As far as the Russian state and most educated Russians were concerned, assimilation in the eastern borderlands of the Russian empire in the late imperial period was supposed to be a one-way street. “Backward” eastern peoples were generally supposed to become more like Russians, while Russians, for their part, were expected to change others while themselves maintaining their language, customs, religion, and overall Russianness. In reality, of course, things were rarely so straightforward. In the mixed settlement worlds of the borderlands, both Russians and non-Russians influenced one another in multiple ways, and Russian influences were not always strongest. In fact, in certain cases, contrary to official and elite expectations, it was not so much the Russians who “Russianized” the “natives” as the “natives” who “nativized” the Russians. By the late imperial period, “nativized” Russians of one kind or another could be found throughout the imperial east. In the northern Caucasus, for example, whole Russian villages looked and lived like gortsy; in the Volga-Ural region, other Russian peasants performed “pagan” sacrifices like Voguls and Maris; on the Kazakh steppe, still others had converted to Islam; and on just about every frontier one came across supposedly “Russian” cossacks who lived according to native ways and preferred to speak native languages.