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The History of Sibirica from Associate Editor Alexander D. King

Alexander D. King served as Managing Editor of Sibirica for six years, and recently stepped into the role of Associate Editor in order to focus on his field research, which is being conducted in Kamchatka over the next ten months. In this post, he discusses the 30-year history of the journal as it moved from home to home and finally landed here at Berghahn, where it has been since 2006.

Sibirica is now finishing up its eleventh volume but it has existed for much longer than just 11 years. The journal started as an occasional publication of the papers from the British Universities Siberian Studies Seminar (BUSSS), which was a regular meeting of mostly historians and geographers starting in the 1980s. The very first issue is an unnumbered publication titled simply Sibirica, with the 1690 Siberian coat of arms and the subtitle British Universities Siberian Studies Seminar, Report of the second meeting held at the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, 15-16 April 1983. These earliest Sibiricas, published through 1989, were edited and produced by Alan Wood at Lancaster University. The production was a modest affair, appearing as a typescript on A5 format, photocopied with a staple binding in the spine.

       As the journal gained steam a regular publisher was found in Oregon through the connections of Basil Dmytryshyn at the Northern Pacific Studies Center of the Oregon Historical Society in Portland. They agreed to publish the journal and assume much of the cost of production and distribution. Their one (and onerous) condition was a change in the name—Siberica: A Journal of North Pacific Studies, Volume 1, appeared as two issues in 1990. Apparently the Oregonians wanted the name spelled more like the English name for the region and the misleading subtitle, by portraying it as somehow connected to that Pacific US state, may have been necessary to justify state funding of the journal.

       The Oregon publication was just the single volume. Sibirica: The Journal of Siberian Studies appeared as two issues comprising “volume 1” in 1993 with Ryburn Publishing, which was an imprint of Keele University Press, and two issues appeared comprising volume 1 (again) in 1995. The journal then had a hiatus until the second volume appeared in 2002 with Routledge, a division of Taylor and Francis.

       All through the various incarnations and multiple “volume 1s” Alan Wood alone shepherded Sibirica as editor of what was mostly the proceedings of the BUSSS. Cathryn Brennan joined Wood with volume 2. The seminar had grown from a handful of scholars into a subscription base of hundreds of individuals and institutions. However, after a period of two years and a loss of the initial momentum, Sibirica and T&F parted ways.

       Cathryn Brennan and Alan Wood turned to the editorial board for possible solutions, and David Anderson put out a call to several colleagues to reorganize the journal. Tanya Argounova-Low, Patty Gray, Otto Habeck, John Ziker and I agreed to work with Anderson to form an editorial collective. After just a single year’s hiatus we published volume 5 with Berghahn Books in 2006 with me as managing editor. We made a conscious decision not to give the world yet another “volume 1” of Sibirica, but did use the change of publisher as an occasion to change the subtitle to its current form of Interdisciplinary Journal of Siberian Studies. Sibirica has always been interdisciplinary in scope and it seemed appropriate to declare that on the cover.

       As Sibirica approaches the thirtieth anniversary of its very first volume one, it remains the only journal specializing in all things Siberian. While there are several journals with an arctic focus of one kind of another, we remain the only journal devoted to Siberian studies. We are pleased with how the journal is prospering and look forward to another thirty years of publishing innovative scholarship on this fascinating and increasingly important region.

To the left is the first cover of Sibirica, from 1983. On the right, the cover from the last 2012 issue.


For the most recent issues of Sibirica, please visit the journal’s website: