Yasak (fur tribute) in Siberia in the seventeenth century (1955)
According to The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979), Sergei Vladimirovich Bakhrushin was born in 1882 in Moscow and died in the same city in 1950. Bakhrushin graduated from Moscow University in 1904, then worked at the university in various capacities from 1909, becoming professor in 1927. He also worked in the Institute of History in the USSSR’s Academy of Sciences. A student of the famous Russian historians V.O. Kliuchevskii and M.K. Liubavskii, Bakhrushin wrote on a wide variety of topics, including premodern Russia and Russian borderlands history.
Bakhrushin’s scholarship was particularly important for the development of Siberian history, especially its economic and cross-cultural history. The article translated below demonstrates his strengths. Dealing expertly with old and difficult documents, while describing a vast physical and ethnographic landscape, Bakhrushin is able to expose the ambiguities of the Russian relationship with indigenous Siberians. He is attentive to the stories hidden behind the bureaucratic Russian language of the chancelleries developing in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which attempted to hide the true power relations on the ground in Siberia. Well before it became the norm among Soviet or Western historians, Bakhrushin conceived of frontier relations as a series of workable compromises (the kind of “Middle Ground” that American historian Richard White  would later describe) crafted by cultures which barely understood each other. Bakhrushin’s work is also invaluable as an anthropological description of Siberian people, such as the Komi and Vogul, about whom little is otherwise known, especially to non-Russian readers. Although the sources he relies upon are all Russian (since Siberians were mostly nonliterate), a rare picture of early-modern Siberian life can nonetheless be glimpsed, including these peoples’ difficult and reluctant transition to subjects of the Muscovite Tsar.