Science and the Steppe: Agronomists, Nomads, and the Settler Colony on the Kazakh Steppe, 1881-1917


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




At the end of the nineteenth century, Russian imperial officials hoped to transform the Kazakh steppe from a region dominated by nomads into an agricultural zone of settled peasant farmers. While they did not achieve this outcome, they did succeed in transforming the steppe’s environment, economy, and society. The catalyst for these changes was primarily agricultural, and agronomy and agricultural scientists were central to the region’s transformation. This project examines the ideas and actions of agricultural scientists to illustrate how science was fundamental to remaking the steppe and an inherent part of the colonial project. While it was not until the Soviet period that sedentary agriculture achieved supremacy, this dissertation uncovers the colonial roots of this development. The project also shows how Kazakhstan’s present status as one of the world’s top wheat producers is a direct legacy of the strategies, research, and infrastructures developed by imperial administrators and scientists.