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Craig Lang

What started as a daring idea to fly a biplane from Bellingham, Washington, to Alaska and then across the Bering Strait to Provideniya, Russia, has evolved into a project of international scale. Few people have ever heard of the Lend-Lease Air Route (otherwise known as the Northern Route and the Alaska-Siberia Airway) or know of the key role it played during World War II. It was a vital support network for the Soviet Union and one of the great logistical efforts of the twentieth century. In 2013, the BRAVO 369 Flight Foundation test flew the first leg of this air route as part of the flight recreation and documentary Warplanes to Siberia.

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David Lester and Sergei Kondrichin

A study of the regional variation of suicide and homicide rates in the 1990s in Siberia showed that suicide rates were associated with clusters of variables measuring economic poverty and ethnic composition, while homicide rates were associated only with a cluster of variables measuring ethnic composition.

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Karl Mertens

Mobility is an aspect of human activity that is highly contextual but also in need of a framework for comparative analysis through time and space. This article examines Evenki mobility patterns and their relationship to economic practices of hunting, fishing, and reindeer herding, and utilizes a framework for considering mobility cross-culturally. The Evenkis are an indigenous minority living throughout central and eastern Siberia in the Russian Federation. In the fall and winter of 2011/2012, fieldwork among two groups of Evenkis documented patterns of mobility for reindeer pasturage, foraging and logistical purposes. Mobility related to these activities is connected to specific ecological, social, and economic factors.

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Joachim Otto Habeck

This special issue of Sibirica comprises a selection of papers presented at the conference “'Everything is still before you“: being young in Siberia today' (Halle, November 2003). This introduction opens with a short review of the conventional social-sciences approach toward youth (especially indigenous youth) as an 'object of concern'. A brief summary of the subsequent papers follows, highlighting several crosscutting themes: (1) the concept of youth, the process of becoming an adult and the expectations connected with it; (2) acquisition of knowledge within and outside formal education; and (3) sports, music and games as meaningful and creative spheres of social interaction. The introduction concludes with the argument that the ambit of 'Siberian' anthropology can be significantly enlarged through the integration of sociological and cultural studies approaches and methods into ethnographic inquiry.

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Claudia Weiss

Siberia is more than a region of Russia; it is also an integral part of how Russians understand themselves. This cultural historical article examines the process by which Russians incorporated Siberia through the ideology of nash (ours; female nasha, neuter nashe), a possessive term that has deep roots in Russian literary and philosophical traditions. The author argues that it is important for us to understand the 'mental appropriation' of Siberia in order to understand its place in Russia today.

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Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer

This essay, based on field notes from 1976 to 2013, explores resonances of the GULag and exile system in Siberia, focusing on often ignored indigenous peoples in villages and towns. Interethnic relations, diverse community relationships with prison camps, and dynamics of Russian Orthodox and pre-Christian spirituality are explored. Debates about how to understand, teach, and memorialize the significance of the Stalinist system are analyzed, as are issues of shame, moral debilitation, and cultural revitalization. Featured cases include the Khanty of West Siberia, Sibiriaki of West and East Siberia, plus Éveny, Évenki, Yukagir, and Sakha of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia). The author argues that what local people have chosen to emphasize as they reflect on and process the GULag varies greatly with their and their ancestors' specific experiences of the camps and exiles, as well as with their degrees of indigeneity.

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Andrew A. Gentes

The ostracizing of mentally and physically disabled individuals is a cross-cultural phenomenon that amounts to what Henri-Jacques Stiker calls a “murderous system,“ which does not kill such individuals outright, but instead indirectly. This as well as Foucault's notions about the construction of madness and deviancy serve as a departure point for understanding tsarist Russia's murderous system of deporting the disabled to Siberia. This article charts this system's operation over the longue durée, from the midsixteenth to the late nineteenth century; describes the motivations and factors conditioning those powerbrokers who exiled the disabled; and provides data on the number of disabled exiles and describes conditions they faced. I argue that the state's exploitation of the peasantry, the peasantry's inculcation of commodifying economic imperatives, and the availability of Siberia's expanses combined to make Russia's a uniquely murderous system that lasted for centuries.

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Matthew Romaniello

Russia transitioned from enforcing the world’s longest ban on importing tobacco in the seventeenth century to legalizing the product at the beginning of the eighteenth and ultimately becoming one of the world’s largest producers of tobacco by the nineteenth century. A part of this process neglected by historians is the way in which Russia distributed tobacco among the indigenous communities in Siberia, Kamchatka, and Russian America, creating new consumers where none had existed. This article discusses both the process by which Russia exported tobacco to its frontier and the manner in which tobacco consumption was localized among its diverse populations. Tobacco was not a single product experienced the same way throughout the empire but rather became a marker of difference, demonstrating the multiple communities and trade networks that influenced the nature of Russia’s colonial presence in Asia and the North Pacific.

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Alison K. Smith

Although histories of migration to Siberia describe the eighteenth century as a period of less movement than either the seventeenth or nineteenth centuries, the regulation of such mobility evolved considerably over the course of the century. This article looks at three foci of legislation: the act of getting to Siberia, the act of fixing oneself in an official status in Siberia, and the legislation of forced and targeted mobility. In all these areas, decrees show a change from viewing Siberia as a distinctly different space with its own rules and exceptions to a space more fully integrated with the larger system of governance in the empire and more fully understood as a part of Russia proper, not simply as a mercantile colony.

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Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer

An analysis of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) in the Russian Federation reveals a variety of village and urban reactions to crises of faith and power. The significance for group identity and instances of synergistic group belief are discussed. The transition that has seen amorphous underground shamanic practice lead to the institutionalization of shamanic cosmology is reflected in the recent opening of a temple in the Republic's capital, Yakutsk, and in the various groups that adhere to charismatic healers and seers. Debates about faith, as well as fragmented faith epistemologies, are described. The data derive from over 25 years of intermittent fieldwork in the Republic and with the Sakha diaspora. My approach is situated at the crossroads of medical-psychological anthropology, political anthropology, and new religious movement analysis.