Literacy and Orality in the Eurasian Frontier: Imperial Culture and Space in Seventeenth-Century Siberia and Russia

Christoph Witzenrath

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Levels of 11.2 per cent literacy among Cossacks in seventeenth-century Siberia are unmatched by dependable Studies on Muscovy, except amongst foreign officers. The criterion employed here is the rukuprikladstvo, a short text. A peasant near Moscow was unlikely to have needed these skills; to Siberian Cossacks, however, basic literacy and the ability to understand documents were crucial in sustaining their position and interests oil the Far trading frontier, which was essential to Muscovite military reforms and economy. Cossacks exploited the Russian north's grain Supply, taking advantage of literate practices. Imperial Culture facilitated interactions, but lacked trained lawyers or reliable legal status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-77
Number of pages25
JournalSlavonic and East European Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


  • literacy
  • orality
  • power and distance
  • empire
  • Siberia
  • Russia

Cite this