Geographical Imagination, Anthropology, and Political Exiles

Photographers of Siberia in Late Imperial Russia

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  • 1 Indiana University


This article is focused on several themes connected with the history of photography, political exile in Imperial Russia, exploration and representations of Siberia in the late 19th–early 20th centuries. Photography became an essential tool in numerous geographic, topographic and ethnographic expeditions to Siberia in the late 19th century; well-known scientists started to master photography or were accompanied by professional photographers in their expeditions, including ones organized by the Russian Imperial Geographic Society, which resulted in the photographic records, reports, publications and exhibitions. Photography was rapidly spreading across Asian Russia and by the end of the 19th century there was a photo studio (or several ones) in almost every Siberian town. Political exiles were often among Siberian photographers, making photography their new profession, business, a way of getting a social status in the local society, and a means of surviving financially as well as intellectually and emotionally. They contributed significantly to the museum's collections by photographing indigenous people in Siberia and even traveling to Mongolia and China, displaying “types” as a part of anthropological research in Asia and presenting “views” of the Russian empire's borderlands. The visual representation of Siberia corresponded with general perceptions of an exotic East, populated by “primitive” peoples devoid of civilization, a trope reinforced by numerous photographs and depictions of Siberia as an untamed natural world, later transformed and modernized by the railroads construction.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, Russian society acquired a durable image of Siberia formulated through geography and history textbooks, fiction and travelogues, and actively disseminated by the periodical press.1 The works of Anton Chekhov, Vlas Doroshevich, and Vladimir Korolenko were instrumental in creating this image. Political exiles, notably Populists (Narodniks) and Social Democrats, also made a contribution to shaping the image of Siberia, dedicating to it substantial space in their memoirs and in so doing continuing a tradition set by the Decembrists.2 In the second half of the nineteenth century, Siberia became the subject of numerous scholarly inquiries, and the results of geographic, ethnographic, and other expeditions were disseminated in socio-political and specialized journals.3 As Marisa Karyl Franz discusses in her article in this issue, museums also played a role in the creation of Siberian knowledge.

The image of Siberia constructed in these various genres and institutions included durable stereotypes, but it was not monolithic nor was it immutable. Siberia was depicted as a realm of exile, a place of hard labor, marked by darkness and frigidity, a vastness devoid of life. But at the same time, Siberia was described as boasting enormous riches of natural resources and unlimited opportunities, similar to the United States and Canada, or even the mythical El Dorado. Nikolai Iadrintsev, one of the founders of Siberian regionalism, wrote in 1864:

One would be hard-pressed to find a country like Siberia, about which there are so many vague and divergent opinions. Since ancient times Siberia has either been the site of so much enchantment and attachment, the subject of joyous hopes and dreams; but in the next minute it disenchants, leads to denial and disillusionment. … Siberia could be described in terms of abundant natural resources, countless wild animals; a land suitable for industry and trades and for an expansive and proper life, or, alternatively, as a frozen and barren tundra populated solely by miserable little towns and nomadic indigenous peoples, and incapable of supporting agriculture or economic growth in general.4

The image of Siberia was both fearful and enticing and was deployed to expose the administrative arbitrariness of the political system and to identify needed reforms in agriculture, education, and the judicial system. The image of Siberia as a bounteous and free land played a special role in peasant colonization, persuading entire villages to pick up and move there in search of a better life.

This article focuses on themes connected with the history of photography, exile, science, and representations of Siberia, and is part of a broader discussion about how Asia was imagined and reproduced in textual and visual representations.5 All these subjects have been closely examined by scholars but as separate topics. The history of exile in Siberia has a long tradition in Russian historiography (Gulag studies are not included here), which began in late imperial Russia, became a significant part of Soviet scholarship, especially in Siberia, telling a story of suffering, political struggle, and cultural contribution of the political exiles to the transformation of the region, and continued after the collapse of the Soviet regime.6 Western historiography of Siberian exile started in earnest with George Kennan's renowned book, discovering revealing the world of Siberian exile for the American public. Scholarship on Siberian exile by Andrew Gentes, Daniel Beer, and Sarah Badcock provide a general overview of the history of the exile system in imperial Russia, focusing on state policy toward different categories of exiles and the exile system as a whole; the lived experience of the exiles in Siberia—work, family life, illness; and the political and social impact of the exile system on Siberia and the political regime, which established and expanded the system of punishment.7

This article first asks why it was that political exiles who became professional photographers in Siberia and made such a distinctive contribution to the development of photography and to the construction of the image of Siberia in late Imperial Russia. The second question is, what did Russian revolutionaries photograph in Siberia, what themes and subjects did they select, and how did this fit with their beliefs and activities as a whole? Third, what representations were created by these photographers, and how did such representations reinforce, alter, or undermine existing and powerful myths and stereotypes that prevailed at the time about Siberia, its landscape and people? Finally, how did the exiles’ photographic practices become part of the anthropological and geographical research about the region, of the narrative of civil society there, and of the history of photography?

Science, Photography, and Photographers

It was in the second half of the nineteenth century that photography came to be an important tool for researching Siberia and shaping its image as well as images of other regions of the Russian empire.8 The emergence of photography was greatly facilitated by various exhibitions and competitions that allowed both professionals and amateurs to display their work.9 The establishment of photographic societies in both the capital cities and the provinces, of which the most prominent was the Russian Photographic Society, also played a significant role.10 Also important were photography journals such as Photograph-liubitel’ (Amateur photographer), Photographicheskoe obozrenie (Photographic review), and Vestnik photographii (Messenger of photography), which featured discussions of technique and aesthetics and reflected the ongoing debates of the time between different artistic schools of thought concerning requirements for portrait, landscape, and genre photography.11 As Valerii Stigneev argues, the fact that photography had become a mass enterprise by the turn of the twentieth century is evidenced by the annual importation of more than twenty-five thousand cameras and the consumption of over seventy million plates.12 If in the mid-nineteenth century the practice of photography required a knowledge of chemistry and physics (at least at the level of a good secondary education), gradually by the end of the century, with the move to dry plates and the production of new types of cameras, the craft became more accessible and called for far less specialized knowledge.

One of the most vivid indicators of the popularity and demand for photographic images were albums labeled “Views and Types.” These were generally the product of expeditions and portrayed to the Russian public previously unviewed regions.13 There can be little doubt that such albums were instrumental in defining the codes that shaped photography. Photographs that illustrated travelogues became an integral part of “travel literature” and were instrumental in shaping popular perceptions of geography as well as cultural representations of the “Other” in the sense of the indigenous people of Siberia and Siberia as a whole. Despite the widespread publication of photographs in journals and illustrated magazines in the late nineteenth century, it was a considerably difficult and expensive task; thus, drawings based on photographs and woven into the text were often substituted for the originals. Landscape painting also played a role in shaping the conventions of the genre of photography by providing templates for realistic depictions of nature with which photography had to compete; gradually, such photography began in turn to influence the conventions of painting.

