This paper addresses an unusual knot of Russian historiography: was Russia a colonial empire and if so, why did the authorities consistently refuse to identify the empire as such? By examining the Russian empire in the broad comparative perspective of both European and Asian empires, the argument will show that in its Asian territories Russia practiced a form of state colonialism and that it began to do so earlier than most European empires. It will also consider the reasons for Russia’s denial of its colonial nature.
Michael Khodarkovsky is a Professor of History at Loyola University Chicago. He grew up in Kiev, Ukraine and attended the Kalmyk State University in Russia at a time when few could imagine that both Soviet republics one day would have contested state borders. In 1979, he immigrated to the US, where he finally had the opportunity to pursue his passion: history. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1987. Since then he has written four books and co-edited one, most of which are concerned with various aspects of Russian imperial expansion and rule over the non-Christian peoples, transformation of frontiers into borderlands and of non-Christians into Russian subjects. His current project seeks to examine Russia in the context of the neighboring empires in Asia: Ottoman, Persian, Mughal, and Chineseю It is titled Empires of the Steppe: The Russian Empire and its Eurasian Counterparts, 1500-1800s.