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Exile as Imperial Practice: Western Siberia and the Russian Empire, 1879–1900

  • Zhanna Popova (a1)
Abstract

More than 800,000 people were exiled to Siberia during the nineteenth century. Exile was a complex administrative arrangement that involved differentiated flows of exiles and, in the view of the central authorities, contributed to the colonization of Siberia. This article adopts the “perspective from the colonies” and analyses the local dimension of exile to Siberia. First, it underscores the conflicted nature of the practice by highlighting the agency of the local administrators and the multitude of tensions and negotiations that the maintenance of exile involved. Secondly, by focusing on the example of the penal site of Tobolsk, where exile and imprisonment overlapped, I will elucidate the uneasy relationship between those two penal practices during Russian prison reform. In doing so, I will re-evaluate the position of exile in relation to both penal and governance practice in Imperial Russia.

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The research for this article is part of the research programme “Four Centuries of Labour Camps: War, Rehabilitation, Ethnicity”, based at the International Institute of Social History (IISH) and the NIOD, Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Amsterdam, and funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).

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1 For more on Russian imperial history see Burbank, Jane, von Hagen, Mark, and Remnev, Anatolyi (eds), Russian Empire: Space, People, Power, 1700–1930 (Bloomington, IN, 2007). For the Siberian case see Glebov, Sergei, Region v istorii imperii. Istoricheskie esse o Sibiri (Moscow, 2013).

2 It is important to acknowledge that talking about “the central authorities” involves a significant simplification, albeit necessary for this article. The central authorities consisted of various groups with different interests, as noted in Dameshek, L.M. and Remnev, A.V. (eds), Sibir v sostave Rossiiskoi imperii (Moscow, 2007).

3 De Vito, Christian G. and Lichtenstein, Alex, “Writing a Global History of Convict Labour”, International Review of Social History, 58:2 (2013), pp. 285325 , here 303.

4 For an overview of the debate, see Aust, Martin, “ Rossia Siberica: Russian-Siberian History Compared to Medieval Conquest and Modern Colonialism”, Review (Fernand Braudel Center), 27:3 (2004), pp. 181205 .

5 Foucault, Michel, “La poussière et le nuage”, in Michelle Perrot (ed.), L’impossible prison. Recherches sur le système pénitentiaire (Paris, 1980), pp. 2939 , here 30.

6 Gentes, Andrew A., Exile to Siberia, 1590–1822 (Basingstoke and New York, 2008), pp. 165201 .

7 Abby M. Schrader, “The Languages of the Lash: The Russian Autocracy and the Reform of Corporal Punishment, 1817–1893” (Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 1996).

8 Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperii, First Series, Vol. XV (St Petersburg, 1830), no. 11166, p. 582.

9 Kolesnikov, A.D., “Ssylka i zaselenie Sibiri”, in L.M. Goriushkin et al. (eds), Ssylka i katorga v Sibiri (XVIII–nachalo XX v.) (Novosibirsk, 1975), pp. 3859 , here 42–44.

10 Polnoe sobranie, Vol. XV, no. 11166, p. 582.

11 Kolesnikov, “Ssylka i zaselenie Sibiri”, p. 51.

12 This route is a historic road that connected European Russia to Siberia. Construction of it began in the early eighteenth century and, until the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Amur cart road at the end of the nineteenth century, it was the primary connection between Russia and China.

13 Kolesnikov, “Ssylka i zaselenie Sibiri”, pp. 56–57.

14 Poznyshev, Sergeui, K voprosu o preobrazovanii nashei katorgi (Moscow, 1914), p. 4 . For more on early-modern Russian punishments, see Kollmann, Nancy, Crime and Punishment in Early Modern Russia (Cambridge, 2012), and Anisimov, Evgenii, Dyba i knut. Politicheskii sysk i russkoe obschestvo v XVIII veke (Moscow, 1999).

15 John Howard was a British prison reformer. He inspected various British prisons and compiled a report, published as Howard, John, The State of the Prisons in England and Wales (Warrington, 1780). Michel Foucault has addressed Howard’s work in Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (New York, 1988), pp. 44–64.

16 Beer, Daniel, “Penal Deportation to Siberia and the Limits of State Power, 1801–81”, Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, 16:3 (2015), pp. 620650 , here 621–622.

17 Russian State Historical Archive [hereafter, RGIA], f.1149, op.10 (D.Z.), d.60, ll.33-38. I have used the usual classification for the Russian archives. Referring to the archival documents, I have used the common taxonomy “fond–opis–delo–(list)”. “Fond” is collection, “opis” is a list of files, “delo” is a file, and “list” is a page.

18 RGIA, Vsepoddaneishii otchet general-gubernatora Zapadnoi Sibiri za 1875 g., p. 25.

19 Kolesnikov, “Ssylka i zaselenie Sibiri”, p. 57.

20 Salomon, Aleksandr, Ssylka v Sibir. Ocherk eia istorii i sovremennago polozheniia (St Petersburg, 1900), pp. 101102 .

21 Ibid., p. 102.

22 Ibid., Appendix 4, pp. 14–15.

23 Ibid., p. 103. Until 1822, the children of exiles and the katorzhnye were also attributed to this class from birth: Dameshek and Remnev, Sibir v sostave Rossiiskoi imperii, p. 277.

