Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Review of The Russian Conquest of Bashkiria 1552-1740
I just finished reading Alton S. Donnelly, The Russian Conquest of Bashkiria 1552-1740: A Case Study in Imperialism (New Haven: CT, Yale University Press, 1968). It is a pretty good and concise history of the Russian subjugation of the Bashkirs during the 16th to the 18th centuries. At parts it is a bit difficult to follow as there are lots of personal and place names thrown out as part of the description of various military actions. I wish he had taken more time to make these parts clearer to people without an extensive knowledge of the history of inner Asia before the 19th century. His conclusion has some interesting parallels with colonial expansion in North America and the book would have definitely benefited from a greater exploration of these similarities and differences. He notes that the Russians conquered Bashkiria primarily by co-opting natives into their military forces, something that the British and Americans largely failed to do in North America. I did like the fact that he did not pull in any punches in describing the Russian annexation of Bashkiria as an act of conquest and colonialism. The book also notes that the violence entailed in this expansion led to the deaths of about 30,000 Bashkirs out of a total population of around 100,000. Too many books written by American academics on Russian history tend to take an openly pro-Russian line excusing Russian colonialism and genocide.