Speaker: Jeff Eden, St. Mary's College of Maryland
Respondent: Paolo Sartori, Austrian Academy of Sciences
When the Russian Empire conquered Central Asia in the 1860s-1870s, the conquest was hailed across Europe as the event that ended Central Asia’s slave trade and liberated its slaves– a claim that has rarely, if ever, been challenged by historians. In this presentation, Jeff Eden challenges that claim through two case studies. The first case study shows how, on the eve of Russia’s conquest of the capital city of Khiva in 1873, the city’s slaves fomented the largest slave uprising in the region’s history, directly prompting the abolition of slavery across Central Asia. The second case study reveals the surprising fate of former slaves who escaped their Central Asian owners, fled to the Russian border, and sought protection from the “abolitionist” Tsar. In short, both case studies show how slaves brought about their own emancipation.
Jeff Eden is Assistant Professor of History at St. Mary's College of Maryland. His books include God Save the USSR: Soviet Muslims and the Second World War (Oxford, 2021) and Slavery and Empire in Central Asia (Cambridge, 2018).