Robert Geraci presents an exceptionally original account of both the politics and the lived experience of diversity in a society whose ethnic complexity has long been downplayed. For centuries, Russians have defined their country as both a multinational empire and a homogeneous nation-state in the making, and have alternately embraced and repudiated the East or Asia as fundamental to Russia’s identity. The
author argues that the city of Kazan, in the middle Volga region, was the chief nineteenth-century site for mediating this troubled and paradoxical relationship with the East, much as St. Petersburg had served as Russia's window on Europe a century earlier. He shows how Russians sought through science, religion, pedagogy, and politics to understand and promote the Russification of ethnic minorities in the East, as well as to define themselves.
Vivid in narrative detail, meticulously argued, and peopled by a colorful cast including missionaries, bishops, peasants, mullahs, professors, teachers, students, linguists, orientalists, archeologists, and state officials, Window on the East uses previously untapped archival and published materials to describe the creation (sometimes intentional, sometimes unintentional) of intermediate and new forms of Russianness.