The Middle Volga and Trans-Volga Region in the Context of Development of the Russian State System: a Modern Concept

Petr Kabytov, Edward Dubman, Olga Leontieva

Abstract


Until the mid-19th century, the Middle Volga and Trans-Volga region could be considered as a frontier of the Russian state. It was a specific border between Europe and Asia, an imperial periphery facing the southeast, the nomadic steppe world. Until the mid-18th century, the administrative system in the Middle Volga had primarily fulfilled military and fortification tasks. The permanent process of mass colonization was the most important feature of the region’s history between the mid-17th century and the early 20th century; it was facilitated owing to a large amount of vacant land and favorable market conditions. Mass migration caused establishment of Russian farms and landownership in the region and a gradual replacement of nomadic pastoralism. By the mid-19th century, the policies of the Russian Empire in the Trans-Volga region had lost their military and foreign-policy functions, and the administrative system had been brought into line with the all-imperial standards. The region began to turn into an “inner periphery” of Russia which combined some features of the border region and those of the inlands of the Empire. After the abolition of serfdom in 1861, the Trans-Volga region acquired the status of the “Russian breadbasket”, one of the main centers of grain production and supply of bread to the national and international markets. Construction of railways and the development of the Volga river shipping lines contributed to the intensive influx of people to the region, and to the plowing and cultivation of the virgin steppe lands. The main feature of the region’s population was its ethnic and religious diversity, as well as historically conditioned interaction of the peoples of “forests and steppes”. By the beginning of the 20th century, the “inner periphery” had acquired its recognizable historical and cultural image and become motherland for its diverse population.


Keywords


frontier; inner periphery; Middle Volga region; Trans-Volga region; history of Russia; power and society.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2015.2.099

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