Silence in the Woods

Finno-Ugric Peoples of the Russian North and Western Siberia in the Ethnographic Literature from the Eighteenth to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century

in Sibirica
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This article explores the ethnographic, philosophical, and political background of the image of the northern peoples as “silent,” by analyzing the diachronic perspective descriptions of the Finno-Ugric peoples of the north who inhabit Western Siberia and the Russian North from the eighteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth. Early modern ethnographies treated the Siberian peoples as aggressive, although from the end of the eighteenth century this image was reassessed and a different view of the silent character of the indigenous people was introduced in scholarly literature. Silent conduct was assessed as an archaic quality of the Finno-Ugric temperament, or as the result of the colonial encounter. This manifestation of silence was the most distinctive marker of the modern transformations of power and knowledge in the arena of Siberian studies.