Статья 'Сибирское областничество как интеллектуальное и общественно-политическое движение в эпистолярном и научно-публицистическом наследии Г.Н. Потанина' - журнал 'Genesis: исторические исследования' - NotaBene.ru
Journal Menu
> Issues > Rubrics > About journal > Authors > About the Journal > Requirements for publication > Editorial collegium > The editors and editorial board > Peer-review process > Policy of publication. Aims & Scope. > Article retraction > Ethics > Online First Pre-Publication > Copyright & Licensing Policy > Digital archiving policy > Open Access Policy > Open access publishing costs > Article Identification Policy > Plagiarism check policy
Journals in science databases
About the Journal

MAIN PAGE > Back to contents
Genesis: Historical research

Siberian Regionalism as an intellectual and socio-political movement in the epistolary and scientific-journalistic heritage of G.N. Potanin

Tokmurzayev Bakyt

ORCID: 0000-0003-3972-2329

PhD in History

Acting Associate Professor of the Department of National and Foreign History of Syrdarya University

160500, Kazakhstan, Turkestanskaya oblast', g. Zhetysai, ul. M. Auezova, 11

Другие публикации этого автора




Review date:


Publish date:


Abstract: The article is devoted to the problem of reception by the leader of the Siberian regionalism G.N. Potanin, factors of formation, circumstances of development and evolution of the regional movement as an ideology that was formed in the conditions of colonization in the outlying (Siberian) regions of the Russian Empire. The object of the research is the socio-political discourse of Russia in the second half of the 19th - early 20th centuries. The subject of the study is Siberian regionalism as an intellectual and socio-political movement in the epistolary and scientific-journalistic heritage of G.N. Potanin. The purpose of this article is to identify the ideas of G.N. Potanin about regionalism as an intellectual and socio-political movement that was formed in the active phase of his life biography. In methodological terms, the formulation of the problem, its solution and conclusions are provided by approaches and practices tested within the framework of the research direction new cultural and intellectual history, one of the problematic fields of which is intellectual biography and discursive practices. Within the framework of this article, the concept of “representation” is the semantic one, reflecting the subjective interpretation of the historical reality by G.N. Potanin in connection with the functioning of the regional movement as a sociocultural phenomenon. The sources of the research are the scientific and journalistic writings of G.N. Potanin and his extensive epistolary heritage, which captured the ideas of one of the leaders of the regionalists about the evolution of the movement in the wide chronological boundaries of the second half of the 19th - early 20th centuries. The author concludes that the history of regionalism as an intellectual and social movement was closely associated with the biographical context of the fate of the leaders of the movement. This fact, according to G.N. Potanin determined the evolution of the regional ideology, which has come a long way from manifestations of local patriotism, radical political delusions, to the construction of an original concept based on the recognition of Siberia as a colony of Russia.

Keywords: scientific and journalistic texts, epistolary heritage, representations, cultural and intellectual history, colonization, ideas, socio-political discourse, Siberian regionalism, The Russian Empire, Siberia
This article is automatically translated. You can find full text of article in Russian here.


The topic of Siberian oblastnichestvo as an intellectual and socio-political movement has always been in the optics of researchers, since the regional theory formulated in the programs and works of its ideologists represented, to some extent, an alternative project of state-building and organization of society in the conditions of the outskirts of the Russian Empire, which is clearly recorded by the historiographical tradition of the issue [1, 2, 3, 9, 10, 13, 14].

At the same time, beyond the limits of research interest, there still remains a wide range of problems related to the self-reflection of the leaders of the Siberian regionalism, the content of the discourse of the phenomenon of the regional movement, represented in their texts, which captured not only scientific reception, but also the emotional experience of the iconic episodes of their public biography, which determines the scientific significance and relevance of the appeal to the epistolary and a scientific and journalistic array of materials that came from the pen of the oblasts.

The purpose of the article is to identify G.N. Potanin's ideas about regionalism as an intellectual and socio-political movement formed in the active phase of his life biography, which led to the choice of a fairly conventional chronological framework of research - the second half of the XIX – early XX centuries.

The provisions and conclusions of the article are based on epistolary materials (letters of G.N. Potanin to his associates, in which he acted as an addressee and addressee) and scientific and journalistic texts that reflected the understanding of the Siberian regionalist of the history of the formation and functioning of the regionalism as an ideology and social political movement.

