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Title:Building empire among the Buryats: conversion encounters in Russia's Baikal region, 1860s - 1917
Author(s):Murray, Jesse
Director of Research:Steinberg, Mark D.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Steinberg, Mark D.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Koenker, Diane P.; Liebersohn, Harry; Randolph, John W.
Department / Program:History
Discipline:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):empire
Russian empire
conversion
Russian Orthodoxy
Siberia
Buryats
Abstract:This dissertation argues that encounters between Russian Orthodox missionaries and the Buryats with whom they worked in Russia’s Siberian Baikal region between the 1860s and 1917 epistemologically emplaced the Buryats within the empire and caused Orthodoxy to assume the role of bearer of imperial processes of liberalization and modernization. As missionaries and Buryats attempted to negotiate encounters, they deployed arguments about what it meant to be Buryat and what it meant to be Orthodox that drew on languages of individuality and affect, law, citizenship, science, and nationality that emanated from the imperial center. As a result, both Orthodoxy and Buryatness came to be defined through such languages, frequently with Buryatness functioning as either parochial opposition to imperial change or local evidence of imperial change, and Orthodoxy as a proxy for broad imperial processes of modernization. Such definitions gave rise to categories and means of understanding the nature of Buryatness that served to emplace the Buryats within the Russian Empire, but also carried forward after 1917 by informing ethnic and national categories employed by the Soviet Union and Russian Federation and influencing scholarly works on the Buryats. They also connected the imperial and the local to the point of inseparability: the local, embodied by Buryatness, was what gave empire its meaning and material, while the imperial context in which Buryatness became embedded served to define Buryatness. These conclusions have two major implications for contemporary scholarly explorations of empire. First, they highlight the degree to which empire, when viewed as a concept, and the local were inseparable from and dependent on each other for their meanings and material. In this case, the local, embodied by Buryatness, provided a foil against which the broad transformative processes perceived to be natural parts of empire could be highlighted and defined. Similarly, the component categories and rich descriptive detail that came to comprise Buryatness rose out of the juxtaposition between conditions on the ground in the Baikal region and the broad patterns of social and cultural change that empire was supposed to bring. Empire and the local were dependent on each other for conceptual generation. Second, “ordinary people” played a key role in generating concepts of empire and the local through their everyday engagements with each other. The low-ranking clergymen who served as missionaries at isolated locations in the Baikal region and the Buryats whom they encountered on a daily basis engaged with the languages of self and community that flowed out from the imperial center and applied them to the specific problem of what Orthodoxy and Buryatness meant. Through such efforts, they defined empire and the local within the region.
Issue Date:2013-02-03
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/42353
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Jesse D. Murray
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-02-03
Date Deposited:2012-12


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