The expansion of scholarship and the proliferation of scientific expeditions and geographic exploration in the far reaches of the Russian Empire led (without ending the use of traditional sketches) to the much wider use of photography, which became the preferred way of depicting people, dwellings, household items, and rituals. Advances in the technology of photography also led to its increased use. Many scholars have argued that photography and anthropology developed in tandem.14 In the second half of the nineteenth century, not only do we see scholars and photographers traveling together, but also the scholars leading such expeditions and taking up photography. One such person was Dmitrii Klements, the renowned geographer, ethnographer, and revolutionary Populist.15 In his report about exploring Mongolia he lamented the fact that technical problems with his equipment had limited his ability to record his work, reducing the number of photographs he could make to several dozen slides.16

Another figure who made an effort to add photography to his scientific toolbox was the renowned explorer and Siberian regionalist Grigorii Potanin. In a letter dated 5 August 1894, to (the exiled Populist) Ivan Popov living in Kiakhta, Potanin inquired about the location of his camera and asked to have it sent to Petersburg.17 In his Mongolia expeditions Potanin was accompanied by the military topographer and photographer August Skassi; in a letter of 1 (13) November 1884, Potanin wrote to A.V. Grigor'ev, “Mr. Skassi managed to complete 84 photographs of remarkable sites and types of people.”18 The correspondence between Potanin and Skassi includes advice and instructions from the latter on how to take photographs. For example, on 5 December 1884, he wrote, “Be faster about taking photographs; if of 25 plates you manage to get 15, then consider it a great success.”19 On 21 December 1884, Skassi wrote Potanin asking him to hurry up in sending along the negatives.20 As their subsequent correspondence reveals, Potanin had difficulty mastering photography, something that should not surprise us given the complicated technology of the time. Skassi's advice to Potanin illustrates the complexities:

In order to prevent the glass plates from tipping over you have to put a small piece of stationary or writing paper on all four corners of the cassette … to avoid fogging you need to remove and put the glass plates in the cassette in almost total darkness and pretty much by feel; the candle [definitely not a lamp] should be situated as far away as possible and screened in some way [a book or a box will do]. The portrait model [subject] should be seated at the edge of, but not in complete darkness. At this time of the year you can take portraits between 10 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon; if you try to do so earlier or later the exposure will need to be at least one and a half times longer.21

The collodion process using glass plates and liquid solutions (the so-called wet collodion process with immediate exposure and application of emulsions) required a sure hand; dry plates in cassettes, which were replacing the “wet-plates” colloidal process, were also unreliable and could be ruined (as happened, for example, to Klements on one expedition). On 4 February 1885, Skassi wrote Potanin: “I'm sorry to tell you that your negatives are poor: 1) everything is completely distorted; 2) for the most part the portraits were not developed long enough, while the landscapes were developed too long; 3) the portraits are almost never in focus.”22 It is clear why the photographs taken on Potanin's expeditions when he was accompanied by a photographer are much better known. Skassi was also accompanied in another expedition to Mongolia by the Siberian ethnographer and historian Alexander Adrianov, as well as the political exile Nikolai Charushin.23 Potanin used Charushin's photos in the reports he filed with the Russian Geographic Society as well as submitted for publication in journals. In his letters of 1891–92 to Klements he made a note of his entries submitted to Illustratsiia, which included Charushin's photographs.24 Potanin's wife, Alexandra Potanina, who constantly accompanied him on his expeditions, also made sketches and took photographs.25

Whereas developing with the application of glass plates and special solutions was difficult even in a laboratory, it was much more problematic when traveling. As early as 1870, the journal Fotograficheskoe obozrenie (Photographic review) published a list items the photographer would need to take along in his travels: a camera (the same size like for photo studio), lenses for portraits and landscapes, a tripod, glass plates, a tent, a bottle of collodion, and several vials of haloids. Nikolai Charushin recalled that in travels from Kiakhta to Yakutia through Irkutsk the weight of his equipment [mostly glass plates] was enormous, amounting to about 50 pud.26 But toward the end of the century matters improved—the dry plates called for far less equipment and were easier to develop, the process became more accessible in terms of cost, weight, and complexity.

Photographers became essential participants in scientific expeditions; for example, out of eighty-eight expeditions to Central Asia and Siberia carried out for the Imperial Archeological Commission between 1859 and 1917, sixty-six left behind photo archives.27 The photographer Samuil Dudin, then a director of the photography department of the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography in St. Petersburg, took part in Vasily Radlov's expedition to Orkhon River; he was also with Vasily Bartol'd on his travels through Central Asia and Nikolai Veselovskii on his journey to Samarkand. In advance of the 1899 Paris World Exhibition, Dudin took more than six hundred photographs recording the daily lives of the residents of the Semipalatinsk region, and he put together a collection of two thousand photographs after a three-year expedition to Central Asia at the turn of the century.28

Photographing archeological and architectural sites increasingly became an essential tool for recording and preserving evidence, both for research and for preservation. Recalling Dudin, Bartol'd wrote:

A superb photographer himself, S.M might have been guilty of slightly exaggerating the significance of photographic restauration restoration in matters of studying and preserving sites/monuments. … V.V. Radlov fully shared S.M.'s passion … to Radlov it seemed that photographs not only preserved for science sites threatened with destruction but also served as evidence for prosecuting those who, whether out of carelessness or maliciously ruined such sites. He believed that photography made much easier the task of protection and determining damage done when inspecting a site that had earlier been photographed.29

Among those engaged in photography were military topographers, scholars, the wives of highly ranked bureaucrats, entrepreneurs, and political exiles. The Russian revolutionaries exiled to Siberia sometimes became professional photographers, and their work was featured on the pages of Russian and foreign publications, their photo albums were displayed at exhibits and augmented the collections of both university and public libraries as well as museums. Not all exiles took this route, as photography required capital for the purchase of equipment and materials as well as special permission from the authorities. Most important, at least until completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway Railroad, towns were too underpopulated to support a large number of photo studios, and competition among those that did exist was fierce.

Indeed, virtually every Siberian town had a photographer, mostly exiles, who practiced the trade. In Nerchinsk, a participant in the “Nechaev affair,” Alexei Kuznetsov, opened a photo studio, then was followed by another exile, Populist Mikhail Chernavskii. Charushin, a member of the Chaikovskii Circle, practiced photography in Kiakhta. Petr Milevskii, exiled to Siberia after the Polish uprising of 1863, had a photo studio in Irkutsk, then in Tomsk. Still others, such as Polish exiles Benedikt Dybovskii and Viktor Godlevskii, who lacked the resources to open an atelier, plied the trade by signing up for scientific expeditions. Between 1901 and 1903, Felix Kon took part in an expedition to Uriankhaiskiy region (today the Tuva Republic), which resulted in the production of an album “Views and Types of the Uriankhaisk Region.”30 The 1894–96 Sibiriakov expedition and the Siberian leg of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition was depicted in the photographs of Waldemar Jochelson, who served a ten-year sentence in Siberia (Dina Jochelson-Brodskaia a medical scholar, handled most of the photography during the fieldwork conducted with her husband). As other scholars noted, “For Bogoraz, the Sibiryakov (Yakutskaya) Expedition, in which he was invited to participate as an ethnographer in 1895, became a school of comprehensive gathering. During three years, the exiled Narodnik was gathering not only ethnographic data on social and spiritual culture of the Chukchi and the Evens of Kolyma, but also objects of the material culture; he also took pictures and some anthropometric measurements.”31 Bronislav Pilsudski (a brother of the renowned Joseph Pilsudski), served his sentence out in Sakhalin and carried out significant ethnographic research among the Ainu people, including photography.32

“Photography was my source of income”

Over time photography became a reliable source of income for exiles for whom the choice of occupations was extremely limited. Despite the enormous demand for educated personnel like the exiles, at a time when human capital in the region was scarce, they were not allowed to work, for example, as teachers or doctors. Many exiles who lived in remote settlements had to get by on what was sent to them by relatives or friends from European Russia.33 Because the possibilities were so limited for professional employment and income, photography provided an attractive opportunity. and most political exiles had an education adequate to allow them to master the requisite skills.