The main part

 G.N. Potanin's belonging to the Siberian regionalism as an intellectual and socio-political movement was closely connected with his cultural and group identity, biographical experience of self-reflection, represented in intimate epistolary texts, journalistic and scientific literature. It should be noted that G.N. Potanin's construction of the image of regionalism as a socio-cultural and political phenomenon was the product of his ideas that developed throughout his life, which predetermined the formation of a complex and multifaceted evaluation model of the phenomenon under consideration.

It is also necessary to take into account the fact that the ideas of Siberian patriots, including G.N. Potanin about the regionalism, were formed under the influence of "traumatic" biography plots, which, firstly, contributed to their inclusion in socio-political activities and the development of the political and ideological program of the movement, and secondly, it gave receptive judgments an emotionally expressive character, which allows us to penetrate into the psychological state of the authors, to trace those changes in the assessments of the regionalism that were caused by personal experience.

It is well known that the life path of G.N. Potanin, widely represented in Russian historiography, including its Siberian segment, is marked by a number of traumatic plots that largely determined his political preferences. Potanin's childhood (born in 1835) passed virtually without parental supervision (his mother died when he was 5 years old, and his father was in prison). In 1846, he was sent by his father to the military command school in Omsk, where he studied for 6 years, having first encountered social inequality. Belonging to the Cossack estate put at a disadvantage in relation to noble children, which was clearly manifested in the content of educational programs: for cadets from the nobility – dancing and German, for Cossack offspring – horse riding and Tatar language. According to the authors of the introductory article to the publication of the first volume of G.N. Potanin's letters, "since childhood, Potanin and his peers' sense of social inequality turned into resentment, gave rise to spontaneous protest" [4, p.11].

No less traumatic could be the next period of G.N. Potanin's biography, associated with the experience of Cossack service – the "25-year Cossack strap" [4, p. 11]. However, it was the service conditions and circumstances, constant traveling and interpersonal contacts that contributed to the expansion of the communication space of the future oblast, which included such iconic characters – carriers of "Siberian patriotic trends" as Ch.Ch. Valikhanov, P.P. Semenov, S.F. Durov, F. Usov, etc. According to G.N. Potanin himself, his political beliefs during this period "have not yet been fully developed... in the young Cossack circle he was a "Cossack patriot", and in the Kapustins' house he became a "Siberian patriot", a liberal and a supporter of reforms" [6].

The rise of the social movement of the 1850s - early 1860s and the growing popularity of higher education ensured the influx of immigrants from the democratic environment of the outlying regions to the largest universities of the country (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan), which marked the beginning of the formation of fellow countrymen, including Siberian, the basis of which was N.M. Yadrintsev, G.N. Potanin, N.I. Naumov, I.A. Khudyakov, etc. It was at the beginning of the 1860s that the general formation of G. N. Potanin's political beliefs took place, influenced on the one hand by revolutionary democratic rhetoric (A.I. Herzen, N.P. Ogarev, N.G. Chernyshevsky), on the other hand, the federalist concepts of N.I. Kostomarov and A.P. Shchapov, which ultimately turned out to be fixed in the program of the Siberian circle, whose leaders demanded the introduction of a federal community-democratic constitution and the assertion of the right of peoples to identity, regional autonomy and self-government.

The return of G.N. Potanin and his associates from the capital to Siberia in 1862-1864 testified to a change in the tactics of the oblast officials and the transition from theoretical work to propaganda activities, the result of which was the well-known case of "Siberian separatists", fabricated by the imperial and regional authorities in 1865, with subsequent repressive and punitive measures against the group, a prominent participant and leader of which was G.N. Potanin.

Unfortunately, we have to state that the emotional reaction of the "victims", a complex system of emotional experiences and perception of trauma remains beyond the scope of the scientist's interest, which further influenced the construction of the subsequent behavior strategy imprinted in their socio-political and scientific-journalistic activities of the oblasts [12, p.340], we add that the traumatic situation the civil execution, followed by hard labor and exile to the settlement, experienced by G.N. Potanin, significantly stimulated his understanding of the inner nature of the regional ideology, the circumstances of its evolution in a long time perspective.

G.N. Potanin's experience of the traumas of personal and political biography before 1865 was most vividly materialized in the texts written in the period 1872-1913, which captured the author's understanding of the regional concept.