24 For more on the lives of vagrants in Siberia, see Gentes, Andrew A., “Vagabondage and the Tsarist Siberian Exile System: Power and Resistance in the Penal Landscape”, Central Asian Survey, 30:3–4 (2011), pp. 407421 .

25 The Grand Duchy of Finland was an autonomous part of the Russian Empire and thus its people, too, were subject to special policies. The choice on conviction of either incarceration, or exile was one of their privileges.

26 Marks, Steven G., Road to Power: Trans-Siberian Railroad and the Colonization of Asian Russia, 1850–1917 (Ithaca, NY, 1991), p. 49 .

27 Svatikov, S.G., Rossiia i Sibir: (k istorii sibirskogo oblastnichestva v XIX v.) (Prague, 1929), p. 76 .

28 Marks, Road to Power, p. 53.

29 Dameshek and Remnev, Sibir v sostave Rossiiskoi imperii, p. 138.

30 RGIA, Vsepoddaneishii otchet general-gubernatora Zapadnoi Sibiri za 1876 g., p. 37. Tobolsk and Tomsk provinces received only administrative exiles while the Eastern Siberian provinces (Enisei, Irkutsk, Iakutsk, Amur provinces, Transbaikalia and Sakhalin) took criminal exiles and katorzhnye.

31 See art. 158 of the Code of the Exiles [Ustav o ssylnykh 1876].

32 Gentes, Exile to Siberia, pp. 179–180.

33 Salomon, Ssylka, p. 117.

34 Ibid., p. 121.

35 RGIA, Vsepoddaneishii otchet general-gubernatora Zapadnoi Sibiri za 1877 g., p. 29.

36 RGIA, Otchet za 1877 g., p. 29. Exiles were indeed sent to the north of Western Siberia in Soviet times; for a case of the catastrophic and deadly failure of this endeavour, see Werth, Nicholas, Cannibal Island: Death in a Siberian Gulag (Princeton, NJ, 2007).

37 Salomon, Ssylka, p. 122.

38 Ibid., p. 123.

39 Journal of 27 September to 4 October 1879 of the Council of the Main Administration of Western Siberia, IAOO, Historical Archive of the Omsk Region), f.3, op.9, d.15872.

40 Salomon, Ssylka, p. 125.

41 State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), f.122, op.5, d.743, 1.11.

42 “O predstoiashchem preobrazovanii katorgi”, Tiuremnyi vestnik, 6–7 (1910), pp. 897–922.

43 Schrader, Abby M., “Unruly Felons and Civilizing Wives: Cultivating Marriage in the Siberian Exile System, 1822–1860”, Slavic Review, 66:2 (2007), pp. 230256 .

44 GARF f.122, op.5, d.743.

45 The public discussions of katorga were prompted by the publication of Chekhov’s Sakhalin Island (1893), Doroshevich’s Sakhalin (1903), and Tolstoy’s Resurrection (1899).

46 Lieven, Dominic, “Russia as Empire and Periphery”, in: Dominic Lieven (ed.), The Cambridge History of Russia, Volume 2. Imperial Russia, 1689–1917 (Cambridge, 2006), pp. 726, 12.

47 For more on conditions in exile, see Badcock, Sarah, “From Villains to Victims: Experiencing Illness in Siberian Exile”, Europe-Asia Studies, 65:9 (2013), pp. 17161736 .

48 Margolis, A.D., Tiurma i ssylka v imperatorskoi Rossii: Issledovaniia i arkhivnye nakhodki (Moscow, 1995), pp. 1521 .

49 Anatolii Remnev, “Vdvinut Rossiiu v Sibir: imperiia i russkaia kolonizatsiia vtoroi poloviny XIX. Nachala XX veka”, in Glebov, Region v istorii imperii, p. 48.

50 Stolypin, P.A. and Krivoshein, A.V., Poezdka v Sibir’ i Povolzhie (St Petersburg, 1911), p. 2 .

51 Holquist, Peter, “‘In Accord with State Interests and the People’s Wishes’”: The Technocratic Ideology of Imperial Russia’s Resettlement Administration”, Slavic Review, 69:1 (2010), pp. 151179 .

52 Liubavskii, Matvei, Obzor istorii russkoi kolonizatsii s drevneishikh vremen i do XX veka (Moscow, 1996).

53 Extensive discussions on the abolition of exile can be found in Zhurnaly vysochaische uchrezhdennoi Komissii o meropriiatiakh po otmene ssylki. Zasedaniia 3 iunia, 9 i 16 dekabria 1899 g., 10 ianvaria i 7 fevralia 1900 g. (St Petersburg, 1900).

54 Dameshek and Remnev, Sibir v sostave Rossiiskoi imperii, p. 288.

55 Gran, P.K., Katorga v Sibiri (St Petersburg, 1913), p. 7 .

* The research for this article is part of the research programme “Four Centuries of Labour Camps: War, Rehabilitation, Ethnicity”, based at the International Institute of Social History (IISH) and the NIOD, Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Amsterdam, and funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).

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International Review of Social History
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