This book addresses relations between Russian imperial officials and the peoples of Bashkiria, in the southern Urals Mountains region, in the period between 1552 and 1917. Its purpose is to show the many ways that officials sought to weave Bashkiria into the fabric of Russian empire, as well as the ways that Bashkiria’s peoples shaped the process of their incorporation into it. Steinwedel rightly emphasizes the protracted, negotiated nature of this process. Russia’s “fundamental challenge” in extracting resources from the region was “to cultivate loyal servitors of the tsar who could represent and stabilize imperial authority” (4). As this and the book subtitle suggest, the concept of loyalty frames the discussion of Russian-Bashkir relations. Steinwedel understands that loyalty was a calculation made by diverse individuals seeking to advance their own interests—whether interests of dynasty, officialdom, clan, nation, or self. While he succeeds in demonstrating the importance of Bashkir loyalty to imperial officials throughout the period, the big story here is that efforts to incorporate Bashkiria into the empire—a project shaped at every stage by native elites and commoners—were largely successful.
(2018). Threads of Empire: Loyalty and Tsarist Authority in Bashkiria, 1552–1917. By Charles Steinwedel.. The Journal of Modern History, 90 (3), 741-743.