Friday, November 11, 2022

‘Siberia’ as a Community is No More Artificial than ‘Russia,’ Novosibirsk Historian Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 8 – Scholars know that “any social community be it a state or a macro-region like Siberia is something artificial,” Sergey Chernyshov says. The only place where the borders of these communities actually exist is in heads of those who identify with them. “In this sense, the term ‘Russia’ is no less abstract than ‘Siberia.’”

            “Any social abstraction in turn is a collection of specific authors who have thought up this  abstractive and are committed to believing in it even if this collective numbers a few hundred people and are spread out over several hundred  years,” the Novosibirsk historian continues (

            Chernyshov continues by arguing that “the social abstraction ‘Siberia’ is not filled out as far as meanings go not because it is somehow inferior but only because the number of authors working on it has not yet taken full shape or its ideas are not relevant to the agenda” of the population.

            Those who have promoted the idea of a special Siberian path, he says, do not include the non-Russians in the region east of the Urals. Only Russians are involved; and only those who have lived there their entire lives rather than visitors. But even among this group, the number who talk about a special path for their region is small.

            But we know from history two things for certain, Chernyshov says. On the one hand, when a region defines itself as having a “special” path, it is setting itself at odds with the normal path provided by the central authorities of the state and that this is entirely typical behavior in areas that view themselves as colonies.

            And on the other, sooner or later this local myth, “built on the opposition of the center and the periphery,” will likely gain ground; and “when this happens, we will find out that Siberia turns out to have a thousand-year history and that its ancestors must be respected.” That’s true of all peoples on the periphery, including Russians, who ultimately seek and gain independence.

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