This concluding chapter considers the question of why after three centuries of conquest and rule Russia still failed to integrate the North Caucasus into the fabric of its empire-state. Does the answer lie in the peculiarities of local geography and the social and military organization of the highlanders, in the political theology of Islam, or in the empire's structural inability to assimilate others? The chapter revisits the Russian imperial experience in broader historical context in order to address these questions. It argues that Russian authorities' decision to merely acculturate indigenous elites, in contrast to previous policies of assimilating and turning non-Christians into Russians, resulted in elites that lacked a cohesive group identity. It continued to include individuals of different faiths, languages, and customs, who arrived from the different parts of the empire and returned to their own people as different men. If the members of this new elite had thought they could open communication in both directions between Russian authorities and the local peoples, they were deeply mistaken. Their superiors often disregarded their advice, ignoring their analyses of local situations. Gradually they came to realize that the state intended to use them to channel information in one direction only.
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