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Russian peasant agriculture in the late nineteenth century had a variety of problems, and for many Russian peasants one way around them was to find a way off the farm. [1] In most cases, getting off the farm--when it occurred--took the form of temporary or seasonal migration (in Russian: otkhod; literally "going out). Peasants who "went out" left their villages for a period during the year to work as field laborers, in industry, or in service positions in the city, and then returned. Even those seasonal migrants who ultimately left the village for good and made new lives in the city tended to move to the city gradually by retaining close economic and social ties with their villages over long periods. In contrast to seasonal migration, however, there was also the more permanent migration of agricultural resettlement (pereselenie) in which peasants from the Russian hinterland relocated to "new places" in Siberia and other eastern and southern areas and rarely if ever returned. Of the two forms of migration, otk hod was much more widespread than pereselenie, but millions of peasants, particularly from overwhelmingly agricultural provinces and especially as of the 1890s, nonetheless took their chances on resettlement. The result was an unprecedentedly huge peasant "exodus" to the borderlands in the last decades of the tsarist era. [2]

Most of the peasants who participated in this "exodus" did not write about their experiences and, as a result, most research on late imperial resettlement has not considered the peasants' view of the process. Views of the settlers' Weltanschauung--when offered at all--are usually based on generalized notions of peasant culture or on glimpses of peasant thinking that appear in the writings of contemporary literate observers. [3] Yet there are settler sources--such as letters and first-person resettlement narratives--that offer a much more substantial perspective on settler mentalite. This article examines these sources and argues that they reveal a variety of peasant perspectives on colonization and the frontier. Many migrant writers represented resettlement as a move towards abundance and the good life; others recorded it as a venture of hardship and disaster; and still others mixed and merged these associations. If there was a constant in the way that peasants represented their experience, it was in their t endency to define it in practical and local terms. In contrast to late imperial Russian elites who created colonization as an evocative field for imagining the nation and the empire, settler writers did not write about the nation or the empire at all. [4] Rather their focus was on the concrete tasks of building new settlements, coming to terms with new neighbors, and adjusting to the pain of leaving behind old localities and loved ones. For peasant migrants, the primary frame of reference for making sense of colonization and the frontier was--not surprisingly--a world of peasant values and attachments, and this world was inevitably shaped by the power of practical concerns and local horizons. Thus when peasants represented colonization they did so by 'speaking peasant' because this way of speaking was most meaningful.

But if settler perspectives were clearly expressed in a peasant idiom and shaped by a world of peasant concerns, this does not mean that settlers operated in a milieu, completely isolated from the literate world of the state and educated society. Contact between village culture and learned culture was on the rise in late imperial Russia and resettlement was a key social arena where this kind of contact was occurring. [5] As a result, peasant settler writings are best seen as part-and-parcel of a broader popular culture of resettlement in the countryside that reflected both peasant and non-peasant ways of knowing. [6] Peasants, in other words, understood and represented colonization in their own terms, but these terms were not necessarily limited to what peasants knew from peasant sources.

Sources of Settler Knowledge

The great majority of peasants who resettled to the borderlands in the late imperial period came from predominantly agricultural provinces in the Central Black-Earth Region and Left-Bank Ukraine, both regions where migration to the city was much less pronounced than it was in other parts of European Russia and where, despite the widespread practice of seasonal rural migration (i.e. agricultural otkhod), there were relatively fewer options for making ends meet on the farm. Settlers from these regions made it clear why they were migrating: in their responses to state and zemstvo-sponsored surveys, they routinely pointed to a lack of sufficient land and poor harvests. In the 1880s and early 1890s, the majority of migrants were so-called "middling peasants" (sredniaki) who had limited capital but nonetheless enough to consider embarking on a long and difficult journey. Beginning in the mid-1890s, as the Trans-Siberian Railroad started to make relocation quicker and cheaper, the general economic profile of migran ts changed somewhat and "poor peasants" (bedniaki) took over the lead. Regardless of their material condition, however, almost all of these settlers migrated as families (though many young men set out alone initially) and the great majority of them resettled with the intention of living as farmers (rural artisans made up only a small share of the total settler pool). Since most migrants were farmers, they were interested in moving to what they perceived to be areas that had large amounts of fertile "open land" and that, ideally, were not too far away. As a result, settlement generally unfolded first in parts of Western Siberia and the northern Kazakh steppe and then, as these areas became more populous, more intense migration shifted further east within Siberia and into parts of Russian Central Asia (Turkestan). [7]

Prior even to setting out for resettlement, peasants were exposed to information that gave them a sense of what to expect. Generally speaking, this information came from two points of origin: (1) non-village culture; and (2) the culture of the village. In principle, information from both sources could be authoritative and compelling. At the same time, it is reasonable to assume that information directed at the village from outside was less likely to have the same impact as knowledge that came to peasants through village channels. Peasants, after all, lived with other peasants and were constantly exposed to peasant ways of thinking, while their exposure to knowledge imported directly from outside the peasant world (while growing) was more limited. There was also the "language problem." Most peasant-based information on colonization and the frontier was relayed in oral form and was couched in words and inflections that made ready sense to peasant listeners. By contrast, information from outside the village wor ld often came to the peasants in written form and could be easily misunderstood or misused. [8] Words like "subsidy" (posobie) and "irrigation" (irrigatsiia) sounded strange to peasants and tended to be garbled. The term "colonization" (kolonizatsiia) even created confusion. As one official noted in 1891, a party of about eight hundred settlers once appeared in the Central Asian town of Kazalinsk requesting permission to settle near a place that they called nizatsiia. In Russian, they wanted to settle "near nizatsiia" (i.e. okolo nizatsii). The settlers had thus taken a process and turned it into a geographical location. [9]

In part because peasants had difficulty understanding terms like kolonizatsiia, state officials and concerned members of the educated public were convinced that settlers needed to be better informed about resettlement and what it entailed. Though the state had been slow to adopt a pro-resettlement course in the early post-Emancipation period, by the late 1880s its interest in encouraging large-scale migration was growing. Between 1889 and 1906, the government issued a series of decrees that established a relatively coherent state-run resettlement system designed to function as a pipeline that would move peasants out of land-poor and overpopulated areas in European Russia and into land-abundant areas in Siberia and other eastern regions. [10] Ensuring that peasants resettled through this system meant that the state had to tell them about it, warn them against resettling illegally (i.e. outside of the system), and prepare them for what lay ahead once they decided on moving. In addition to the state, people wit hin Russia's educated public were also concerned about making sure settlers knew what they were getting into. While state ministries took the lead in trying to organize large-scale resettlement, zemstvos and other public organizations, like relief societies and local agricultural committees, actively assisted in the process because resettlement was widely regarded as the kind of "all-national cause" (vsenarodnoe delo) that seemed to require educated society's (obshchestvo) commitment and participation. [11]

The easiest (if not the most effective) way to communicate with masses of peasants was to use the printed word. Rural literacy was increasing in the late imperial period, especially as of the 1890s, and, consequently, state and society saw the new "reader from the people" as a worthy target for resettlement instruction. The first state-sponsored writings on resettlement appeared in the late 1880s in official publications for the village like the weekly Sel'skii vestnik (Village Herald), which printed resettlement decrees and miscellaneous resettlement-related articles. [12] Then, in the 1890s, as the scale of resettlement increased, state publishing houses (usually under the auspices of the Resettlement Adminstration or the Siberian Railway Committee) started churning out a wide array of settler-oriented materials, including settlement manuals on different settlement regions (putevoditeli), itineraries (marshruty), maps, and a variety of informational pamphlets. [13] In addition to state writers, non-state a uthors were also active in writing for potential settlers. Zemstvo writers were especially distinguished in this regard (the Poltava and Khar'kov zemstvos perhaps most of all), but so too were a number of non-zemstvo pamphleteers (many of them populists) who wrote resettlement brochures and handbooks "for the people." [14] All of these publications were either free or very cheap, short, simply written, and identical in terms of their general purpose. Their basic and often openly stated goal was to counter resettlement-related rumor-mongering by giving the prospective settler "true and reliable" resettlement information.

Of course, just what constituted "true and reliable" information was a matter of some disagreement. Generally speaking, state and zemstvo writers tended to offer a relatively positive picture of resettlement while populist pamphleteers did more to emphasize the hardships and problems that settlers were likely to face. Such differences were not always so apparent, however. On the one hand, positively inclined official and zemstvo publications never failed to mention the difficulties of resettlement, emphasizing that "the government [was] not forcing any one to resettle" and that those peasants who did often had to endure "long days of grief and suffering." [15] On the other, negatively inclined populist pamphlets routinely acknowledged that some peasants, despite the hardships of relocation, could and did do well by moving. [16] In other words, much of the difference between positive and negative publications amounted to differences in emphasis, and these differences probably did not mean much from the perspe ctive of the peasant reader. At bottom, both official and unofficial materials appeared to be saying the same thing: resettlement was difficult (even extremely difficult), but if peasants did it carefully and intelligently, it was both doable and viable.

The idea that resettlement was a challenging yet potentially rewarding enterprise was clearly conveyed in the settlement manuals that appeared in numerous editions under both state and zemstvo auspices beginning around the turn of the century. Since these manuals were designed to instruct peasants in the arts of successful resettlement, they naturally reflected the view that resettlement--when undertaken by the right kind of people and done in the right way--was a positive act. Given their function, they were also highly didactic. The handbooks provided settlers with general warnings on what nor to do ("Do not count only on state assistance;" "Do not listen to rumors") while at the same time offering them detailed instructions on everything from how to petition for resettlement to what routes to take to different settlement areas. As for the settlement areas themselves, they were described under headings like "topography," "soils," "climate," "crops," and "population"; and were illustrated with photos of irr igation canals, railway stations, telegraph lines, different kinds of fields, local "natives" (usually in staged "ethnographic" poses), Russian settlers (also often posed), and Russian settlements. [17] The information about the "East" that appeared in these manuals stressed immensity and diversity. Eastern regions were big and were home to varying climates, varying soils, and a range of different peoples who professed different faiths and spoke different languages.[18] In general, the manuals did not present these territories and peoples in ways that made them seem particularly hostile, threatening, or even all that exotic. [19] They were simply part of the resettlement equation and therefore something that settlers needed to know about.

Settler-directed literature thus communicated a few key messages. With the exception perhaps of the most negative populist pamphlets, resettlement in this literature tended to come across as difficult but potentially rewarding. If the peasant who set out for the "East" was healthy and had a large household, sufficient cash, and the good sense to work hard and follow the steps laid out for him, then he had a good chance of doing well and living a decent peasant's life on the land. This idea of the good life ahead was underscored by photographs that depicted peasant villages with white-washed huts, a church, and surrounding fields that looked like they could have been somewhere in Tambov but were instead on the Amur river or deep in Central Asia. Resettlement, in other words, was depicted as a move from an old home to a new home in which the new was not all that different from the old. The overall image of the eastern frontier appeared in similarly domesticated terms. While the manuals, for example, made clear that the eastern borderlands undeniably contained harsh environments, strange crops, strange peoples, and strange sights (like, for example, the sight of Russian peasants using camels as draft animals on the Kazakh steppe), the overarching impression was that these were territories of possibility where Russian peasants could overcome the challenges of nature, get along with native peoples, and do well. [20]

In addition to literature specifically directed at would-be settlers, peasants were exposed to more general reading material for the village that also offered images of settlement and the "East" that were roughly comparable, though certainly more sensational. Kopeck novels, for example, celebrated the talents of Russian settlers; painted eastern places as places of bounty, "wild nature," and strange, sometimes menacing non-Russian peoples; and urged the peasant reader to take pride in the great size and diversity of the Russian empire. [21] At the same time, other peasant-oriented publications (such as illustrated weeklies, instructional serials, school primers, and peasant newspapers) provided the peasant reader with historical summaries of Russia's eastern expansion, news stories on happenings in the eastern borderlands (the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway in the 1890s, the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-1905, etc.), morality tales about determined Russian settlers headed for a new life in Central A sia, and sensational tidbits on the "strange" customs of eastern peoples. [22] While each of these genres served specific purposes and reflected specific biases, viewed as a whole their perspective on the "East" was largely consistent. The eastern borderlands appeared to be (1) immeasurably vast; (2) home to a wide variety of non-Russian peoples (all of whom were backward and some of whom were exotic and/or threatening); and (3) rich in potentially promising places for Russian settlers.

