• Galya Diment
  • Yuri Slezkine


Siberia has not been a single administrative unit since the 1820s. It has no history of independent political existence, no claim to a separate ethnic identity, and no clear borders. The Siberia that Ermak conquered was a small Tatar khanate on the Irtysh; the Siberia of Russian peasant settlement was a narrow strip of territory along the Chinese border (including today’s northern Kazakhstan); and the Siberia of Stalin’s camps was partly in European Russia (Vorkuta) and partly in the “Far East,” which is separated from the Siberian “mainland” by an imaginary no-man’s land. And yet, in some very important sense, the elusive country “behind the Urals” is the most real and the most durable part of the Russian landscape. Many of the early Rus principalities have become Russia, New Russia (Novorossiia) has become old, and those areas that have not come to be perceived as ethnically Russian have become foreign, or at least “autonomous.” Only Siberia, alone among the country’s historic regions, has remained part of Russia while retaining a separate past and a separate present.


Ethnic Identity Fifteenth Century Fairy Tale Clear Border Dual Image 
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Copyright information

© Galya Diment and Yuri Slezkine 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Galya Diment
    • 1
  • Yuri Slezkine
    • 2
  1. 1.University of WashingtonUSA
  2. 2.University of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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