Sunday, November 10, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Siberians Seek to Reclaim Their Own ‘Day’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 10 – Groups of Siberians are seeking to revive Siberian Day, a holiday established by Tsar Aleksandr III in 1881 to celebrate the Russian conquest of Siberia by Yermak at the end of the 16th century and marked every year until 1919, when both the White Army of Admiral Kolchak and the Bolsheviks dispensed with it.

            When he created the holiday, Aleksandr III said that he “hoped that with time, the broad and rich Siberian kray, which has lready for three centuries been an inalienable part of Russia will be in a position to be able to have similar government institutions, benefits, enlightenment, and industrialization” Russia then enjoyed (

            But even in tsarist times, the holiday was distinctly Siberian and not just an extension of things Russian.  At its first commemoration, Sultan Tazi-Bulat Vali-Khan, a descendent of Chingiz Khan, called for the joining together of the distinct “elements of Siberia with the Russian element,” an indication of their separateness.

            Moreover, as Siberians today recall, Grigory Potanin, the founding father of Siberian regionalism (“oblastnichestvo”) and, for many of them, the eventual independence of their land, was the first to urge the celebration of such a day long before the Russian tsar agreed (

            In the 1990s, groups of Siberians marked Siberian Day on November 8th – the anniversary new style of Yermak’s defeat of the Siberian khanate – and in recent years, these celebrations have spread across many of the cities and villages of the region beyond the Urals. This year, these were especially numerous.

            According to the Tyumen newspaper, “Nash gorod,” the celebration of Siberian Day was organized and sponsored by the Yermak Foundation, the Tobolsk metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Tyumen Oblast’s Committee for Nationality Affairs, a combination that reflects the many meanings of the day (

            Some of the organizers stressed that “today our Siberia is in a complicated and difficult situation,” one that is a product of world forces and the fact that “we unfortunately have ceased to understand that each land is special and requires a special approach.” But that shortcoming, they say, can be “corrected” if Siberians come together (

            And other organizers stressed that “the Day of Siberia is a day of the unification of people, a holiday of all peoples who populate Siberia” and one that celebrates this diversity rther than one that seeks to impose a common view on all involved (

            Not explicitly related to this rise of Siberian self-consciousness but worthy of note are two recent scholarly articles that highlight Siberian resistance to Soviet power both military and intellectual and Moscow’s insistence on “conformism” ( and

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