It is impossible to determine how much of an impression any of this made on peasant settlers. In the 1860s, perhaps 6% of the Russian peasant population was literate. By the 1910s, that figure had jumped to 25%, but there are no general statistics as to how many settlers were literate (though the number was undoubtedly small) and there is no way to measure how much exposure settlers (whether literate or not) might have had to resettlement publications and other peasant-oriented literature. [23] Peasants received official and zemstvo works on resettlement from land captains in their home districts, zemstvo representatives, and resettlement officials at various settler relay points on the way east; and the peasants who probably made the most use of them were literate settlers, who tended to be either scribes (pisari) or scouts (khodoki) leading the settler parties. While these peasants had access to these materials, there is no way of knowing (a) whether they read them or (b) whether they showed them to any on e else. There is also no way of knowing how peasant settlers interpreted what they may have seen in print. Late imperial commentators noted that peasants had a deep veneration for the written word and supposedly read books because they wanted to be instructed. At the same time, it is highly unlikely that peasant readers understood what they were reading exactly as non-peasant authors intended since didactic texts (which is much of what peasants had to read) are rarely received in the ways that didacts expect. [24]

What is more likely is that any information that prospective settlers acquired from written sources outside the village was filtered through a "screen" of peasant understandings drawn from a world of knowledge, tradition, and information-gathering based in village culture. [25] When it came to ideas concerning resettlement and the eastern frontier, this "screen" contained images that were evocative and contradictory. In peasant folktales, folk songs, folk myths, and folk art, the "East" appeared attractive and foreboding at the same time. The sun rose in the east and the "East" was invested with positive Christian spiritual power (paradise was located there, for example) yet it was also associated with the end of the world and mythical creatures with mixed meanings, like the bird-woman Sirin (ptitsa-sirin) whose voice was apparently so beautiful it killed any one who heard it. [26] Much like village-based visions of the "East," village-based visions of the frontier could also be ambivalent. Some folk myths, like tales of a "Land of White Waters" (Belovod'e) located on islands somewhere in the distant northern or eastern oceans, depicted the frontier as a place of utopian freedom (volia) and abundance (privol'e), where peasants got away from the world of lords and scarcity and lived as they were supposed to. [27] But other tales, like some oral epics (byliny) or popular ballads of Cossack rebels and the sixteenth-century Siberian conquistador Ermak, presented a somewhat more ambivalent vision in which the frontier was associated with freedom and wide-open spaces but also with state violence, heretics, infidels, and bandits. [28]

While these folkloric sources likely had at best an indirect influence on peasant reflections on the frontier, the relatively "fresher" information that reached peasants through other village channels certainly had an impact. Villages in the countryside were tied to one another through communications networks that brought resettlement-related information to the peasants in a variety of ways: (1) failed migrants or "returners" (obratnye pereselentsy) brought stories of resettlement back to the village; (2) professional peasant scouts who shuttled back and forth leading parties of migrants did the same thing; (3) religious wanderers (stranniki) and other "nomadic" members of rural society also passed along resettlement-related stories; and (4) settlers themselves relayed information in letters that they wrote to relatives back home (more on these letters below). These different channels delivered different impressions and contributed to a swirl of unofficial information (or "rumor", according to educated obser vers) about resettlement in the village. According to some rumors, new huts built at the tsar's request were ready and waiting for settlers all across Siberia; lands near "Rekrutsk" (Irkutsk) were so fertile that local wheat grew "taller than a man's head;" and berries were so plentiful in Eniseisk that a bucket tied to the neck of a grazing cow would fill up all on its own. [29] By contrast, other peasants associated Siberia with images of "things beastly and unhuman," such as stories of "wild Kazakh

nomads" who swept down from huge mountains, kidnapped unsuspecting peasants, and then ate them somewhere back in their encampments. [30]

Despite their fanciful sound, rumors like these did bear some relation to the realities of resettlement. The tsar was indeed encouraging colonization in Siberia and there were indeed some extremely fertile places in the eastern borderlands. Even wildly inaccurate tales about cannabalistic Kazakhs reflected an obvious fact about resettlement from the peasants' perspective: moving to the frontier represented a step into the unknown that could have deadly consequences. This link between resettlement and death was clearly underscored in the practices that surrounded settler departures from the village. According to ethnographers and village journalists, departure was highly ritualized. [31] In the days immediately prior to leaving, settlers would sell off anything they could not take with them and quietly bid farewell to relatives and neighbors. On the day of departure, they would go to church, visit the graves of family members, gather in their homes for a last meal (usually accompanied by a great deal of vodka ), and would then make a farewell procession through the village, moving slowly and stopping at different households for more vodka and gifts of bread and salt. When the procession reached the edge of the village, the village priest would offer a final prayer, as the settlers knelt or kissed the soil, filling pouches with dirt to take with them to their new homes and clutching icons they had been given for protection on the road. The settler caravan would then move out of the village and make its way to the nearest railway station, followed by relatives singing laments and accompanied by a steady flow of vodka. The overtones of death in these rituals are hard to miss. [32] Resettlement meant leaving the village for good and permanent departure meant dying, at least as far the village community was concerned.

The images of resettlement that circulated in the peasant milieu were thus diverse, and drawing definitive conclusions as to which images made the greatest impact on peasants is difficult since it is difficult to know exactly what peasants knew and when they knew it. It is also difficult to gauge the extent to which knowledge acquired from non-peasant sources influenced or mixed with knowledge and expectations drawn from the peasants' own village-based ways of knowing. Contemporary observers of the village were convinced that peasant views were most influenced by excessively positive rumors about resettlement that reached them through letters or other peasant channels. [33] The desire to counteract these rumors was a basic rationale behind efforts to "educate" the peasant settler. But the information contained in letters and rumors was likely only one factor in the calculations that peasants made before deciding to resettle and, in any case, even those peasant settlers who were primarily motivated to leave b y what they learned from letters or rumors could well have been exposed to other sources and varieties of information that also shaped their expectations. [34] In other words, while letters and rumors were undoubtedly important, they were likely only one element within a broader informational field influencing peasant views. What can be said definitively about this popular culture of resettlement is that (1) it was informed by sources both internal and external to village culture; and (2) it offered images of resettlement and frontier life that were both varied and contradictory.

Settler Writings and Settler Images

Peasants who resettled in the late imperial period and provided records of their experiences left them in different kinds of sources. The two types of material used here are published settler letters (roughly fifty in all) and a small handful of first-person settlement accounts printed in journals or in pamphlet form. Each of these source types was designed to serve different purposes and consequently each of them reflects different biases. Most of the letters were written shortly after the settlers arrived and the peasants who wrote them were quite explicit about what they were trying to do: convince their relatives back home to come join them on the frontier. Given this obvious goal, most of the letters focus on describing the settlers' new localities and their accent is mostly (though not exclusively) on the positive. Almost all the letters used here are from collections published by the Poltava and Riazan' zemstvos between the 1880s and the early 1900s and they were written by peasants from these provinc es who resettled either to Western Siberia (Tomsk province in particular) or to the Far East. [35] These missives (like all peasant correspondance) were undoubtedly meant to be read aloud to groups of people and perhaps even passed around, but they were not written to be published. In contrast to the letters, the first-person settlement accounts were produced expressly for publication by peasant authors who wished to discourage other peasants from resettling. As a result, the narratives have a similar thematic content to the letters, but their tone is much more negative. Even the excitement that these chroniclers express about aspects of their experience is ultimately tempered by expressions of sadness and disappointment.

Both the letters and the first-person accounts have problems in terms of how much or how accurately they reflect settler mentalite. For one, neither of them is in any way statistically representative. Millions of peasants resettled in the late imperial period and went to thousands of points across the eastern borderlands, while these materials reflect the experience of at most a hundred people who went only to a handful of places. Secondly, many of the peasants in these sources appear to have been literate, which makes them even less representative of the "average settler." Thirdly, neither the letters nor the narratives are pure expressions of "the peasant voice since they were all mediated to varying degrees by nonpeasant editors or compilers. Finally, the sources have striking silences. This is particularly the case with a number of the settler letters, which are so brief and so sparsely written that they are difficult to interpret. The same difficulty applies to filling out the writers' personal profiles . Most of the letters used here were written by men (women figure mostly only as co-correspondents, writing along with their husbands) and contain little personal information, with the exception of where their authors were from, where they settled, and which relatives they were writing to. There are hints as to the age and relative economic standing of some correspondents, but this information has to be read by inference and is hard to use as a basis for drawing distinctions. Compared to the letter writers, the authors of resettlement accounts (all of whom were male) tend to provide fuller self-portraits, but they, too, do not offer much in the way of introspection or detailed personal information. The result is that these sources present a valuable perspective on the peasant resettlement experience, but their partiality, lack of representativeness, and other shortcomings mean that they only tell particular sides of the migration story.

The first experience of resettlement was leaving the village and taking to the road, but, generally speaking, letter writers and the authors of resettlement accounts did not provide much detail on these events. Those who did invariably described leaving the village as a deeply painful occurrence while they depicted time on the road as a period that could entail hardship, expense, doubt, and death but also a certain amount of wonder and excitement. Negative representations of departure and the road were common. The scribe Ivan Beliakov, for example, recalled feeling like it was "the end of the world" when he left his native village in Penza for Siberia in 1895; [36] Timofei Chernobai from Poltava wrote (laconically) about the pain of losing two children on the road to Tomsk in 1892; [37] and another Poltavets, Pantalei Tkach, wrote in 1883 that his journey to the Far East had been "very hard because we had little capital." [38] On the more positive side, however, other settlers (and in some cases the same one s) described the "great wonder" that they felt upon crossing the Volga or the trepidation and excitement that came over them as they entered Siberia. [39] Settlers who resettled by ship from Odessa to Vladivostok in the 1880s and 1890s had especially unusual experiences and some of them sent letters home with elaborate accounts of their encounters with distant ports, strange peoples, biblical places (like Mount Sinai), and other curious things such as shipwrecks, dolphins, and flying fish. These experiences made for both wondrous travel tales and a certain sense of traveler's pride. As one sea-faring settler declared in a letter back to Poltava from the Far East in 1893, "I must tell you that I have crossed twenty-five thousand versts by sea and I have seen foreign cities and all types of naked and dark-skinned people." [40]

The sense of discovery and personal achievement that peasants could experience through travel is clearly expressed in Georgii Terent'evich Khokhlov's account of his voyage to the Far East in 1898. [41] Khokhlov was a Cossack from the Ural Cossack Host who was dispatched by his community of Old Believers to look for a "Land of White Waters" that was supposedly located somewhere near Indo-China and was home to Russians who lived according to the old, uncorrupted faith. Khokhlov's mission was the mission of a scout: he was expected to find out exactly where this attractive place was and then come back and help his community to resettle. Accompanied by two fellow scouts and funded with 2500 rubles collected from fellow Old Believers in Uralsk, Khokhlov set out in May 1898 and returned home eight months later after travelling by boat from Odessa through Suez to Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Singapore, Indo-China, and Japan, and then by train home from Vladivostok. In the process, Khokhlov did not find his Belovod'e, but he did experience a considerable amount of foreign travel, which he described in extensive detail in his account. In general, he dwells the most on his daily travails in getting from place to place, dealing with customs officials, and tracking down Russian consuls to ask them about the whereabouts of Belovod'e, but he also expresses wonder and personal satisfaction at visiting famous spiritual places (like Constantinople [Tsar-grad]) or the home of the Good Samaritan near Jerusalem) and commenting on the strange customs, faiths, clothing, and hats of the different peoples he saw across Asia. [42] In other words, Khokhlov presents travel as frustrating and dangerous, but also as stimulating, enriching, and a source of individual distinction.

