The Image of Siberia in the Accounts of Governors-General in the Second Half of the 19th Century
Keywords:history of Siberia in the second half of the nineteenth century; image of Siberia; reports of governors-general
Even though the image of Siberia in mass consciousness, public opinion, and “power” discourse of the second half of the nineteenth century has long been a subject of researcher attention, the image of the region in the reports of Siberian governors-general has not been analysed separately. However, these materials not only make it possible to expand existing academic conclusions about the impact of reality images on social practices, but also to clarify the factors that determined the position of local and central authorities in relation to the region, identify the dependence of images on the type of sources in which they are found, and determine the common “agenda” for government and public opinion in the discussion of “Siberian issues”. Based on Foucault’s discourse analysis of texts, the article reveals and characterises the key elements of the image of Siberia on the basis of reports of Siberian governors-general between the early 1850s and late 1880s. The region was the empire’s “warehouse”, whose wealth was still scarcely in demand for the development of the local “productive forces”, practical issues of management, and cultural needs, and from the point of view of imperial economic and geopolitical interests. It was terra incognita for the imperial authorities, academia, and the educated public, a region forgotten by the capital but in need of local government reform (indeed it was included in the reforms of the 1860s–70s), connections with European Russia by rail, water, and land, intensified agricultural production, better schooling, its own university, educated and motivated officials, and the abolition of exile. The territory was a potential “paradise” on earth for peasants and all the population of the Trans-Ural provinces, which might be possible if the imperial authorities paid attention to their needs and aspirations (this component of the region’s image would become essential during Stolypin’s ideological campaign of resettlement in the early twentieth century).
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