Forging a Unitary State: Russia’s Management of the Eurasian Space, 1650–1850

By John P. LeDonne

© 2020

Covering two centuries of Russian history, Forging a Unitary State is a comprehensive account of the creation of what is commonly known as the "Russian Empire," from Poland to Siberia. In this book, John P. LeDonne demonstrates that the so-called empire was, for the most part, a unitary state, defined by an obsessive emphasis on centralization and uniformity. The standardization of local administration, the judicial system, tax regime, and commercial policy were carried out slowly but systematically over eight generations, in the hope of integrating people on the periphery into the Russian political and social hierarchy.

The ultimate goal of Russian policy was to create a "Fortress Empire" consisting of a huge Russian unitary state flanked by a few peripheral territories, such as Finland, Transcaucasia, and Central Asia. Additional peripheral states, such as Sweden, Turkey, and Persia, would guarantee the security of this "Fortress Empire," and the management of Eurasian territory. LeDonne’s provocative argument is supported by a careful comparative study of Russian expansion along its western, southern, and eastern borders, drawing on vital but under-studied administrative evidence. Forging a Unitary State is an essential resource for those interested in the long history of Russian expansionism. 

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  • Page Count: 682 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.0in x 9.0in
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Quick Overview

Was Russia truly an empire respectful of the differences among its constituent parts or was it a unitary state seeking to create complete homogeneity?

Forging a Unitary State: Russia’s Management of the Eurasian Space, 1650–1850

By John P. LeDonne

© 2020

Covering two centuries of Russian history, Forging a Unitary State is a comprehensive account of the creation of what is commonly known as the "Russian Empire," from Poland to Siberia. In this book, John P. LeDonne demonstrates that the so-called empire was, for the most part, a unitary state, defined by an obsessive emphasis on centralization and uniformity. The standardization of local administration, the judicial system, tax regime, and commercial policy were carried out slowly but systematically over eight generations, in the hope of integrating people on the periphery into the Russian political and social hierarchy.

The ultimate goal of Russian policy was to create a "Fortress Empire" consisting of a huge Russian unitary state flanked by a few peripheral territories, such as Finland, Transcaucasia, and Central Asia. Additional peripheral states, such as Sweden, Turkey, and Persia, would guarantee the security of this "Fortress Empire," and the management of Eurasian territory. LeDonne’s provocative argument is supported by a careful comparative study of Russian expansion along its western, southern, and eastern borders, drawing on vital but under-studied administrative evidence. Forging a Unitary State is an essential resource for those interested in the long history of Russian expansionism. 

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 682 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.0in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    "Dealing with complex issues of statehood and government, Forging a Unitary State can be situated under the rubric of a broadly defined institutional history. LeDonne builds upon a profound variety of primary sources and the massive corpus of his previous scholarship in Russian geopolitics, tsarist bureaucracy, and the system of administration. The book poses new questions that challenge widely held narratives about Russia becoming an empire."


    Mikhail Dolbilov, Department of History, University of Maryland

    "Forging a Unitary State is a sprawling work of immense erudition."


    Kira Stevens, Department of History, Colgate University

    "John P. LeDonne’s work, unique in its scale and design, connects the stories of Russia’s external territorial expansion and internal political consolidation. A result of many years of research, this book is an encyclopedia of imperial governance that will be indispensable for all historians of the Russian Empire."
    Ekaterina Pravilova, Department of History, Princeton University
  • Author Information

    John P. LeDonne is a senior research associate at the Davis Center, Harvard University.
  • Table of contents

    Introduction

    Part I. The Southern Theater Reaches the Sea

    1. Laying the Foundations, 1650–1725
        Geography and Geopolitics
        The Cossacks   
        Society, Religion, and Trade

    2. Towards Full Integration, 1725–96
        Civil and Military Administration 
        Ecclesiastical and Legal Integration 
        The Ethnographic Map

    3. Empire or Unitary State? 1796–1855
        Regional Integration 
        Fiscal and Commercial Integration 
        The First Cracks

    Conclusion

    Part II. The Struggle for Northwestern Eurasia

    4. Laying the Foundation, 1650–1775
        The Geopolitical Setting 
        Hesitant Integration 
        Trade, Religion, and Law

    5. Full Integration, 1775–1815 
        Territorial and Administrative Integration
        Religion and Economy
        The Baltic Provinces

    6. Empire or Unitary State? 1815–55
        Civil Administration and the Army 
        Society, Law, and Trade
        On the Road to Disintegration

    Conclusion

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