GENERICO.ruScienceReports from the governors of the Yenisei province will reveal the history of Siberia to Russians

Reports from the governors of the Yenisei province will reveal the history of Siberia to Russians

MOSCOW, October 9. The Siberian Federal University (SFU) is implementing a unique project for Russia: university staff, with the help of students and volunteers, are collecting and digitizing reports from the governors of the Yenisei province from its founding in 1822 until the revolution. Who is the future digital library addressed to? How will the collected data be used? SFU Rector Maxim Rumyantsev told a Rossiya Segodnya correspondent about this.
– Maxim Valerievich, what projects is SFU conducting at the intersection of the humanities and digital technologies?
– Our university pays great attention to the transformation of the humanities and their connections with digital technologies. Digital Humanities is a global trend. Today, many leading Russian universities in Russia have departments that deal with projects at the intersection of digital technologies and the humanities.

This direction is supported in the Siberian Federal University development program – one of our strategic projects in the Priority 2030 program is called the Institute of Digital Humanities Research. We introduce students to the established practices of using digital tools by scientists from various fields of humanities and discuss the prospects for digital aggregators of cultural heritage.

Among the projects we have previously implemented are projects on the heritage of the city of Yeniseisk, on a library of geological samples of Central Siberia for the museum of geology. We digitized the herbarium of the Siberian Federal University, and the collection includes almost 20 thousand units of local plants. In short, the university regularly engages in digitization and presentation of data to the public.

Currently, the institute’s staff is developing the Sibiriana platform, which provides access to the digitized cultural heritage of the Krasnoyarsk Territory, Tyva and Khakassia. In this way, the university updates the heritage of Yenisei Siberia and makes it significant for our contemporaries.
Another important project of ours is related to the digital translation of the annual reports of the governors of the Yenisei province.
– Tell us more about it, please.
– This project has a background. Some time ago, a very well-known local historian in Krasnoyarsk, Leonid Pavlovich Berdnikov, suggested that we publish the governor’s report on the development of the Yenisei province for 1863. Then I thought, why only one report? It’s better to collect all the governors’ reports together so that the data is complete and objective.

So, we set ourselves the task of collecting all the reports of the military governors of Krasnoyarsk and the civilian governors of the Yenisei province from the founding of the province in 1822 until the revolution. The project team has assembled. We searched the archives of St. Petersburg, Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk and found reports that governors presented to the emperor.

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The materials we have collected cover the period from the 1850s to the 1890s, and there are also separate documents from 1828 and 1906. In total, we found 77 reports, 52 have already been scanned. The total volume of archival documents is about five thousand pages of text.
The documents are comprehensive; they characterize the development of the region, its culture and the activities of government officials. Almost 200 years have passed, but, as today, governors reported to the country's leadership on all areas of economic activity. This is unique information that professional historians work with.

Now we are creating a database of sources, digitizing them so that we can extract information from them, automate its search, connect artificial intelligence technologies, apply various algorithmization tools, and so on. Our project is multi-vector, we can do whatever we want with the received data: combine them, multiply them, perform various studies with their help.
As a result, we will receive a digital library of data, sorted by year, for a wide range of users. The data will be available for copying and searching for connections between them, various services will be connected to it.
– Who is doing such a large-scale work?
– As I already said, this is an initiative project. The team was made up of interested people: local historians, publishers, IT specialists. We involved students and volunteers who are interested in the history of our region in our work; on our electronic platform they recognize pages of documents. Such volunteer digitization projects have previously existed in Russia and abroad.

Many documents are handwritten. But our scientists have created a service based on neural networks that automatically recognizes handwritten text and converts it into printed text.
Volunteers not only do a good deed, but also learn the history of their region, because Siberia is a unique region, large and harsh, but associated with creative and talented people who increased the glory and wealth of our country.
– How much? What audience is the project intended for?
– For example, our digital library will help history students complete research projects, coursework and dissertations, and, it seems to me, for decades to come. Our materials can form the basis for various journalistic studies on the history of Siberia. Representatives of government authorities will also be able to find out how management work was carried out before, what formats were later lost.

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This is an educational project for the widest audience. We want to introduce all its residents to the history of the region. Perhaps for some this will change the picture of the world, making it less Western-centric. People realize how culturally rich and intense life was in Siberia even long before the advent of Russian statehood. Until now, many are sure that the history of Siberia began with its industrial development, that before the revolution there was a large village here.

And when people begin to get acquainted with the history of their small homeland, to assimilate local identity, they find value in it and realize their connection with the region. This project is also about ensuring that young people see the prospects of life for themselves here and do not strive to leave here.
– During the work on the project, were you able to identify facts previously unknown to science?
– Yes, sure. This is exactly what the project participants are doing. New historical sources (reports of governors), previously inaccessible to a wide range of scientists, are introduced into scientific circulation. There is a lot of professional work ahead on the archaeographic design of materials and their electronic publication. Historians, ethnographers, cultural scientists and other researchers can use them in their scientific and professional activities.
At the same time, I would especially like to note the method of identifying and preparing an electronic publication of a historical source. We developed and then tested a methodology for working with a large volume of historical data. A special feature of this approach is the possibility of attracting volunteers from anywhere in the world to work with historical sources under the guidance of historians.
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It is important to understand that gubernatorial reports contain, first of all, a large amount of statistical and review material that allows you to track the development of the province over time for almost a hundred years. As a rule, any curious or incidental cases were not reflected in such documentation.

However, some points are worth mentioning. Thus, our specialists managed to find several editions of reports for the same years, but intended for different addressees – the Governor-General of Eastern Siberia, the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Emperor. The content of the report in such cases could differ significantly – the higher the authority, the more rosy the situation in the province was described. Of course, within reason.
The second point that attracts attention is the polarly different characteristics of the moral level of the population of the province, given by different governors. For example, Governor Zamyatnin defined this level as within normal limits, and Lokhvitsky, who replaced him, wrote about the extremely low level of morality in the province. By the way, the majority of governors adhered to exactly this opinion!
Another point worthy of mention is the not always conscientious attitude of officials towards the preparation of reports. The fact is that some data could wander from report to report for several years, without changing at all, each unit and wording was the same. Of course, this could not happen in reality.
The theme of gold mining in the Yenisei province runs through all the reports. This process did not always go smoothly and smoothly. The governors paid great attention to ensuring that people who arrived to work in the mines did not make the local population drunk, accustomed to a calm and measured lifestyle, but easily succumbing to temptation.

The annual data on incidents in the province for the year seems quite curious, albeit tragic. The corresponding tables contain such specific indicators as death from hail, storms, lightning and even earthquakes.
The information about the scientific development of the province is quite interesting. For example, in 1865, an expedition was organized to search for an “antediluvian animal” (this was the definition given in the report) – the mammoth. Around the same time, with the help of new agronomic technologies, the famous Minusinsk watermelons began to be grown in the south of the province.
Thus, the materials from the governors’ reports significantly expand the understanding of the life of our region in the pre-revolutionary past.
– Can your project be scaled throughout Russia?

– Yes, of course. Any interested person or team can participate in this work; all that is needed is energy and desire. We are ready to provide participants of such projects with tools for work.
– When do you plan to complete the project?
– I would like to present the results of the work by the end of the year.


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