Siberian faces of the 20th century

These photographs were taken in the Siberian Yeniseysk Governorate in the 20th century. They remain in the archive of the city of Krasnoyarsk’s local museum. This is visual history: the local residents’ livelihoods, deer herding and shipping on the Yenisei River, and constructing churches. But the most interesting and astounding is, of course, the faces of people who lived at the beginning of the 20th century.

These photographs were taken in the Siberian Yeniseysk Governorate in the 20th century. They remain in the archive of the city of Krasnoyarsk’s local museum. This is visual history: the local residents’ livelihoods, deer herding and shipping on the Yenisei River, and constructing churches. But the most interesting and astounding is, of course, the faces of people who lived at the beginning of the 20th century.
In 1822, the Russian territory of Siberia was divided into the Western and Eastern parts. The Yeniseysk Governorate, a territorial unit that united 5 okrugs, was created.
Krasnoyarsk became the governorate’s capital and is now the largest among Siberia’s oldest cities.
The governorate’s longest stretch extends from China to the northernmost edge of Asia, measuring 2800 versts (2,984 km).
In 1911, Yeniseysk Governorate was designated as the place of exile for vagrants. As such, prison authorities sent former convicts who had served their sentences here in 1913 in order to form permanent settlements. In that same year, there were already 46.7 thousand exiles living in the region.
The ethnic make-up of the governorate was as such in 1920: Russians — 84.0%, Ukrainians — 3.7%; Belarusians — 2.4%; Latvians — 1.2%; Tatars — 1.2%; other — 6.5%.
Only 10 percent of the population lived in cities. The rest lived in settlements, villages, or wandered from place to place as they primarily herded deer.
The Yeniseysk Governorate existed for 103 years. On May 25, 1925, all of the regions and governorates in Siberia were abolished and merged into a single Siberian Krai with its capital in Novosibirsk.
Today, the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk (current population around 975,000) is the capital of an eponymous region that is also one of the largest administrative regions in Russia, stretching from the Republic of Tuva, which shares a border with Mongolia, all the way to the Kara and Laptev Seas in the Arctic Ocean.
Founded in 1628 as a frontier outpost on the southern reaches of the mighty Yenisei River, for the first century of its existence Krasnoyarsk consisted of little more than a Cossack detachment.
Its name is a Russian translation of the original site name, “red riverbank,” in the local Khakas language.
For the first century of the settlement’s existence, life for the local Cossacks and peasants hardly rose above subsistence level, particularly with the harsh Siberian climate.
Yet, the area's rich natural resources eventually gave rise to industrial and craft production during the 18th century, particularly after the subduing of the southern steppe tribes and the opening of the Moscow Road (1735-41), a more even, southerly route that redirected settlement and transportation in Siberia. Copper smelting and ironworking factories were in operation by the 1750s.
As with Omsk to the west, Krasnoyarsk was transformed in the late 19th century from a provincial garrison town into a major transportation center by the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, begun in 1891. By 1895, Krasnoyarsk was connected by rail with European Russia, and subsequently with Irkutsk and the Far East.
After the revolution, the industrialization campaign of the 1930s led to the construction of major new sites for heavy industry in Krasnoyarsk.
The evacuation of factories from the European part of the Soviet Union in 1941-42 added to this process.
The city subsequently became a center for hydroelectric power and aluminum production. Growth during the Soviet period was reflected in the construction of a number of large public buildings.
Some of Krasnoyarsk’s growth around this time can also be attributed to its position as a center of the Gulag system. In the immediate post-Soviet period, the population and economic strength of Krasnoyarsk declined noticeably, but the city has rebounded in recent years.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

More exciting stories and videos on Russia Beyond's Facebook page

This website uses cookies. Click here to find out more.

Accept cookies