In terms of his attention to the details of travel, Khokhlov was an exception, even among writers of narrative accounts. If they dealt with travel in any detail at all, more settler writers focused on the experience of arrival and, not surprisingly, different writers wrote about it differently. Those with a negative or ambivalent view of resettlement tended to describe the great anxiousness they felt upon arrival or their lackluster first impressions after frustrating searches for land. [43] In contrast to such dark views, however, other settlers represented reaching their new places as a moment of joyful discovery. As Ivan Lishki, a settler from Chernigov province, wrote in 1886 after scouting in the hilly hinterlands of Vladivostok for his party's new village site,

I walked for four days more dead than alive across mountain and rock and clay soils and forest, but then I came upon pure grassland (chistaia step') and the land changed and became fertile and there was enough of it for every one ... I saw this steppe with my own eyes, and one can live well here. [44]

The Riazan' settler Afanasii Mikhailov left a similar account of his family's arrival at what proved to be their ultimate stopping place in Zakubanskaia oblast' in the Northern Caucasus in 1882: "We crossed forty-five versts of steppe and experienced great grief and want ... but the all-powerful Lord God did not leave us without his concern ... and he delivered us unto a good and fortunate life." [45] Arrival, in other words, meant an end to traveling and the end of traveling signaled the beginning of a new existence. As a result, while some writers depicted arrival as a time of fear and frustration, others represented it as an occasion of relief, gratitude, excitement, and joy. [46]

In the repertoire of settler joys, finding good land was arguably the greatest joy of all. Since the majority of peasants who resettled were farmers, their impressions of their new settlements were heavily shaped by their assessment of their new lands, and, consequently, land was a prominent concern in their accounts. Most letter-writers, for example, began with a few lines of greetings and then moved right to a description of how much land they had, the quality of their soils (i.e. black-earth soil, mixed black earth, thin topsoil, deep topsoil, etc.), the crops they were planting, the harvests they were getting or expected to get, and various other land-related issues. Kiril Gorbach's letter home to Poltava from the Southern Ussurii in 1893 was typical in this regard. Gorbach started with greetings to his father, acknowledged receiving his father's letter, and then cut to talking about his land:

Let me inform you about the land: the land we have is good, fertile for growing grain, especially buckwheat, which is planted a lot here. The poorest plant one desiatin (2.7 acres), the richer farmers four to six ... I myself sowed four desiatins of wheat, three of oats, one of rye, one of hops, two of buckwheat, four of different kinds of hemp, potatoes, watermelon, cucumbers, beans, [and] poppy. In a word (odnim slovom): I have everything. [47]

Many other letter-writers from Siberia and the Far East described their new holdings in much the same way, accentuating the fertility of the land, the fact that it was not subject to repartition, and the especially noteworthy fact that there seemed to be a lot of it. As one newly arrived settler in Tomsk put it, "we have all kinds of room out here: plow as much land as you like wherever you like ... This is a spacious country and very beautiful (khorosh)." [48]

Along with a great deal of good land, the places that settlers had moved to also seemed blessed with natural abundance of all sorts. Settlers who were happy with their new homes stressed this abundance clearly. For example, Tomsk district, Tomsk province was described as having abundant mushrooms; [49] Biisk district, Tomsk province offered abundant "vegetables" (everything from melons to potatoes); [50] the Amur region abounded in wild game; [51] and there seemed to be abundant fish, abundant berries, and abundant timber just about everywhere else in Western Siberia and the Far East. [52] In their letters home, settlers described this natural abundance by listing it: they enumerated exactly what could be found on the frontier in what form and then listed all of these forms one after the other. Trees that grew on the Amur, for example, came in the form of "oak, aspen, lime trees, pear trees [and] cedar;" the "good fish" that could be caught in the Ussurii included "sturgeon, trout, and tench;" and the berrie s that grew wild in Tomsk included "strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries." [53] This habit of underscoring abundance by listing it was not limited to natural goods but applied to everything from crops and crop prices to the names of neighboring villages and the distances between them. The letter writer Kiril Gorbach even went to the extent of listing every kind of official he had heard of in the Far East: "You asked me: Do we have any higher-ups (nachal'stvo) out here? Yes, we've got them all: a governor, a district superintendant, a sheriff (pristav), county heads, doctors, and doctors' assistants (feld'shera)." [54]

In listing everything they could, settler letter-writers were doing three things. First of all, they were providing a great deal of information in relatively short space. Secondly, they were emphasizing that they had indeed made it to the frontier. For these settlers, much as for other migrants in other places, listing served as an "authenticating device" that proved to people at home that they were where they said they were. [55] And thirdly, they were underscoring that life on the frontier had more things going for it than life at home. In other words, listing was a way of stressing that the settlers had indeed done the right thing by leaving the "old country." In some cases, letter writers made this point even more explicitly. Efim Kudra, for example, wrote to his parents in Poltava that the Amur region was "heaven" compared to home; [56] Gerasim Seroshtanov, another Poltava settler who had moved to the Amur, told his brother that peasants out east lived "better than landlords do in Russia;" [57] and othe r letter-writers who moved to Western Siberia and the Far East made similar comparisons. [58] These comparisons drew a clear line between "Russia," which was on the other side of the Urals and was tantamount to economic hardship, and "here," which was the settlers' new home on the frontier where life was better. Settler correspondents stressed this idea through the use of key phrases, particularly the phrase "life is possible here" (zdes' zhit' mozhno), which appeared regularly in positively inclined letters: "Here one can live well (zdes' vesma mozhno zhit');" [59] "Here you can plow as much land as you want and hay as much as you want--life is possible!"; [60] "So there it is, little brother, come out here if you can. Don't be afraid: Here life is possible." [61] What was meant by "life" in this instance was the true peasant's life (i.e. a viable life on the land) and thus precisely the kind of life that most of the settlers had not been able to find back home. [62]

Of course, not all settlers presented the frontier as a peasant's paradise. Some writers described resettlement as horrible, painted frontier living as impossible, regretted moving, and recommended others against it. In 1889, Filipp Belik sent a letter to The Village Herald in which he complained that he had spent two years in the Syr-Daria region in Central Asia and that life there was "very, very bad." In fact, Belik found things so terrible in Central Asia that he ultimately gave up on his new settlement, returned to Voronezh province, and found a scribe to write his letter so that "every peasant considering resettlement [would know] to put the stupid idea right out of his head." [63] Other negatively inclined settlers wrote to The Village Herald or other serials with similar accounts of frustration and disappointment. [64] One of the most detailed of these negative accounts was a sixty-page pamphlet written by M. Sumkin, a peasant scout from Kaluga who traveled to different points in Western Siberia and the Kazakh steppe in 1907. Sumkin began his narrative by explaining that his goal in resettling to Siberia was to find "open land" (vol'naia zemlia) where he would be able to live "the good peasant's life without all the scarcity, the failed harvests (nedarod), and the cruel exploitation of village kulaks" that existed at home. In search of this "open land," he went first to Tomsk province in Western Siberia. He was impressed with the lands that he saw there, but all the best spots had already been taken, so he turned south and east and made his way by train, barge, and cart to the far end of the Kazakh steppe where he had heard that good land was still available. Once he arrived, however, he did not like the "village site" (uchastok) that he had been told about and so he decided to give up on resettlement and return to Kaluga. [65]

Negative or ambivalent impressions also surfaced in letters sent home from Western Siberia and the Far East. The problems that letter-writers commented on in their letters were varied. Some complained that the nearest church was too far away. [66] Others pointed out that there were not enough fruit trees, that local sheep produced poor wool, that it took "six oxen and a steel plow" to cut through virgin soil, that their cattle in the Far East suffered from unfamiliar epizootics, or that the cost of enrolling in pre-established village communes was very expensive. [67] Most of these negative references were tempered with positive descriptions and even letters with a predominantly negative tone still concluded with the authors urging peasants from home to come join them on the frontier. Such was the case, for example, with a letter sent home to Poltava by a settler who moved to the Far East in 1893:

I don't like the Ussuri territory because the land here is hilly and rocky, and the peasants live between the hills like gypsies. It's impossible to figure Out: one person says the place is good, another says it's bad. It's impossible to understand, but I can see that this is a confusing and unhappy region (krai neponiamyi i neveselyi) ... Let me tell you again: the Southern Ussurii cannot be compared to Russia. Russia is like a flower by comparison. The only problem in Russia is that there isn't enough land, but the people who have land live well. I don't recommend those people to come here. But the people who don't live well, they should come because here life is possible. [68]

Only two letters in the fifty or so studied here appear to have been thoroughly negative. One of these was from a Riazan' settler in Western Siberia who wrote home to a relative in 1880 and urged him repeatedly not to come: "Such are the places we have here: knolls, gulches; they don't redistribute the pasture or the plow land and the church is ten versts away. Such despair!" (Takaia skuka!). [69]

While peasants had much to say (good and bad) about the agricultural attributes of their new settlements, they were considerably less expressive when it came to the natural and human landscapes that they encountered on the frontier. Peasant settlers tended to look at the natural world around them in terms of what it could provide for their household economy and how it would influence the quality of their new settlement. Consequently, with the exception of a few notes in some letters about the presence of "huge mountains" or dry steppes, the natural landscape is not stressed. [70] The same is largely true of the longer narratives, though wordier and more lyrical writers like the scouts Sumkin and Khokhlov do provide somewhat more attention to natural scenery. [71] A similar kind of reticence applied as far as the human geography of the frontier was concerned. Peasant writers generally did not make detailed references to the various people that they lived around in the borderlands (whether Russian or non-Russi an), and when they did, they commented on them not as objects of ethnographic curiosity but rather as people whom they had to live with and therefore about whom it was desirable to have at least some basic information. With the exception again of writers like Khokhlov and Sumkin who do seem to have had ethnographic inclinations, most settler writers were pragmatic observers whose primary concern was to describe and relay the kind of practical data that was most relevant to the peasants' needs in a given locality. [72] This meant talking about the neighbors to the extent that it was useful but not much more.

