"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, September 11, 2020

Reforms in the Late Romanov Period in Russia

Like periods before the French or American revolutions, it has been customary in some quarters to portray the period before the Russian Revolution as totally revanchist and reactionary. No wonder they revolted, we are told, since conditions were so unutterably awful. But recent scholarship has been chipping away at this for some time, highlighting several ante-revolutionary reform movements and their mixed success, challenging received notions of reactionary monoliths. One recently published book continues this work: The Lawful EmpireLegal Change and Cultural Diversity in Late Tsarist Russia by Stefan B. Kirmse (Cambridge UP, 2020), 310pp.

About this book the publisher tells us this:
The Russian Empire and its legal institutions have often been associated with arbitrariness, corruption, and the lack of a 'rule of law'. Stefan B. Kirmse challenges these assumptions in this important new study of empire-building, minority rights, and legal practice in late Tsarist Russia, revealing how legal reform transformed ordinary people's interaction with state institutions from the 1860s to the 1890s. By focusing on two regions that stood out for their ethnic and religious diversity, the book follows the spread of the new legal institutions into the open steppe of Southern Russia, especially Crimea, and into the fields and forests of the Middle Volga region around the ancient Tatar capital of Kazan. It explores the degree to which the courts served as instruments of integration: the integration of former borderlands with the imperial centre and the integration of the empire's internal 'others' with the rest of society.
We are also given the table of contents:

1. Minority rights and legal integration in the Russian empire
2. Borderlands no more: Crimea and Kazan in the mid-nineteenth century
3. Implementing legal change: new courts for Crimea and Kazan
4. Images and practices in the new courts: the enactment of monarchy, modesty, and cultural diversity
5. Seeking justice: Muslim Tatars go to court
6. Confronting the state: peasant resistance over land and faith
7. Dealing with unrest: crime and punishment in the 'crisis years' 1878–79

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