The development of Siberia is one of the most interesting and unreasonably forgotten pages of Russian history. But the study of this issue sheds light on numerous problems, including those of a national nature. Today the Chukchi are only heroes, at best, ironic, and at worst, chauvinistic anecdotes. But once this people did not give rest to all neighbors in the region and even ours with how to surprise the Russian pioneers.
Why did the Russian Tsar even “flop” to that Siberia?
In order to understand why they began to develop Siberia at all in the 16th century, it is necessary to return to the very roots of Russian history. Since the construction of Kievan Rus, our ancestors had constant problems with nomads. They stemmed from the fact that nomadic peoples lived off two things: cattle breeding and raids. Where war, and where diplomacy, the threat from the Great Steppe had to be parried with varying degrees of success. But despite all the achievements of the Russian princes, nomads have always remained a constantly troubling threat. They plundered cities and villages, drove people into full (slavery), drove away livestock, destroyed crops.
Everything changed in 1206, when the boy Temujin was born to the Yesugei-baatura family, who was destined to become the creator of one of the greatest empires in the history of mankind. With an arrow, a saber and a word, Genghis Khan united the scattered Mongol and Turkic tribes of the Great Steppe, starting a campaign from sea to sea. After his death, the grandson of the great conqueror - Batu in 1237 began a great march to the west, during which the Tatar-Mongols invaded the territory of Russia. Tearing each other to pieces in feudal squabbling, the Russian principalities could not oppose anything to the empire of Chingizids gathered in one fist.
Although the invasion of Batu was absolutely monstrous for Russia, the entry into the Mongol Empire gave the Russian principalities decades of security from the side of the great steppe. For a representative period, the nomads stopped bothering the Russian principalities, allowing them to fully concentrate on the threat from the West and their own problems. But soon the empire of Genghis Khan collapsed during the civil war into separate hordes and khanates. Each khanate strove to "milk" the conquered peoples with its own hands. As a result, the Great Steppe again became a threat and the Russian lands returned to the state of affairs of the times of Kievan Rus.
Dealing with the shards of the once great empire has always been difficult. Hence the numerous wars with the Crimean Tatars, and the Kazan wars, and finally Yermak's northern campaign to Siberia. After all, it was there that one of the largest khanates, the Siberian one, was located. In 1556 Khan Kuchum took power over the local lands and peoples. For the time being, Kuchum had friendly relations with Moscow, however, having accumulated enough strength and realizing that Ivan the Terrible was waging a difficult war in Livonia, the Siberian Tatars killed the Moscow ambassadors and began to raid the Russian rear. The Russian tsar could not send troops to Siberia, and therefore, under the auspices of influential merchants, with the permission of Ivan the Terrible, pioneering and punitive expeditions of the Cossacks began to be sent there, which were supposed to oppose the raids of the Siberian Khanate. The most ambitious and famous was the campaign of the Cossack Ataman Yermak Timofeevich.
Of course, the question was not only about neutralizing the Tatar threat. Like all other "sedentary" powers, Russia was desperately looking for new lands for colonization in order to settle peasants, extract valuable resources and organize new trade routes.
How did the Chukchi surprise the Russian pioneers?
Chukchi is a famous hero of "Soviet" folklore. Behind this clichéd image, many are missing the truth. During the Siberian campaigns, the Chukchi were fierce, cruel and valiant warriors. In the north, there was an absolutely normal "civilized" life with its own tribal conflicts. The same Chukchi regularly raided neighboring tribes, killed their warriors, drove children and women into slavery, stole livestock and deer. In general, they were extremely restless people (like all their neighbors, by the way).
And although Russia has been at war with all sorts of nomads for several centuries, the Chukchi found something to surprise, including the Russian Cossacks. After all, it was here that the Russian pioneers, in fact, first encountered a people who are waging a desperate partisan war. Despite the fact that in organizational and technical terms, the local tribes were seriously losing to the Russian pioneers, they had impeccable knowledge of the area and a greater mobilization resource on their side. The Chukchi ambushed and often completely annihilated Russian expeditions. In most cases, the pioneers were brutally dealt with. The Cossacks noted the Chukchi as extremely cruel, ferocious, valiant and extremely freedom-loving people.
The Russian pioneers were also surprised by the equipment of local peoples, who actually did not know iron. At first glance, primitive armor of the Chukchi made of animal skin and bones was sometimes effective enough even to stop a musket bullet. Finally, the pioneers of Siberia were surprised by the fact that Chukchi warriors very rarely surrender. Most of the men, when threatened with capture, preferred to commit suicide, which looked frankly wild for both the Christian Cossacks and the Muslim Tatars who fought on the side of the Russian Tsar.
As a result, the colonization and development of Siberia lasted for several centuries. Including due to the fact that the peoples of the north often desperately resisted those who invaded their world. However, the final conquest was inevitable. In fact, the issue was completely resolved already under Catherine II in the 18th century, when the Russian Empire was at its greatest ascent. It was then that the authorities took the most decisive measures to resolve the "northern issue", since there was a direct threat that the British would take part of Siberia for themselves. In the end, the Russian authorities simply reached an agreement with some Siberian tribes, incorporating the local nobility into their midst. The most violent and rebellious were conquered by force of arms.
If you want to know even more interesting things, then you should read about 5 life hacks for house insulation in Ancient Russiathat really worked.