Formally speaking, photography was also off-limits for political exiles, but a search of the archives shows that, providing the exile's behavior had been impeccable, petitions generally led to permission to open a photo studio and even to set out on journeys to photograph the region. For example, Chernavskii wrote to the military governor of the Transbaikal region that “I have survived through a number of random jobs but to this date have not been able to obtain either a permanent residence or constant employment. My health has not allowed me to take up any physical work, which makes it impossible to live in a village or practice farming; at the same time my mobility is restricted and choice of occupations limited.”34 Because of his “irreproachable conduct and political reliability,” his petition was granted and in 1894 Chernavskii was registered as a meshchanin in Nerchinsk and his file with the Ministry of Interior confirms that he set up his own shop and practiced photography there.35 Chernavskii wrote in his autobiography: “Early in 1886 I was exiled to Nerchinsk where I eked out a living by giving lessons up until, if I remember correctly, 1890. Finally, the police, having looked the other way about my lessons for so long, stepped in to stop them, since instructions forbid exiles to teach. Then I became a professional photographer, and that is what provided my living once I returned to European Russia.”36

Nikolai Charushin recalled that once he was released from hard labor to exile, he was faced with the need to provide for his family, but work was difficult to find. To add to the matter, he had no inclination for office work in a commercial operation, had no call to the teaching vocation (even if the authorities tended to be more permissive of that), and, as he put it, he “even” had to look after domestic matters for a while, as his wife herself provided for the family by giving lessons. In these circumstances Kuznetsov's example of opening a photography studio appealed to Charushin. The latter saw that Kuznetsov was able to make a living by pursuing something interesting, which provided much room for creativity and imposed no limitations on his freedom: “An artist by nature, and extremely enterprising at the same time, he much preferred the situation of an independent photographer to anything connected with civil service.”37

Political exiles taught each other, sometimes obtained equipment by taking out loans from friends, and gradually established their own enterprises which, with time, brought a profit. Charushin and Chernavskii both apprenticed with Kuznetsov. Charushin, in turn, taught Samuil Dudin. And once Charushin left Kiakhta to return to European Russia, another exile, Nikolai Petrov, bought his equipment and negatives.38 Thus, photography provided a means of survival, an income, and served as a means of mutual aid, as exiles passed on knowledge, equipment, and materials.

While working as Kuznetsov's assistant and mastering the craft of photography and at the same time trying to find a more comfortable and rewarding place than Nerchinsk, Charushin decided to move to Troitskosavsk-Kiakhta (on the border of the Russian Empire with China). His application to open a photography business in April 1885 met no objections from the Department of Police.39 He borrowed eight hundred rubles to purchase equipment (he then had to borrow another five hundred rubles for supplies), and in 1886 departed for Kiakhta where he rented a house in which to set up shop. To raise such a considerable sum, Charushin had to borrow the life savings of a retired teacher in Nerchinsk—something that caused him some agony over whether he had the right to put that generous donor's security at risk, but ultimately he saw no alternative. Later, in Kiakhta, the daughter of the owner of a local gold mine who was friends with Anna Kuvshinskaya, Charushin's wife provided him with the money to purchase the materials necessary for plying his trade.

Through some personal connections Charushin was able to quickly pick up profitable orders for portraits, which allowed him to pay off the debts incurred when purchasing equipment and photo supplies. Kennan, the well-known traveler and journalist, wrote that Kiakhta merchants were rich, often seeing between 150,000 to 300,000 rubles of net profit in a given year.40 The amount of money circulating meant that photography in Kiakhta could be a profitable enterprise. Charushin noted: “I was quite pleased with my new profession. It provided me with complete financial independence and at the same time kept my interest, prompting me to look for new angles and to constantly improve myself. … My income was sizeable.”41 He added that he had no shortage of money, work was abundant, and he could even manage to put aside savings for his return to European Russia.

For exiles, photography was also an opportunity to realize their creative potential as well as carry out research while in Siberia, and in so doing to travel about the vast region and even beyond the borders of the Russian Empire, to Mongolia and China. To be sure, such travels required obtaining permission from the authorities, but for the most part they did not encounter major obstacles in doing so. In January 1887, Charushin submitted a request to have the right to travel the entire length of Siberia, in which he argued that it was a financial imperative as he could sell portraits and landscape photos (portraits were especially profitable as they were displayed at home, kept in family photo albums, or sent to relatives in European Russia). In March of the same year, a bureaucrat dealing with the matter wrote a note to whomever it concerned that that person “make an effort tomorrow to discuss with me Charushin, who has taken up photography in Troitskosavsk and wants permission to spend the summer traveling along the banks of the Lena river with his photographic equipment.”42 The certificate granting him permission is in his personal file in the State Archives of the Russian Federation.

“Photography gave me a place of sorts in society”

Photography served yet another purpose for exiles, that of facilitating integration into local society by establishing a multitude of connections. Charushin recalled: “By taking up photography I was required to encounter a multitude of completely unfamiliar people. Over time I made the personal acquaintance of some, and even developed friendships.”43 This led to an expanding circle of clients and, correspondingly, more income. But it was also psychologically of great importance for exiles who felt uprooted from their native land and familiar circles, and who experienced painful isolation. In their memoirs, exiles confessed that the absence of contact with people of kindred spirit was one of the greatest trials they experienced. Political exiles did not adapt easily to living conditions in Siberia, often could not find their place, found that people kept their distance, or they cloistered together with other exiles without adapting to the surrounding environment. But the photographers ran across all stripes of people, became well-known to the town in which they resided, which laid the ground for other forms of participation in the life of local society. Charushin wrote: “photography gave me a place of sorts in society, for my services were in considerable demand and this provided both an entry and a role in public life locally.”44

Judging by their work, it is easy to conclude that photographers like Milevskii, Charushin, and Kuznetsov had many acquaintances among the civil servants, merchants, gold mine owners, and scholars in Siberia. Political exile Milevskii recorded the arrival in Irkutsk of Nicholas Alexandrovich, the heir to the throne, then meticulously photographed his every movement while there, which demonstrates he was seen not as a criminal but rather as a trusted person who was allowed to be near the heir. During the same journey, Kuznetsov showed tsesarevich the museum he had established in Chita and presented him an album of his photographs as a representative of the local society. For Kuznetsov, Charushin, Klements, and others, maintaining relationships (and even friendships) with high-ranking civil servants was vital for the success of their efforts to establish libraries and museums and organize scientific expeditions. However, the exile community in Chita disapproved of Kuznetsov's connections, believing that he had made an “unacceptable compromise with his conscience in pursuing links with governors and church hierarchs.”45 Charushin, too, was reproached for his amicable relationships with the authorities at Kara—and the sour feelings lingered long after. In the heated debates of the perestroika era about the country's history, certain Soviet historians argued that these connections, along with his occupation as a professional photographer and the income that it generated invalidated Charushin's place in the country's pantheon of revolutionary heroes.46

Photographing “Types”: Anthropology and Photography

By the late 1800s, photography had become an essential element of scientific expeditions. In 1888, Charushin offered his services as a photographer for Potanin's expedition through Mongolia. He wrote to Potanin:

This summer I'll need to go somewhere to find work and my gaze has fallen upon Urga. There's reason to believe that I can find good work there and in the process put together an interesting album of landscapes as well as collection of Mongolian “types”. I've heard that you are also thinking of traveling there, which only adds weight to my plans. With your assistance it would be much easier to orient myself in an unfamiliar place; even more importantly, I could make good use of your direct instructions in the selection of sites to photograph. I presume that for you as an explorer it would be useful to have on hand a photographer, always ready to carry out your wishes in providing you with the necessary views and types.”47

This notion of “types” commonly utilized in photography for anthropological purposes reflected that discipline's strivings to perfect its methods for collecting data, both quantitative and qualitative, and to establish a rigorously scientific foundation for its research. According to Elizabeth Edwards, the kind of portrait photography that was called a “type” included many different ways of portraying, but they all represented the attempts within anthropology and ethnography to define and classify human nature and racial origins using physiological features, a central component of analysis in nineteenth-century anthropology. Despite the fact that the term originated in biology and physical anthropology, its usage spread widely, and by the middle of that century the abstract notion of “racial type” was treated as something real and concrete.48 Photography, viewed as rendering “reality,” became part of the researcher's toolbox, providing visual confirmation of the existence of specific “racial types.”49

