By tracing the position of different ethnic and religious groups in the late nineteenth-century legal order, the book analyzes changing notions of equality and imperial subjecthood.
Cultural diversity is also at the root of a related, more specific field of interest: the attitude of Russia’s and Central Asia’s Muslim population towards state institutions, elites, and non-Muslims from the tsarist to the post-Soviet periods. In my first monograph „Youth and Globalization in Central Asia“ (2013), I already focused on the multiple identities of Muslim youth in contemporary Kyrgyzstan, while analyzing the processes of post-Soviet change and globalization. The current project now moves the question of overlapping loyalties and contradictory state policies in the religious and cultural spheres from the post-Soviet into the pre-Soviet period.