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Pilgrims, Fieldworkers, and Secret Agents: Buryat Buddhologists and the History of an Eurasian Imaginary

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image of Inner Asia

This article looks at the pre-Revolutionary history of Buryats' engagement with greater Eurasia, drawing on the legacies of the long underappreciated Russian Buddhological school and exploring the intellectual and political context of its emergence in the late nineteenth century. Exploring the role of Russian Orientalists and political figures such as the Orientalists V.P. Vasil'ev and Prince E.E. Ukhtomskii, and taking a close look at the fieldwork of the first Russian-trained indigenous Buryat Buddhologists G.Ts. Tsybikov and B.B. Baradiin, I demonstrate that this ultimately Eurasianist school of Buddhology was borne out of conflicting sentiments towards Russia's cosmopolitanism, statehood, and imperial destiny in Asia, as well as representations of indigenous peoples of southern Siberia. As a conclusion, I map the emergent forms of what I call 'Asian Eurasianism', linking it to contemporary cultural debates in Buryatia. I suggest that the term offers us a better way to understand the many ways by which many non-Russians position themselves in relation to the vast Eurasian continent.


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