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The idea for this book first began to take shape in 2008 during my stay at the University of Hokkaido (Japan). I had the wonderful opportunity to submerge myself in scholarly creativity thanks to the Slavic-Eurasian Research Center there, and I am eternally grateful to Professors Tomohiko Uyama, Nobuo Arai, Kimitaka Matsuzato, and other colleagues at the Center for their hospitality and for the rare chance to interact with top experts in the history of the Russian Empire.

My weeks spent at Cambridge in 2011 proved equally productive and inspiring. I will always remember with profound gratitude the reading rooms at the main university library at Cambridge, as well as the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit, where much of this book was writen. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the Siegrid Rausing Scholarly Exchange Programme for making my journey possible, as well as Professor Caroline Humphrey for her generous assistance, inspirational advice, and extremely interesting conversations.

Some of this book was writen during my stay at Princeton Insitute for Advanced Study in 2013-14. That period of unforgetable and thoughtprovoking interaction with some of the world’s greatest scholars had a deep, positive impact on my work. I am forever indebted to Professor Michael van Walt van Praag for this unique and brilliant opportunity.

I am also grateful to the archivists at The Irkutsk Province State Archive, the State Archive of Transbaikal Province, the State Archive of the Republic of Buriatia’s manuscripts department, the archive at the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Russian State Historical Archive. Their goodwill and professionalism allowed me to gather the necessary historical materials used in this book. I also discovered extremely valuable sources at the Center for Oriental Manuscripts and Xylographs of the Institute of Mongolian, Buddhist, and Tibetan Studies of the Siberian Division of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

I am especially grateful to my mentor Raisa Krapivina, my colleagues Irina Kul’ganek, Raisa Buraeva, Darima Zhamsueva, Battsengel Natsagdorj, and Marina Aiusheeva for their invaluable guidance and assistance with my search. I am also thankful to my colleagues Tatyana Skrynnikova, Natalia Zhukovskaya, Darima Amogolonova, Ivan Sablin, Irina Garri, Jargal Badagarov, Dmitrii (Galsan) Garmayev, Anya Bernstein, and Alexandre Andreyev for their helpful suggestions and advice. I owe an additional debt of thanks to Bair Nanzatov for the maps presented in this volume.

I was able to work on further improving this book thanks to the generous financial assistance of Nazarbayev University. In addition, I would like to thank Dittmar Schorkowitz, David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, Paul Werth, the anonymous reviewers, and my friend Tristra Newyear for their extensive efforts to refine the book’s text.

Last but not least, I would like to express my devoted thanks to my family, my wife Inga, daughters Karina and Tory, and especially to my son Agvan, who helped me with the final stages of writing this book.