Vestnik Kavkaza together with Vesti FM is implementing the project ‘National Question’, trying to figure out how the problems between different nationalities are resolved in different countries and nations by different governments at different times. Today's guest of the hosts, Vladimir Averin and Gia Saralidze, is the historian, Candidate of Pedagogical Sciences Marat Safarov.
Saralidze: Today we are talking about the development of relations at the time of discovery of lands, in which explorers arrived, and they were faced with small and big peoples. Can we call what happened colonization, what parallels can be drawn with the US, Canada? How similar were the processes that have taken place in Russia during the advance to the East, and in North America?
Safarov: If we take the experience of Russian exploration of Western and Eastern Siberia, the Far East, and the North American experience, it is possible to draw parallels. There is a similarity of climatic conditions, and similar ethnic groups met us on the path of exploration. Our explorers have tried to improve relations with approximately the same ethnic groups, with which English, French settlers and Europeans in general were faced in North America. An ethnos, which unites our three countries, are Eskimos, or as they say in North America, Inuits. We have them in Chukotka, they are the indigenous people of Alaska and some Canadian provinces.
The question is not what ethnic groups we met on the way and how relations developed, but was there colonization. The word "colonization" is not appropriate for the Russian experience. Colonization in North America was accompanied by a certain violence, it was a hard, bloody experience, in many respects. It is draining of resources. Culture of other type, writing, infrastructure, come together with religion, but the first step is a big disaster.
Averin: Everyone is well aware of Surikov's painting 'Yermak's Conquest of Siberia'. Hasn't it happened with fire and sword?
Safarov: The experience of Russian exploration in Western and Eastern Siberia and Far East has only one example of an actual collision with the state, in this case, Vasily Ivanovich Surikov shows it, with the Siberian Khanate. All the rest are the tribes, people who were at the stage of tribal community, those are peaceful people. The North American experience - those are also tribal communities, but violence was used.
We had our own minuses. The rapid exploration involved people in new socio-economic relations. Involvement in what was unusual led to some problems, but they never had a bloody nature in Russia. Siberia was conquered, Khan Kuchum was defeated, then he avenged Yermak, but many descendants of Kuchum went on to serve Russia. His grandson Arslan was Khan Kasimovsky. Somehow, these elites started to become involved. And Ivan the Terrible was initially angry because of the fact that the Strogonovs, during the exploration of Siberia, arranged arbitrariness.
Of course, national intellectuals always count losses - language, daily life, lost traditions. But for many peoples, writing was not brought by the Soviet regime, but by missionaries in the XIX century. Familiarizing with church meant familiarizing with a different culture. For example, how strong is the self-identity of the Yakuts and how strong is their culture, but they always remember those missionaries and explorers who brought big literary culture together with Orthodoxy there.
Saralidze: Were there any rules of behavior in relations with the local population?
Safarov: Of course, even if we take the yasak right, special taxes which were imposed on the local population. For many of them, Russia's arrival meant a certain stability. Parts of these territories, in southern Siberia, for example, are crossroads of rather difficult relations with the nomadic peoples living around. Another feudalism replaced the Asian type of feudalism, a more refined one, which has a place for law. But the law, there should be no illusions here, did not work to protect their interests. No one from late the Ryurikoviches, nor from the Romanovs, showed humanism. The Church comes and brings humanism. In the Russian Empire, belonging to Orthodoxy meant the path to education. At the same time, there were no specific obligations. They did not participate in the wars of the Russian empire, except for special servicemen.
Not only Russians participated in the settlement of lands. Ukrainians, Belarusians came, Tatars moved to the east in waves. In the 19th century many Poles, representatives of the Baltic peoples, resettled in Siberia.
This particular collision, it was not a clash of an Anglo-French colonizer somewhere in Quebec, with an unfortunate Indian who cannot do anything to stop him. At first he thinks that some deity has catapulted into him, and then it turns out that he had lost all his land. I would like for no one to think that in this historical discourse, we want to show the advantage of our experience and belittle the experience of North American countries. Not at all! This is not a topic of political conversation, it is a historical reality.
Averin: How much of it was a state affair? When we are talking about the British colonization, they went under the banner of the crown. When we are talking about colonization of the North American continent, in the first place, we imagine a lone hero, a pioneer-adventurer, followed by the state. When we are talking about the expansion of Moscow tsardom, then the Russian Empire, then in fact, originally, it was not a state affair, there were the Stroganovs, who received a vast territory in Ural and in the north, and began to expand all of this.
