Pacific Russia: Transnational and Transimperial Perspectives on Modern Northeast Asia (from 18th century until the 1930s)

26.10.2018 - 27.10.2018, Workshop, Bielefeld

From the seventeenth century onwards, the Russian Empire aspired to control the North Asian and North American Pacific littoral areas and waters. Entangled with the history of the Russian colonial expansion in Asia and America, Pacific Russia evolved geographically – shifting from the extractive colonies in Beringia and Alaska in the early period to settler colonial society in the early twentieth century. Its maritime orientation makes it an unusual exception to the presumed rule of Russia’s continental nature as a historical empire.

Russia’s expansion into the Pacific area and its penetration into Northeast Asia during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries significantly contributed to the transformation of the empire as a whole and turned its Eastern parts into dynamically developing regions undergoing imperial rivalries and processes of globalization. Thus our understanding of “Pacific Russia” encompasses both the imperial orientation to the Pacific and specific areas on the one hand and, on the other hand, local dynamics in the Pacific littoral.

The workshop takes seriously the fact that Russia’s Asia-Pacific was a transnational and transimperial region of the Russian Empire that was shaped by different peoples and powers. Pacific Russia’s position in global history is at once marginal or peripheral and central.

Topics of conference papers can focus on the following aspects in particular:
- Russia’s Asia-Pacific as a region of colonial expansion and conflict from the 18th century until the 1930s
- encounters and exchange processes in the area of trade and commerce, e.g. fishing (industry)
- transnational or transimperial entanglements in Russia’s Asia-Pacific region
- cultural encounters, brokers, itineraries and institutions in Russia’s Asia-Pacific region
- transfer and exchange of knowledge and local practices
- the role of individual and collective agency in Pacific Russia
- port cities and railway towns in Russia’s Asia-Pacific as portals of globalization and laboratories for diverse cultural transfers, interactions and negotiation processes
- Russia’s Asia-Pacific as a space of transit, mobility and migration
- Russia’s Asia-Pacific as an object in historiography


Veranstaltungsort: Bielefeld University, Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZIF)

Veranstalter: Sergey Glebov (Amherst), Frank Grüner (Bielefeld), Andreas Renner (Munich), Ivan Sablin (Heidelberg); in cooperation with the German Historical Institute (DHI) Moscow and its collaborative research project “Russia’s North Pacific”

Kontakt: Frank Grüner (frank.gruener(at)