Exiled from Siberia: The Construction of Siberian Experience by Early-Nineteenth-Century Irkutsk Writers

  • Galya Diment


Early in the nineteenth century the rapidly developing Eastern Siberian city of Irkutsk acquired the reputation of being “Siberia’s St. Petersburg.” To several Irkutsk writers who eventually made their way to the real St. Petersburg, the comparison was hardly apt. They felt that St. Petersburg’s damp winter climate compared unfavorably with the bright sunniness and dryness of Siberian frosts, while the density of Petersburg’s population as well as the frantic tempo of the urban existence prevented one from enjoying the same high quality of life as the Russians did in Irkutsk. In an ironic reversal of cultural symbols, people such as Nikolai Polevoi, Ivan Kalashnikov, and Nikolai Shchukin often viewed their native Siberia as a joyful, enchanting, and hospitable paradise while considering the Russian capital as a gloomy, bleak, and uninviting nether world. To some of them Petersburg also represented what to many Siberians was the sole largest bane of Siberia’s existence—the Russian government’s mismanagement and even abuse of the region.


Nineteenth Century Trade Fair Russian Government Cultural Symbol Russian Capital 
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© Galya Diment and Yuri Slezkine 1993

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