East of the Sun: The Epic Conquest and Tragic History of Siberia

Benson Bobrick, Author Poseidon Press $28 (0p) ISBN 978-0-671-66755-9
As recounted by Bobrick, Russia's conquest of far-flung Siberia is a magnificent saga that rivals that of the settlement of the American West in its tragic drama. Lured by the prospect of a lucrative fur trade, small bands of Russians, convinced of their right to dispossess ``inferior'' peoples, subjugated Turkish and Mongol nomads, fueled intertribal warfare and destroyed native cultures through forced assimilation. Colonization sparked riots and populist uprisings in the 16th century. Modern times brought further disruption. The Trans-Siberian Railway, completed in 1901, enabled millions of peasants to migrate over the Urals. Under Lenin, shamans and other Siberian natives were annihilated. Stalin stepped up the collectivization of Siberian agriculture, causing famine and massacres. Possession of this resource-rich yet economically deprived region makes Russia today ``potentially the richest nation on earth,'' writes Bobrich, biographer of Ivan the Terrible. He fills his narrative with descriptions of reckless Cossacks, polygamous Aleuts, Buddhist Buryats, explorers, exiles and Gulag prisoners. Illustrations. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1992
Release date: 10/01/1992
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