In the epistolary legacy of G.N. Potanin, which compiled 662 letters to various addressees, among whom P.P. Semenov-Tyan-Shansky, L.N. Maikov, V.A. Obruchev, A.N. Pypin, N.M. Yadrintsev, D.N. Anuchin, etc., first of all, we will highlight the emotional-evaluative approach of the author to the regionalism with a clear emphasis on personal experience of participation in the movement. So, in one of the first letters to N.M. Yadrintsev, sent from exile to Nikolsk, Arkhangelsk province, dated February 28, 1872, Potanin reported: "I, following your example, wanted to exploit my own "lute days" and counted on it as the first earnings" [4, p.81]. In the same letter, G.N. Potanin, in an ironic manner, gave a general picture of his stay in penal servitude: "I would not like to write about the way of my life in Sveaborg, but in short I will try to satisfy your requirement. For the first six months he worked in squares, hammered rubble, drove tarataiki with a stone, chopped ice, sawed wood, sang "Bludgeon", sat in rows. Finally, the authorities, in the form of improving my situation, appointed me to the dog slaughterhouse, and for the whole summer I was a dog Attila and planted terror in the dog's hearts. Then I was promoted even higher - to woodcutters, then to gardeners and teachers. They fed us with oats, which was decent for the animals that carried tarataiki. For three years he did not drink tea, did not eat beef, lived as a shaker and did not receive letters from anyone, except one from Ivan Fedorovich Sokolov, and two from Katanaev" [4, p. 82].

It is significant that in subsequent letters, G.N. Potanin does not return to the traumatic experience of hard labor, focusing on key issues of Siberian reality, including new tasks relevant for the period of reformatting regional ideology.

G.N. Potanin's formulation of the priority tasks of the Siberian regional intelligentsia, in the epistolary texts of this period, becomes a kind of "launching pad" for understanding the regionalism as a local community and social movement, represented in his later works. Thus, among the most important functions of his own and his associates, G.N. Potanin counts the tasks of an applied nature related to the conduct of expeditionary activities and scientific expertise of Asian spaces, the study of the state and prospects of local industry and agriculture, the formation of the Siberian intelligentsia as an actor of enlightenment, the solution of exile-convict and "foreign" issues [4, pp. 84-142]; [5, pp.7, 109-123].

The important thing here is that as a result of the long-term epistolary communication of the figures of the Siberian regionalism, their active journalistic and educational activities, thoughtful and regular reading, coupled with an understanding of the ideology and practice of the movement, there was an accumulation of material that allows us to move to a new qualitative level of reflection of the regionalism.

For G.N. Potanin, his special work "The Regional Trend in Siberia", originally published in separate fragments in the newspaper "Siberian Life" in 1907 and in the same year in a separate edition, became an instrument of concentrated translation of the assessment of the regional experience and the representation of the complex "biography" of the movement [8]. The paper presents a dynamic picture of the formation, development and evolution of regionalism as a movement and ideology, which turned out to be fixed in the structure of the scientific and journalistic opus. G.N. Potanin consistently identified the main stages of the history of regionalism: the local regional trend until the 1860s, the practical activities of Siberian regionalists in the 1860s, the development of the ideology of the movement in this period and its main issues, as well as the long-term prospects for the functioning of oblastnichestvo [7, pp.126-151].

Already in the preamble of his work, G.N. Potanin clearly distinguishes the term "regionalism", which came into use in the early 1860s, and Siberian local patriotism, which tendentiously manifested itself much earlier in works of local lore and educational activities of the regional artistic intelligentsia [7, p.126]. According to G.N. Potanin, Siberian patriotism was first presented in the research studies of P.A. Slovtsov, who "was not generous with patriotic phrases, but the Siberian readers of his book [11] had no doubt that it was written in the consciousness of the need to give fellow countrymen a reading that would attract their attention to their motherland" [7, p.126]. The forerunner of oblastnichestvo as an intellectual movement, G.N. Potanin called the Siberian poet P.P. Ershov, who, while studying at St. Petersburg University, drew up a plan for personal service to the interests of Siberia: he promised himself to lay the foundation for Siberian literature, awaken life in a sleeping country, and, by creating the Siberian intelligentsia, breathe spirituality into the hearts of people living in remote region [7, p.128].

As one of the main sources of the origin of Siberian patriotism and the regional trend, G.N. Potanin designated the peasantry of the region, which, from his point of view, "... was the first to distinguish itself from the rest of the peasant world, and after it the Siberian intelligentsia, coming from the Siberian people, began to distinguish itself from the all-Russian intelligentsia" [7, p.129].

