The Russian Empire and its legal institutions have often been associated with arbitrariness, corruption, and the lack of a 'rule of law'. Stefan B. Kirmse challenges these assumptions in this important new study of empire-building, minority rights, and legal practice in late Tsarist Russia, revealing how legal reform transformed ordinary people's interaction with state institutions from the 1860s to the 1890s. By focusing on two regions that stood out for their ethnic and religious diversity, the book follows the spread of the new legal institutions into the open steppe of Southern Russia, especially Crimea, and into the fields and forests of the Middle Volga region around the ancient Tatar capital of Kazan. It explores the degree to which the courts served as instruments of integration: the integration of former borderlands with the imperial centre and the integration of the empire's internal 'others' with the rest of society.
This book combines an analysis of law with a discussion of autocratic rule over a multicultural empire. It shows that Tsarist Russia was far more 'lawful' than generally assumed and sheds new light on the integration of Muslims by focusing on Crimea and the ancient Tatar capital of Kazan.
Introduction; 1. Minority rights and legal integration in the Russian empire; 2. Borderlands no more: Crimea and Kazan in the mid-nineteenth century; 3. Implementing legal change: new courts for Crimea and Kazan; 4. Images and practices in the new courts: the enactment of monarchy, modesty, and cultural diversity; 5. Seeking justice: Muslim Tatars go to court; 6. Confronting the state: peasant resistance over land and faith; 7. Dealing with unrest: crime and punishment in the 'crisis years' 1878-79; Conclusion.
'... the book is an excellent introduction both to the most successful of the great reforms and to how ordinary people, and in particular ethnic and religious minorities, resorted to the new courts in the first decades of their functioning.' Jonathan Daly, The Slavonic and East European Review
An analysis of law and imperial rule reveals that Tsarist Russia was far more 'lawful' than generally assumed.
Cambridge University Press