Colonisation models of remote taiga areas by Russian fur hunters and fishermen of the Middle and Lower Irtysh River region

in the 20th century 

Adaev V.N.  (Tyumen, Russian Federation)


              page 199206


The Russian colonists, inhabiting southern and mid-taiga regions of Western Siberia since the 17th c., always relied heavily on hunter-gathering in their subsistence. The reasons for this were the obvious difficulties of northern agriculture and the economic benefits that hunting, fishing and gathering brought, including their significant commercial value. The active development of the commercial harvesting among the Russian Siberians already in the 19th c. was hampered by the inaccessibility of many valuable hunting and fishing areas first of all, remote taiga territories, which were in patrimonial land tenure of the indigenous inhabitants. The process of settlers' penetration into such territories, which unfolded in the 20th c., still has not been considered in detail in historical and ethnographic literature. The paper discusses the free colonization of the Demyanka River basin (Uvatsky District of the Tyumen region, Russia) by Russians in the first half of the 20th c. based on field and archival data, as well as publications of the 1900-1930s. The main research methods include systematic and comparative historical analyses. It has been concluded that migrants from the Middle and Lower Irtysh regions populated the neighboring deep taiga territory using different routes; they presented two noticeably different models of colonization. The migration took place in several waves, but the most significant happened in the 1930s. The majority of the migrants were Russian Siberian old-timers who had the necessary experience and knowledge of the local conditions. For a substantial number of the Russian Irtysh region settlers peasants, hunters and fishermen the departure to the taiga became an escape from the external social pressure and government control, allowing them to improve their economic well-being. In this regard, surrounded by swamps impassable and vast area of the Demyanka River basin for several decades represented a reliable refuge for fugitives who wanted to be beyond the easy reach of the state.

Key words: Siberian ethnography, Russian Siberian old-timers, taiga hunting-fishing economy, forced migration, routine resistance of peasants.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Accepted: 07.09.2020

Article is published: 27.11.2020


Adaev V.N.

Tyumen Scientific Centre of Siberian Branch RAS, Malygin st., 86, Tyumen, 625026, Russian Federation