Academic journal article The Historian

Siberia: A History of the People

Academic journal article The Historian

Siberia: A History of the People

Article excerpt

Siberia: A History of the People. By Janet M. Hartley. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014. Pp. xx, 312. $38.00.)

When people hear the word "Siberia," they commonly imagine a vast space of ice and snow devoid of human life--a place where the Russian government sends its criminals and political dissidents against their will. Janet M. Hartley's work provides a more accurate and nuanced image of Russian Siberia. She presents a social history of the region that illustrates how the majority of the people who ended up in Siberia from the sixteenth century to the present chose to move there in search of a better life. She argues that even though Siberia came to be more culturally and economically similar to European Russia over time, it nevertheless has significant differences--from its land to its diverse population--and is therefore worthy of examination and study in its own right.

Hartley is not the first to write a survey history of Russian Siberia. There have been notable studies by Benson Bobrick, W. Bruce Lincoln, and Alan Wood. These books, including Hartley's addition to the literature, generally follow a similar chronological path. They start with the Russian Empire's conquest of Siberia and then turn to imperial government policies of management, exploitation, and exploration. After this, they explore the implementation and consequences of the Soviet Union's modernization project and end with the collapse of the USSR and the post-Soviet situation. All of these works also focus more on the Europeans who settled in Siberia than on the indigenous peoples who have lived there for centuries. …

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