Exile to Siberia, 1590-1822by Andrew A. Gentes

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  • Exile to Siberia, 1590-1822 by Andrew A. GentesReview by: Marshall PoeSlavic Review, Vol. 68, No. 3 (Fall, 2009), pp. 691-692Published by:Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25621684 .Accessed: 15/06/2014 00:59

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  • Book Reviews 691

    Gonneau's monograph allows readers of French, who cannot read the Muscovite

    Russian/ Church Slavic originals, to access all the major sources on the historical and

    legendary Sergii. It is ideal for sophisticated interdisciplinary seminars on Russian or com

    parative religious studies. At the same time, this book offers much of value to Muscovite

    historians and specialists on Sergii, the Trinity, and iconographic art. Hidden in the com

    mentary, like jewels, are corrections to the received tradition, significant discoveries, and

    data available for mining. No one will be able to write on topics related to Sergii and Trin

    ity without referencing this book.

    Gail Lenhoff

    University of California, Los Angeles

    Exile to Siberia, 1590-1822. By Andrew A. Gentes. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. xiii, 271 pp. Notes. Bibliography. Glossary. Index. Map. $69.95, hard bound.

    In the western mind, the word Siberia is virtually synonymous with the word exile. Yet most

    westerners know little about the genesis of this identity or whether it is deserved. Our his

    toriography on the topic is thin, particularly that concerning the prerevolutionary epoch. As with all things in Russian history, the Soviet period has received the most attention.

    Thanks to our intense interest in the contemporary and horrifically violent, we know quite a bit about the gulag but much less about what came before. That, of course, is a shame

    because as anyone who has taken the time to study the issue knows, the Soviets hardly invented the tradition of sending various and sundry "undesirables" to the east. The com

    munists claimed to be inventing a new world, but here as in so many other cases they were

    merely continuing and amplifying the old, with awful results.

    We should therefore thank Andrew Gentes for writing a fine, readable, theoretically informed book on this neglected subject. It is not an easy one to study. Most of the relevant

    secondary sources of any value were produced by imperial historians, and the archives? which are not exactly rich?are scattered throughout the vast eastern region. Gentes has consulted all of the former and visited a good number of the latter in his effort to shed

    light on what George Kennan (the Elder) called the "exile system." If one had to sum up Gentes's chief finding, it would be that Siberian exile was not

    much of a "system," but a rather poorly planned, badly administered, unprofitable reflex of an oppressive, corrupt, and sometimes delusional political system. Like all premodern polities, the tsarist court had reason to send those out of favor far away, and Siberia? which for all intents and purposes was a vast emptiness?proved a convenient place to

    accomplish this task. So as soon as the Muscovites "conquered" Siberia (though "conquer" is not really the right word, for the place was largely uninhabited), they began to dispatch expendable people to the eastern frontier. Some were disgraced politicians, some were

    criminals, and some were simply innocents unlucky enough to find themselves in the

    wrong place at the wrong time. They were never very many, numbering in the tens of thou sands. Many of them died trying to get there or back. While there, they lived badly.

    The authorities were, then, first and foremost interested in getting rid of the exiles. But like enterprising and favor-currying authorities everywhere, they were not about to let free labor go to waste. The unproductive had to be made productive. So they put the exiles to work in the hope that Siberia might be turned into something more than it was. In the

    eyes of Muscovite and imperial leaders, Siberia was not just a dumping ground; it was also a "project." Alas, it was not a very good one. We tend to think of Siberia as a vast repository of untapped wealth. Perhaps that image is accurate today. But in premodern times Siberia was a hard place to eek out a living, let alone develop economically. Siberia was almost

    empty for a reason. Growing crops was hard, mining deadly, labor too thin-on-the-ground to set up any sort of serious industry. Premodern Siberia could sustain only two productive enterprises: fur extraction and taxation of the locals. In fact, the two were virtually one and the same, for the locals paid in furs. As Gentes shows, none of these realities stopped Russian bureaucrats from dreaming up evermore surreal plans to "improve" Siberia and make it a "profitable" part of the empire.

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  • 692 Slavic Review

    They failed. It is ironic that the primary accomplishment of Russian rule in Siberia was to hold Siberia?not that anyone was interested in poaching it. It does not seem that

    it "paid for itself," though such things are hard to tally. None of this changed in the Soviet

    era, as one can see by reading Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy's excellent The Siberian Curse:

    How Communist Planners Left Russia Out in the Cold (2003). There is no doubt that we will continue to think of Siberia as a symbol for exile, but we should also think of it as a monu

    ment to delusional, dirigist plans for "development."

    Marshall Poe

    University of Iowa

    Russia, 1762-1825: Military Power, the State, and the People. By Janet M. Hartley. Studies in

    Military History and International Affairs. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2008. ix, 318 pp. Notes. Bibliography. Glossary. Index. Tables. $120.00, hard bound.

    Janet M. Hartley's new book examines the claims that Russia was a garrison state and that

    Russian society became militarized as a result of government actions intended to sustain its

    army and navy during a period when Russia was nearly perpetually at war. Any such discus

    sion naturally rests on an understanding of "militarization." Here it is succinctly defined

    as "priority ... is given to military affairs, and the means for achieving victory in war, over

    all other areas of activity" (5). This definition is taken also to imply a lack of separation between military and civilian life in daily interactions and a significant role for the military in institutional and economic change at the governmental and social level.

    In many respects, Hartley's examination is a fascinating one, offering a series of re

    vealing analyses of new archival information in the context of existing studies of turn-of

    the-century Russia. Hartley points out, for example, that Russia's huge standing army was

    less intrusive for the population than might have been expected. Lifelong (or twenty-five

    year) military service, instead of recruiting a number of younger men for briefer periods,

    was partly responsible; heavy reliance on irregulars and men of the steppe borderlands

    (Cossacks, Bashkirs) for frontier defense also limited the number of Russians drawn from

    the heartland. Meanwhile, as had long been the case, Russian peasant communities were

    isolated from their own conscripts once they had departed their villages. More deliber

    ately, new state policies reinforced spatial and cultural divisions between civilians and the

    military. The nobility, whose lives as a group were much more closely intertwined with

    the military, gave evidence of a military mentalite. They were not inculcated with a military

    ethos as a result of state policy or education, however; quite the contrary, their education

    and the state's effort to find secular standing for nobles no longer required to serve after

    1762 implied the opposite. In an examination of military costs and impact, Hartley cal

    culates that the military's influence on the economy was considerable, driving industrial

    development. More significantly, however, agricultural demand from the army was insuf

    ficient to have any substantial impact. Nor did the army's enormous cost, examined here

    in some detail, drive change or institutional reform; military victories insulated it from any

    such requirement. Only the Napoleonic wars, which nearly bankrupted an already over

    extended state, urged Alexander I to introduce military colonies?a failed effort to create

    militarized peasant communities that could help bear the expense of the vast army.

    Hartley's examination offers a number of new insights and