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The "end of the earth": Sakhalin Island in the Russian imperial imagination, 1849-1906

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Title: The "end of the earth": Sakhalin Island in the Russian imperial imagination, 1849-1906
Author(s): Corrado, Sharyl
Director of Research: Steinberg, Mark D.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Steinberg, Mark D.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Koenker, Diane P.; Randolph, John W.; Burton, Antoinette M.; Bunzl, Matti
Department / Program: History
Discipline: History
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Russia Sakhalin penal colony exile katorga Siberia Russian Far East colonialism Late Imperial Russia Russian Empire
Abstract: This dissertation examines Russian discourses concerning colonization of Sakhalin Island from the 1850s, when explorers claimed the island as innately Russian land, to 1906, when Russia withdrew colonists after surrendering southern Sakhalin to Japan. By examining not only the ever-changing state policies toward Sakhalin, but also the shifting place of Sakhalin in the Russian imagination, I investigate the changing meaning of Russianness itself as the state sought to transform Russia from a backward nation to a modern colonial power. By looking at Sakhalin before it was colonized, early Russian colonization of Sakhalin, the island’s intended role in penal reform, and the resulting new Sakhalin identity, the dissertation explores the relationships between discourse and policy, science and its implementation, and Russian identity as defined from above and as experienced from below. Sources include not only the scientific data of explorers and statesmen, but also narratives of those who visited or lived on Sakhalin, from state officials to convicted criminals. Additional data derives from the European Russian mainland, where Sakhalin’s discursive position as a colonial Other reveals the struggle of Russian society with its new Russian imperial identity and the European modernity in which it arose. This dissertation illuminates the processes of Russia’s transition into modernity and Sakhalin’s role in it. Challenging the prevailing assumption that colonization of Sakhalin represented Russian backwardness, I demonstrate that the same factors that generated the Great Reforms led to the colonization of Sakhalin Island and that the exile of criminals to the island was consistent with modern European values of science, humaneness and rational thought. Upon closer investigation, however, penal colonization of Sakhalin reveals shifting definitions of Russianness itself, as pure Russian land was redefined as steppe alone, rather than the contiguous Eurasian territory, thereby excluding Sakhalin, and the Russian citizen molded on Sakhalin needed no longer to speak Russian or worship a Russian God, but rather to labor efficiently and yield a profit for the state. The failure of penal servitude on Sakhalin, I argue, is a sign of the chaos and ambiguity that characterized this transition.
Issue Date: 2010-05-14
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/15583
Rights Information: Copyright 2010 Sharyl M. Corrado
Date Available in IDEALS: 2010-05-14
2012-05-15
Date Deposited: May 2010
 

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