Where is Siberia? Well, I wouldn’t start from now…

I have been reading Orlando Figes’ Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia.

Something I didn’t know, which I’m sure Erik Lund will like: Siberia moved. The original minor khanate of that name expanded to include the vast rich fur-bearing forests further east. As colonisation, and most of all, identity-changing, hybridity, and syncretism, proceeded, the frontier between There and Here moved east.

But then something went badly wrong. Specifically, there was a recession! As a result, it began to grow again, and suddenly it wasn’t the land of opportunity any more, but rather an ocean of snow (implying that it both grew and moved northwards) that was just in the way. What had happened was that the price of fur had collapsed, which had vast consequences in North America at the same time.

Faced with the falling apart of Russianness in the east, the government chose to send convicts there, rather like the British with Australia. And that was it; Siberia became a world icon of injustice and cold, when not long before that, it had been Russia’s open frontier.

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