Safarov: Yes. Siberian Tatars hindered their salt factories, they decided to find Cossacks, led by Yermak Timofeyevich. The Siberian experience, the experience of the Far East, even in the 20th century (government resettlement campaign, great construction projects) suggested the presence of a strong spirit in people. This exploration was not good-natured, but strong, powerful, in its own interest, because Russia was behind the Russian man, there was a church behind him, as an important state institution. But it was not done with fire and sword.
Averin: But pagan temples were destroyed, cults were banned, and banned very strictly.
Saralidze: There was a different experience. A lot depended on the characteristics of those peoples and tribes which were encountered, and those people who came. There were, in fact, serious military clashes with Chukchis, for example.
Safarov: Regarding temples, it is a common phenomenon during collision of religions, when you do not show tolerance to the traditional cults, traditional cults are just banned. Just like Duke Vladimir once dumped Perun into the Dnieper River. This is a symbolism - our faith won.
Many representatives of the national intelligentsia in the 1990s greatly exaggerated the negative consequences. But was it perceived like that in the 17th-18th centuries, where did the veneration of Stephen of Perm, of Saint Innocent came from? Local people perceived them as saints. A strong person, especially if he is in the halo of some holiness, is always seen as a kind of gift from heaven among local peoples. But still, it was a sincere veneration, which has lasted up to our times. This suggests that, in general, after all the failures and contradictions, there was a peaceful settlement, rather than colonization.
Averin: Before moving towards Siberia, there were the Novgorod lands. Ivan the Terrible burned Novgorod, subjugated it, stamped it. Historians say that there is no cultural layer for a century, it was trampled to this extent. Then the relations of those peoples who inhabited these lands are being reset, relations are built again with the Russian state. Were these processes similar?
Safarov: They were similar, first of all, by the fact that these peoples had no states. States with a certain management structure, with sufficiently strong elites, not to mention armies, with some medieval ideology - this is one conversation. And when there are tribal alliances - it is an entirely different level of relations with a strong, powerful state. The Kazan, Astrakhan, Siberian experiences - it's a very different point. What historical memory are people currently keeping, recalling the events of the 16th century? Speculations on this topic remain. Nevertheless, it is a historical memory, these states existed. And Finno-Ugric tribes have not formed states, but their mental peculiarities, their cultural experience of interaction with Slavs, has created quite a favorable situation.
Saralidze: First of all, trade relations are starting to be established
Averin: Firstly, we started trading, and then trading helped to develop ties. Nobody traded with the Indians on the North American continent.
Safarov: The North Sea process was through almost all Pomorsky, Finno-Ugric areas and further to the development zone. Later, in the XX century, some states tried to incline these people to their side. I can give the experience of Finland as a classic example, which is perceived the Karelians as a part of their interests. The pre-war Finland was engaged in this issue in a very serious way.
However, if you do not take in to account the influence of third forces, other states, so the local people were quite calm. The Karelians accepted Orthodoxy. It is one of the most durable Finno-Ugric peoples in the Orthodox Church. The Karelians, Komi Mordvinians live in the Volga region. No conflicts in their experience of interaction with the Russian people come to my mind. What a largee number of toponyms we have on our Central Russian lands of Finno-Ugric origin! And it is quite another matter when two countries face each other. It was proved by a lot of Russian experience in the XIX century, including the Caucasian War. Although they were sub-states in a certain extent, but their strong ideology prevented from interaction and peace for a long time.
Saralidze: If we compare processes in North America and in Russia, so what has happened with languages.
Safarov: If you take into account the experience of the XX century, there are very similar processes in our and their countries. Certainly, it is globalization. The XX century ruled out any violence, it is a completely different period, historical experience, but the language began to lose everything both in North American sttaes, and in our country.
Averin: What word can replace the ‘’colonization" word?
Safarov: "relations", "development". The use of the "colonization" term is a norm for the Western historiography. The substitution of notions takes place. But the word "colonization" is not appropriate due to the absence of nationhood, a specific opponent to fight with.
Averin: there was no state of conflict in North America, too.
Safarov: Any historical period should be compared. For example, if we take the British experience it is quite different, subjugated peoples knocked at the doors of their conquerors. We have another interesting feature – after demographic statistics came into practice in the XIX century we saw an increase in the number of people. The first major Soviet census in 1926 identified many different peoples and peoples didn’t know that what they existed.
