Siberia: Russia's Eastern Frontier

REES 513 Siberia: Russia’s Eastern Frontier is a new course that is being offered for the first time this semester. It will be complimentary to an existing course, REES 512 Siberia: Yesterday and Today, which will be reorganized in future semesters to emphasize the literature, history, culture, art, and sociology of Siberia. The new course will focus on geography, climate, ecology, archeology, ethnography and the Indigenous Peoples of Siberia. We will strive to ensure that the two courses do not extensively overlap and you are not required to take the both courses (each will be designed to stand alone).

REES 513 Siberia: Russia’s Eastern Frontier is cross listed as GINS 504, GINS 508, GIST 793, and HIST 510.

The geographical area covered by REES 513 extends from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, from the Arctic Ocean to Central Asia, Mongolia, China, and Korea. This is a view of Siberia “writ large” and does not map onto the narrower definitions of Siberia that are used by geographers in Russia. For our purposes we can consider Siberia as synonymous with northern Asia.


An interdisciplinary course examining the land, people, culture, and society of the vast expanse in northern Asia known as “Siberia”. The territory covered extends from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, from the Arctic Ocean to Central Asia, Mongolia, China, and Korea. Its time frame reaches from antiquity to the present, including both Siberia’s indigenous peoples and European and Asian immigrants. Areas of inquiry represented are, e. g. geology, archaeology, geography, ethnography, education and science, folklore, literature, the arts, natural and human resources, politics, and the environment. Since there is only minimal overlap with REES 512 Siberia Yesterday and Today it can be taken with benefit by students who have completed the previous course.

Principal instructors: 

Professor Gerald Mikkelson                                 

Guest lecturers: 

Doug Causey (Biology, University of Alaska at Anchorage)
Dr. Cynthia Annett (University of Alaska at Anchorage)
Arienne Dwyer (Anthropology)
Erik Herron (Political Science) 
John Hoopes (Anthropology, Indigenous Nations Studies)
Helen Hundley (History, Wichita State)
Margarita Karnysheva (History)
Maia Kipp (Russian Studies, Theatre and Drama)
Bruce Menning (History, Fort Leavenworth)
Mariya Omelicheva (Political Science);
Maria Ostanina (Gorno-Altaisk)
Ray Pierotti (Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Indigenous Nations)
Norman Saul (History, Emeritus)
Andrei Tolstikov (Tyumen)
John Van Orman (Ozarka College) and Teresa Van Orman (Ozark Craft School)


  1. Between Heaven and Hell: The Myth of Siberia in Russian Culture, edited by Galya Diment and Yuri Slezkine (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993).
  2. Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy, The Siberian Curse: How Communist Planners Left Russia Out in the Cold (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2003).
  3. The History of Siberia: From Russian Conquest to Revolution, edited and introduced by Alan Wood (New York: Rutledge Press, 1991).
  4. The National Geographic Map of Russian

Week 1        Introduction: What is Siberia? (Mikkelson and Annett)

Week 2        Films: Norilsk: Life in the Arctic. The Kuzbas.  

                     Russian artists on Siberia: Vasily Surikov (1848-1916), Nikolay Roerich (1874-1947)  (Mikkelson

Week 3        The Physical Geography of Siberia and Ecological Biomes of Siberia (Annett)

Week 4        Wildlife in Siberia (Pierotti)

                    Shamanism in Siberia (Hoopes)

Week 5        Buddhism in Siberia (Hundley)

                    Cossacks in the Conquest of Siberia (Menning)

Week 6        Siberia’s Disappearing Languages (Dwyer)

                    Film: Dersu Uzala (Part I)

Week 7        Film: Dersu Uzala (Part II)

                   Siberian Russian Drama (M. Kipp)

Week 8        The History of Russian America (Saul)

                    The Russian North (Causey)

Week 9        Russian Old Believers in Siberia (Karnysheva)

                    Indigenous Peoples of the Altay Region (Ostanina)        

Week 10      Siberian Russian Literature (Mikkelson)

                     Post-Soviet Siberian Politics (Herron)

Week 11       Chinese interest in Siberia (Omelicheva)

                     Siberian oil and gas exploitation, and the environment (Tolstikov and Annett)

Week 12       Siberian Russian and Indigenous Oral Literature (Mikkelson)

                     Siberian Folk Music and Culture (John and Teresa Van Orman)