Member book, Urbansky, Beyond the Steppe Frontier: A History of the Sino-Russian Border

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Repost from H-Asia


Dear colleagues,


I am pleased to announce the publication of my book:


Beyond the Steppe Frontier: A History of the Sino-Russian Border 

Princeton University Press

ISBN: 9780691181684 (Hardcover)

Published: 01/28/2020

Pages: 392

Illus: 35 b/w illus. 4 tables



Brief Description:


The Sino-Russian border, once the world’s longest land border, has received scant attention in histories about the margins of empires. Beyond the Steppe Frontier rectifies this by exploring the demarcation’s remarkable transformation—from a vaguely marked frontier in the seventeenth century to its twentieth-century incarnation as a tightly patrolled barrier girded by watchtowers, barbed wire, and border guards. Through the perspectives of locals, including railroad employees, herdsmen, and smugglers from both sides, I explore the daily life of communities and their entanglements with transnational and global flows of people, commodities, and ideas. I challenge top-down interpretations by stressing the significance of the local population in supporting, and undermining, border making.


Because Russian, Chinese, and native worlds are intricately interwoven, national separations largely remained invisible at the border between the two largest Eurasian empires. This overlapping and mingling came to an end only when the border gained geopolitical significance during the twentieth century. Relying on a wealth of sources culled from little-known archives from across Eurasia, I demonstrate how states succeeded in suppressing traditional borderland cultures by cutting kin, cultural, economic, and religious connections across the state perimeter, through laws, physical force, deportation, reeducation, forced assimilation, and propaganda.


Beyond the Steppe Frontier sheds critical new light on a pivotal geographical periphery and expands our understanding of how borders are determined.



Table of Contents


Acknowledgments, ix

A Note on Translation, Romanization, and Dates, xiii


Introduction, 1

1. Cossacks and Bannermen on the Argun Frontier, 15

2. Railroads, Germs, and Gold, 39

3. Revolutions without Borders, 89

4. The Soviet State at the Border, 123

5. An Open Steppe under Lock and Key, 150

6. Staging Friendship at the Barbed-Wire Fence, 195

7. Invisible Enemies across the Frozen River, 217

8. Watermelons and Abandoned Watchtowers, 251 

Conclusion, 266


Notes, 277 

Bibliography, 325 

Illustration Credits, 353 

Index, 355



For Further Information, please visit:

To receive a 30% discount from Princeton University Press, please enter discount code SU30 on the PUP website at Your discount will be applied when the order is processed. 


Best wishes,