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Editorial

New Beginnings

Matthew P. Romaniello

Our new volume begins with a departure. Tatiana Argounova-Low, following a long term as an associate editor, has left the journal to focus on other projects. We owe her a great debt of thanks for all her work for the journal, which included numerous translations over the years. Most recently, she and Jenanne Ferguson translated the entirety of our last issue on “Indigenous Methodology in the Study of the Native Peoples of Siberia.” The project was an enormous undertaking. We know that Tatiana’s contributions will continue to be valuable for the field and for Sibirica and wish her the best with her future endeavors.

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Matthew P. Romaniello

Russian imperialism continues to leave a strong imprint on indigenous cultures across Siberia, and throughout the Russian Federation and the post-Soviet republics. Imperialism is invasive and persistent, and it might be impossible to escape its consequences. In 1986, African novelist and postcolonial theorist Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o published his influential essay collection, Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. One of his arguments is that no postcolonial subject could be free from the constraints of imperialism until she or he succeeded in freeing the mind from the trap of an imposed (and foreign) language. Ngũgĩ’s experience was based on his own life growing up in Kenya, but his lesson is as applicable to Siberia as it is for East Africa. For indigenous Siberians, language and education are at the forefront of the ongoing postcolonial struggle to maintain their cultural identities in modern Russia.

Open access

Matthew P. Romaniello

With the arrival of volume 19, our readers will notice there have been some changes to the editorial organization of Sibirica. This special issue on “Asia in the Russian Imagination,” of which I am one of the guest editors, will be my final contribution to Sibirica. Last year I was presented the opportunity to become the editor of The Journal of World History for the next five years, which is a full-time obligation. I am excited to let you know that I have been succeeded as editor by Jenanne Ferguson. Professor Ferguson has a decade of experience working for the journal, in addition to her research contributions to the field, including her recent monograph, Words Like Birds: Sakha Language Discourses and Practices in the City (2019). I know that you all join me in wishing Professor Ferguson and her editorial team success as they steer the journal into the future.

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Matthew P. Romaniello

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Editorial

Past and Present

Matthew P. Romaniello

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“Tobacco! Tobacco!”

Exporting New Habits to Siberia and Russian America

Matthew P. Romaniello

Abstract

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.

Open access

Jane F. Hacking, Jeffrey S. Hardy and Matthew P. Romaniello

This special issue of Sibirica is devoted to exploring Russia’s complicated relationship with Asia. Along with an edited volume (Russia in Asia: Imaginations, Interactions, and Realities, forthcoming), it is an outgrowth of the “Asia in the Russian Imagination” conference that was held at the University of Utah in March 2018. This conference brought together an interdisciplinary body of scholars from the United States, Canada, and Russia to discuss how Russians imagined and interacted with the peoples of Eurasia. Chronologically this conversation spanned the Russian Empire, Soviet Union, and post-Soviet Russia, and included not just the geography and peoples possessed by Russia but also the bordering states of Japan, China, and the Ottoman Empire. This is certainly not a new line of inquiry, but there is still much to be understood about these complex relationships, both real and imagined.