The result of Charushin's travels with Potanin was a collection of photographs carried out in accordance with the current requirements for anthropological photographic work. In December 1889, he received a letter of gratitude from the Eastern Siberian branch of the Imperial Geographic Society for the photographs it had received and forwarded on to the society's museum (eighty photos with an estimated worth of one hundred rubles). These photographs, the letter said, “at the present time comprise the most valuable component of the museum's collection; in terms of numbers as well as of content and the technical quality. The Committee considers it its duty to make special mention of the slides with photos representing the various types making up the population of Mongolia; the conformity with the rules governing anthropological photographic execution fully allows us to label these slides a contribution to science.”50

Considering the photographs taken by Charushin raises the question of what is distinctive about photographs taken specifically for anthropological purposes since at that time there was considerable discussion about the parameters to be used. The Ethnographic Society in Paris, Ethnological Society in London, and the Academy of Sciences in Petersburg all had protocols in place for recording and systematizing racial groups utilizing a variety of parameters. Thomas Huxley and John Lamprey proposed carrying out anthropometric photos fixing the precise parameters and proportions of the human body—something reflecting the influence of Darwinism and physical anthropology.51 The Berlin Society published Photography Album on Anthropology-Ethnology by Carl Dammann made in Hamburg (1873–74), which presented a variety of “types” and emphasizing the variety of human nature and cultures.52

The notion of “anthropological photography” is an ample one since along with photos taken according to set standards and for scholarly purposes, it can include those recording daily life but taken haphazardly and without the advancement of science in mind. Charushin's photos included in the “Mongolia” album were not anthropometric, but they were anthropological, conforming to the scientific practice of the time. Moreover, numerous projects demonstrate the influence of the 1874 British Royal Anthropological Institution publication “Notes and Queries on Anthropology,” which included a special section on how to use photography for anthropological research.53 Dudin, for example, amassed a large collection of his photographs taken for anthropological purposes and wrote specialized articles dedicated to technique. He emphasized, along the lines recommended in “Notes and Queries on Anthropology,” that the most important consideration was the correct placing of the model's head so that in both front and side views “both the bridge of the nose and the ears central openings were placed along the same horizontal plane.”54

In accordance with the genre conventions of the time, Charushin's “type” photography accentuated the generic and limited identification to the occupation of the subject (“wrestler,” “fiddler,” etc.). As Edwards observes, the “type” is conveyed through that subject's complete isolation, absence of context and of individuality. This deliberate isolation (both literal and metaphorical) of the object depicted in order to create a type is executed by providing an empty backdrop with all context removed.55 Charushin also deploys the empty backdrop, but his photographs are closer to “portrait” rather than “scientific” types in that they are conceptually more complex and “aesthetic”; in his work the “cultural” prevails over the “biological.” It is revealing to compare Charushin's set of “type” photos with those taken by Adrianov, another person who took part in one of Potanin's earlier Mongolia expeditions in 1879. It was Adrianov's photos that served as the source for the sketches illustrating Potanin's work in “Studies of Northwest Mongolia.” In Adrianov's work we find representations of the peoples of Altai, Mongolia, and Tuva. The majority of photos of Mongols are both frontal and en face, but we can also find some full figure ones. His portrait photos also depict social strata and groupings.56

It is only in writings about their labors that we learn about how the local people felt about being photographed—something that was the cause of considerable difficulty for the photographers but also confirmed their prejudices about the primitivity of indigenous populations. Charushin recalled that “At first our work—[anthropological photography of Mongols]—proceeded with great difficulty. After all, photography was something quite unprecedented in Mongolia and encountered some very serious apprehensions. According to local belief anyone who subjected himself to being photographed lost all control over his own soul.”57 Kennan also described his fruitless attempts to take pictures of Mongols, Chinese, Buryats, and other “nondescript natives” calling them “animated objects.” Their fear of a camera was so strong that as soon as a photographer showed up the streets emptied out: “We could clear a whole street from one end to the other by merely setting up the camera on its tripod and getting out the black cloth, and I seriously thought of advising the Chinese governor to send to America for a photographic outfit to be used in quelling riots.”58 We can find similar descriptions of local reactions to the camera by British photographers traveling through Asia. For example, John Thompson wrote that as soon as he set up his camera, he would spend the entire day in an empty village. But James Ryan wisely counsels us to consider the reaction of the photographer and the feeling of power and superiority he experienced.59

After his journey with Potanin in 1888 Charushin posted several advertisements in the newspaper selling his photographs of “ethnographic types of Mongolians” taken during that expedition.60 Such photographs were widely circulated, also published in albums and highlighted at exhibitions, becoming an integral part of museum collections. In 1890, Charushin wrote to G. N. Potanin: “I, of course, have no objections to producing a phototype album of Siberian landscapes and am ready to do my best.”61 In addition, he sent Potanin photographs from his Mongolian collection to be exhibited and suggested their use as illustrations for an article about the Urga (Mongolia) expedition. One hundred thirty-two of Charushin's “types and landscapes/views” of Mongolia and Transbaikal were displayed at a Moscow Geographic Exhibition in 1892.62 Charushin also played an active role in establishing the Troitskosavsk-Kiakhta library and the Troitskosavsk-Kiatkhta branch of the Amur Region Section of the Imperial Russian Geographic Society. The protocol of the December 1894 general assembly of that section records a gift by Charushin (a member of its executive committee) of five photographs depicting Buryat household wares and ornaments to the Kiakhta branch.63

We can see other examples when political exiles contributed to the local museum collections and exhibitions, photographing indigenous people, displaying “types” and “cultures.”64 In the 1880s, on an assignment for the museum of the East Siberian Branch of the Imperial Geographic Society, Milevskii traveled about Eastern Siberia and Transbaikal, photographing the indigenous population. In 1889, the museum organized an exhibit featuring his photographs of Buryats, Mongols, their rituals among various objects of Buddhist veneration (the collection can be found today in the archives of the Irkutsk regional museum of history).65 Milevskii also displayed his photos at the 1889 All-Russia Photography Exhibition in Petersburg and the following year at the Moscow All-Russia Exhibition commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the invention of photography, and there was awarded a silver medal of his ethnographic photos of Buryats and portrait works.66

Another example of photographic work as part of ethnographic exploration of Siberia could be found in an appendix to the “Preliminary Research Report on the Indigenous Populations of the Kolyma and Verkhoiansk Districts” by Jochelson, which was read to a gathering of the executive committee of the Eastern Siberian Branch of the Russian Imperial Geographic Society on 6 October 1897. Among the materials Jochelson reported about were “four hundred anthropological photos, both en face and profile, ethnographic photos, photos dealings with daily life, as well as above-ground graves and other items.”67 The Irkutsk museum also has a collection of 184 photos of “types and views” from Uriankhaisk region taken by Felix Kon. E. Manushkina writes that “he paid special attention to anthropological type and such photos stand out the most of his photography. Most often they are group pictures, less often [individual] portraits, but also family photos and officials of all groups, but also Mongols, Buryats and Old Believer Russians.”68 Further, at a session of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1897 a letter from Dudin was read out in which he offered to donate to the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography photographs taken during his stay in Troitskosavsk. The collection included photographs of sites in Transbaikal and Eastern Siberia, “types” and photos of Buriat daily life, as well as of Mongols and Mongolian monasteries.69

Kuznetsov made an enormous contribution to the study of the Transbaikal region—putting together albums of various “types and views,” exhibits, and museum expositions in Siberia.70 As Kuznetsov wrote in his autobiography: “Using my earnings from my photographic practice I was able to launch annual excursions to explore Transbaikal.”71 Kuznetsov worked together with Potanin assembling the Imperial Geographic Society's photographic collection, selecting, copying, and taking his own photographs.72 He was able to assemble eleven albums, his photos were displayed at an exhibition in Chita in 1899 and received a silver medal. In sum, Kuznetsov's greatly contributed to archeological studies of Transbaikal and even participated in digs, which he also recorded with his camera.73

Photography offered the exiles the opportunity to participate in and contribute to the culture of the region and a means to record their impressions of Siberia. At the same time, their efforts to research and record continued an ethnographic tradition of depiction and classification that reached back as far as the eighteenth century in German scholarly circles. In the opinion of Sergei Glebov, as a result of these unprecedented efforts to describe, categorize and classify nature and people, already by the middle of the nineteenth century Siberia had become one of the most important platforms for the study of non-European peoples, which, using the terminology of Francine Hirsch, allows us to talk about the “conceptual conquest” of that region.74 Hence, political exiles took part in an imperial project, reinforcing the “conquest” and placing Siberia in the map of the Russian Empire and civilization.

