Siberia: A Cultural History (Landscapes of the Imagination) by Anthony Haywood

By Anthony Haywood

Sooner than Russians crossed the Urals Mountains within the 16th century to settle their ‘colony’ in North Asia, they heard rumours approximately bountiful fur, of unusual humans with no eyes who ate by means of shrugging their shoulders and of a land the place bushes exploded from chilly. This zone of frozen tundra, unending woodland and buzzing steppe among the Urals and the Pacific Ocean used to be an unlimited, unusual and scary paradise. It was once Siberia.

Siberia is a cradle of civilizations, the birthplace of historic Turkic empires and residential to the cultures of indigenes, together with peoples whose ancestors migrated to the Americas. It was once a promised land to which bonded peasants may well flee their merciless masters, but additionally a ‘white hell’ throughout which exiles shuffled in felt footwear and chains. If in Stalin’s period Siberia turned synonymous with the gulag, this present day it's a monstrous area of bustling metropolises and luxurious landscapes, a spot the place the humdrum, the gorgeous and the unusual ignite the mind's eye. Tracing the historic contours of Siberia, A. J. Haywood deals an in depth account of the architectural and cultural landmarks of towns similar to Irkutsk, Tobolsk, Barnaul and Novosibirsk.

MAGNIFICENT RIVERS AND LAKES: Lake Baikal, the Ob, Irtysh, Yenisey, Angara, Lena and Amur rivers. Russian author Anton Chekhov defined a few, polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen and the eccentric British service provider captain Joseph Wiggins navigated others.

THE towns AND THE RAILWAY: haute couture and occasional existence, traffic-choked streets and chimney stacks. Siberia’s towns deliver a madding crowd a long way into the distant taiga—linked through the Trans-Siberian Railway, the nineteenth-century ‘camel track’.

MYSTICS, MOUNTAINS AND historical CIVILIZATIONS: Nikolay Rerikh sought the paranormal nation of Shambhala right here, Russian author Valentin Rasputin was once harassed via its attractiveness, whereas neighborhood Altaians themselves see their republic of mountains and steppe as a primary Asian heaven on earth.

A. J. HAYWOOD is a journalist and writer whose released paintings contains commute guidebooks and articles on Russia, Austria and Germany, in addition to brief tales and translations.

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Extra resources for Siberia: A Cultural History (Landscapes of the Imagination)

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On discovering a bay between the cliffs on the banks they sailed into it. There they encountered Chukchi natives... The goods were laid out on the shore, the Chukchis took what they wanted and put in their place walrus tooth or objects made of walrus tooth. No one wanted to venture on land to the Chukchis. Furthermore, there was no interpreter experienced in the Chukchi language. They were content to have made this first discovery and returned along the Kolyma. The scene described by Müller was “silent trade”, a method of exchanging goods prevalent among the indigenes even before the arrival of the Russians.

Furthermore, it was not uncommon for hunters with an appetite for valuable pelts to rush in ahead of these state functionaries. Accounts even suggest that the indigenes would sometimes naively laugh at what they considered to be a preposterously unequal trade: pots, pans, axe-heads and so forth in exchange for vast quantities of sable pelts that unbeknown to them - were worth a fortune on the European market. Notwithstanding, resistance among indigenes to the newly arrived Russians was inevitable, considerable and a significant feature of Russia’s annexation of Siberia.

In 1558 Ivan the Terrible gave the family its big break in the Urals when he granted the Stroganovs large holdings of land in the Perm district, and the family opened up salt mines. Anikey’s sons Semyon, Yakov and Grigory built on the family empire by founding iron works in the Urals and trading in fur and other goods. Soon the family was establishing its own towns in the Urals and their estates swelled with serfs (bonded peasants), salt workers, tradesmen, guards and translators - anyone, in fact, who might add to the family’s fortune.

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