The settlers' Slavic neighbors were of two basic types. First, there were the "new settlers" (novosely) who were fellow migrants recently resettled from different parts of European Russia and whom settler writers tended to categorize in terms of their province or area of origin. That is to say, they usually described them as "people from Tambov" (Tambovtsy), "people from Riazan' (Riazantsy), "people from Poltava" (Poltavtsy), and so on. Similarly, Russian and Ukrainian novosely distinguished themselves vis-a-vis one another as "Great Russians" versus "Little Russians" or as "Muscovites" versus "Khokhly." [73] In contrast to the "new settlers," the second group of Slavic neighbors were so-called "old residents" (starozhily), a term that applied both to Slavic peasants who had lived in the borderlands for generations (like Russian Siberians [sibiriaki], for example) as well as to slightly earlier migrants whose villages were already established by the time the settlers arrived. In cases where settler writers m ention these different kinds of Slavic neighbors, they are described very briefly and generally only in terms of how they farmed or their overall moral character, such as whether they attended church regularly or were easy to get along with. [74] There are also allusions to conflicts with "old residents" over issues like land use, which were frequent in high intensity settlement areas. [75] But because these Slavic neighbors are not much discussed, coming to definitive conclusions about how settler writers perceived them is difficult. What is likely is that they were seen in much the same way that peasants perceived peasant neighbors back home. That is to say, Slavic neighbors in the borderlands were probably seen as outsiders (any one outside the village commune was perforce an outsider) but as outsiders who were "essentially similar" in terms of religion and general way of life and therefore readily understandable. [76]

The non-Slavs who lived on the frontier fell into a different camp. Most of the non-Slavs whom Slavic settlers encountered in eastern settlement zones were not Orthodox and many of them were not agriculturalists. From the settlers' perspective, in other words, these peoples were profoundly different. The fact that these neighbors were "other," however, did not necessarily invite special prejudice. Since everyone outside the commune was an outsider, these non-Orthodox outsiders were not necessarily any more outside the commune than other neighbors. [77] The fact that peasants did not perceive this difference to be particularly remarkable or interesting is underscored in settler writings where many references to native, non-Slavic, and/or non-Orthodox peoples are completely neutral and amount to stating that they either did or did not live in a given area. [78] At the same time, however, religious difference was never completely unimportant and moving into ethnoreligiously mixed areas could intensify the salie nce of this difference from the settlers' perspective. [79] Russian settlers tended to identify themselves as "Christians" (khreshchennye), "Orthodox people" (pravoslavnye liudi), or "the tsar's people" (tsarskie liudi). By contrast, as a general typology, they referred to their non-Orthodox non-Slavic neighbors as "non-Christians" (nekhristy, poganye). Since these neighbors were "non-Christians," this meant that peasant settlers (as a rule) did not intermarry with them or mix with them closely in cultural terms. This fact thus set them apart to a greater degree than other kinds of neighbors. [80]

This kind of line-drawing on the part of settlers was not special (such distinctions were drawn by all ethnoreligious communities in the countryside) and it did not automatically imply hostility. In fact, perceiving non-Christians as "other" did not keep peasant settlers from learning the languages of these neighbors or from trading or socializing with them. At the same time, the recognition of religious/cultural difference could and did reinforce hostile perceptions in certain settlement situations. In the settler sources reviewed here, this dynamic shows most clearly in the case of peasant views of pastoral nomads, including Muslim Kazakhs and Kyrgyz and Buddhist Altayans. The lands and way of life of all of these peoples (many of whom practiced limited agriculture in addition to migratory herding) were coming under intense pressure by the 1890s due to the impact of massive peasant coloniztion in Western Siberia and the Kazakh steppe, a fact that produced numerous small-scale settler-nomad clashes and cont ributed (at least in part) to one large-scale nomadic uprising in 1916. [81] The writings reviewed here do not focus on settlement in nomadic areas and, consequently, nomadic peoples are rarely mentioned. When they are, however, it is usually in negative terms. In 1881, for example, Petr Ivanov, a settler from Riazan' in Tomsk province, informed his parents back home that he and some comrades had planned to move to new farmlands in the Altai region but had decided against it because they heard from other migrants that "the mountains were frightening," grain did not grow well, and the only people who lived up there were "mountain Kalmyks" (Altayans). [82] Other references suggest that peasants saw Kazakhs as "terrifying" and "just short of cannibals;" or as stubborn exploiters working in cahoots with local officials to keep peasant settlers from receiving land. [83] In the writings reviewed here, peasant writers referred to the Kazakhs by the neutral ethnonym kirgiz (i.e. the prerevolutionary Russian term for Kazakhs), but according to other accounts, settlers also described them as "dogs," "animals" (war'), or simply as "the horde" (orda), a term which appears to have been less pejorative but not altogether value-free. [84]

Of course, these few references to pastoral nomads in settler accounts do not provide anything close to a full portrait of peasant-nomad relations. They do not provide the nomads' side of the story and they also do not reveal anything at all of the trade, multidirectional cultural borrowing, and tolerant (or at least nonviolent) interactions that were also part of the frontier situation on the Kazakh steppe or in the Altay. [85] In fact, it is unwise to draw too many conclusions about how settlers looked at their native neighbors based on these letters and narratives simply because these sources have little to say on this topic. From the few references that the letters and narratives make to non-Slavic native peoples, all that can really be said is that peasant writers tended towards practical descriptions that reveal some clear prejudices (the references to Kazakhs are a case in point) but were rarely focused on justifying, explaining, or even trying to make anything out of cultural or religious difference. Because settler references to their native (and, for that matter, non-native) neighbors are so bare, it is also difficult to articulate how much and whether the experience of borderland settlement affected the peasants' sense of themselves or of the empire. Based on other evidence, it seems clear that peasant settlers on the Kazakh steppe and in other parts of the imperial "East" felt themselves entitled to land and, in situations of conflict with native peoples, could express that sense of entitlement by emphasizing their identity as Orthodox subjects who paid taxes, provided men for the army, and therefore deserved better treatment from the state than native easterners. [86] At the same time, peasants were not colonizing with any sense of imperial mission. The settler sources here make it clear that what most peasants wanted from the borderlands was an economic improvement over what they had at home. The imperial implications that flowed from this were not considered and were probably irrelevant from the p easants' perspective. [87]

Why settlers do not appear to have had a sense of imperial mission is a complicated question, but it was undoubtedly related to the fact that most Russian settlers did not share a strong sense of national consciousness. That is to say, their strongest allegiances were not to Russia as an imagined national community and, consequently, they did not invest colonization with a national purpose. While peasants in the late imperial period venerated national heroes, avidly followed national events (like coronations and wars), and by the great mobilization of the summer of 1914, could act "within the nation" and express their political interests "in national terms," their awareness of the nation as a political construct was new, fragile, and clearly did not displace other identities. Admittedly, the settler sources used here--for all the reasons cited earlier--are far from the best sources for proving or disproving the existence of a national identification among peasants, but it is still striking that the letters a nd settlement narratives make no allusions to the nation at all. There are no references to Russia's specialness or attributes as a nation, no suggestions that what the settlers were doing was connected in any way to a larger national process with national meaning. Instead, what mattered most for settler writers was the local, and the local is almost exclusively what they talked about. Letter writers, for example, often asked about news from home and expressed how much they missed their relatives and native villages, all of which underscored their enduring attachment to their old localities. [89] For some this attachment could be extremely powerful. As one female settler wrote from Siberia in the early 1880s,

Dear beloved uncle Stepan Fedotovich, take note of this and do not leave your home (rodimaia svoia storona). As I wrote you before, we are alive, thank God, and we have animals and bread, and all thanks to God, but we consider our leaving home as a great unhappiness nonetheless. Before we used to say that the world is one and God is one, but this place out here is not our home (storona-ta ne rodimaia) and the people here are of different faiths. [90]

But just as letter writers expressed enduring attachments to their former localities, they also communicated growing attachments to new local worlds, which they did by writing at length about the qualities of their new homes and environs. The common juxtapposition in settler letters of poverty/death at home versus abundance/life on the frontier reveals this dynamic of new place identification especially clearly. As Kirei Vasil'ev wrote to his brother in Riazan' from his new village in Tornsk in 1880, evoking religious terminology, "In this letter, I'll tell you plain and simple (propishu yam podrobno) that you could die back where you are but over here in our new settlement you will be resurrected (u vas tam mozhno umeret' a u nas zdes' na novosel'i voskresnut' )." [91]

What these examples suggest is that resettlement did not profoundly reorient the spatial frame of peasant identity, at least not immediately. If most peasants were primarily locally oriented people prior to their resettlements, they remained primarily locally oriented people following them. [92] Yet at the same time, resettlement did expose peasants to a different spatial experience and it is unlikely that this passed completely without effect. According to official census data, well over 90% of peasants in European Russia in 1897 lived in the district (uezd) in which they were born and their geographic range was largely local or at most limited to nearby provinces. [93] Long-distance settlers obviously made a radical break with this range of mobility and their writings clearly suggest that resettlement expanded their practical geographical knowledge. This geographic awareness is clearly visible in settler letters. Despite the fact that most peasant correspondents had little to say about their journeys, many of them provided information on their routes, listing the towns, railway junctions, and barge ports that they passed through as well as the distances between them and the price they paid for their fares. [94] The writers of longer narratives displayed this sort of practical geographical knowledge in still greater detail [95] Resettlement thus removed peasants from a world of circumscribed mobility and provided them with at least some exposure to geography on a larger national or international scale. While this encounter with broader spatial horizons did not magically supplant the settlers' local identities and replace them with national ones, it undoubtedly changed their sense of themselves. Even if peasant settlers remained primarily locally oriented people, the fact that most of them were local people who had coressed enormous distances must have changed their sense of what it meant to be local and reinforced an awareness that their local homes (both old and new) were in fact surrounded by much bigger world s.


Resettlement in late imperial Russia unfolded as an arena of contact between peasant and non-peasant society and this contact helped to shape a popular culture of resettlement that contained a range of colonization-related images. Settler letters and resettlement narratives both contributed to this popular culture of resettlement and were expressions of it. In these sources, peasant settlers represented resettlement and the frontier in tones and styles that reflected the particularities of their personalities and their individual experience, but the concerns that they expressed were largely constant. Most peasant settlers were heading east in order to escape poverty and build what was considered a true peasant's life on the land. Consequently, their sense of what they needed for this life was the key factor determining how they described their new settlements. This meant that mundane issues, like the quality of local topsoils, the variety of berries, the price of rye flour, and the general moral qualities of villagers down the road, were worth paying attention to while the natural scenery or the customs of native peoples were less interesting and therefore less noteworthy. The settlers' idiom for representing the frontier was thus intensely practical and the logic behind it appears to have been fairly straightforward: when settlers found the true peasant life that they were looking for, they represented the frontier as a landscape of abundance and possibility. When their resettlement did not succeed or encountered serious problems, representations were darker and more ambivalent.

