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The Enigmatic Tsar and His Empire

Russia under Alexander I. 1801–1825

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Edited By Jan Kusber, Alexander Kaplunovskiy and Benjamin Conrad

In many ways Russia under Alexander I was an epoch of exploration and revision of empire and state-building. The authors of this volume explore the Alexandrine-era Russia not from the traditional vantage point of the emperor and his inner circle but from the point of view of experts and elites. These «men on the spot» drafted «maps» of the empire and its collective subjects and constructed social, political, and economic imaginaries of the empire. All these revisions and projects did not necessarily lead to an immediate and consistent (re)organization of the political, social, and cultural structures of imperial space. The Alexandrine Russia may be interpreted much more as a «laboratory» in which different potential scenarios for modernization were designed, discussed, and tested—but also rejected and forgotten.

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Alexander I’s Governor-General Experiment in the Volga Region: A.N. Bakhmetev’s Experience (Elizaveta Sysoeva)

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Elizaveta Sysoeva

Alexander I’s Governor-General Experiment in the Volga Region: A.N. Bakhmetev’s Experience

The early decades of the nineteenth century were a period of “proactive” improvement and “balance of the imperial situation,”1 both in the content of administrative projects and in their implementation in practices of territorial administration in the Russian Empire. However, Alexander I’s attempt at reforming local administration in 1816–25 remains understudied. The emperor, known for his cautiousness and indecision, endorsed the ideas of Aleksandr Dmitrievich Balashov2 and Viktor Pavlovich Kochubei,3 who called for introduction of viceroyalties (namestnichestvo) as administrative units in the empire. It is still unknown whether Nikolai Nikolaevich Novosil’cev or A.D. Balashov was the true author of the project,4, but without the political will of the monarch, implementation would have been impossible. The empire was to be structured in accordance with a document titled “The List of Governorates and Their Distribution across Viceregal Regions” (Spisok gubernii s raspredeleniem po namestnicheskim okrugam). Amended in 1823–24, it was included in the Book of Civil Statutes (Kniga shtatov po grazhdanskoi chasti)5 and preserved in the archives of the secret “Committee on December 6, 1826.” At the end of the nineteenth century, this list of governor-generalships—as found in the committee papers—was published in the Sbornik Rossiiskogo Imperatorskogo Obshchestva, with further amendments simply ignored.6 This version of the text is most referenced by scholars.

As for the question of the relation between the terms “viceroyalty” (namestnichestvo)...

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