Russian Rule in Samarkand, 1868-1910
A Comparison with British India
Oxford University Press 2008
Great Britain and Russia faced off across the Pamirs for much of the nineteenth century; their rivalries and animosities often obscuring underlying commonalities; these were, after all, colonial Empires governing ‘alien’ peoples, and faced much the same problems insofar as maintaining their rule was concerned. Alexander Morrison‘s Russian Rule in Samarkand, 1868-1910: A Comparison with British India (Oxford University Press, 2008) does exactly that; traces the issues faced by the Russian administration in the region around Samarkand and the British administration in the Punjab, issues ranging from judicial systems and grassroots administration to dam building and educating the colonized local populace.
This is a book that is at once fluent and erudite; its the great strengths are a very detailed bibliography, and an extensive use of Russian archival sources, as well as local sources in Persian; too often has the story of Russia in Central Asia been recounted to an Anglophone audience from the works and thoughts of British colonial administrators. This is also a work that analyses macro, holistic administrative structures and does not rely on the retelling of anecdotes involving flamboyant frontier officials; a recounting that delves behind the sabre-rattling of the Great Game suffices in itself to make this book a must-read.