This practical idiom of resettlement also offers some hints as to how settler writers thought of themselves and the world around them. Peasant identity in prerevolutionary Russia was defined largely in terms of working the land, being a member of a particular commune, coming from a particular locality, and being Orthodox. Judging from settler letters and narratives, resettlement to the eastern borderlands did not produce radical change in the way that peasants defined themselves. Settler writers were locally oriented people whose goal was not so much to leave their localities behind as much as it was to recreate them in their new places of settlement. Rural resettlement, in that sense, provided a continuum that migration to the city did not since the experience of life in the city, even considering that most peasants migrated there gradually and lived in the company of other local migrants (zemliaki), was nonetheless different from life in the village. The same continuum existed as far as communal and religi ous identities were concerned. Peasants at home identified themselves in terms of their membership in the village commune and as Orthodox believers. In the borderlands, they did the same thing, though their ethnoreligious identity and their identity as people originating from a particular province or region of Russia became more salient (in some cases much more salient) since they were often living around Russian peasants who had resettled from other areas or around people who were not Russian, not Orthodox, and not even peasants. When peasants migrated to the borderlands, in other words, they saw new things, apprehended new geographies, and encountered new peoples, but this did not displace the pre-existing bases of peasant identity as much as enhance certain of their aspects and re-situate them in a new place. [96]

Based on the settler letters and resettlement narratives reviewed here, it is difficult to draw certain conclusions about how peasant settlers envisioned the empire and how they thought about frontier peoples, but these sources do underscore what seem to have been two attributes of peasant settler mentalite: (1) Russian peasants colonized without much (or any) sense of imperial mission; and (2) while they defined native peoples on the eastern frontier as "other" and, in certain cases, in powerfully negative terms, they were not especially interested in who these peoples were or how they lived, and certainly did not aspire to change them in the service of any kind of higher purpose. For peasant settlers, the primary focus was the land, the primary hope was to get as much of it as one could, and the primary goal was to build a farm on it and live the good peasant's life. The native peoples who lived on or around the land in question were important only to the extent that one had to deal with them as neighbors, which could mean either good relations, bad relations, neutral relations, or no real relations at all, depending on settlement circumstances. As a result, what the settler letters and narratives seem to convey quite eloquently, both through what they say and what they do not, is that peasant settlers in the Russian "East" were colonizers who might best be called un-imperial imperialists. Peasant colonization in the eastern borderlands in the late imperial period was a key factor that helped to consolidate the empire and advance the cause of Russian imperialism, but the peasants who were doing the colonizing did not identify with or necessarily think about the imperial cause and had priorities that were much more local than imperial.

Abstract: Willard Sunderland, "Peasant Pioneering: Russian Peasant Settlers Describe Colonization and the Eastern Frontier, 1880s-1910s"

Peasant colonization in the eastern and southern borderlands of the Russian empire was a mass phenomenon in the last decades of the tsarist period yet historians, for a variety of reasons, still know little of what peasant settlers knew or thought about it. This article focuses on this question, approaching it in two ways. Since resettlement represented a major intersection between the worlds of educated and peasant Russia in the late imperial period, the first part of the article examines how the mingling of peasant and non-peasant ways of knowing created a diverse culture of information about resettlement and the frontier in the countryside. The second part of the article then examines settler writings--in particular, letters and longer settlement narratives--in order to identify the principal ways in which colonists represented their migrations and their encounters with borderland peoples and geographies. As the article argues, these experiences were diverse and so too were settler representations, but the re was a language of local, practical concerns that was broadly shared by all migrants. Because they tended to describe and interpret their experiences in these terms, the article suggests that peasant settlers are perhaps best described as un-imperial imperialists, colonists whose colonization helped to advance and consolidate Russian imperialism Russia's eastern territories yet who themselves identified much more clearly with local concerns than with imperial ones.


Funding for research for this article was provided by the Charles P. Taft Memorial Fund of the University of Cincinnati as well as the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX). An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Colloquium on Hinterlands and Frontiers organized by the Agrarian Studies Program at Yale University in October 1997. For their helpful comments and suggestions, my special thanks to James Scott, David Kerans, David Moon, Paul Werth, Tom Barrett, Scott Seregny, Andrei Zhamenski, and the two anonymous readers for the Journal of Social History.

(1.) Scholars disagree as to the nature and extent of the "crisis" in post-Emancipation agriculture. For major recent contributions to the debate, see J.Y. Simms, "The Crisis of Russian Agriculture at the End of the Nineteenth Century: A Different View," Slavic Review 36 (1977) #3: 377-398; G.M. Hamburg, "The Crisis in Russian Agriculture: A Comment," Slavic Review 37 (1978) #3: 481-486; and Elvira M. Wilbur, "Peasant Poverty in Theory and Practice: A View from Russia's 'Impoverished Center' at the End of the Nineteenth Century," and Stephen G. Wheatcroft, "Crises and the Condition of the Peasantry in Late Imperial Russia," both of which appear in Esther Kingston-Mann and Timothy Mixter (eds.), Peasant Economy, Culture and Politics of European Russia, 1800- 1921 (Princeton, N.J., 1991) pp.101-127 and 128-174.

(2.) The term "exodus" is taken from Geroid Tanquary Robinson who noted that peasants in the post-Emancipation period opted for resettlement as an "exodus" from their "economic Egypt." See his Rural Russia under the Old Regime: A History of the Landlord-Peasant World and a Prologue to the Peasant Revolution of 1917 (reprint: Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1960), p.99.

(3.) The historical literature on late imperial colonization is enormous, but there has been almost no attention to settler reflections on resettlement and the frontier based on late imperial peasant sources. The exceptions are Francois-Xavier Coquin, La Siberie: peuplement et immigration paysanne au xixeme siecle (Paris, 1969) pp.411-420; and Nicholas B. Breyfogle, "Heretics and Colonizers: Religious Dissent and Russian Colonization of Transcaucasia, 1830-1890" (Unpublished PhD. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1998), especially chapter two. Donald W. Treadgold inadvertently captured the prevailing view of the historiography when he noted in his authoratitive study of Siberian resettlement that there are bountiful materials for writing the history of late imperial colonization "but the peasant himself is silent ... The 'mute inglorious Miltons' of the great migration did not write their experiences." See his The Great Siberian Migration: Government and Peasant in Resettlement from Emancipation to th e First World War (Princeton, N.J., 1957), p. 82.

(4.) For elite understandings of colonization in the late tsarist era, see Willard Sunderland, "The 'Colonization Question': Visions of Colonization in Late Imperial Russia," Jahrbucher fur Geschichte Osteuropas 45 (2000) #2: 210-232.

(5.) For recent studies that examine avenues of contact and engagement between peasants and outside society in the late imperial period, see Jane Burbank, "A Question of Dignity: Peasant Legal Culture in Late Imperial Russia," Continuity and Change 10 (1995):391-404; David Moon, "Peasants into Russian Citizens? A Comparative Perspective," Revolutionary Russia 1 (1996):43-81; and Scott J. Seregny, "Zemstvos, Peasants, and Citizenship: The Russian Adult Education Movement and the First World War," Slavic Review 59 (2000) #2: 290-315.

(6.) For the argument that popular culture is always inherently shaped by its intersection with learned culture and vice versa, see Roger Chartier, The Cultural Uses of Print in Early Modem France, Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane (Princeton, N.J., 1987), esp. pp.3-12. For similar conclusions as to the hybridic content and form of popular culture in fin-de-siecle Russia, see Stephen P. Frank and Mark D. Steinberg's introduction to their edited volume Cultures in Flux: Lower-Class Values, Practices, and Resistance in Late Imperial Russia (Princeton, N.J., 1994) pp.3-10. For a helpful discussion of the various components of popular culture, see Chandra Mukerji and Micheal Schudson's introduction to their edited collection, Rethinking Popular Culture: Contemporary Perspectives in Cultural Studies (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1991), pp.1-61.

(7.) This brief sketch of the general contours of late imperial resettlement is drawn from Treadgold, The Great Siberian Migration Coquin, La Siberie; George J. Demko, The Russian Colonization of Kazakhstan, 1896-1916 (Bloomington, Ind., 1969); Barbara A. Anderson, Internal Migration during Modernization in Late Nineteenth-Century Russia (Princeton, N.J., 1980), pp.121-153; A.P. Fomchenko, Russkie poseleniia v Turkesranskom krae v kontse xix-nachale xx vv. (sotsial-no-ekonomicheskii aspekt) (Tashkent, 1983); and Leonid M. Goryushkin, "Migration, Settlement, and the Rural Economy of Siberia, 1861-1914," in Alan Wood (ed.), The History of Siberia: From Russian Conquest to Revolution (New York, 1991), pp.140-157. For a helpful overview of peasant borderland settlement over the long term (including part of the late imperial period), see David Moon, "Peasant Migration and the Settlement of Russia's Frontiers, 1550-1897," The Historical Journal 40(1997): 859-893.

(8.) For an excellent treatment of the linguistic disconnect between village and non-village Russia, see Orlando Figes, "The Russian Revolution and Its Language in the Village," The Russian Review 56 (1997):323-345.

(9.) This incident is described in I. Geier, "Golod i kolonizatsiia Syr-Dar'inskoi oblasti v 1891 godu," Sbornik materialov dlia statistiki Syr-Dar'inskoi oblasti 3 (1894): 14-15. For a similar case, see also Geir's Po russkim seleniiam Syr-Dar'inskoi oblasti (pis'ma s dorogi) (Tashkent, 1893), p.83. On peasants mispronouncing posobie (often rendering it as sposobie, which sounds similar to the Russian word for "thank you" [spasibo]), see A. A. Kaufman, Po novym mestam (St. Petersburg, 1905), 115; and Ivan Pechal'nik, "Pereselencheskii 'rai,'" Sibirskie voprosy (4) 1908:18.

(10.) On state policies toward late imperial resettlement, see Treadgold, The Great Siberian Migration, pp.67-8l,107-130, 153-183; Coquin, LaSiberie, pp.315-494; M.S. Simonova, "Pereselencheskii vopros v agrarnoi politike samoderzhaviia v kontse xix-nachale xx veka," Ezhegodnik po agrarnoi istorii vostochnoi Evropy 1965 g. (Moscow, 1970), pp.424-434; B.V. Tihonov, "Pereselencheskaia politika tsarskogo pravitel'stva v1892-1897 godakh," Istoriia SSSR (1977) #1: 109-121; Edward H. Judge, "Peasant Resettlement and Social Control in Late Imperial Russia," in Idem and James Y. Simms (eds.), Modernization and Revolution: Dilemmas of Progress in Late Imperial Russia (New York, 1992), pp.75-94; Marks, Road to Power, pp.153-169; Steven G. Marks, "Conquering the Great East: Kulomzin, Peasant Resettlement, and the Creation of Modern Siberia," in Stephen Korkin and David Wolff (eds.), Rediscovering Russia in Asia: Siberia and the Russian Far East (Armonk, N.Y., 1995), pp.23-35.

(11.) These various activities are described in TV. Zenchenko, Pereselenie i zemstvo (Paltava, 1912); A.A. Kaufman, Pereselenie i kolonizatsiia (Sr. Petersburg, 1905), appendix, pp.29-81; I.I. Popov, "Pereselenie krest'ian i zemleustroisrvo Sibiri," in A.K. Dzhivelegov et al. (eds.), Velikaia reforma: russkoe obshchestvo i krest'ianskii vopros v proshlom i nastoiashchem (Moscow, 1911) v.6, pp.249-267; and "Put'-doroga": nauchno-literaturnyi sbornik v pol'zu obshchestva dlia vspomoshchestvovaniia nuzhdaiushchimsia pereselentsam (St. Petersburg, 1893). While liberal obshchestvo organized societies and foundations to meet the material and spiritual needs of Russian settlers, the Orthodox church (which was closely tied to the state) did as well. See the brief discussion of the Church's spiritual work vis-a-vis resettlement in Marks, Road to Power, pp.168-169.

