In sweep, color, and grandeur, the conquest and settlement of Siberia compares with the winning of the American West. It is the greatest pioneering story in human history, uniquely combining the heroic colonization of an intractable virgin land, the ghastly dangers and high adventure of Arctic exploration, and the grimmest saga of penal servitude in the chronicles of man. Four hundred years of continual human striving chart its course, a drama of unremitting extremes and elemental confrontations, pitting man ...
In sweep, color, and grandeur, the conquest and settlement of Siberia compares with the winning of the American West. It is the greatest pioneering story in human history, uniquely combining the heroic colonization of an intractable virgin land, the ghastly dangers and high adventure of Arctic exploration, and the grimmest saga of penal servitude in the chronicles of man. Four hundred years of continual human striving chart its course, a drama of unremitting extremes and elemental confrontations, pitting man against nature, and man against man. East of the Sun, a work of panoramic scope and brilliance, is the first complete account of this strange and terrible story. To most Westerners, Siberia is a vast and mysterious place. The richest resource area on the face of the earth, its land mass covers 5 million square miles - 7 1/2 percent of the total land surface of the globe. From the first foray in 1581 across the Ural Mountains by a band of Cossack outlaws to the fall of Gorbachev, East of the Sun is history on a grand scale. With vivid immediacy, Bobrick describes the often brutal subjugation of Siberia's aboriginal tribes and the cultures that were destroyed; the great eighteenth-century explorations that defined Siberia's borders and Russia's attempt to "extend" Siberia further with settlements in Alaska, California, and Hawaii; and the transformation of Siberia into a penal colony for criminal and political exiles, an experiment more terrible than Australia's Botany Bay. There is the building of the stupendous Trans-Siberian Railway across seven time zones; Siberia's key role in the bloody aftermath of the October Revolution in 1917; and Stalin's dreaded Gulag, which corrupted its very soil. Today, Siberia is the hope of Russia's future, now that all her appended republic have broken away. Its story has never been more timely.
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.)
The only up-to-date, general account of this huge land of climatic extremes, anthropological variety, and unparalleled natural resources, East of the Sun captures much of the inherent drama--from the original 16th-century explorations to contemporary problems of industrial pollution. The author of Fearful Majesty: The Life and Reign of Ivan the Terrible ( LJ 8/87), Bobrick again demonstrates his ability to produce interesting popular history; especially effective are the descriptions of Stalin's nightmarish Gulag and the ways in which an enormous, ever-shrinking frontier affected Russia's historical development. Despite its current agony, ``With Siberia, Russia will continue to be by far the largest, and potentially the richest, nation on earth.'' For all libraries.--Mark R. Yerburgh, Fern Ridge Community Lib., Veneta, Ore.
A reprint of Bobrick's well-received history of the grim land. Originally published in 1982 by Simon & Schuster. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Taking on five hundred years and five million square miles of history, Bobrick offers a popular but serious narrative of Russia's immense frontier. That line began to take shape after Muscovy, energized by the shedding if its Mongol yoke and subsequently by the consolidation of the state under the Romanov dynasty in 1613, began an eastward expansion that brought Russians to the Pacific in the early 1700s. Far from a dry assemblage of the names and deeds that accomplished the advance, Bobrick's rendering firmly fixes explorers and conquerors such as Bering (Strait), Laptev (Sea), or Khabaro (sk) to the native tribes and physical landscape they subdued. Needless to say, the latter was the more formidable, with Arctic ice, several mountain ranges, northward-flowing rivers, and trackless swamps all impeding movement. Bobrick avers too much has been made of Siberia as a penal colony--except in the Stalin years, when facts caught up with reputation--yet he retells stories of cruelty that show the dark side of Russian success in mastering the continent. Nor does the author neglect political turmoil as he summarizes this century's three wars fought in Siberia. Proving himself to be a versatile researcher, Bobrick is equally comfortable with explaining native customs or Peter the Great's role in sending out expeditions. His opening of the subject should lure and hook both the casual and the wizened reader