The First Centuries
The chapter surveys Russia’s expansion into a multi-ethnic empire from the mid-sixteenth through the seventeenth century, developing the concept of imperial “intermediaries,” whereby empire was forged with the help of semi-independent groups that worked for the imperial center but maintained some autonomies. In Russian history these were Cossacks, a phenomenon the chapter explores in its varied communities across the southern border of the expanding Russian state (Ukrainian, Sloboda, Don, Ural Cossacks, among other groups). Nomadism is also a major focus of the chapter, as well as Russia’s conquest of Kazan (1552), Astrakhan (1556), the Volga trade route, and the subsequent gradual migration of Orthodox East Slavs into Muslim, generally Turkic-speaking communities in the Middle Volga, Bashkiria, and Siberia. The chapter also details the Khmelnytsky uprising and transfer of part of modern-day Ukraine (the Cossack Hetmanate) into Russian suzereinty from 1654 onward.
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