The abduction of women is closely connected with traditional or primitive societies. Anthropologists tie it with alternative marriage arrangements, characteristic of those systems where marriages are arranged by parents; historians tend to view the abduction of women as part of early history of developed nations, mostly the Middle Ages. In Russia, recent historiographical discussion of abductions always starts with descriptions of customary practices in Siberia to highlight the steppe and frontier experiences in the framework of colonization and underline ‘savage’ or ‘backwardness’ of Siberian populations. However, scholars almost never talk about the abduction of women within the European part. In this article, female abductions are analyzed within the framework of citizenship and modernization of the Russian Empire in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It focuses on the notion of consent and how it contributed to the founding of a new social unit, that is the family, in which women and men acquired their rights and duties in relation to outside society and wider polity. The lack of consent jeopardized the legitimacy of such a union and compromized the citizenship status of its members. On its way to build the country as a modern empire, Russian authorities localized the abduction of women as a ‘customary’ practice of ‘backwards’ people to preserve the modern European core of the Empire.
The First Russian Revolution demonstrated that there was considerable interest in democracy in the Transbaikal, Amur, and Maritime Regions in 1905–1907, which was widely shared across the empire and in East Asia. Democracy was understood as economic welfare, social justice, civil liberties, popular representation, decentralization, and national self-determination. Like elsewhere in the empire, protests started with economic demands, but many trade and professional political unions, strike committees, and soviets developed political programs. In Vladivostok, unrests among soldiers and sailors erupted into major riots with numerous casualties in October 1905, despite the attempts of Military Doctor Mikhail Aleksandrovich Kudrzhinskii and other intellectuals to make the movement peaceful. In Blagoveshchensk, the Amur Cossack teacher Mikhail Nikitich Astaf’ev joined a group of intellectuals who attempted to turn the municipal duma into a provisional government. In Nikolsk-Ussuriysky, Doctor Nikolai Vasil’evich Kirilov presided over the founding congress of the Ussuri Peasant Union, which discussed the introduction of rural revolutionary self-government. In Chita, Social Democrats under Anton Antonovich Kostiushko-Voliuzhanich took over much of the Transbaikal Railway. Tsyben Zhamtsarano and other Buryat intellectuals assembled for congresses demanding indigenous self-government. The recognition of these territories as the Russian Far East had already begun, but the loosely united Transbaikal, Maritime, and Amur Regions remained part of Siberia or North Asia for contemporary observers. The unity of Siberia from the Urals to the Pacific was reinforced by Siberian Regionalism which attracted the support of regional liberals and moderate socialists and consolidated through joint activities of Siberian deputies.
The case of Petr Saltykov, which stretched on between 1758 and 1765, with a surprising coda in 1796, is noteworthy in many respects. The material collected in connection with Saltykov’s crime is useful for an investigation into magic belief as such, offering parallels and supplementary information to the dozens of “magic trials” of the 18th century. However, what makes the Saltykov case unique is how the chancellor’s “superstition” managed so compellingly to bring together two cultures – traditional folk culture and the “Europeanized” culture of the imperial court. The case of Saltykov’s “sorcery” brought the diametrically opposed cultures of the court elite and the masses into confrontation. But even opposites can come together. As it turned out, the magic beliefs of the masses and medical practices of archaic traditional culture continued to attract adherents at court, getting along just fine in a high-culture, “Europeanized” environment. The chasm that lay between the culture of the aristocratic court elite and popular culture in the 18th century was not unbridgeable, although possible intersections of these two cultures sometimes took on rather strange configurations.