G.N. Potanin believed that the "native" intelligentsia, which came out of the Siberian peasantry, which was formed separately from the Russian communal-agricultural traditions, is more disposed to individual actions and decisions and "should consider it a sacred duty to serve the interests of the entire Siberian population" [7, p.130].

According to the logic of G.N. Potanin's reasoning, the outgrowth of local patriotism into regionalism, as an intellectual and socio-political movement, was accompanied by the atmospheric background of the reforms of the 1860s, which aroused interest in the nascent Siberian intelligentsia in the shortcomings of the social life of the region, its backwardness in education and its belittled political status as an imperial suburb [7, p.130].

The ideological formation of oblastnichestvo, in the understanding of G.N. Potanin, took place precisely in the 1860s, when there was a certain gap between the initial patriotic sentiments, vague and abstract, in the view of the generation of P.A. Slovtsov, P.P. Ershov and their contemporaries and the understanding of regional tasks by young Siberians who actively collaborated with the metropolitan intelligentsia. A powerful influence on the formation of oblastnichestvo as an ideology was predetermined by the expansion of the reading circle of students and the influence of Western social ideas (e. Tylor, P.-J. Proudhon), including theories of colonization, relayed by domestic orientalists (Peyzin G.G., Berezin I.N.). As a result, the basis of the ideological platform of the Siberian regionalism was made up of three Siberian questions: about exile, colonial policy and youth absenteeism, which can be overcome only by means of university education. Subsequently, the "foreign" and resettlement issues were added to the program [7, pp.132-133].

According to G.N. Potanin, the new generation of patriots who returned to Siberia had very vague ideas about how to solve the two primary strategic objectives of their program – to study Siberia and promote knowledge about it [7, p.133], due to the limited "platforms" for the dissemination of regional ideology. An important comment needs to be made here: the lack of communication channels with society (in fact, only two newspapers: Tomsk Provincial Vedomosti and Siberian Bulletin) did not allow the oblasts to fully present their ideas and explain to society the peripheral nature of the tasks aimed at separating Siberia from Russia, which, from their point of view, it should have happened naturally, as it happened with the European colonies.

 The ridiculous incident that occurred in Omsk, when a proclamation containing the corresponding paragraph was found in the apartment of a Cossack officer, became a significant milestone of the "reset" of the regionalism and the appearance of new connotations in the program and ideology of the movement. G.N. Potanin, reflecting on the evolution, or rather, systematization of the views of the regionalists, considered the episode with the separatist case as a positive factor that influenced the future fate of the leaders of the Siberian intelligentsia and the regional movement as a whole. In particular, he wrote that, for example, "Yadrintsev ... found the environment in the prison that he needed for observations ..., and observations in the Omsk prison served him as material for the book "Community in prison and exile" [16], which represents the first protest of a Siberian resident against exile to Siberia" [7, pp.135-136].

The influence of the socio-cultural environment, in the context of the formation of the ideological program of the oblast, according to G.N. Potanin, continued to perform its constructive function in the first half of the 1870s, during the exile period of the biography of the leaders of the oblasts. Finding themselves in the conditions of many restrictions, including financial ones, the oblasts engaged in active journalistic work, cooperating with central and regional print publications. On the pages of the press (Delo, Volzhsko-Kamskaya Gazeta, Siberia), regional ideas were spoken and polished. G.N. Potanin, focusing on the special role of N.M. Yadrintsev in constructing the ideology of the regional movement, noted the constantly expanding range of problems discussed by him: along with the traditional theme of local patriotism, N.M. Yadrintsev wrote a lot about the fate and significance of the provincial press, the need to decentralize mental life in Russia and the disastrous influence of concentrating all state work in St. Petersburg [7, p.138].

In many ways, it was the journalistic experience, G.N. Potanin believed, that gave the regionalists a real opportunity not only to develop, but also to professionally broadcast their ideas, which ultimately contributed to the final design of the regionalism as an intellectual and socio-political movement. In the 1880s, the printing organs of the Siberian oblastnichestvo appeared and gained strength: "Eastern Outlook", "Siberian Newspaper", "Siberian Bulletin", which carried out the tasks of broadcasting the ideology of the movement in the wide territorial borders of Siberia.

