'Licentious girls' and frontier domesticators

Women and Siberian exile from the late 16th to the early 19th centuries

in Sibirica
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This article aims at filling the historiographical gap of the part played by women in the early Siberian exile system. The state exploited both their bodies and labour, forcing them to be sexual pacifiers and producers of babies as well as 'frontier domesticators' in general. First sent in the late sixteenth century, their numbers increased after the Ulozhenie of 1649, which largely replaced the death sentence with exile. Further important stages in development were marked by Peter the Great as part of his construction of a service state and by Catherine the Great using Siberia for the purposes of expanding the population and removing schismatics. By the end of the eighteenth century, just over 50 per cent of more than half a million Russians living in Siberia's rural areas were women, both exiles and 'volunteers'. The article concludes that the treatment of such women impeded later Russian efforts to create a healthy society.