The peoples of Siberia often drew the attention of political exiles primarily as objects of curiosity.75 Accordingly, political exiles produced numerous ethnographic works devoted to the Buryats, “Kirgiz,” and Yakuts, organized ethnography sections at exhibitions, and otherwise engaged their interests. Photographs taken for ethnographic purposes had to conform to set standards, but at the same time they reflected the curiosity felt at glimpsing distant cultures and became an integral part of Orientalizing discourse, a way of representing “otherness.” The visual representation of Siberia could correspond with general perceptions of an exotic East, populated by “primitive” peoples devoid of civilization, a trope reinforced by numerous photographs and depictions of an untamed natural world. Thus, the indigenous peoples caught photographers’ eye primarily as Eastern exoticism; they studied and recorded their legends and songs, photographed their domiciles and temples, observed their holidays and rituals.76 But, notably, there is little mention of the peoples of Siberia in the memoirs of political exiles. They remain outside the margins of the Siberian society they describe. People (narod for the political exiles means above all, the Russian peasantry with all its distinctive features but not the indigenous people inorodtsy.

Typical of this oriental discourse was Charushin's description of his travels in Mongolia. It resembles other exile accounts of travels across Siberia itself, in which the local population is presented as savages untouched by civilization, and their condition is compared with that of childhood—-the Enlightenment paradigm of the time. Thus, Charushin wrote of Mongolia: “The Mongolians are a poor, extremely primitive people, living in their filthy yurts, devoid of even the most elementary signs of culture.”77 Nikolai Iadrintsev expressed the hope that thanks to the influence of Russian culture and the efforts of “culture bearers,” civilization would finally come to Mongolia; he lamented the fact that to date Russian influence was still limited but professed faith in the “vital force of civilization and its humanizing influence, its invincible might.”78 Moreover, Iadrintsev considered the Buryats of Siberia (“our Buryats”) to be situated at a transitional stage from barbarity to civilization (i.e., agriculture and a sedentary life), receptive to Russian influence and capable of serving as mediators and allies in the task of familiarizing Mongolia with Russian culture.79 At the same time, apprehension existed among the Russian officials that the “natives” might have a deleterious effect on immigrating Russian peasants who could be in danger of “losing their national attributes, distancing themselves from their homeland and relinquishing their patriotic beliefs.”80

“These wild, empty, but stunningly beautiful places”

Alongside ethnographic portraits, the natural surroundings are central to the representations of Siberia in the exiles’ memoirs. Populist and exile Sergei Sinegub waxed poetic in his descriptions of the richness of Siberian nature; he was struck by the beauty of the mountains, by the evergreen forests, by the plenitude of flowers and mushrooms.81 When after seventeen years Charushin returned to his native Viatka in European Russia he confessed that his attachment to Siberia stemmed from its bounteous nature, vast expanses, and bright sunshine. He wrote: “The vastness of Siberia, its rich and diverse nature drew us irresistibly to this land of exile.”82

The nature of Siberia frequently appears in the photographs as well. One summer Charushin traveled along the Udunginskii road (trakt), along which tea caravans wended their way through mountains and taiga from Kiakhta to Lake Baikal. The results of this journey across “these wild, empty, but stunningly beautiful places” was a collection of photographs.83 On another occasion, he traveled by boat along the river Selenga to Upper Udinsk (Verkhneudinsk), spending a month with his camera there. A select number of these photographs were included in his album “Views of Transbaikal and Irkutsk.” Landscape photography came naturally as a result of travel about the region, the discovering of the stunning natural beauty there, and as part of the process of “incorporating/conquering” Siberia, as well as in response to demand, especially as postcards and illustrations in journals.

As Ryan shows, landscape photography in the British empire was both science and art, but also a powerful means of conquering and defining imperial space. Moreover, the very idea of empire was interwoven with that of landscape, both as a controlled territory and a representation of that control. Landscape photography was not merely a simple “imprint” of reality but a way of depicting and mentally mastering it. At the same time, widely disseminated via albums, journals and postcards, it gradually domesticated what had been strange and “other,” and in so doing mastered and assimilated it. We can view this process in the work of the British photographer Samuel Bourne, thanks to whose depictions the hostile territory of northern India gradually becomes familiar and a sense of mastery is evinced, so that the people of the metropolis no longer feel threatened.84 The same can be said of the multitude of representations of “views” of Western Siberia, the Altai region, Transbaikal, and other Siberian spaces. On the one hand, they satisfy the thirst for the “exotic” and, on the other, they consolidate an image of common imperial space, one that includes Siberia, which at the same time becomes nearby and familiar, as well as boasting untold natural riches.

Siberia was often portrayed as a land of exile and hard labor. In the exiles’ memoirs those themes are naturally front and center, given that they had spent from five to twenty-five years there serving out their terms of punishment, and many of them never managed to return home to European Russia. Moreover, the period of exile and hard labor usually was experienced between the age of twenty to forty, thus fundamentally shaping the rest of the exiles’ lives. Siberian exile and the imperative of eliminating it were the subjects of heated public discussion as well as investigative research that pointed to the deleterious effects of the exile system on the region itself. In terms of the impact on the humans caught up in the system, the renowned study by Kennan, Siberia and the Exile System, occupies a special place. It is noteworthy that in his travels Kennan met with exiled revolutionary Populists—Charushin, Kuznetsov, and Chernavskii—and included their accounts in his work. Siberian exile also found a place in Kuznetsov's work, “Types and Views of Hard Labor in Nerchinsk.” If Kennan sought to convince the reader of the horrors of the Siberian exile system, at the beginning of the twentieth century, British photographers challenged the existing stereotypes of Siberia as a land of prison and exile. For example, Morgan Philips Price presented Siberia to his readers as a place of dramatic landscapes, ethnographic curiosities, and financial opportunities.85 Kuznetsov, a former prisoner, was more inclined to represent authority by portraying prison buildings, orphanages for the children of the imprisoned, medical clinics, factories and workshops, and to continue working on “types,” but now sociological rather than anthropological—studies of the incarcerated. Nadezhda Krylova compared photographs in the Kuznetsov's album pictured Nerchinsk hard labor and photographs of exiles taken by Kennan (photographs illustrated Kennan's trip were rather taken by Frost, not Kennan himself). She defined Kuznetsov's photos as a sort of ethnographic photography, linked with the criminal photography of that time. Krylova analyzed the album as a whole, noticing a changing visual perspective from panoramic views, creating some distance between pictures and public, to a close look at the “types” of prisoners.86

Energetic discussion on the pages of journals and newspapers of topics related to the Siberian region, to the building of the Trans-Siberian Railroad and to the massive resettlement there of peasants from European Russia at the turn of the century all served to incorporate Siberia into the imperial space. This, as Nataliya Rodigina shows, resulted in a gradual transformation of Siberia's image—from that of “another” country juxtaposed to European Russia, into a periphery of empire sharing the homeland's problems. Ryan offers an example of such a transformation elsewhere in his study of British Columbia between 1858 and 1885 when photographers focused on landscape representations, the frontier zones, railroads, mines, and settlements.87 Likewise, Kuznetsov's series devoted to the construction of the Trans-Baikal Railroad, portrays a landscape in transition, the incorporation of the region, and its transformation into an integral part of the empire. The might and beauty of the main railway are juxtaposed to the might and beauty of the wild Siberian nature, “cutting it up” and introducing geometric regularity into the landscape. Jeremy Foster also observed the parallel development of photography and that of the railroads in South Africa and how this impacted the representation of space and together served as symbols of modernity as well as defining new political territorial entities.88

The exiles saw Siberia and Russia in binary terms, continuing a long-lasting tradition we can also find in the peasants’ descriptions of Siberia. For example, Chernavskii wrote: “While engaged in my labors in Siberia my thoughts kept turning avidly to the West—to Russia and Europe. I jumped at all news from there, grabbed up newspapers. … Toward the end of the last century good news began to arrive from there, a fresh wind was blowing from the west. In the autumn of 1900 I closed the photo studio and departed for Russia.”89 And in their photography the exiles continue to depict a “different Russia”; a realm with a wild and bounteous nature, of towns buried in forests or among the mountains that were striving to be like their counterparts in European Russia, of a plethora of cultures and exotic peoples, and of hard labor and exile.

