Author Archives: Alison Smith

About Alison Smith

Professor, University of Toronto, Department of History; Author of For the Common Good and Their Own Well-Being: Social Estates in Imperial Russia (Oxford University Press, 2014)

Correspondence on various questions

I am always running across bits and pieces of stories in the course of doing research that leave me wanting to know more (as I’ve posted about more than once before this!). It’s one of the things that I both … Continue reading

Posted in Archives, Imperial Russia | Leave a comment

Exhuming Individual Lives

I didn’t watch the Oscars on Sunday, but because I live in the world, I have heard quite a bit about them. Of course the big story was the kerfuffle over Best Picture (to which I say, yay, Moonlight! you … Continue reading

Posted in Historiography, Imperial Russia | 1 Comment

Threads of Empire: A Blog Conversation

I’m very pleased that over the next several weeks the Russian History Blog will be hosting another book conversation, this time of Charles Steinwedel’s Threads of Empire: Loyalty and Tsarist Authority in Bashkiria, 1552-1917 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016). The … Continue reading

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Foreigners

I’m in St. Petersburg right now, enjoying my research leave and finding all sorts of lovely bits and pieces in the archives. I’ve been pleased to find some connections I hoped to find and frustrated by hints of larger stories … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Merchants of Siberia: Seen and Unseen

There’s a moment in The Merchants of Siberia that I suspect will call forth a sigh of weary recognition from nearly any historian—or perhaps only from any historian working on the early modern world, or perhaps even only from any … Continue reading

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Interwar émigrés

Although my academic work gives no hint of this, I’ve always been oddly fascinated by the interwar period. I know exactly where the fascination came from: mystery novels. No, even more specifically, British mystery novels, where the specter of war … Continue reading

Posted in Soviet Era 1917-1991, Transnational History | 10 Comments

Ivanovo: Manumission

As I’ve spent time reading files and writing about Ivanovo, one of the things I’ve wondered about is how exactly the spate of manumissions that first created this odd part-serf/part-industrial society happened. Obviously it happened when a group of serfs … Continue reading

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Motivations

I have a memory from graduate school of driving up to Northwestern University to hear a talk by Sheila Fitzpatrick. This is a little bit odd because I was a graduate student at the University of Chicago, and therefore had … Continue reading

Posted in Historiography, Imperial Russia, Ivanovo, Research & Practice | Leave a comment

Ivanovo: Ivan Baburin, IV

Ivan Baburin’s intransigence completely puzzled the Ivanovo estate administration. In the archival files he comes off as completely unconcerned with the fact that he had just decided to stop paying rent, and was therefore maintaining a presence in Ivanovo totally … Continue reading

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Ivanovo: Ivan Baburin, III

The story I’ve set up so far has three elements: first, a huge fire that caused massive damage to the village, and perhaps particularly to the merchant entrepreneurs and their economic interests; second, a lingering issue over land tenure based … Continue reading

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Ivanovo: Ivan Baburin, II

In my first post about Ivan Baburin, I concentrated on the ways that he likely felt at odds with the estate administration or with Sheremetev—he was a prosperous man by nearly any measure, having purchased his freedom and entered the … Continue reading

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Ivanovo: The Case of Ivan Baburin, Part I

The massive 1839 fire clearly caused upset among the local manufacturers of Ivanovo. They hoped to get greater recognition of their important role in the local economy, but found their proposals shut down by Sheremetev. Most seem to have accepted … Continue reading

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Links of interest

Two links of interest to researchers! First, the Summer Research Laboratory (SRL) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has announced its call for applications for summer 2016 work. Second, the Russian State Library (aka Leninka) has just announced that as … Continue reading

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Ivanovo: A Modest Proposal

The fire in 1839 was hugely destructive, and after it the peasants and industrialists of Ivanovo were faced with a major task of rebuilding. One group, the industrialists, also saw this fire and the task of rebuilding as a possible … Continue reading

Posted in Imperial Russia, Ivanovo | 1 Comment

Ivanovo: Fire

One of the first things I did when I started archival research back in the mid 1990s was look at the annual reports sent to the Ministry of Internal Affairs by provincial governors in the 1830s and 1840s. I was reading … Continue reading

Posted in Imperial Russia, Ivanovo | 1 Comment

Ivanovo: Vagrants and beggars

Vagrancy was a nearly constant background issue throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It shows up all over, in legislation about internal passports, in newspaper notices announcing arrested vagrants, in state concerns about what people are doing. I particularly … Continue reading

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Ivanovo: Surprise

Unexpected stories emerge when you poke around in archives. The best laid plans often lead away from where you originally thought they’d go. Sometimes it’s because a letter that is mostly about one thing veers away to discuss a totally … Continue reading

Posted in Imperial Russia, Ivanovo | 5 Comments

Ivanovo: Property

When Kirill Ermolaevich Gandurin died in May 1820, he left behind a wife, a daughter, and a long list of property. A one-story stone house, a list of sixty four icons, a second list of twenty seven additional icons, two … Continue reading

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Ivanovo: Energy Crisis

Firewood showed up in my last post in what was for me a rather unexpected way, as the source of artistic inspiration. It also showed up in other accounts of Ivanovo in the 1830s-1860s in a very different way: as … Continue reading

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Ivanovo: Patterns (literally)

One of the things that’s a bit tricky about working primarily with written texts about old Ivanovo is that the major work of the village/town is obscured. Ivanovo was not just a center of textiles in the sense that it … Continue reading

Posted in Imperial Russia, Ivanovo | 3 Comments