Andrew Gentes, Exile to Siberia, 1590-1822: Corporeal Commodification and Administrative Systematization in Russia

By Monahan, Erika | Kritika, Winter 2013 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Andrew Gentes, Exile to Siberia, 1590-1822: Corporeal Commodification and Administrative Systematization in Russia


Monahan, Erika, Kritika


Andrew Gentes, Exile to Siberia, 1590-1822: Corporeal Commodification and Administrative Systematization in Russia. 256 pp. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. ISBN-13 978-0230536937. $89.00.

V. D. Puzanov, Voennye faktory russkoi kolonizatsii zapadnoi Sibiri, konets XVIXVII vv. (Military Factors in the Russian Colonization of Western Siberia in the Late 16th and 17th Centuries). 431 pp. St. Petersburg: Aleteiia, 2010. ISBN-13 978-5914192683.

Christoph Witzenrath, Cossacks and the Russian Empire, 1598-1725: Manipulation, Rebellion, and Expansion into Siberia. 277 pp. New York: Routledge, 2007. ISBN-13 978-0415416214. $170.00.

The inscription of Siberia onto the "mental maps" of empire makers and simple subjects alike has driven important contributions in Sibirevedenie, and the trend is by no means exhausted. (1) The studies under review here, in contrast, provide valuable "boots on the ground" perspectives on Siberia. While not insensitive to the question of perception, they explore how the Russian state incorporated and administered this imperial space, whether through the building and manning of fortifications (Puzanov); the military--administrative functions executed by Cossacks (Witzenrath); and the mobilization of the exile system to meet labor and settlement needs (Gentes). As such, we might classify them as part of what Andreas Kappeler has called a second wave of imperiology, exploring the "how" of empire. (2)

The three studies are also united by the fact that they are organized around categories of people: exiles in Gentes's case; military servitors in Puzanov's; and Cossacks for Witzenrath. While these studies are not squarely social history, they are substantially inflected with it. Largely as a result of the source base, state policy and institutions shape the narratives. This focus on people underscores a prominent aspect of the history of Siberia: the chronic, ubiquitous human resource challenges that administering Siberia posed. The Russian state constantly struggled against insufficient labor and competence, an inescapable fact that reverberates through each of these studies. Gentes shows that from Peter's reign onward, exiles were deliberately used to fulfill labor and then settlement imperatives. For Puzanov, labor supply greatly informed not only the dynamics of army dispatches along the fortification lines that he describes but also agricultural initiatives in Siberia. In Witzenrath's study, it was the state's considerable dependence upon Cossack labor that enabled this group to wield such leverage against central authority.

Nor does the question of the driving force behind Russian conquest--an enduring staple of Siberian historiography--generate significant disagreement in these three interpretations. (3) The militarized and state-directed nature of Siberian expansion and the society there emerges as a compelling feature in all of these books. Puzanov, holding populist interpretations of Siberian history directly in his historiographical crosshairs, assigns the state a central role. Gentes's narrative emphasizes the state over individual initiative in Muscovy's initial advances into Siberia. Even Witzenrath, who argues that the state in Moscow was at the mercy of its servitors on the periphery, nonetheless explores dynamics in question within (even if not entirely coextensive with) an overarching state apparatus.

Exile to Siberia, 1590-1822, the first volume in a promised trilogy, traces the institutional development of the exile system, reconstructs the Siberian experience of exile, and draws lessons about imperial Russia's failure to reform. (4) Given the associations of Siberia with exile and the popularity of Gulag literature, it is surprising to realize the gap in English-language scholarship that this study fills. Although a recent spate of scholarship has begun to rewrite the history of punishment from corporal, cultural, and legal perspectives, one harkens back to George Kennan for an extensive Englishlanguage treatment of the exile system.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Andrew Gentes, Exile to Siberia, 1590-1822: Corporeal Commodification and Administrative Systematization in Russia
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?