Rebel Province: Orenburg and the Creation of European Russia


Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowships


Humanities, Social Sciences, and Fine Arts


This book investigates the politics of resistance in Russia's southeastern steppe in the eighteenth century. Centering the Ural River town of Orenburg, it highlights interactions between Russians, Cossacks, Kazakhs, Bashkirs, Tatars, and Kalmyks against the backdrop of tsarist expansion. First conceived as a springboard for Russian conquests in Central Asia, Orenburg became a frontier province brimming with Cossack border patrols, peasant settlers, criminal exiles, factory workers, and Tatar merchants. Its defining characteristic was the chronic and violent resistance of its Asian and Cossack populations to Russian colonialism. Striving to maintain the religious freedoms and mobile ways of life of the Eurasian steppe, their opposition culminated in the Pugachev rebellion of 1773-74. Although crushed by the government, the rebels of Orenburg province set back Russian expansion into Inner Asia for more than a century and gave rise to the Ural River as the modern-day civilizational borderland between European Russia and Asia.