Why did the exiles retain this visual image? First, it is likely that despite calling Siberia their second home, it remained alien to them, a place to which they had been banished rather than chosen on their own and in the process been torn away from their roots, those close to them, and deprived of all of their rights. Second, because photography provided them with income, they had to approach their work keeping in mind the commercial rewards in exotic portraiture and stunning landscapes. Third, their photography reflected the deep-seated enlightenment paradigm, the Eurocentrism that they shared with the rest of the Russian intelligentsia. Finally, their photography reflected simple human curiosity about the outside worlds (Edwards proposes deploying “curiosity” as an analytical term allowing us to move beyond what has become a rather stale “colonial” discourse).90


In sum, photography became a valued profession for political exiles, a source of income allowing them to provide for their families, and to ultimately return home to European Russia. In addition, it gave the opportunity while in Siberia to make inroads into local society, establish close ties with civil servants, entrepreneurs, the educated public, and to receive official recognition as well as permission to travel on exploratory expeditions as well as serve as “culture bearers.” For exiles photography as a profession had a strong societal as well as economic component. Moreover, it became a scientific, cultural, and even political endeavor, making a contribution to anthropology, providing representations of the peoples of Siberia, creating visual images of the region that were widely circulated thanks to their inclusion in journals, postcards, photo albums, and exhibits.

This image of Siberia created by their hand, tended to reinforce already existing stereotypes about a primitive region rich in natural resources, since they were after all products of their own culture. In their selections of what to photograph and what to overlook, they were operating according to existing preconceptions, both aesthetic and societal. Their photography reflected prevailing perceptions about space, “racial types” and other cultures, authority and society, and represented a blend of the existing variety of discourses to be found in the late Russian Empire. This article demonstrated the importance of a comparative perspective to comprehend what was shared and what was distinctive in the methods, goals, and character of such visual representations of the empire. The photographs of Siberia taken by political exiles should be compared with similar endeavors carried out by their peers in Great Britain, France, Germany, or the Ottoman Empire.


The article was prepared within the framework of the Basic Research Program at the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE) and supported within the framework of a subsidy by the Russian Academic Excellence Project “5-100.” I thank an anonymous reviewer and the editors of this special issue Jane Hacking, Jeffrey Hardy, and Matthew Romaniello for their suggestions. An earlier version of this article was presented as a paper at the conference “Asia in the Russian Imagination” at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, March 2018, discussed in the Russian and East European Circle at the University of Alberta, and at the Midwestern Russian History Workshop in 2017. I thank all participants for their questions and comments, which helped me strengthen my arguments.



In her work, Rodigina laid out the stages and identified the components by which the periodical world created this image and shown how the political leanings of a given journal and the life experience of the authors played a role in this process. N. N. Rodigina, “Drugaia Rossiia”: Obraz Sibiri v russkoi zhurnal'noi presse vtoroi poloviny XIX–nachala XX veka (Novosibirsk: Novosibirsk State Pedagogical University, 2006).


See N. P. Matkhanova, Sibirskaia memuaristika XIX veka (Novosibirsk: SO RAN, 2010).


Siberia was well represented on the pages, for example, of the Imperial Russian Geographic Society's publications. See T. A. Kuznetsova, Tema Sibiri v periodicheskikh izdaniiakh Imperatorskogo Russkogo Geograficheskogo Obshchestva vtoroi poloviny XIX–nachala XX vv. (Dissertatsiia na soiskanie uchenoi stepeni k.i.n., Omsk, Omskii gosudarstvennyi pedagogicheskii universitet, 2009).


N. I. Iadrintsev, “Sibir’ pered sudom russkoi literatury,” Literaturnoe nasledstvo Sibiri, 5 (Novosibirsk: Zapadno-Sibirskoe knizhnoe izdatel'stvo, 1980), 21.


Conference “Asia in the Russian Imagination” was held in the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, March 2018.


A few examples include L. M. Goriushkin, Ssylka i katorga v Sibiri (XVIII–nachalo XX v.) (Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1975); L. M. Goriushkin, Ssylka i obshchestvenno-politicheskaia zhizn’ v Sibiri: XVIII–nachalo XX v. (Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1978); V. I. Fedorova, Narodnicheskaia ssylka Sibiri v obshchestvenno-politicheskoi i ideinoi bor'be v Rossii v poslednei chetverti XIX veka. (Krasnoiarsk: Krasnoiarskii gosudarstvennyi pedagogicheskii universitet, 1996); N. Kattser and S. V Kudriashov, Tiur'ma i ssylka v dorevoliutsionnoi Rossii. Sbornik statei (Moskva: IstLit, 2016).


Sarah Badcock, A Prison without Walls?: Eastern Siberian Exile In the Last Years of Tsarism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016); Daniel Beer, The House of the Dead: Siberian Exile under the Tsars (London: Allen Lane, 2016); Andrew A. Gentes, The Mass Deportation of Poles to Siberia, 1863–1880 (Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). See also chapter on the political exile in Siberia in our book about the revolutionary generation of the 1870s. (Ben Eklof and Tatiana Saburova, A Generation of Revolutionaries: Nikolai Charushin and Russian Populism from the Great Reforms to Perestroika (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017).


For example, Sergei Abashin argued that paintings like Vasilii Vereshchagin's works picturing Central Asia competed with photographs and even influenced a photographic vision but in the early twentieth-century photography dominated, shaping the images of remote regions in public imagination. S. Abashin, “Vlast’ i photographiia: Vizual'naia reprezentatsiia v imperskoi ramke, Neprikosnovennyi Zapas,” 4 (2012),


For example, more than two thousand photographs were presented at the All-Russia Ethnographic Exhibition in Moscow in 1867.


For more on the Russian Photographic Society, see T. G. Saburova, Russkoe Fotograficheskoe Obshchestvo v Moskve. 1894–1930 (Moscow: Planeta, 2013).


More than twenty journals on photography were published in Russia in the early twentieth century. N. A.Kozachenko, Russkaia fotograficheskaia periodika k. XIX–n. XX vv. (1895–1917 gg.) (Avtoreferat dissertation na soiskanie kandidata istoricheskikh nauk, L'vov: L'vovskii gosudarstvennyi universitet, 1973.


V. T.Stigneev, Vek fotografii, 1894–1994: Ocherki istorii otechestvennoi fotografii (Moscow: URSS, 2015), 15–16.


For example, photo albums: A. Bren, Vidy Amura, Vostochnoi i Zapadnoi Sibiri i Urala; L. Poltoratskaia, Vidy i tipy Zapadnoi Sibiri, D. Ermakov’ s “views” of the Caucasus, a collection of Volga region photos by M. Dmitriev, photos of Altai region by V. Sapozhnikov, S. Tumanov “views” of Trans-Baikal and Sakhalin island, Vidy i tipy, sniatye vo vremia letnei poezdki po Akmolinskoi, Syr-Dar'inskoi i Semirechenskoi oblasti, Vidy i tipy Semirechenskoi oblasti i Kul'dzhinskogo raiona by N.A. Krekov, Tipy i vidy Semipalatinskoi oblasti by P.A. Khvorostanskii.


