Border Research in a Global Perspective
Grenzregime und Grenzgesellschaft von der Neuzeit bis zum 20. Jahrhundert
Historians often fade out Russia in their discussion on the »spatial turn« in European history, even though Russian history has strong European roots. Russia is a case of spatial extremity of Europe that encompasses parts of Asia. Russia’s expansion into Siberia, the Caucasus and Central Asia is embedded in the history of European colonialism. Russia’s historical mobility toward the East blurres borders between Europe and Asia. For centuries the cultural encounters between sedentaries and nomads have contributed to this phenomen. In fact, we cannot speak of regulated borders, but of an oscillating frontier. This essay deals with Russian understanding of frontiers as a zone between civilization and wilderness. It reveals the Russian imagination of the frontier and her colonial practices beyond the October Revolution. For the eighteenth century we can make out a flexible approach to Russia’s Asian peripheries that rooted in the steppe diplomacy of Moskovitan Russia. The flexibility and instability of tribal societies resisted Russian attempts to draw borders. Moreover, they evade any homogenous understanding of history, instead they insisted on their right of self-determination. The Russian Empire, later the Soviet Union reacted in the nineteenth and twentieth with a rigid frontier rule that resulted in a militarization of the frontier. Cultural encounters did not rest on acceptance and coexistence with indigenous peoples, but on imperial subordination.