Making Russians

Meaning and Practice of Russification in Lithuania and Belarus after 1863


Making Russians is an innovative study dealing with Russian nationalities policy in Lithuania and Belarus in the aftermath of the 1863 Uprising. The book devotes most attention to imperial confessional and language policy, for in Russian discourse at that time it was religion and language that were considered to be the most important criteria determining nationality. The account of Russian nationalities policy presented here differs considerably from the assessments usually offered by historians from east-central Europe primarily because the author provides a more subtle description of the aims of imperial nationalities policy, rejecting the claim that the Russian authorities consistently sought to assimilate members of other national groups. At the same time the interpretation this study offers opens a discussion with western and Russian historians, especially those, who lay heavy emphasis on discourse analysis. This study asserts that the rhetoric of officials and certain public campaigners was influenced by a concept of political correctness, which condemned all forms of ethnic denationalisation. A closer look at the implementation of discriminatory policy allows us to discern within Russian imperial policy more attempts to assimilate or otherwise repress the cultures of non-dominant national groups than it is possible to appreciate simply by analysing discourse alone.

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Darius Staliūnas received his M.A. from Vilnius University (1993) and his Ph. D. from Kaunas Vytautas Magnus University (1997). He joined the Lithuanian Institute of History in 1992. Since 2000 he is a deputy director at Lithuanian Institute of History, member of editorial board of Lithuanian Historical Studies. His research interests include issues of Russian nationality policy in the so-called Northwestern Region (Lithuania and Belorussia), as well as problems of historiography and places of memory in Lithuania. In conducting research, he has worked in archives and libraries in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Paris, Warsaw, Poznan, Cracow, Vilnius, and Kaunas. He has published articles in Kritika, Ab Imperio, Lithuanian Historical Studies, Nordost-Archiv, Przegląd historyczny, Lituano-Slavica Posnaniensia, East European Jewish Affairs, etc. He also lectures at Klaipėda University. His teaching interest include Russian and Polish history.
“Making Russians offers an intriguing insight into the nationalities policies of the late tsarist period. The argument is well constructed and the research is superb. … Staliūnas offers an interesting analysis for those interested in Lithuania, Russifi cation and minority integration yesterday, today and tomorrow.” - in: The Slavonic and East European Review 89.4 (October 2011)
“This monograph is a work of model scholarship and an outstanding example of the new international school of the study of the practice and lived experience of tsarist rule in the empire’s borderlands.” - in: Forschungen zur baltischen Geschichte Band 6 (2011)
“important … illustrated with excellent photographs … a significant contribution to the studies of imperial politics” - in: PINKAS – Culture and History of East European Jewry, Vol III, 2010
Making Russians is an exceptionally soundly written monograph, one based on unique source materials and one that significantly enriches the existing works on the process of Russification” - in: Acta Poloniae Historica
“Darius Staliunas’s book has much to recommend it. It is thoroughly researched, with extensive use of Russian, Lithuanian, and Polish archival sources … The introduction provides a detailed and highly useful of the historiography of the use of Russification and “national policies” - in: Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 11.2 (Spring 2010)
"Il libro rappresenta uno dei più importanti risultati della recente storiografia sul-l’Impero russo" - in: Russica Romana, Volume XVI, 2009
"[Staliunas‘ book] provides more [information] on the period when Lithuanian and Belarusian territories were under the rule of the Russian Empire and shows a high methodological level of the contemporary Lithuanian historiography." - in: Ukraina Moderna
“Die englische Übersetzung […] erlaubt einen Blick in Details, die sonst nur in den landessprachlichen Veröffentlichungen der Region verfolgbar wären. Das Werk setzt zugleich durch seine weit gefasste und konsequent verfolgte Fragestellung einen mächtigen Stein in den Bogen eines neuen Verständnisses der russischen Nationalitätenpolitik im Zarenreich.” - in: NORDEUROPAforum 1/2009
“(…) it‘s worth reading „Making Russians“. And in order to widen the audience one should think about translating it [into Belarusian].” - in: Belarusian Historical Review 16.1 (2009)
"Staliunas has written an important book on nineteenth century imperial politics. Above all, it demonstrates how a differentiated view of administrative conceptions and measures can illuminate differences between central and provincial governments, while also helping to explain the generalized failure of imperial policies and their contribution to national mobilization in the late Tsarist empire." - in: Journal of Baltic Studies 29.3 (September 2008)
“construct[s] a new angle in a rather cultivated field, i.e. Russification and Imperial policy towards Lithuanians in the second half of the nineteenth century …“innovative… presents a new perception in the historiography of nationalism.” - in: Lithuanian Historical Studies 13 (2008)
