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Laboratory for the Inter-disciplinary Study of Space

Contract number
Time span of the project
Invited researcher
since December 2022 Zinoviyev Vasiliy Pavlovich
2021 - 2022 Bassin Mark

As of 01.11.2022

Number of staff members
scientific publications
General information

In modern humanities, a major role is played by the spatial turn. Reflections on the impact of space on social structures can be find in works issued in the period of Antiquity to the Annales school, but it has been only recently that the study of space is becoming an independent programme of the humanities research. Within the project, we have chosen the regions of the Urals and Siberia in the period from the 19th to the 21th century, since in the specified chronological period, on these territories large-scale modernisation projects were implemented that played and are still playing a key role in the country's economy and were a space of interaction of a number of identities.

Name of the project: The human and the changing space of the Urals and Siberia

Goals and objectives

The primary objective of the project is the representation of space as an actor of change of various social structures and the study of the way the human can create and transform space, both at the material level and at the level of imagination and visions on the basis of which modernisation and transformation practices and policies were applied. The project presupposes a study of space as a social construct. The human not only resides in space but also constantly transforms it at the physical level and at the level of symbols. It might be said that it is namely by virtue of the human that geography transforms into space.

The study of the human in the changing space of the Urals and Siberia will be conducted within the boundaries of three key domains that reflect the primary components of the interaction of society and space (territory):

  1. It is important to pay attention to the agency of space itself and its physical characteristics that engage in interaction with social actors in the process of exploration of territory. In the first instance, it is environmental factors – the landscape, the climate, natural resources – that are in the research focus in environmental history.
  2. A complex research in the proposed scope requires an analysis of the perception of space by society: cultural features of various ethnic groups, scientific knowledge, and optics applied by scientific institutions in the investigation and exploration of the territory of the Urals and Siberia.
  3. The result of interaction between society and space is the corresponding transformations of both components of the interaction that formed a new «identity space». Methodologically the project will be based on approaches used in historical geography, the sociology of space, the study of collective memory, STS.

The practical value of the study

Scientific results:

Our researchers have formulated a theoretical framework for the study of the space of the Urals and Siberia from the standpoint of modern methodological approaches on the basis of analyzing modern literature on the spatial turn as a whole and from the research of the Urals and Siberia in particular. The beginning of the spatial shift is chronologically dated as having happened in the years 1970–1980. An important factor of the formation of the spatial turn was the poststructuralism and postmodernism, which challenged the big narratives, i. e. the comprehensive theories on how the society works, in a way, unity. An example of such narratives are the Renaissance of the 18th century, faith in rationality, in the notion that history moves along the path of a kind of progressive development. Or Marxism – a vision of history, propelled by the process of class warfare and revolution, creating new forms of social organization. An important part of the spatial turn is the attention not only to the center but to the periphery. As noted by Sanna Turoma and Maxim Waldstein, the periphery matters as well and it is also worth attention. The local peripheral regions should be studied in their own terms. It is impossible to understand the space in terms of categories or templates from the center. Such an approach rejects the hierarchy in which the periphery gains its significance only due to its relation to the center. Using materials of various cases, we have determined the main aspects of the anthropogenic impact on natural landscapes in the process of the economic development of territories, the key principles of environmental policies and natural resource management policies in the Urals and Siberia in the pre-Revolution, Soviet periods and at the modern stage. While in the pre-Revolution period the interaction of the human and the environment was based primarily on the premodern, traditional knowledge, in the Soviet period an active modernization of the perception of the nature and space occurred. For the Soviet state the space of the Urals and Siberia played quite an important role not only from the standpoint of geopolitics but from the standpoint of economics. The image of Siberia as a pantry, which was created by the state rhetoric, persisted for many years. Slogans proclaiming that if we cannot change the state we cannot change the nature as well have become one of the  main narratives of the Soviet leaders.

Implementation of research results:

We have created the electronic collection of travelogs «The Urals and Siberia from the last quarter of the 19th century to the first third of the 20th century in the perception of Anglo-American travelers» («Sibirica») devoted to the comprehension of the space of Siberia and the Urals by travelers from the United Kingdom and the USA from the second half of the 19th century to the first third of the 20th century. All the presented books can be divided into three stages: journeys of foreigners before the Trans-Siberian Railway was built, when only a part of the route could be covered by train, up to the Urals (1850–1880); journeys around the Urals and Siberia in the era of the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway on the turn of the 19th century; journeys around the Urals and Siberia in the years of the Civil War and in the beginning of the 1920s, when serious disruptions occurred in the operation of railway transport, while traveling was dangerous due to military action and a typhus epidemic. Travelogs gathered in the «Sibirica» collection are significant and interesting both as historical sources for the study of the space and landscape of the Urals and Siberia in the period of the rapid, even thought fragmentary, development in the  pre-Revolution period.

Education and retraining of personnel:

  • We have developed the new education profile «The society and the environment» in the direction of training «Geography» (bachelor’s degree).
  • We have developed and approved the new education program «Research of the anthropogene: social measurement of environmental challenges» (direction of training  «History», master degree)».
  • We have developed the professional retraining program «Anthropology».
  • We have staged two summer schools for young researchers: «Spatial turn the wrong way? Conversation of discipline» (2021), «Space in/for environmental humanitarian sciences: a re-thinking of the global though the study of the periphery» (2022).
  • Two Candidate of Sciences dissertations have been prepared and defended.


  • Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities of HSE University (Russia): joint summer schools.
  • Tomsk State University (Russia): implementing the joint professional retraining program «Anthropology».
  • Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia): participation in the Big Norilsk Expedition. 
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бугров к.д.
Между горой и рекой: формирование городского пространства Златоуста 1930-1940-х гг. // Вестник Томского государственного университета. История. 2021. №74. С. 5–13.
гололобов е.и., красовитова э.
Экологические факторы урбанизации севера Западной Сибири и их влияния на развитие городского хозяйства в середине 1960-1980-х гг // Вестник Томского государственного университета. История. 2021. №73. С. 5–12.
красулина ж.м., никонова о.ю.
Святые источники и народная религиозность православного населения Урала в 1954–1964 годах // Вестник Пермского университета. История. 2021. № 4(55). С. 99–109.
янковская г.а.
Негативные последствия советских гидроэнергетических проектов: форматы и практики мемориализации // Сибирские исторические исследования. 2021. № 4. С. 120-137.
bugaev r., piskunov m., rakov t.
Footpaths of the Late-Soviet Environmental Turn: The “Forest City” of Novosibirsk’s Akademgorodok as a Sociotechnical Imaginary // The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review. 2021. № 48. P. 289–313.
gololobov e.
The North of Western Siberia in the Socioeconomic Space of the USSR: Shifting Models of Nature Use // The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review. 2021. № 48. P. 262–288.
stas i.
An Indigenous Anthropocene: Subsistence Colonization and Ecological Imperialism in the Soviet Arctic in the 1920s and Early 1930s. // The Soviet and Post-Soviet Reviewю 2022. P. 39–66.
виноградов а.в., манцеров и.и.
Наука и промышленное загрязнение в позднеимперской России: жизнь и труды Григория Витальевича Хлопина (1863-1929) // Социология науки и техники. 2022. Т3. C. 68–87
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Межэтническое разделение труда в Енисейской губернии по данным переписи 1897 г. // Вестник Томского государственного университета. История. 2022. №76. С. 137–141.
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