(12.) See, for example, "Pereselentsy na Kavkaze," Sel'skii vestnik (hereafter SV) (1889) #20: 220; "O dvizhenii pereselentsev po Tomskoi gubernii v 1888 godu," SV (1889) #24: 260-263; "Stoit li pereseliat'sia?" SV (1889) #27: 299; "Neudachnye pereseleniia na Kavkaz," SV (1889) #32: 364; "Pereselentsy-dobrovol'nye arestanry," SV (1889) #35: 387; "O dobrovol'nom pereselenii sel'skikh obyvatelei i meshchan na kazennye zemli," SV (1889) #40: 443-445; "Novyi zakon o pereselentsakh na kazennye zemli," SV (1889) #44: 483-484; and "Mytarstva pereselentsev," SV (1889) #46: 499-500.

(13.) The titles of many of these materials are provided in I.L. Iamzin, Spisok izdanii pereselencheskogo upravleniia s risunkami, sostavlen po 1 maia 1914 goda (St. Petersburg, 1914), pp.126-131.

(14.) The copious works of the Poltava zemstvo and its special Resettlement Organization, which published numerous handbooks and a weekly newsletter on resettlement in the early 1900s, are discussed in Zenchenko, Pereselenie i zemstvo. On the Khar'kov zemstvo's activities, which included opening a resettlement museum designed for prospective settlers in 1912, see Kratkii istoricheskii ocherk deiatel'nosti pereselencheskoi organizatsii za vremia sushchestvovaniia ee v Khar'kovskom gubernskom zemstve (Khar'kov, n.d.). For a broader discussion of zemstvo publishing activities, see V. F. Abramov, "Zemstvo, narodnoe obrazovanie i prosveshchenie," Voprosy istorii (1998) #8: 44-60 (esp. p.57). For examples of non-zemstvo and non-official literature written about resettlement for the peasant reader, see A.V. Glebov's Chto mogut dat' pereseleniia kresr'ianstvu (St. Petersburg, 1907) and V. Dashkevich, Pereselenie v Sibir' (St. Petersburg, 1912).

(15.) For examples of official writing that stressed the challenges and heartbreaks of resettlement, see Sibirskoe pereselenie (St. Petersburg, 1896); N. Shliapnikov, "Oshibochnye pobuzhdeniia k pereseleniiu," Kalendar' i spravochnaia kniga sel'skogo vestnika 1890 goda (St. Petersburg, 1890), pp. 160-167; "Ostanovka pereselenrsev," SV (1890) #22: 240; "Pereselentsy v Orenburgskoi gubernii," SV (1890) #39: 432; and various other articles from Sel'skii vestnik cited above.

(16.) For an example of an extremely negative unofficial pamphlet that nonetheless conceded that some settlers did quite well, see Glebov, Chto mogut dat' pereseleniia krest'ianstvu, p.1.

(17.) For a selection of these settlement manuals, see (among state-sponsored publications) Spravochnaia knizhka o pereselenii za UraL s kartoi (St. Petersburg, 1907); Pereselenie na Dal'nii Vostok v 1907 g.: spravochnaia knizhka o pereselenii v oblasti Amurskuiu i Primorskuiu (St. Petersburg, 1907); Pereselenii v stepnoi kraie v 1907 godu: spravochnaia knizhka o pereselenii v oblosti Turgaiskuiu, Ural'skuiu, Akmolinskuiu i Semipalatinskuiu (St. Petersburg, 1907); Spravochnaia knizhka dila khodokov i pereselentsev na 1910 god s putevoi kartoi Aziatskoi Rossii (St. Petersburg, 1910); Spravochnaia knizhka dlia khodokov i pereselentsev (pereselenie za Ural) v 1912 godu (St. Petersburg, 1912); Spravochnaja knizhka dlia khodokov i pereselentsev: opisanie Syr-Dar'inskogo pereselencheskogo raiona s prilozheniem karty raiona (Tashkent, 1914); and (among zemstvo works) Nastavleniia khodokam i pereselentsam (Poltava, 1912); G. Kartavtsev, Turgaiskaia oblast' (svedeniia dlia khodokov i pereselentsev) (2d ed.; Poltava, 1 912); A. Mitarevskii, Opisanie Akmolinskoi oblasti (3d ed.; Poltava, 1912); F. Los'-Roshkovskii, Khodokam i pereselentsam, napravliaiushchimsia v Kuswinaiskii uezd Turgaiskoi oblasti v 1913 godu (nastavleniia, opisanie uezda i uchastkov) (Poltava, 1913); Primorskaia oblast' (2d ed.; Poltava, 1913); and Opisanie uchasrkov Amurskogo raiona rekomenduemykh agentom luzhno-Russkoi Oblasmoi Zemskoi Pereselencheskoi Organizatsii dlia vykhodtsev iz iuzhnkh gubernii Rossii (Poltava, 1914).

(18.) For a few references to the size and diversity of eastern provinces and peoples in the manuals, see Dashkevich, Pereselenie v Sibir', pp.3,13,27-28; Pereselenie na Dal'nii Vostok v 1907 godu, p.9-10; Spravochnaia knizhka o pereselenii za Ural s kartoi, p.7; Spravochnaia knizhka dlia khodokov i pereselentsev na 1910 god s putevoi kartoi Aziatskoi Rossii, p.16.

(19.) This is not to say that manuals ignored the challenges of resettlement. They informed peasants that some settlement conditions were difficult and that problems over land could arise with certain native communities and with Russian Siberians, but, by and large, the handbooks did not make these problems sound too daunting. In terms of settler relations with native neighbors, references to problems in the manuals often went unelaborated or were balanced by other remarks on friendly interactions. The zemstvo writer G. Kartavtsev, for example, informed settlers headed for Turgai oblast' in 1912 that "relations between Russians and Kazakhs are not always peaceful (miroliubivye), but there are settlements and ... Kazakh auls where the two groups live together peacefully and where the Kazakhs even loan the peasants seed or agree to help the settlers plow their fields in return for later payment." See Turgaiskaia oblast', p.14. As for settlers headed to the Far East, they were urged to adapt their farming to Far Eastern conditions by learning from their Chinese and Korean neighbors who were portrayed as capable farmers. See, for example, Pereselenie na Dal'nii Vostok v 1907 godu, p.10.

(20.) For a photograph of settlers working with camels as draft animals, see Dashkevich, Pereselenie v Sibir', pp.10-ll. For another description of Russians using camels on the steppe, see "Rabochie verbliudy," SV (1889) #14/15: 161.

(21.) Jeffrey Brooks, When Russia Learned to Read: Literacy and Popular Literature, 1861-1917 (Princeton, N.J., 1985), pp.241-245. For more on the kopeck press, see Louise McReynolds, The News Under Russia's Old Regime: The Development of the Mass-Circulation Press (Princeton, N.J., 1991), pp.229-239 and Daniel R. Brower, "The Penny Press and Its Readers," in Frank and Steinberg (eds.), Cultures in Flux, pp.147-167.

(22.) For writings on these topics, see N. K-na, "Pereselentsy s Volgi na Syr-Dar'iu," Mirskoi vestnik 13 (1875) #8: 51-64; #9:30-49; #10: 32-63; Iu. Markov, "Tatary," Mirskoi vestnik 13 (1875) #3: 51-59; M-, "Buriaty," Chtenie dlia naroda (1886) #1: 57-70; "verkhom 8 tysiach verst," SV (1890) #21, pp.226-228; "Tserkvi i shkoly v raione Sibirskoi zheleznoi dorogi," SV (1895) #9: 99-100; "Raboty po sooruzheniiu Sibirskoi zheleznoi dorogi," SV (1895) #39: 444-445; L. Kopach, "Gibel' Chukchei," Krest'ianin (1906) #33: 526; Brooks, When Russia Learned to Read, pp.222-233; James H. Krukones, To the People: The Russian Government and the Newspaper Sel'skii Vestnki ('Village Herald') 1881-1917 (New York, 1987), pp.97-98; McReynolds, The News Under Russia's Old Regime, pp.185-192.

(23.) Brooks provides these literacy figures in When Russia Learned to Read, p.4, noting that rates were higher in industrial provinces and among different sectors of the peasant population. He also suggests that literate settlers were undoubtedly better equipped to navigate the challenges of resettlement, but indicates (based on a survey of Poltava settlers by the Poltava zemstvo in 1900) that settler literacy rates may have been no more than 10%. See When Russia Learned to Read, pp.15-18, 376, ftn.64. Barbara Anderson argues that there were probably higher rates of literacy among earlier waves of settlers since literacy is a key migration skill, but that the settler pool became increasingly less literate as migration continued. See her Internal Migration During Modernization in Late Nineteenth-Century Russia, pp.138, 146

(24.) On peasant "ways of reading," see Jeffrey Brooks, "Readers and Reading at the End of the Tsarist Era," in William Mills Todd III (ed.), Literature and Society in Imperial Russia 1800-1914 (Stanford, 1978), pp.132-136; and Figes, "The Russian Revolution of 1917 and Its Language in the Village," p.325. On peasant approaches to literacy and their views of its utility, see Ben Eklof, Russian Peasant Schools: Officialdom, Village Culture, and Popular Pedagogy, 1861-1914 (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1986), pp.268-269, 274-275, 476; and Brooks, When Russia Learned to Read, pp.3-34. For comments as to the problematic reception of didactic literature, see Chartier, The Cultural Uses of Print in Early Modern France, p.7.

(25.) For a discussion of the operation of peasant "screens," see David Moon, Russian Peasants and Tsarist Legislation on the Eve of Reform: Interaction between Peasants and Officialdom, 1825-1855 (Basingstoke, Eng., 1992), p.168.

(26.) For references to these associations with the east, see Anthony Netting, "Images and Ideas in Russian Peasant Art," in Ben Eklof and Stephen Frank (eds.), The World of the Russian Peasant: Post-Emancipation Culture and Society (Boston, 1990), pp.176-177 (on the Sirin); Alison Hilton, Russian Folk Art (Bloomington, Ind., 1994), pp.172-174 (more on the Sirin); G.T. Murov, Liudi i nravy Dal'nego Vostoka: Ot Vladivostoka do Khabarovska (putevoi dnevnik (Tomsk, 1901), p.145 (reference to settlers' views of the Far East as the site for the beginning of the end of the world).

(27.) On utopian visions of social justice and abundance in "faraway lands," see K. V. Chistov, Russkie narodnye sotsial'no-utopicheskie legendy xvii-xix vv. (Moscow, 1967), pp.237-326; D.I. Raskin, "Migratsii v obshchestvennom soznanii krest'ianstva epokhi pozdnego feodalizma," in I.D. Kovalchenko (ed.), Sotsial'no-demograficheskie protsessy v rossiiskoi derevne (xvi-nachalo xxv.) (Tallinn, 1986), pp.75-82; M.M. Gromyko, Mir russkoi derevni (Moscow, 1991) pp.245-258; and Moon, Russian Peasants and Tsarist Legislation on the Eve of Reform, pp.23-61. Moon argues against Chistov, Gromyko, and others, and suggests that myths like Belovod'e are best seen not as "socio-utopian legends" but rather as rumors derived from creative (and self-serving) "misunderstandings" of tsarist resettlement legislation.

