1. Transcaucasia: Boyhood and Family on an Imperial Frontier, 1849–1865
This chapter presents a story of a boyhood spent in a family of memoirists and storytellers in Russia's India, the Caucasus. The third son of a family of middling colonial officials, who in the Russian tradition had earned hereditary ennoblement through civil service on the southern and eventually so-called trans-Caucasian frontiers of the empire, Witte was born in 1849. He spent his childhood and adolescence far from the metropolitan centers of St Petersburg and Moscow on a distant imperial border across the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia, where in the Russian mind Europe met Asia. He bore the Baltic German surname of a converted Lutheran father, was baptized an Orthodox Christian, but as an adult repeatedly proclaimed his maternal lineage, and claimed his Russian ethnicity, through his grandmother, the daughter of a déclassé branch of an early modern Muscovite aristocratic clan.
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