Saturday, 14 January 2012

Heretics and Colonizers by Nicholas B. Breyfogle

With all the confetti being tossed over the publication of Greg Holt's new book Curiosity Killed the Hedonist, it was brought to my attention that Nick Breyfogle latest book Heretics and Colonizers came out in November 2011.

Nick is an Associate Professor of History at Ohio State University.  In his latest book,  Heretics and Colonizors, is based on his 1998 Ph.D. thesis Heretics and Colonizers: Religious dissent and Russian Colonization of Transcausasia, 1830-1890 (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia).  

In this new book, Nick "explores the dynamic intersection of Russian borderland colonization and popular religious culture.  He reconstructs the story of the religious sectarians (Dukhobors, Molokans, and Subbotniks) who settled, either voluntarily or by force, in the newly conquered lands of Transcaucasia in the nineteenth century.  By ordering this migration in 1830, Nicholas I attempted at once to cleanse Russian Orthodoxy of heresies and to populate the newly annexed lands with ethnic Slavs..."

Nick "focuses throughout on the lives of the peasant settlers, their interactions with the peoples and environment of the South Caucus, and their evolving relations with Russian state power. ... Although the settlers suffered greatly in their early years in hostile surroundings, they in time proved to be not only model Russian colonists but also amongst the most prosperous of the Empire's peasants.  Although banished to the empire's periphery, the sectarians ironically came to play indispensable roles in the tsarist imperial agenda.

The book culminates with the dramatic events of the Dukhobor pacifist rebellion, a movement that shocked the tsarist government and received international attention.  In the early twentieth century, as the Russian state sought to replace the sectarians with Orthodox settlers, thousands of Molokans and Dukhobors immigrated to North America where their descendants remain today.

Nick drew "on a wide variety of archival sources, including a large collection of previously unexamined letters, memoirs, and other documents produced by the sectarians that allow him unprecedented insight into the experiences of colonization and religious life."

Nick's book is also available through

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