(28.) For references to images in these sources, see Maureen Perrie, "Folklore as Evidence of Peasant Mentalite: Social Attitudes and Values in Russian Popular Culture," The Russian Review 48 (1989) #2: 119-143.

(29.) For these rumors, see A.A. Charushin, Krest'ianskie pereseleniia v bytovom ikh osveshchenii (Arkhangel'sk, 1911), pp.6-7; Peresleniia iz Poltavskoi gubernii s 1861 pa 1 iiulia 1900 goda (Poltava, 1900), v.1, p.309.

(30.) Avesov, "Russkii 'Drang nach Osten,'" Kamsko-Volzhskaia gazeta (1873) #35: 137; Charushin, Krest'ianskie pereseleniia v bytovom ikh osveshchenii, p.12.

(31.) The account here is based on information in Charushin, Krest' ianskie pereseleniia v bytovom ikh osveshchenii, pp.13-15. Charushin's descriptions are drawn from the reports of ethnographers working for the Tenishev Ethnographic Bureau. For other descriptions of settler departures, see "Ot"ezd pereselentsev iz Chernigovskoi gubernii," Moskovskie gubernskie vedomosti (1883) #7: 4; "Provody Orenburgskikh kazakov-pereselentsev v Ussuriiskii krai," Orenburgskie eparkhial'nye vedomosti (1895) #5: 147-149; and V.V. Kiriakov, Ocherki po istorii pereselencheskogo dvizheniia v Sibir' (v sviazi s istoriei zaseleniia Sibiri) (Moscow, 1902), p.154.

(32.) Charushin notes that peasants in the farewell processions would frequently intone the words "today we bury the living" (zhivykh khoronim), which suggests that they saw a clear link between resettlement and death. See Charushin, Krest'ianskie pereseleniia v bytovom ikh osveshchenii , p.14. The link between leaving the village and death also appears in the farewell ceremonies that surrounded recruits leaving for the army and migrants leaving for work in the city. See Burds, Peasant Dreams and Market Politics, pp.12-1 3; and Mary Matossian, "The Peasant Way of Life," in Beatrice Farnsworth and Lynne Viola (eds.), Russian Peasant Women (New York, 1992), p.32.

(33.) For a few contemporary criticisms of settler letters, the rumors that resulted from them, and the influence that letters and rumors had on prospective settlers, see S.L. Chudnovskii, Pereselencheskoe delo na Altae: statistiko-ekonomicheskii ocherk (Irkutsk, 1889), p.129-132; and Charushin, Krest'ianskie pereseleniia v bytovom ike osveshchenii, pp.6-8; Shliapnikov, "Oshibochnye pobuzhdeniia k pereseleniiu," pp.162-163. Francois-Xavier Coquin, who examined the letters for what they reveal of "peasant psychology," also suggests that letters produced "a collective excitement and great hope" among the peasants who read them, though his work certainly makes clear that there were other factors influencing resettlement. See his La Siberie, p.413.

(34.) According to a survey conducted by the Khar'kov zemstvo in 1908, only 20 out of a pool of 300 peasant respondants indicated that letters or rumors were a principal motivation that led them to resettle. By contrast 284 reported that their primary motivation to leave was an inadequate amount of land, though many of these attested to the power of letters as an additional stimulus. These data suggests that peasant settlers, like all migrants, made decisions based on a combination of "push" and "pull" factors, with different factors having more importance for some than for others. For the data on letters and settler motivations, see Pereseleniia krest'ian khar'kovskoi gubernii (Khar'kov, 1908), v.1, pp.4-14. Aleksandr Kaufman, one of the most prolific and knowledgeable students of peasant migration in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, perhaps summed up the rumor issue best when he wrote: "it would be as much a mistake to deny the great importance of these rumors [i.e. fantastical reports of abundance in Siberia, etc.] as it would to see them as the single or main stimulus for resettlement." See his Pereselenie kolonizatsiia, p.189.

(35.) These peasant letters are similar in many respects (i.e. in terms of content, emotional tone, etc.) to the missives sent by other European migrants in other parts of the world. For a perceptive discussion of the migrant letter as a literary form and its various problems, see David Fitzpatrick's introduction in his edited volume, Oceans of Consolation: Personal Accounts of Irish Migration to Australia (Ithaca, N.Y., 1994). For a few other letter collections, see Josephine Wtulich (ed.), Writing Home: Immigrants in Brazil and the United States, 1890-1891 (Boulder, Colo., 1986); Samuel L. Baily and Franco Ramella (eds.), One Family, Two Worlds: An Italian Family's Correspondance Across the Atlantic, 1901-1922 (New Brunswick, N.J., 1988); and Walter D. Kamphoefner et al. (eds.), News from the Land of Freedom: German Immigrants Write Home (Ithaca, N.Y., 1992). On other aspects of letter-writing as a practice and the letter as a genre, see Roger Chartier (ed.), La Correspondance: les usages de la lettre au xi xeme siecle (Paris, 1991).

(36.) I.E. Beliakov, "Pereselenets o Sibiri," Russkowe bogatstvo (1899) #3: 5. For other references to the despair of departure, see Pereseleniia iz Poltavskoi gubernii s 1861 po 1900 g. (Hereafter PPG) (Poltava, 1900), v.2, p.398; and G.I. Uspenskii, "Pis'ma pereselentsev (zametki o tekushchei narodnoi zhizni)," Russkaia mysl' 12 (1891) #1: 204-205.

(37.) PPG, v.2, p.399. For other references to deaths on the road, see PPG, v.2, pp.392,393

(38.) PPG, v.2, p.393.

(39.) See, for example, Beliakov, "Pereselenets o Sibiri," pp.6-7.

(40.) PPG. v.2, pp.381-382. For other letters describing the ocean journey, see PPG, v.2, pp.378-379; and Uspenskii, "Pis'ma pereselentsev," p.215.

(41.) G.T. Khokhlov, "Puteshestive Ural'skikh kazakov v 'Belovodskoe tsarstvo," Zapiski imperatorskogo russkogo geograficheskogo obshchestva po otdeleniiu etnografii 28 (1903) #1.

(42.) For references to these subjects, see Khokhlov, "Puteshestvie Ural'skikh kazakov v 'Belovodskoe tsarstvo.'" pp.19, 27-29, 49-56, 66, 68-69, 75, 93 passim.

(43.) "Iz Stanovskoi volosti, Cheliabinskogo uezda, Orenburgskoi gub. (ot zapasnogo pisaria Kirilla Chistotina)," SV, 1890 #29: 328; and Beliakov, "Pereselenets o Sibiri," p.10.

(44.) Uspenskii, "Pis'ma pereselentsev," pp.215-216.

(45.) V.N. Grigor'ev, Pereseleniia krest'ian Riazankoi gubenii (Moscow, 1885), p.191.

(46.) For a number of contemporary references to newly arrived settlers who were apparently awed and excited by the sight of their new lands, see N.M. ladrintsev, "Na obetovannykh zernliakh (iz puteshestvii po Altaiu)," Sibirskii sboraik (1886) #2: 39; Geier, "Golod i kolonizatsiia Syr-Dar'inskoi oblasti v 1891 godu," p.34; and V.M. Khizhniakov, "lz pereselencheskikh skitanii," Vestnik evropy (1910) #2: 107.

(47.) PPG, v.2, p.381. The authorship of this letter is difficult to make out. I have attributed it here to Kiril Gorbach, but the return address (the only indication of authorship) also suggests that it could be from Ivan Kondrat'evich Bezkrovnyi.

(48.) PPG, v.2, p.396. For other references to the abundance, fertility, and indivisibility of the land in settler letters, see Riazanskomu gubernskomu zemskomu sobraniiu xviii ocherednogo sozyva gubernskoi upravy doklad o pereseleniiakh na iuge gubernii (Hereafter RGZ) (Riazan', 1881), pp.43, 49, 51, 53, 54, 57, 65; and PPG, pp.379, 380, 384 389, 395.

(49.) Grigor'ev, Pereseleniia krest'ian Riazanskoi gubernii, p.164.

(50.) RGZ, p.49.

(51.) Uspenskii, "Pis'ma pereselentsev," p.2l6.

(52.) For a couple of references to the abundance of berries, timber, and fish on the frontier, see PPG, v.2, p.396; and Charushin, Krest'ianskie pereseleniia v bytovom ikh osveshchenii, p.7.

(53.) Uspenskii, "Pis'ma pereselentsev," p.216; PPG, v.2, p.382; Grigor'ev, Pereseleniia krest'ian Riazanskoi gubernii, p.164

(54.) PPG, v.2, p.381.

(55.) Many of the Russian settler letters make explicit appeals to their relatives to trust their descriptions of the frontier, suggesting that listing may have been another way for letter writers to underscore that they were truly living as welt as they were claiming. This was not something only found in Russian settler letters. For discussions of the "rhetoric" of lists and the cataloguing of natural abundance that was a feature of settler letters in American history, see Stephen Fender, Sea Changes: British Emigration and American Literature (New York, 1992), pp.50-60; and Ray Allen Billington, Land of Savagery, Land of Promise: The European Image of the American Frontier in the Nineteenth Century (Norman, Okla., 1981), pp.69-72.

(56.) PPG, v.2, p.384.

(57.) PPG, v.2, p.389.

(58.) See, for example, PPG, v.2, p.387; and Grigor'ev, Pereseleniia krest'ian Riazanskoi gubernii, p.183.

(59.) RGZ, p.47; Grigor'ev, Pereseleniia krest'ian Riazanskoi gubernii, p.188.

(60.) PPG, v.2, p.389.

(61.) RGZ, p.49 and Grigor'ev, Pereseleniia krest'ian Riazanskoi gubernii, p.175.

(62.) For the idea that Siberia represented a place where the peasant could "at last become a true peasant" and have his "independence and dignity" as an agriculturalist restored, see Coquin, La Siberie, p.420. For a few quotes recorded from peasant settlers supporting the idea that they saw their situation in the borderlands as better than their situation at home, see N.M. Iakimov, "Zimov'e: russkaia koloniia v Kirgizskoi stepi (po svedeniiam sobrannym na meste)," Iuridicheskii vestnik (1887) #9: 76; Iu. Sokolovskii, "K voprosu o pereselenii," Khutorianin (1906) #44: 811; F. Voroponov, "K pereselentsam: iz putevykh zametok," Vestnik Evropy (1887) #7: 366.

(63.) "Pereselentsy na Syr-Dat'iu (pis'mo iz slobody Rossoshi, Ostrogozhskogo u., Voronezhskoi gub., ot volostnogo pisaria Nikolaia Ol'shanskogo)," SV (1889) #1: 9-10. Part of this letter is reproduced in Uspenskii, "Pis'ma pereselentsev," pp.210-211.

(64.) See "Iz sela Bogotola, Tomskoi gub. (ot potomstvennogo pochetnogo grazhdanina Aleksandra Ozerova" SV (1890) #10:109; "Iz Stanovskoi volosti, Cheliabinskogo u., Orenburgskoi gubernii (ot zapasnogo pisaria Kirilla Chistotina);" "Iz stanitsy Lobanovskoi, Kokchetavskogo u., Akmolinskoi oblasti (ot uriadnika Sofroniia Andreeva)," SV (1898) #29: 363; and Beliakov, "Pereselenets o Sibiri.;"

(65.) M. Sumkin, V Sibir' za zemliu (iz Kaluzhskoi gubernii v Semipalatinskuiu oblast'): zapiski khodoka (Moscow, 1908). The quoted passage appears on p.3.