Reservations were created in North America. During the Soviet times we were frightened by this word. In fact, the reservation was not an area of forced evictions of people. It was a National District. People are not willing to be there now. Many reservations exist formally.
The most number of Indians live in Los Angeles, for example. In principle, they were resettled over California, but they want to live in the City of Angels. Once the missionaries or explorers regarded them as little children because they believed that indigenous peoples didn’t fit their understanding of the civilization of that time – the XVII century. The development further waves of legislative initiatives to protect them and reality don’t harmonize very well with each other.
Averin: The most Indians were not satisfied with the land they were forced to live in.
Safarov: All the manipulation of their behavior from the viewpoint of what they demand of this protection didn’t lead to any positive results. People don’t want to be an ethnographic element. This doesn’t mean that the legislation should be completely abolished. There are commercial areas, actually operating economically justified projects. We also had collective farms earlier. State farms were built according to enterprise traditions. On the other hand, the separation of children from folk traditions and languages led to the fact that children returned to their parents as people who were not accessed to the proper way of life, culture, as well as those who speak different languages spoken in the truest sense of the word.
Averin: There is a legislation in the Far East that supports traditional crafts, allocates quotas for the use of marine resources, but the local population of trades these quotas. The legislation cannot be cancelled, but it probably needs a significant adjustment.
Saralidze: On the other hand, the abolition of these quotas will bring troubles to those people who are really engaged in a such trade as whaling.
Safarov: Despite the creation of federal institutions for the protection of indigenous peoples’ interests, rights, even with all problems and side effects are transferred on the spot. The issue of manual control of quotas and rights of indigenous peoples are at the lower level. These issues are solved more efficiently. Migration, relocation, mobility are taken into account. Roman Abramovich’s experience in the governing body of Chukotka showed enough effective management of these processes.
Averin: There was another phase of promotion and development, which is called the "civil war’’.
Safarov: In an era of civil war positions of all the indigenous peoples in the Far East, Siberia, especially in eastern Siberia, weren't so actual. They were not involved in the conflict. For example, if we exclude South Siberian regions where Baron Ungern tried incline Buryats and other peoples. As for the other areas of the region they were indifferent during dispossession. It is well described in the "Devastation" novel by Fadeyev. Certainly, they had negative attitude when came to any camp and took everything. However, being operating forces they supported neither the Whites, nor the Reds during wars.
The Soviet experience is interesting due to very rapid organization of national territorial structures in the Far East and Siberia. Central Russia, the Volga region and others were created in the image and likeness. The Volga walkers came to Lenin, worked in Narkomnats, but these peoples didn’t visit Moscow. It presented various structures itself.
A huge cultural breakthrough took place in 1937-1938. It was a Soviet project and it wasn’t associated with religion and church. It was ties with the development and distribution of alphabets among all nations in tundra. The alphabets were worked out by Leningrad scientists, then departments were formed on the basis of these works.
Averin: The model of the Soviet development was the movie "Head of Chukotka’’. It is pretty easy, live comedy, but the director didn’t deceive us about how the local population faced the opposition of the old and the new Russian authorities.
Safarov: Primers and even textbooks were issued, and certainly, fiction. Great writer Yuri Rytkheu was famous across the USSR. But I remember such an episode when Renata Litvinova took exams to VGIK. She claimed her their texts as Yuri Rytkheu's. And everybody believed her. But there were no rapid request for the culture’s revival in comparison with non-Union, but autonomous republics of the USSR. For example, the Volga region, saying nothing of the North Caucasus republics where people have experienced tremendous turmoil in the XX century and managed to revive their culture. There is no such a request in the New World. 72% of American Indians speak English. They do not know any other languages in addition to English.
Saralidze: What are the statistics?
Safarov: Very different. For example, the Yakuts are a unique people. Either they have some sort of Turkic charisma, or their ancestors are reflected in them, because the tendency of the language penetration is extremely high. Films are not dubbed in Yakutia. It means that films are uploaded from the Internet in the Yakut language, therefore, the Yakut youth understands the content. A reduction of their language skills leads to a reduction in their numbers. Let’s assume that a person can be taken anthropologically as a representative of a particular indigenous people, but he often doesn’t consider himself in this way. There's another situation with the Canadian Inuits. Being determines consciousness. And being there is that nature doesn't allow them to globalize strongly. The Indians also live in other areas of settlement. Therefore, the preservation of Inuit Eskimos’ national, linguistic, and religious traditions is an element of their ethnic identity determined by the harsh climate.