This study offers a reconstruction of the social, cultural and legal history of the Middle Horde Kazakh steppe within the Russian Empire in the 19th century. Using largely untapped archival records from Kazakhstan and Russia, as well as contemporary ethnographic research, administrative reports, the provincial press and scholarly analyses, it explores the cross-cultural encounter of laws, customs and judicial practices in the process of Russian empire-building at the local level. Through the imposition of imperial laws and settlement of nomadic lands, Russian colonialism sought to control the ways that Kazakh nomads could practice their judicial customs (adat). Middle Horde Kazakhs actively accommodated, manipulated and rejected these Russian imperial designs, and continued to find meaning in their own legal-cultural norms for ensuring justice, resolving disputes, and upholding clan honour. This study contributes both to current understanding of the history of Russia as an empire and of the Muslim, Turkic Kazakhs who were integrated into that empire over the course of the 19th century, and thus to an understanding of the identity of Kazakhstan today.
Essential reference for scholars and students of history, anthropology, political science and Eurasian/Central Asian studies.