Mobility in mobilized space: Interaction between autochthonous population and colonial power in the Central Asian frontier region

Elena Smolarz

The analysis of slave mobility in the Kazakh Steppe and in Central Asia (Smolarz 2014) show, that the coerced mobility in the Kazakh Steppe in the 19th century was not limited to slaves from the Russian Empire. Flows of escapees from the Steppe to the Russian Empire (e.g. escaped Russian slaves, Kalmyks etc.) as well as from the Russian Empire (e.g. Christian and Muslim recruits, serfs, bondsmen, and seasonal worker) to Central Asia crossed the frontier region.

This project aims to cover and examine these mobility proceses in the froniter  region of the Kazakh Steppe, that go unnoticed untill now. The main questions are: Which flows crossed the Kazakh Steppe? What meaning had the mobility for involved actors? To analyze these mobility flows, I use the concepts established and applied within the competence network Crossroads Asia (Mielke & Hornidge 2014).

Enlargement of Russian imperial influence led up to the change of power balance and to establishment of new interaction patterns between sedentary and nomad population in the region. The current frontier studies highlight following aspects in this regard: mutial perception of involved actors (mental concepts), consequent behavior patterns, strategies for dispute resolution and for networking, as well as their change within the century (Barrett 1999, Martin 2001, Khodarkovsky 2002, Sevastianov 2013 and Sultangalieva 2014). To alalyze the historical change of mobility processes, the figurational approach of Norbert Elias (Elias 1970) will be applied. For adaptation of this concept borrowed from the social science for the historical research, methodical tools will be developed.

The sighted documenets of Orenburg Border Commission stored at the State Archive of Orenburg (Russian Federation) and at the State Archive of Republic of Kazakhstan exemplify shifting social structures, modification of networks and interaction patterns during the 19th century. The research on coerced mobility and the interactions in the Kazakh Steppe under shifting power balance contributes to broader understanding of Central Asian history and of mobility sudies. Finally, this project aims to rethink and revise the history writing characterized by imperial and national interests.

Barrett, Th. (1999): At the Edge of Empire: The Terek Cossacks and the North Caucasus Frontier, 1700-1860. New York.Elias, N. (1970): Was ist Soziologie? München.

Khodarkovsky, Michael (2002): Russia's Steppe Frontier: The Making of a Colonial Empire, 1500 - 1800. Bloomington.Martin, V. (2001): Law and Custom in the Steppe: the Kazakhs of the middle Horde and Russian colonialism in the nineteenth century. Richmond.

Mielke, K. / A.-K. Hornidge (2014): Crossroads Studies: From Spatial Containers to Interactions in Differentiated Spatialities, Crossroads Asia Working Paper Series, No. 15.

Sevastianov, S. / Paul Richardson / Anton Kireev (Hg.) (2013): Borders and Transborder Processes in Eurasia. Vladivostok.

Smolarz, Elena (2014): „Unterwegs wider Willen“. In: Internationales Asienforum.International Quarterly for Asian Studies, vol. 45 (1-2), p. 85-111.

Sultangalieva, G. (2014): "The Role of the pristavstvo Institution in the Context of Russian Imperial Policies in the Kazakh Steppe in the nineteenth century". In: Central Asian Survey, vol. 33, No. 1, p. 62-79. 

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