Abstract

In this article, the late Anatoly Remnev explores the debates leading up to the establishment of the first Siberian University in Tomsk in 1888. These discussions emerged in the first decade of the nineteenth century in connec­tion with the establishment of universities in 1804 and the introduction of university degree requirements for bureaucrats. This measure in particular led to the influx to Siberia (exempt from the requirement) of many bureau­crats unable to acquire the degree or pass examinations. Initiated by the governor of Western Siberia, P. M. Kaptsevich, in the 1820s, the Siberian University project stalled with the governor's resignation. Many imperial administrators, including P. A. Slovtsov, considered the idea of a Siberian University premature due to lack of resources. In the 1840s and 1850s, the question of a Siberian University was cast in terms of the absence of Siberian nobility: institutions of higher learning were seen as a means to ameliorate the perceived "incompleteness" of Siberian society. The solu­tion, however, was found in the expansion of gymnasia and schools rather than in the establishment of a full-fledged university, and was tied to the problem of quality of the Siberian bureaucracy and ways to improve it. For instance, N. N. Murav'ev, an innovative and dynamic governor-general of Eastern Siberia, objected to the idea of a Siberian University because he wished to bring a greater number of educated and progressive bureaucrats from European Russia. In the 1860s the question of a Siberian University was taken up by the Siberian educated classes. Both mid-ranking Siberian bureaucrats and, especially, the emerging Siberian regionalist movement (oblastiniki) saw the establishment of the university as their central goal. In fact, the founding of the university was one of the questions that helped crystallize the regionalist movement. In 1864 in Tomsk, N. M. Iadrintsev delivered a public speech in which he defended the idea. For the Siberian regionalists the university was a means to create a Siberian intelligentsia and "awaken" the Siberian regional consciousness. They referred to the example of Wales in Great Britain to support their ideas. In the conditions of Siberia, though, this was possible only through an alliance between liberal bureaucrats and the Siberian intelligentsia. With the arrival of N. M. Kaznakov as the governor-general of Western Siberia, the regionalists acquired such an alliance - N. M. Iadrintsev, the leading regionalist, became his closest associate. For the regionalists and liberal bureaucrats, the task was to fight off critical opinions about the university and choose an appropriate city in which to locate the school. Omsk was touted by bureaucrats but was unacceptable for the regionalists who saw it as an administrative capital. Tomsk, on the other hand, had a large presence of political exiles. Irkutsk was relatively remote. As both regionalists and bureaucrats settled on Tomsk, the local bourgeoisie contributed financially to the establishment of the school. On the eve of the school's opening, concerns about "Siberian nationality" and sedition were raised by well-known publicist M. N. Katkov. The conservative Ober-Procurator of the Holy Synod K. Pobedonostsev continuously expressed his opposition to the idea of Tomsk University to Alexander III and the future Nicholas II. Although many in the upper levels of government shared these concerns, a compromise was found in opening the university with just one faculty of medicine. In a decade it was to be joined by the faculty of law. Tomsk was cleansed of political exiles, and the university was called the "University of Tomsk" rather than "Siberian University," possibly out of fear of Siberian separatism.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2164-9731
Print ISSN
2166-4072
Pages
pp. 121-150
Launched on MUSE
2012-06-06
Open Access
No
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