Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




Russian Practices of Governance in Eurasia: Frontier Power Dynamics, 16-19th Century by Gulnar T. Kendirbai

This event was held virtually as a Zoom webinar and streamed via YouTube Live.

Please join us for a discussion with Gulnar T. Kendirbai, author of Russian Practices of Governance in Eurasia: Frontier Power Dynamics, Sixteenth Century to Nineteenth Century (Routledge, 2020), joined by Richard Wortman(Columbia University), Shoshana Keller (Hamilton College), Nathaniel Knight (Seton Hall University), and moderator Alexander Cooley (Harriman Institute).

Russian Practices of Governance in Eurasia analyses the role of the mobility factor in the spread of Russian rule in Eurasia in the formative period of the rise of the Russian Empire and offers an examination of the interaction of Russian authorities with their nomadic partners.

Demonstrating that the mobility factor strongly shaped the system of protectorate that the Russian and Qing monarchs imposed on their nomadic counterparts, Gulnar T. Kendirbai argues that it operated as a flexible institutional framework, which enabled all sides to derive maximum benefits from a given political situation. Kendirbai establishes that interactions of Russian authorities with their Kalmyk and Qazaq counterparts during the mid-16th to the mid-19th centuries were strongly informed by the power dynamics of the Inner Asian frontier. These dynamics were marked by Russia’s rivalry with Qing Chinese and Jungar leaders to exert its influence over frontier nomadic populations. This book shows that each of these parties began to adopt key elements of existing steppe political culture. It also suggests that the different norms of governance adopted by the Russian state continued to shape its elite politics well into the 1820s and beyond. Kendirbai proposes that, by combining key elements of this culture with new practices, Russian authorities proved capable of creating innovative forms of governance that ended up shaping the very nature of the colonial Russian state itself.

An important contribution to the ongoing debates pertaining to the nature of the spread of Russian rule over the numerous populations of the vast Eurasian terrains, Russian Practices of Governance in Eurasia will be of interest to academics working on Russian history, Central Asian/Eurasian history and political and cultural history.


Gulnar T. Kendirbai is Adjunct Assistant Professor of History at Columbia University, specializing in Eurasian and Central Asian intellectual history.

Richard Wortman is James Bryce Professor Emeritus of European Legal History at Columbia University, and specializes in the history of Imperial Russia.

Shoshana Keller is Professor of History at Hamilton College, focusing on Soviet and Central Asian history.

Nathaniel Knight is Professor and Department Chair of History at Seton Hall University, where he teaches Russian and East European history, Western Civilization and Historical Methods.

Moderated by Alexander Cooley, director of the Harriman Institute

Event Video