This article deals with “Old-Settler” communities in northeastern Siberia that were founded by Russian settlers in the course of the seventeenth century. Left to their own devices by a distant colonial administration, many of them married native women and adopted local subsistence techniques and other elements of spiritual and material culture. These processes led to the emergence of new group identities, that is to communities that distinguished themselves both from Russians and from native groups. The article provides a brief history of such communities in northern Siberia, to set the regional context, before characterizing the three study communities as experienced by the authors during fieldwork in the late 1990s. In addition, we will briefly introduce the case of the Alaskan Creoles for comparative purposes, to contrast colonial regimes and attitudes to “ethnic mixing.” This will enable us to return to the title question and to reverse it, that is, to focus on the factors that led to the emergence of Creole status in Alaska. We will argue that changing colonial policies of the Russian state need to be taken into account in order to understand why there were no Creoles in Siberia.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.