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Home arrow History arrow Kazak Intermediaries and Russian Rule on the Steppe, 1731-1917



A topic as broad as the circulation and use of knowledge in an enormous region over the course of more than a century is, without some sort of heuristic for selecting sources, unmanageably broad. Since the genesis of this project was in the study of Kazak intermediaries, my strategy has been to read outward from sources that they produced, pursuing issues in which they were interested in both archives and the scholarly press. To access the views of these Kazak intermediaries, I have used both the collected works of more celebrated figures (such as Chokan Valikhanov and Alikhan Bokeikhanov) and, to shed light on more obscure figures, periodicals both in full runs (Kirgizskaia stepnaia gazeta [The Kazak steppe newspaper, Kaz. Dala ualaiatining gazeti]) and collections (Ai-qap and Qazaq). For archival work, the mixed administrative status of the region that came to be known as the Kazak steppe has meant archival research in gubernatorial and ministerial collections in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Almaty. Colonial archives have their limits and their silences, but as Ann Stoler has suggested, they can be productively read “along the grain”—here meaning as reflective of what the tsarist state cared to know, and what crucial actors made of that knowledge.44 For scholarly periodicals, the logical starting point was works that Kazaks themselves cited as important or influential. This is not a perfect science, and I have erred on the side of reading broadly in hopes of finding unexpected connections. But it means, for instance, that seeing the importance of peasant resettlement in the Kazak-language periodical press after 1900 led me to devote a significant proportion of my archive time in St. Petersburg to the collections of the Resettlement Administration. If this, and other choices I have made, inevitably reflects my own interests and preoccupations, I would contend that it has also been a fair reflection of the preoccupations of the subjects of my study.

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