See, for example, Elizabeth Edwards, ed., Anthropology and Photography, 1860–1920 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992); Christopher Pinney, Photography and Anthropology (London: Reaktion Books, 2011); Christopher Morton and Elizabeth Edwards, eds., Photography, Anthropology and History: Expanding the Frame (London: Ashgate, 2009).


See O. A. Milevskii and A. B. Panchenko, “Bespokoinyi Klements”: Opyt intellectual'noi biographii (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2017).


D. A. Klements, “Kratkii otchet o puteshchestvii D. Klementsa po Mongolii za 1894 g.,” Izvestiia Imperatorskoi akademii nauk, October (1895): 273. More than fifteen years later other scholars, like ethnographers Sergei and Elizaveta Shirokogoroff exploring the Far East, still faced technical problems that affected the quality of their photographs. As Jocelyne Dudding writes: “The Shirokogoroffs also had difficulties with soft focusing, poor exposures, light leakage, and chemical staining during developing or printing.” J. Dudding, Chasing Shadows: Sharing Photographs from Former Northwest Manchuria in Life Histories of Etnos Theory in Russia and Beyond, ed. David G. Anderson, Dmitry V. Arzyutov, and Sergei S. Alymov (Cambridge: Open Book, 2019), 305.


Pis'ma Potanina (Irkutsk: Irkutsk State University, 1990), 4: 266. See also Rossiiskii Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Literatury i Iskusstva (RGALI), f. 381, op. 1, d. 160, l. 3 ob.


Pis'ma Potanina, 4: 24.


RGALI. f. 381, op. 1, d. 160, l. 3 ob.


Ibid., l. 5 ob.


RGALI, f. 381. op. 1. d. 160. ll. 8-8 оb. (Letter of August Skassi to Grigorii Potanin, 4 February 1885).


Ibid., l. 8.


On Charushin, see V. D. Sergeev, Nikolai Charushin—narodnik, obshchestvennyi deiatel’, izdatel’, kraeved (Kirov: Kirovskii filial Moskovskogo gumanitarno-ekonomicheskogo instituta, 2004); T. Saburova and B. Eklof, Druzhba, sem'ia, revoliutsiia. Nikolai Charushin i pokolenie narodnikov 1870-kh gg. (Moscow: NLO, 2016); Eklof and Saburova, A Generation of Revolutionaries.


Pis'ma Potanina, 4: 175–76, 180, 217.


On Alexandra Potanina's contribution, see, for example, Scott Bailey, In the “Wild Countries” of Central Asia: Ethnography, Science, and Empire in Imperial Russia (Washington, DC: Academica Press, 2019), 220–28.


One pud equals 36.11 pounds. See N. A. Charushin, O dalekom proshlom. Na poselenii (Moscow, 1931), 164.


G. V. Dluzhnevskaia, Arkheologicheskie issledovaniia v Tsentral'noi Azii i Sibiri v 1859–1959 gg. (po dokumentam Nauchnogo arkhiva Instituta istorii material'noi kul'tury RAN) (St. Petersburg: ElekSis, 2011), 269–84.


Ibid., 24. For more on photographs taken by Dudin in Central Asia and his approach, see V. A. Prishchepova, Illustrativnye kollektsii po narodam Tsentral'noi Azii vtoroi poloviny 19–nachala 20 veka v sobraniiakh Kunstkamery (St. Petersburg: Nauka, 2011), 83–102.


Ibid., 25.


V. M. Mirovich, “Fotograficheskaia kollektsiia F. Ia. Kona iz ekspeditsii v Uriankhaiskii krai v 1902–1903 gg. v fondakh IGOM,” in Problemy izucheniia Sibiri v nauchno-issledovatel'skoi rabote muzeev (Krasnoiarsk, Krasnoiarskii universitet, 1989), 29–31.


D. Arzyutov and S. Kan, “The Concept of the ‘Field’ in Early Soviet Ethnography: A Northern Perspective,” Sibirica 16, no. 1 (Spring 2017): 43. The article discusses Jochelson and Bogoraz as Boas's “students” and the impact Boas's concept of “fieldwork” had on their views. Arzyutov also argues that the Sibiriakov and Jesup expeditions as well as long-term cooperation by Shternberg and Bogoraz with the “father” of American anthropology Franz Boas helped to distribute Francis Galton's method in creating of “anthropological” portraits to visualize “types.” Arzyutov points out that despite following Galton's methods, Boas did not see photographs as an important source of anthropological information (D. Arzyutov, “Nabliudaia za nabliudateliami: O vizual'nykh tekhnikakh teoretizirovaniia Sergeia i Elizavety Shirokogorovykh,” Etnograficheskoe Obozrenie 5 (2017): 42. Photos taken by Jochelson and Bogoraz during the Jesup North Pacific Expedition are at the American Museum of Natural History, and photos from the Sibiriakov expedition are at Kunstkamera.


On Bronislav Pilsudski, see M. M. Khasanova, “Fotokollektsiia B. O. Pilsudskogo v MAE RAN,” Izvestiia Instituta naslediia Bronislava Pilsudskogo 9 (2005): 139–52; A. Kuchinskii, “Dokumental'nye fotografii Bronislava Pilsudskogo (kratkii obzor kollektsii Etnograficheskogo muzeia Veny),” translated from Polish, Izvestiia Instituta naslediia Bronislava Pilsudskogo 4 (2000): 120–37; V. M. Latyshev, Sakhalinskaia zhizn’ Bronislava Pilsudskogo: Prolegomeny k biografii (Iuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Sakhalinskoe knizhnoe izdatel'stvo, 2008).


See Sarah Badcock, A Prison without Walls? Eastern Siberian Exile in the Last Years of Tsarism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), chap. 4.


Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Rossiiskoi Federatsii (GARF), f. 102, op. 94, D-3, 1896, d. 992, l. 13-13 ob.


Ibid., ll. 17, 20, 22.


M. M. Chernavskii, Avtobiografiia, Deiateli revoliutsionnogo dvizheniia v Rossii. Entsiklopedicheskii slovar’ Granat (Moscow, 1989), 299.


N. Charushin, O dalekom proshlom (Moscow, 1931), 109–10.


Ibid., 124, 206, 218–19.


GARF, f. 102, D-3, 1893, op. 91, d. 354, t.1, l. 25a.


D. Kennan, Sibir’ i ssylka (St. Petersburg, 1906), 289.


Charushin, O dalekon proshlom (Moscow, 1931), 151.


GARF, f. 102, D-3, 1893, op. 91, d. 354, t.1, l. 31-31 ob.


Charushin, O dalekon proshlom (Moscow, 1931), 151.


Ibid., 158.


Pamiati A.K. Kuznetsova (Chita, 1929), 50.


N. Komarov and V. Sukhodoev, “Vopreki pravde,” Kirovskaia Pravda, 25 August 1988, 2. On “memory wars,” see Eklof and Saburova, A Generation of Revolutionaries, chap. 10.


Sergeev, Nikolai Charushin, 95.


Elizabeth Edwards, “Photographic ‘Types’: The Pursuit of Method,” Visual Anthropology 3 (1990): 235–40.


On anthropology in Russia, see M. Mogil'ner, Homo Imperii. Istoriia fizicheskoi antropologii v Rossii (konets XIX–nachalo XX vv.) (Moscow: NLO, 2008).


GARF, f. 102, D-3, 1893, op. 91, d. 354. t.1, ll. 52-52 ob.


See Frank Spencer, “Some Notes on the Attempt to Apply Photography to Anthropometry during the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century,” in Anthropology and Photography, 1860–1920, ed. Elizabeth Edwards (Royal Anthropological Institute, 1992), 99–107.