„Insgesamt betrachtet, stellt das Werk aber eine große Hilfe für das Verständnis der durch zahlreiche Stolperfallen gekennzeichneten vormodernen russländischen Nationalitätenpolitik dar.“ - in: Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas Band 57 (2009), 1
“Staliūnas’s Making Russians is a path-breaking monograph in understanding aspects of russification, the variety of attitudes and related policy toward different languages, the shifts in nationality, linguistic and religious particularities, and marginal or forgotten ideas. All this is what makes Staliūnas’s book a bible for a scholar—no serious scholarship in the field can escape consulting it hereafter.” - Giedrius Subačius, in: Archivum Lithuanicum 10 (2008)
"Staliunas gives us a detailed, careful analysis of the making of Russian policy … this study offers an interesting examination of Russia’s problems of imperial reform, and it makes clear why the imperial government did not introduce the zemstvo system into its northwest territory." - in: Slavic Review 67.3 (Fall 2008)
"[a] nuanced analysis" - James P. Nielsen, in: Ab Imperio
"This book is a double boon, a monograph combining original research with focused coverage of recent research and developing historiography in a Euroatlantic framework. … In Making Russians, Darius Staliūnas’ will-to-pluralize is a judicious historiographical review of the blueprints for Russification, essential for all who study the borderlands of empire." - Steven Seegel, in: Ab Imperio
“Darius Staliūnas’ book has significantly contributed to our understanding of nationality politics in the North-Western province of the Russian empire in the 1860s. By drawing on his deep knowledge of local and central archives the author restores voices and actions of the empire’s actors in this region” - Juliette Cadiot, in: Ab Imperio, vol. 3 (2008)
"Darius Staliūnas‘ research is distinguished by an engrossing and modern methodology of the analysis, a high level of generalization and the revelation of Russian national politics in Lithuanian and Belarusian territories which is based on numerous sources and the most objective approach to the issue. Consequently, it is worth incorporating the work of the Lithuanian historian into Belarusian scientific context and publish it in Belarusian language." - in: ARCHE (
"Without question Darius Staliūnas has presented us with a richly detailed study that really does make plain the intricate nature of imperial policy for managing its North Western Province. … historians of nineteenth century Russia and the history of borderlands will want to read this study." - in: Central and Eastern European Review, Volume 2 (2008)
“The content of Staliūnas’s book illuminates a place, time, and set of circumstances that deserves thorough understanding. This meticulously crafted, thoughtful work rises admirable to the formidable task. It will be important reading for students of the Russian Empire and of nationality/language policy in multiethnic states, both historical and contemporary.” - in: The Russian Review 67.2 (April 2008)
“The book is based on a thorough reading of secondary sources and an exhaustive use of archival materials and is not likely to be superceded soon. … The quality of the scholarship here is first rate … this important book will be required reading for anyone interested in nationality policy in the Russian Empire and, indeed, for anyone interested in nineteenth-century Russian history.” - in: Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropa-Forschung 56 (2007) H. 4
"An einem markanten historischen Beispiel analysierte und spezifizierte Darius Staliunas den so vagen wie politisch belasteten Begriff der „Russifizierung“. Er befasste sich mit der Integrationspolitik des Russischen Reiches im nordwestlichen Grenzgebiet nach dem Januaraufstand der Polen 1863, betrachtete sie im Fokus der Nationsbildung und widerlegte die Auffassung, Russifizierung sei als eine einheitliche und gleichförmige Politik gegenüber sämtlichen ethno-konfessionellen Gruppen abzuhandeln. Daraus ergibt sich ein differenziertes Bild." - in: H-Soz-u-Kult, 05.05.2008
Making Russians is a valuable and insightful examination, based on a solid archival foundation, of the nationalities policies in tsarist Russia’s northwestern borderlands of Lithuania and Belarus. Making Russians explores the various strategies of “Russification” that the imperial government pursued – largely unsuccessfully – in this region. The book is essential reading for all students of imperial Russia. It has applications for the present as well, when issues of national identity continue to engage the citizens of both Russia and the states of the Former Soviet Union.” - John Klier, University College London
"Making Russians is a solid monograph, supported by unique sources and significantly enriching existing works on the topic of Russification (…). It is impossible to separate statements in Darius Staliunas‘ work, which are entirely new or add to our knowledge of some facts and phenomena. These numerous statements concern very specific details and more general questions. I could only suggest translating this book into Polish, so Polish readers would get an opportunity to get acquainted with it." - Leszek Zasztowt, Rozprawy z Dziejow Oswiaty
Map of the North Western Province and the Suvalki Gubernia (Kingdom of Poland)
I. Administrative Boundaries and Nationality Policy
II. The Search for a Nationality Policy Strategy in the Early 1860s
III. The Meanings of Russification
IV. Separating “Them” from “Us.” Definitions of Nationality in Political Practice
V. Confessional Experiments
VI. Metamorphoses in Language Policy
List of Illustrations