by Aileen E. Friesen (University of Toronto Press, © 2019), 256pp.
About this book we are told the following by the publisher:
The movement of millions of settlers to Siberia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries marked one particular of the most ambitious undertakings pursued by the tsarist state. Colonizing Russia’s Promised Land examines how Russian Orthodoxy acted as a simple developing block for constructing Russian settler communities in present-day southern Siberia and northern Kazakhstan. Russian state officials aspired to lay claim to land that was politically beneath their authority, but remained culturally unfamiliar. By exploring the formation and evolution of Omsk diocese – a settlement mission – Colonizing Russia’s Promised Land reveals how the migration of settlers expanded the function of Orthodoxy as a cultural force in transforming Russia’s imperial periphery by “russifying” the land and marginalizing the Indigenous Kazakh population.
In the 1st study exploring the function of Orthodoxy in settler colonialism, Aileen Friesen shows how settlers, clergymen, and state officials viewed the recreation of Orthodox parish life as practised in European Russia as basic to the establishment of settler communities, and to the good results of colonization. Friesen uniquely offers peasant settlers a voice in this discussion, as they expressed their religious aspirations and fears to priests and tsarist officials. In spite of this agreement, tensions existed not only amongst settlers, but also inside the Orthodox Church as these groups struggled to define what constituted the Russian Orthodox faith and culture.