See Mary Warner Marien, Photography. A Cultural History (London: Laurence King, 2002), 141; see also Andrew Bank, “Anthropology and Portrait Photography: Gustav Fritsch's ‘Natives of South Africa,’ 1863–1872,” Kronos 27 (2001): 45–76.


See Roslyn Poignant, “Surveying the Field of View: the Making of the RAI Photographic Collection,” in Anthropology and Photography 1860–1920, 55. The Russian Imperial Geographical Society published a guide for photographers who participated in research projects, see Izvestiia RGO 8, no. 2 (1872).


V. Prishchepova, “K 150-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia S.M. Dudina—khudozhnika, etnografa (po materialam MAE RAN),” Antropologicheskii forum 15 (2011): 628–29.


Edwards, “Photographic ‘Types,’”: 241.


D. V. Ivanov, Pervye fotografii, sdelannye v Mongolii russkimi puteshestvennikami, Strany i narody Vostoka (Moscow: Nauka—Vostochnaia literatura, 2014), XXXV: 173–75. See the online collection at the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera),


Charushin, O dalekom proshlom (Moscow, 1931), 185.


George Kennan, Siberia and the Exile System (New York: Praeger, 1970), 2: 110–11.


James R. Ryan, Picturing Empire. Photography and the Visualization of the British Empire (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 143.


Charushin's photo album Mongolia (1889) (ROSFOTO).


RGALI, f. 381, op. 1, d. 176, l. 1.


See S. Morozov, Russkie puteshestvenniki-fotografy (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stvo geographicheskoi literature, 1953), 42.


Protokol obyknovennogo obshchego sobraniia Troitskosavsko-Kiakhtinskogo otdeleniia Priamurskogo Otdela Imperatorskogo Russkogo Geograficheskogo Obshchestva, 4, 19 December 1894, 2.


Exiles were not the only photographers of Siberia. As early as 1862, we find the first Far East photographic studio of the merchant Vladimir Lanin, who was the first to create an anthology of “Views and Types of Distant Eastern Siberia.” Lanin photographed not only people and places but at the instruction of the Russian Imperial Geographic Society, he took pictures of the aboriginals in their ethnic costumes, recorded them living their daily lives as well as their holiday celebrations. His photos were first published in 1870 in the popular periodical Vsemirnaia illiustratsiia (The illustrated world) after which he enjoyed considerable popularity. V. I.Iuzefov, “V. Lanin—pervyi dal'nevostochnyi fotograf,” Vestnik Sakhalinskogo muzeia 1 (1995): 257–61.


E. G. Manushkina, “Istoriia Baikal'skoi Sibiri v sobranii fotografii Irkutskogo oblastnogo kraevedcheskogo muzeia,”


R. Berestenev, “Iarkii pocherk svetopistsev. Fotoobrazy vremeni,”


Manushkina, “Istoriia Baikal'skoi Sibiri.”




Prishchepova, “K 150-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia S.M. Dudina,” 612.


Photos by Kuznetsov are deposited in the Russian National Library, the Nerchinsk Historical Museum, and the Library of Congress.


A. K. Kuznetsov, “Avtobiografiia,” Deiateli revoliutsionnogo dvizheniia v Rossii, 130.


RGALI, f. 381. op.1. d.80. l. 1. Kuznetsov wrote Potanin that he sent some photos for the Russian Geographical Society.


A. K. Kuznetsov, Razvaliny Konduiskogo gorodka i ego okrestnostei (Vladivostok, 1925).


Sergey Glebov, “Siberian Middle Ground: Languages of Rule and Accommodation on the Siberian Frontier,” in Empire Speaks Out: Languages of Rationalization and Self-Description in the Russian Empire, ed. Ilya Gerasimov, Jan Kusber, and Alexander Semyonov (Leiden: Brill, 2009), 138–39.


Dmitrii Arzutov and Sergei Kan argue that “the exiled Narodniks started studying Siberian peoples for several reasons. First, they needed to somehow occupy themselves. Second, and more important, the very ideology of the Populists encouraged them to study the ways of living of a local ‘oppressed people,’ whom the progressive intellectuals were obliged to help” (D. Arzyutov and S. Kan, “The Concept of the ‘Field’ in Early Soviet Ethnography: A Northern Perspective,” Sibirica 16, no. 1 (2017): 39.


Dmitrii Klements, Solomon Chudnovskii, Felix Kon, Ekaterina Breshko-Breshkovskaia, Sergei Kovalik, Vladislav Seroshevskii, Lev Shternberg, Vladimir Bogoraz, Waldemar Jochelson, and other political exiles participated in research about indigenous people of Siberia. On Shternberg, see Sergei Kan, Lev Sternberg: Anthropologist, Russian Socialist, Jewish Activist (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009), esp. chaps. 2–3.


Charushin, O dalekom proshlom (Moscow, 1931), 183.


N.M. Iadrintsev, “Puteshestvie na verkhov'ia Orkhona, k razvalinam Karakoruma,” Izvestiia Imperatorskogo Russkogo Geograficheskogo Obshchestva, 4 (1890): 271.


Ibid., 270.


Sibir’ v sostave Rossiiskoi imperii, 29. See also A.V. Remnev and N.G. Suvorova, “‘Russkoe delo’ na aziatskikh okrainakh: ‘russkost’ pod ugrozoi ili “somnitel'nye kul'turtregery,” Ab Imperio 2 (2008): 157–222.


S. Sinegub, Zapiski chaikovtsa (Moscow, 1929), 278–79.


Charushin, O dalekom proshlom. Na Kare (Moscow, 1929), 107.


Charushin, O dalekom proshlom (Moscow, 1931), 208.


Ryan, Picturing Empire, 47–61.


Michael Hughes, “Every Picture Tells Some Stories: Photographic Illustrations in British Travel Accounts of Russia on the Eve of World War One,” Slavonic and East European Review 92, no. 4 (October 2014): 682–83.


N. Krylova, “Nerchinskaia katorga: Etnographicheskii vzgliad na Rossiiskuiu imperiiu v fotografiiakh ‘vidov i tipov’ poslednei chetverti XIX veka,” Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie 144, no. 2 (2017): 285–311.


Ryan, Picturing Empire, 46–47.


Jeremy Foster, “Capturing and Losing the ‘Lie of the Land’: Railway Photography and Colonial Nationalism in Early-Twentieth Century South Africa,” in Picturing Place: Photography and the Geographical Imagination, ed. Joan M. Schwartz and James R. Ryan (London: I.B. Tauris, 2003), 141.


Chernavskii, “Avtobiografiia,” in Deiateli revoliutsionnogo dvizheniia, 300.


Elisabeth Edwards, “Looking at Photographs: Between Contemplation, Curiosity and Gaze,” in African photography from the Walther Collection: Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive, ed. Tamar Garb (Göttingen: Steidl, 2013), 48–54.

Contributor Notes

Tatiana Saburova studied history at the Omsk State Pedagogical University, where she was teaching from 1996 until 2016. She was a visiting professor at Indiana University in 2016–17 and at the University of Alberta in 2018. She is a lecturer and academic director of the Russian Studies Workshop at Indiana University. She is the author of Mythologies of the Russian Intellectual World: Socio-Cultural Representations of the Russian Intelligentsia in the Nineteenth Century (2005), (Russkii intellektual'nyi mir/mif. Sociokul'turnye predstavleniia russkoi intelligentsii 19 veka); Druzhba, sem'ya, revoluitsiia: Nikolai Charushin i pokolenie narodnikov 1870-kh godov, with Ben Eklof, 2016 (Friendship, family, revolution: Nikolai Charushin and the Populist generation of the 1870s;) and its English-language version A Generation of Revolutionaries: Nikolai Charushin and Russian Populism from the Great Reforms to Perestroika (2017). Her current research focuses on the history of photography in Russia, biography, autobiography, and memory. E-mail:; ORCID 0000-0002-6248-7024.


Interdisciplinary Journal of Siberian Studies