Siberiaki - Settlements



The wooden villages Siberiaki built when they came to Siberia resembled those they had left behind in northern Russia and other Slavic areas. Houses were strung along a road, riverbank, or lake, with streets forming an expanding grid. Each fenced household had several buildings arranged around a courtyard, with a separate bathhouse, storehouse, and stable defining the wealthier complexes. Poorer households and those farther north had barns attached to the main house, an arrangement that allowed animals to share with their masters the heat of enormous wall-sized stove-hearths. In each house a special area, diagonally opposite the entrance, was designated the "beautiful corner," in which an icon shelf resided above the family table. Houses, built with communal labor drawn from kin and friends, were decorated with curved designs carved around the windows and bird figures soaring off the eaves as a mark of good luck and protection. Under their foundations were bones of an animal or fowl sacrificed for the well-being of the household. The first fire ideally was lit with coals from a previous household, to encourage the family's home spirit ( domovoi ) to move to the new dwelling.

Villages were of two types: those with fewer than 100 inhabitants (Russian: derevnia ) and those with several thousand inhabitants (Russian: poselok ). Village size depended on local resources and whether the village was a trading post and transport and postal center. In the Soviet period villages considered "without a future" were allowed to die or had their occupants moved to larger settlements. Consolidated centers have schools, medical facilities, and stores. A few impoverished villages remain in the backwoods, populated by elderly Siberiaki determined not to move but suffering from a lack of resources. A newly introduced village style is the "village of the urban type," with concrete apartment buildings and a few modern amenities such as indoor plumbing. These centerpieces of larger collectives are inhabited both by Siberiaki and more recent migrants.


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