G.N. Potanin, discussing the phenomenon of the representation of regional ideas in the Siberian press, noted that with the end of the "golden age" of the Siberian periodical press in the 1890s and the disappearance of patriotic newspapers, a distorted idea of regionalism began to develop in an educated society, as a direction focused on revealing only negative aspects of Siberian life. On this occasion, G.N. Potanin replied to his opponents that the main trend of the regional ideology, which for many years connected the broad layers of the regional intelligentsia, was the philosophy of overcoming the isolation of Siberia: geographical, social, intellectual, cultural [7, p.141].

The future of the Siberian regional trend, G.N. Potanin associated with the acquisition of Siberia a more independent status in relation to the metropolis – Russia, believing that "... Siberia in some cases could serve as a soil for useful political experiments, become an example for other regions and become a support for the development of democratic institutions in European Russia" [7, p.151].   


Thus, the Siberian regionalism in the epistolary and scientific-journalistic heritage of G.N. Potanin is presented as a complex and dynamically developing construct. On the pages of his works, both intimate and public, the logic of the functioning of oblastnichestvo is embedded in the biographical context of the fate of the movement's figures, which, according to G.N. Potanin, determined the evolution of regional ideology, which has gone a long way from manifestations of local patriotism, radical political misconceptions, to the construction of a concept in which Siberia was recognized as a colony The Russian Empire and, in the image and likeness of the European colonies, had the right not only to the guardianship provided by the metropolis, but also to implement various scenarios of independent existence in the cultural and socio-political spheres.


Adrianov, A.V. (1915). To the biography of G.N. Potanin. Collection for the 80th anniversary of G.N. Potanin, Tomsk: Typo-lithography of the Siberian Department of Printing, pp. I – XXXI.
Kovalyashkina, E.P. (2005). "The foreign question" in Siberia. Concepts of state policy and regional thought. Tomsk: Publishing House Vol. un-ta, 326 p.
Pelikh, G.I. (1972). Potanin's historical concept. Materials of the inter-university. scientific conf. dedicated. The 50th anniversary of the formation of the USSR. Tomsk, Issue
pp.125-132. 4. Letters of G.N. Potanin. (1987). Vol.1. Irkutsk: Publishing House of Irkutsk University, 280 p.
Letters of G.N. Potanin. (1989). Vol.3. Irkutsk: Publishing House of Irkutsk University, 296 p.
Potanin, G.N. Memoirs (1913). Siberian Life. No. 62 [Electronic resource] // URL: https://www.elib.tomsk.ru/purl/1-4479 / (Accessed: 1.05.2022)
Potanin, G.N. (2014). Regional trend in Siberia. Favorites. Tomsk: TPO, pp. 126-152.
Potanin, G.N. (1907). Regional trend in Siberia. Tomsk: Steam typo-lithography of the Siberian Printing Association, 64 p.
Sagalaev, A.M., Kryukov, V.M. (2004). Potanin, the last encyclopedist of Siberia: The experience of understanding personality. Tomsk: Publishing house of NTL, 208 p.
Sesyunina, M.G. (1974). G.N. Potanin and N.M. Yadrincev – ideologists of the Siberian regionalism. Tomsk: Publishing House Vol. un-ta,. 176 p.
Slovtsov, P.A. (1995). Historical review of Siberia. Novosibirsk: Publishing house "Ven-Mer", 668 p.
Tokmurzayev, B.S., Churkin, M.K., Apasheva, S.N. (2022). Representations of Asian Russia as a Colony in the Epistolary Discourse of the Leaders of the Siberian Regionalism. Published in the USA by Bylye Gody. 17(1): 338-348. DOI: 10.13187/bg.2022.1.338
Churkin, M.K. (2021). "Subalterns" of colonization in the scientific, journalistic and literary heritage of N.M. Yadrincev. Imagology and comparative studies. No. 15. pp.236-248.
Churkin, (2017). M.K. Siberian colonial discourse in the feuilletons of N.M. Yadrincev. Humanities in Siberia. Vol.24. No.3. pp.122-125.
Shilovsky, M.V. (2004). "Utter selfless devotion to science". G.N. Potanin: A biographical sketch. Novosibirsk: "Owl", 240 p.
Yadrincev, N.M. (2015). Russian community in prison and exile. M.: Institute of Russian Civilization, 752 p.
Link to this article

You can simply select and copy link from below text field.

Other our sites:
Official Website of NOTA BENE / Aurora Group s.r.o.
"History Illustrated" Website