Konstantin von Kaufmann, Governor-General of Russian Turkestan from 1867 until his death in 1882, wanted to be buried in Tashkent if he died in office; so that, he said, ‘all may know that here is true Russian soil, where no Russian need be ashamed to lie.’ Certainly not after Kaufmann’s efforts- he set out to create a planned city on the lines of St. Petersburg, and in fact succeeded in creating a ‘charming…little European capital’ as one traveller said; though that was just restricted to the buildings- local customs Kaufmann left alone and actively discouraged importation of ‘Russian’ religious customs and culture.
Jeff Sahadeo‘s new book, Russian Colonial Society in Tashkent, 1865-1903 (Indiana University Press, 2010) looks at how Russian colonial administrators went about building Tashkent, sometimes with the help of, and sometimes with resistance from locals, and the effects of 1905, the Great War and 1917 on a city already greatly transformed after the transition to Russian rule in 1865. So this is a book which takes the reader through the process of creating a ‘colonial’ city and the negotiations, interactions and engagements it involved- Tashkent was more than just a staging post en route to the Indian Empire. It was a city which housed many distinct groups of people- the Russian colonial elite, to local leaders, the traders and the merchants, and the many Russians who came down to work in this rapidly growing regional capital. Nor did all these people always get on well with each other- but their spats helped shape Tashkent just as much as their collaborations did.
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