(66.) PPG, v.2, p.398.

(67.) PPG, pp.390 (complaint re plowing virgin soil), 393 (no fruit trees and sheep with poor wool), 396-397 (mixed impressions); RGZ, pp.52 (poor land, faraway woods. etc.), 64 (enrollment expensive); and Uspenskii, "Pis'ma pereselentsev," p.217 (unfamiliar epizootics).

(68.) PPG, v.2, p.382.

(69.) RGZ, p.50. For the other negative letter (also from a Riazan' settler in Western Siberia), see RGZ, p.52.

(70.) Letter writers routinely noted that their localities included (among other things) rivers, lakes, forests, and rocks or that their village was located on flat land or on the side of a hill, but they rarely provided much of description of the overall natural landscape and they almost never mentioned aspects of nature that did not bear some practical relation to the quality of the settlement. For one evocative references to a natural feature that was not of direct practical importance, see Grigor'ev, Pereseleniia krest'ian Riazanskoi gubernii, pp.178-179 (description of the "cloud-like mountains" of the Altai).

(71.) See, for example, Sumkin, V Sibir' za zemliu, p.30 (description of general natural environs, including mountains); and Khokhlov, "Puteshestvie Ural'skikh kazakov v 'Belovodskoe tsarstvo,'" pp.43 (description of panorama of Sidon), pp.67-68 (description of landscape and forests of Malacca), passim.

(72.) See Sumkin, V Sibir' za zemliu, pp.9, 23 (references to appearance and/or customs of Tatars and Kazakhs); Khokhlov, "Puteshestvie Ural'skikh kazakov v 'Belovodskoe tsarstvo,'" pp.87-88 (Chinese religious beliefs), 93 (description of physical appearance and dress of Japanese), passim.

(73.) For references to these labels as used by settlers in Western Siberia and the Kazakh steppe, see Andreas Kappeler, "Chochly und Kleinrussen: Die ukrainische landliche und stadtische Diaspora in Russland vor 1917," Jahrbucher fur Geschichte Osteuropas 45 (1997) #1: 54-55.

(74.) For these and other references to neighboring Slavic peasants, see Fedor Korban, "Iz s. Makinskogo, Kokchetovskogo uezda, Akmolinskoi oblasti," SV (1904) #39: 786; RGZ, pp.47-48, 50; and Grigor'ev, Pereseleniia krest'ian Riazanskoi gubernii, pp.158, 163.

(75.) The question of the overall tone of the relationship between newly arrived settlers and well-established ones (including sibiriaki) was an issue that received much attention in late imperial writing, with some authors stressing that new settlers and old ones got along just fine and others arguing that the two groups shared considerable mutual antagonism. For examples of peasant opinions on this score recorded by outside observers, see A.A. Isaev, "S pereselentsami," Severnyi vestnik 5 (1890) #11:34-35; and Chudnovskii, Pereselencheskoe delo na Altae, pp.132-136.

(76.) For a discussion of the way Russian peasants categorized outsiders, including "neighbor outsiders," see Teodor Shanin, The Awkward Class: Political Sociology of Peasantry in a Developing Society; Russia 1910-1925 (New York, 1972), p.178.

(77.) Yuri Slezkine makes this point in his discussion of Russian commoners' views of native peoples in northern Siberia. See his Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North (Ithaca, N.Y., 1994), p.388.

(78.) See, for example, Grigor'ev, Pereseleniia krest'ian Riazanskoi gubernii, p.158 (reference to fact that every one in the village is "from Russia" while "the Bashkirs and Kazakhs are farther away"); and PPG, v.2, p.381 (reference to fact that Chinese traders have a stall in the village).

(79.) For an insightful discussion of this dynamic as it relates to Russian sectarian colonists in Transcaucasia, see Breyfogle, "Heretics and Colonizers," pp.195-196.

(80.) Generalizing about marital customs among Russian communities across the eastern borderlands is difficult since different Russian communities settled in different areas in different historical periods and the relative incidence of marriage between Russians and non-Russians had a great deal to do with local circumstances of settlement and the elaboration of subsequent local traditions. As far as late imperial settlement in the Kazakh steppe or the agricultural zones of Siberia is concerned, however, interethnic marriages were not the norm since Slavic settlement in these areas was unfolding on a large scale and the presence of a large Slavic population meant that Slavs married other Slavs. Native peoples living in significant concentrations in the countryside did the same. Another barrier to marriage between Slavs and non-Slavs in many (though not all) instances was religion. While conversion from Orthodoxy to other Christian faiths was legalized by the law on religious tolerance in 1905, conversion to no n-Christian religions remained considerably more restricted and was, in any case, extremely rare in areas with high concentrations of Orthodox/Slavic settlement.

(81.) For recent studies that describe the violence and socioeconomic dislocation that resulted from intense peasant settlement in nomadic areas in the late imperial period, see Daniel Brower, "Kyrgyz Nomads and Russian Pioneers: Colonization and Ethnic Conflict in the Turkestan Revolt of 1916," Jahrbucher fur Geschichte Osteuropas (44) 1996 #1: 41-53; and Virginia Martin, "Law and Custom in the Steppe: Middle Horde Kazakh Judicial Practices and Russian Colonial Rule, 1868-1898" (Unpublished PhD. Dissertation, University of Southern California, 1996), pp.105-132.

(82.) Grigor'ev, Pereseleniia krest'ian Riazanskoi gubernii, p.180.

(83.) Sumkin, V Sibir' za zemliu, p.36; and P.P. Olenich-Gnenenko, Poezdka Poltavskikh khodokov v Semirech'e s prilozheniem mnenii khodokov uchastvovavshikh v ekspeditsii (Poltava, 1907), p.41.

(84.) For a few references to peasants using these terms, see Kaufman, Po novym mestam, pp.233, 285; N.M. Iakimov, "Zimov'e: russkaia koloniia v Kirgizskoi stepi (po svedeniiam sobrannym na meste)," luridicheskii vestnik (1887) #9: 76; L. Chermak, "Po poselkam Stepnogo Kraia," Sibirskie voprosy (1905) #1: 373; Staryi Stepniak, "Budushchaia pustynia," Sibirskie voprosy 4 (1908) #45/46: 24-25; and Brower, "Kyrgyz Nomads and Russian Pioneers," p.49.

(85.) For a few references to these aspects of settler-Kazakh relations, see Chermak, "Po poselkam Stepnogo kraia," p.373; Kaufman, Po navym mestam, p.235; and F. Shcherbina, Kirgizskaia narodnost' v mestakh krest'iankikh pereselenii (St. Petersburg, 1905), pp.44, 47. For contemporary references to a small number of Russian settlers who "went native," became Muslims, and lived with Kazakhs on the steppe, see F. Sokolov, "Poseshchenie sviashchennikom russkikh poselentsev v kirgizskikh aulakh Nikolaevskogo uezda, Turgaiskoi oblasti," Orenburgskie eparkhial'nye vedomosti (1892) #21: 550; S. G. Rybakov, "Otchet chlena-sotrudnika S. Rybakova o poezdke k kirgizam letom 1896 po porucheniiu Imperatorskogo russkogo geograficheskogo obshchestva: chast' pervaia; obshchie nabliudeniia nad sovremennym bytom kirgiz," Zhivaia starina 7 (1897) #2: 208; and A. A. Kaufman, Pereselentsy-arendatory Turgaiskoi oblasti (St. Petersburg, 1897), pp.108-112.

(86.) See, for example, the settler views described in Brower, "Kyrgyz Nomads and Russian Pioneers," p.48; and in Kaufman, Po novym mestam, p.233. For examples of this dynamic drawn from earlier resettlements, see also Willard Sunderland, "An Empire of Peasants: Empire-Building, Interethnic Interaction, and Ethnic Stereotyping in the Rural World of the Russian Empire, 1800-1850s," in Jane Burbank and David L. Ransel (eds.), Imperial Russia: New Histories for the Empire (Bloomington, Ind., 1998), pp.180-181.

(87.) For other findings that point to the peasants' un-imperial ways of colonizing, see Sunderland, "An Empire of Peasants," p.181; and Breyfogle, "Heretics and Colonizers," p.145.

(88.) The question of how and whether Russian peasants identified with the nation has produced mixed assessments among historians and historical ethnographers. For a range of views, see Moon, "Peasants into Russian Citizens?," Seregny, "Zemstvos, Peasants, and Citizenship," Josh Sanborn, "The Mobilization of 1914 and the Question of the Russian Nation: A Reexamination," Slavic Review 59 (2000) #2: 267-281, M.M. Gromyko, Mir russkoi derevni (Moscow, 1992), pp.229-234; and A.V. Buganov, Russkaia istoriia v pamiati krest'ian xix veka i natsional'noe samosoznanie (Moscow, 1992).

(89.) For references to home-sickness and concerns about home, see Uspenskii, "Pis'ma pereselentsev," p.218; Grigor'ev, Pereseleniia krest'ian Riazanskoi gubernii, pp.184, 190.

(90.) Grigor'ev, Pereseleniia krest'ian iz Riazanskoi gubernii, p.172. The author of the letter is indicated (by the editor) as "the wife of Andrei Efimovich Razsolov."

(91.) Grigor'ev, Pereseleniia krest'ian iz Riazanskoi gubernii, p.183.

(92.) For a discussion of the local nature of peasant identity, see Esther Kingston-Mann, "Breaking the Silence: An Introduction," in Kingston-Mann and Mixter (eds.), Peasant Economy, Culture, and Politics of European Russia, 1800-1921, pp.15-16; and Robert J. Kaiser, The Geography of Nationalism in Russia and the USSR (Princeton, N.J., 1994) p.45.

(93.) Kaiser, The Geography of Nationalism in Russia and the USSR, pp.51-53.

(94.) RGZ, pp.54, 57; Uspenskii, "Pis'ma pereselentsev," pp.214, 215; and Grigor'ev, Pereseleniia krest'ian iz Riazanskoi gubernii, pp.157, 177. Most letter writers were providing this information in order to pass on tips about routes for people at home who were considering resettlement.

(95.) See Sumkin, V Sibir' za zemliu; Beliakov, "Pereselenets o Sibiri"; Khokhlov, "Puteshestvie ural'skikh kazakov v 'Belovodskoe tsarstvo'"; and the knowledge of international geography displayed in longer letters written by maritime migrants in PPG, v.2, pp.378-379, 381-382.

(96.) This complements an argument made recently by David Moon that the long historical practice of migrating to frontier areas allowed Russian peasants to avoid having to practice family limitation and make other "fundamental changes to the peasant way of life." The frontier thus served in a general way as a site for the replication of peasant norms and its presence helps to explain the durability of Russian peasant society. See his "Peasant Migration and the Settlement of Russia's Frontiers, 1550-1897," p.893. At the same time, it is important to note that frontier settlement also exposed peasant culture to a certain amount of change since Russian peasants in the periphery were exposed to non-Russian influences and these influences left their mark on peasant social customs, religious beliefs, and agricultural practices in borderland areas.
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Author:Sunderland, Willard
Publication:Journal of Social History
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Jun 22, 2001

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