The Social Life of the State in Subarctic Siberia

By Bouchard, Michel | Canadian Slavonic Papers, March-June 2006 | Go to article overview

The Social Life of the State in Subarctic Siberia


Bouchard, Michel, Canadian Slavonic Papers


Nikolai V. Ssorin-Chaikov. The Social Life of the State in Subarctic Siberia. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003. xiv, 261 pages. Illustrations. Bibliographical references. Index. Cloth.

Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov in The Social Life of the State in Subarctic Siberia provides an intriguing anthropological history of the state stretching from imperial Russia's expansion into Siberia and the Russian Far East to the post-Soviet legacy of contemporary Russia. His work is rich both in its theory and its integration of lived ethnographic experiences that break down the facile distinctions between modern and traditional (or primitive depending on the particular ideology and perspective), the state and the stateless and the forever changing and the timeless. In tracing back the history of one population the Evenki of the Katonga area, he provides an intriguing social history of both the region and that of the state and states that have sought to control, govern and continually reform the region, while using the "failures" generated by past reforms to justify new and different reforms.

The underlying paradox of the state in Siberia is both its weakness and it ability to infiltrate and influence social life at all levels. It is both a Potemkin village in that the imperial Russian state as well as the Soviet state at its apex were not as overwhelmingly powerful as they appeared from the outside. In the case of the former, "conquered" populations were to pay tribute, but often deftly evaded paying tribute in spite of the state's best efforts. Likewise, it was claimed that Soviet power arrived in the Evenki region of Katonga in the 1950's in spite of the ample evidence that Soviet officials had been actively reforming the region since the 1920's, each generation of reformers claiming to bring modernity to the Evenki, the "stateless" "children of nature" seen as leading a "traditional" life that was either a form of "pure socialism" or inegalitarian society dominated by rich kulak reindeer-herders exploiting the poor and the weak depending of the ideological point of view being adopted at a given time.

In his account of the Evenki, Chaikov provides an intriguing account of the logic of the Soviet system that was based on the building of an ideal in which the end point was always deferred and the unfinished construction was the justification for continual reform and even more resources. This is chronicled in Chaikov's account whereby, over the course of the Soviet period, increasing numbers people herded fewer reindeer and "traditional" reindeer herders spent less time and energy herding, relying upon state subsidies that encouraged the development of an Evenki lumpenproletariat that it was seeking to modernize.

Chaikov's account builds upon other accounts of the internal logic of communist economies and societies such as Katherine Verdery's and Caroline Humphrey's accounts of socialist societies, to fully explain the continual and unending social change occurring in the Siberian periphery. Chaikov, for example, examines the role of the collective farm in the decline in reindeer herding and the concurrent growth of the personnel and the rise in foraging at the expense of herding. Chaikov argues: "the existing collective-farm system was a bargaining structure for the allocation of labour, the latter, in turn, was a lifestyle that was within the state economic sector yet based mostly on subsistence and trapping" (p. 128). In the same vein, rather than undermining state socialism, shortages were the driving force of an expanding Soviet-style economy in which they reinforced the "bureaucratic incentive to maximize redistributive power" (p. 120).

The process of declining herds and increasing subsistence activities was fuelled as reindeer herders worked within the system to avoid herding in favour of trapping, and new workers were brought in to herd, who in turn would also seek to hunt instead of trapping or would simply finds ways of staying in the village. …

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.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
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.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Social Life of the State in Subarctic Siberia
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
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?

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.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

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.