The Esipov Chronicle and the Creation of the Concept of Siberia as a Special Sacred Space

in Russian History
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The conquest of Siberia and the conversion of its peoples to Russian Orthodoxy are generally seen as the outcome of a successful Muscovite imperial policy, which aimed at the political subordination of the area east of the Urals to the tsar’s will and at Siberia’s economic exploitation. While scholars tend to view even the definition of a Siberian identity as an outgrowth of Muscovite political and religious thought, this article explores how the Esipov Chronicle, composed in 1636 by Savva Esipov, a deacon of the Sophia Cathedral in Tobolsk, articulated the Siberian hierarchs’ view on the importance of their border diocese to their Muscovite homeland. The Esipov Chronicle achieved this purpose by presenting Ermak’s expedition into Siberia and the defeat of the pagan tsar Kuchum as an important chapter in the Christian salvation drama. Portraying the land beyond the Urals as a place with its own local religious traditions, the Esipov Chronicle created the notion that Siberia was a unique sacred space that needed to be respected. In the early seventeenth century, the Muscovite agenda regarding Siberia was seemingly not yet fully developed, allowing the Siberian hierarchs to formulate their own regional perspective on their outpost diocese.

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