During the early Russian Empire, tensions between the state and the church, and the beliefs of many ethnic minorities and social groups shaped the religious culture of Russia's southern frontier. This work explores the dynamic between religion and both religious and political institutions. It recreates the struggle of the government and church to consolidate its diverse population into a single, unified, secular Russia. It illuminates historical and cultural aspcets of this era, including the attempts of Archbishop Nikiforos to bring the "correct" message of Christ to ethically diverse parishioners for their religious, moral and civic benefit. In addition, the text provides accounts of those who strayed, offering a glimpse of daily lives and struggles on the frontier as well as the stigmatization that resulted from their nonconformity.