The present article formulates some of the essential principles of the book in which it is inserted ― the eleventh volume of the series ‘Ethnographic-Archaeological Complexes: Problems of Culture and Society’ edited in Omsk. Its author, the leading figure of the exceptionally productive Omsk School of human and social sciences, and a major contributor to the rapprochement of history and ethnology in present-day Russia, paves the way for ongoing studies on the interrelations between the human being and its ecosystem in Western Siberia. He also proposes a prospective reflection on the adoption of rational of ways of adaptation of the region’s aboriginal populations to modern world culture through a valuation of traditional forms of culture. Interestingly, a substantial bibliography of the first works published in this direction in Omsk has been added among the volume’s appendixes (Korusenko M. A., Tomilov N. A., “Spisok rabot omskikh uchenykh po etnoarkheologicheskoi problematike (2001-2005 gody) [A List of Works by Omsk Scholars on the Issues of Ethno-Archaeology (2001-5)],” 301-49).
Besides these contributions, the same volume offers a selection of studies on the most varied aspects of the cultural history of Siberia through the sometimes combined resources of archaeology, epigraphy, palaeography, history, and ethnology. A first, short but innovative article casts light on the resources brought about by the combination of oral history, ethnographic study and archaeological data for the reconstruction of the remote past of a micro-region in present-day north-eastern Kazakhstan (Artykbaev Zh. O., Ermanov A. Zh., Zhanisov A. T., “Problemy etnokul’turnogo izucheniia srednevekov’ia Pavlodarskogo Priirtysh’ia (etnografo-arkheologicheskii kompleks ‘Akkol’-Zhaiylma’ na territorii Pavlodarskoi oblasti Respubliki Kazakhstan) [The Problems of Ethno-Cultural Research on Mediaeval Pavlodar in the Irtysh Region (The Ethnographic-archaeological Complex of Akkol-Zhaiylma in the Pavlodar Region, Republic of Kazakhstan)],” 125-31, fig.). It is followed by a study of the contribution of an early-eighteenth-century Russian atlas to the history of Russian and Tatar settlement in Western Siberia in a period of rapid demographic change (Matveev A. V., “Pritar’e i severo-zapadnaia Baraba v “Khronograficheskoi chertezhnoi knige Sibiri” S. U. Remezova 1697-1711 goda [The Tara Region and North-Western Baraba in the “Atlas of Siberia” by S. U. Remezov, 1697-1711],” 132-7, ill.). Another illustration of the combination of ethnographical and archaeological approach is given by a short study of the occupation of the land and adaptation to local natural conditions by nineteenth-century migrant populations, at the confluence of the Shish and Irtysh Rivers in the Omsk Region (Tataurov S. F., “Etnografo-arkheologicheskie kompleksy reki Shisha [The Ethnographic-Archaeological Complexes of the Shish River],” 138-50, maps, ill.). More classically, an examination of the burial complex of Bergamak II permits its author to complete the available documentation on the funeral practice of the population of the lower course of the Tatar River in the seventeenth and eighteenth century (Tikhomirov K. N., “Kompleks xvii-xviii vekov mogil’nika Bergamak II (po metarialam raskopok 1999 goda) [The Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Burial Complex of Bergamak II (through the Data of the 1999 Excavations)],” 151-9, ill., fig.). The study of a ‘Survey Book’ of 1701 allows another author to discuss the generally accepted idea of a strong Kazan Tatar presence in the region of Tara as soon as the early eighteenth century. It also reveals the presence of dvorovye Kalmyks at the service of sluzhilye Tatars ― a consequence of unsuccessful Kalmyk forays against Tatar populations (Korusenko S. N., Ponomareva A. M., “Etnosotsial’niaia struktura tiurkoiazychnogo naseleniia Tarskogo Priirtysh’ia v nachale xviii veka (po dannym Dozornoi knigi Tarskogo uezda 1701 goda) [The Ethno-Social Structure of the Turkic-Speaking Population of the Tara Irtysh Region in the Early Eighteenth Century (through the Data of the Survey Book of the Tatar District, 1701)],” 160-9). The next contribution offers an analysis of several late eighteenth and early twentieth century Russian depictions of the Siberian Tatar’s juridical practices, notably in their relations with surrounding populations (Belich I. V., “Pis’mennye istochniki 80-kh godov xviii – pervoi chetverti xix veka o pravovykh traditsiiakh sibirskikh tatar [Written Sources of the 1780s to 1825 on the Juridical Traditions of the Tatars of Siberia],” 170-94). Another major contribution of the volume on the management of the Islamic heritage deals with the examination of two successive legendary narratives on the conversion of Western Siberia: one elaborated in the seventeenth century on a Central Asian canvas (an introduction, a war narrative, a catalogue of holy places, and a list of the latter’s keepers); and a later, re-elaborated version of the mid-eighteenth century by Khwaja Ibn Yamin of Tara and judge ‘Abd al-Karim of Tobolsk, including new figures and new holy places to the old narrative structure ― which confirmed and reinforced the impact of the Turkistan model for these Sufi traditions in Western Siberia (Bustanov A. K., “Manuscripty sufiiskikh shaikhov: turkestanskaia traditsiia na beregakh Irtysha [The Manuscripts of Sufi Masters: The Tradition of Turkistan on the Banks of the Irtysh River],” 195-229, fig., tab.). Of a complete different inspiration, in the line of traditional Soviet ethnography, is a short evocation of “survivals of pre-Islamic cults” among the Tatars of over-the-Marsh, through the practice of tree worshipping ― as receptacles of spirits ― and more generally through the sacralisation of trees (Tikhomirova M. N., “Pochitanie derev’ev u zabolotnykh tatar [Tree Worship by the Tatars of over the Marsh],” 230-5). To be signalled also is a well-documented overview of the recent developments of the archaeology of Russian populations in Omsk (Tataurova L. V., “Desiat’ let arhkeologii russkikh v Omske [A Decade of the archaeology of the Russians in Omsk],” 272-91).
In all, the volume offers a captivating insight of the current combinations of disciplines, especially history, archaeology and ethnography, in the Turkic-peopled regions of Siberia, even if lots of elements of continuity with practices of the previous periods can be discerned in such and such studies. The modality of the combination of disciplines is not always assessed, and sometimes does not exceed a purely rhetorical dimension. At the same time, one can only be thrilled about the dynamism of Siberian research centres, in Omsk in particular, which despite the hardships of the past two or three decades have managed to promote permanent renewal of the postulates of research, and the constant enlargement of its discoveries.