Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Imperial Artwork - Assault of Gimry - by Franz Alekseyevich Roubaud

This detailed painting is of the Russian attack on the stronghold of Ghazi Muhammad, the most important religious leader of the resistance of the peoples of the Eastern Caucasus to Russian conquest. It was painted by Franz Alekseyevich Roubaud. Make sure you click on it to get the full effect.

As I'm learning more about 19th century European imperialism, I'm becoming very interested in Russia's actions to its south. Between 1651 and 1828 Russia fought five wars against Persia. Between 1568 and 1878, they fought ten distinct wars against the Ottomans. Their war in the Caucasus went for nearly fifty years, starting in 1817 and not ending until 1864. The Crimean War, and its participation in the Balkan Wars are part of the warfare in the southern regions as well.

Counting in the Napoleonic Wars, the various nationalist uprisings it suppressed, the war against Japan, and the Revolution of 1905, I can think of no other nation that experienced as much and as constant warfare as imperial Russia. 

Unfortunately, there is little contemporary writing, at least in English, about the Russian invasion and subjugation of the Caucasus. There's Life of Schamyl And Narrative of the Circassian War of Independence Against Russia by J. Milton Mackie, but that's from 1856 and before the war even ended. I might be forced to rely on a mix of fiction by Pushkin, Lermontov, and Tolstoy to get a sense of what the Russians made of events at the time. For a broader picture, the best I think I can do is Charles King's The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus. Will I ever read all this, who can tell? Still, it's a mesmerizing period and region I know little of. As much as we here about British and French imperialism and colonialism, Russia was clearly as aggressive and as brutal as either of them.

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