“The Person Chosen by Me”

Runaway Brides, Orthodox Missionaries, and the Construction of Empire among the Buriats, 1870s–1917

in Sibirica

This article revisits the trope of the runaway bride, a popular means of narrating the conversion to Orthodoxy of Buriat women during the nineteenth century that depicted women's conversions as pragmatic and lacking religious meaning. Using petitions and memoranda from church archives, Murray finds that encounters between Buriats and missionaries over the conversion and remarriage of Buriat women served as a powerful means of incorporating the Buriats into the Russian Empire by producing new, imperially shaped possibilities for Buriat self-definition. Women seeking conversion and remarriage utilized conceptions about women's individual rights within marriage based in discourses about marriage and patriarchy then widespread in central Russia. Men contesting the remarriage of wives and daughters treated Buriat custom as a formally sanctioned branch of imperial law, transforming flexible custom into codified, inflexible customary law.

Sibirica

Interdisciplinary Journal of Siberian Studies