The Decembrists in Siberia, 1826-1856

Birkett, Kupava E (1988) The Decembrists in Siberia, 1826-1856. MLitt(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The attempted rising in St Petersburg on 14.12.1825, and the almost simultaneous mutiny of the Chernigov regiment in the Ukraine, were led by young officers who had recognised that the continued existence of the serf system was the main cause of Russia's backwardness. Their aim was to abolish the system, but they had differing ideas on how the country was to be governed afterwards. After the failure of the risings, and the execution of five of the leaders, 121 of the rebels were sentenced to varying periods of forced labour in Siberia, followed by life exile there. The dissertation describes their journey to exile and their life in prison and in exile. Reference is made to contemporary knowledge of Siberia and to the realities of life there, with some mention of the plans the Decembrist exiles made for its future. During their imprisonment the Decembrists organised their communal life and established a mutual aid fund based on democratic cooperative principles. They realised that to enable future generations to continue the struggle in which they themselves had failed education was essential, and began by educating one another in the so-called "prison academy". The hardships of their imprisonment included the prohibition of correspondence with even their closest relatives. The prisoners were able to evade this ruling with the help of the wives of some of them, whose courage in overcoming the obstacles set in their way enabled them to join their husbands and share their exile. Not being prisoners, these women could not be restricted in the same way as the men. They were able to write letters on their behalf, and to obtain for them books and periodicals which helped to extend their knowledge and keep them abreast of current events. The women sustained the morale of the prisoners, and also ensured that the Decembrists were not forgotten in Russia. On ending their terms of imprisonment, the Decembrists were settled in various parts of Siberia, some very remote. While life in these outlying places was often lonely and hard, those living in the Irkutsk area and near Lake Baykal were able to overcome some of their hardships. Their activities included research into local topography, meteorology and ethnography, painting, writing and, most importantly, education. In most of these Nikolay Aleksandrovich Bestuzhev excelled. Although most of the product of the Decembrists' research could not be published, they influenced those with whom they came into contact. They left behind them a legacy of education for girls as well as boys, for the indigenous peoples of the places where they lived, and an appreciation of the potential of these peoples; a higher level of cultural awareness; and a tradition of courage and steadfastness which remains a lasting memorial.

Item Type: Thesis (MLitt(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Russian history
Date of Award: 1988
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1988-77681
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2020 11:53
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2020 11:53

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