A Siberian Biełystok – the Polish small homeland in the Tomsk gubernya (turn of the 19th and the 20th centuries)
The free Polish colonisation of Siberia at the turn of the 19th and the 20th century is a small page in the history of the region. The colonisation was caused by, among others, the land reforms that did not fully address all the problems, the edict of 1889 allowing a free settlement beyond the Ural, the start of the construction of the Siberian railway, and the great hunger in Russia. The village of Biełystok is a typical example of the resettlement action and the resulting establishment of Polish villages in Western Siberia. In 1916 its population numbered over 500. The settlers came from western Russian gubernyas, among others those of Wilno, Grodno, Warszawa, and Siedlce. The people farmed the land, and the Catholic church that they constructed helped them preserve their Polish identity, their religion, and morality. After the tragic events of the late 1930s the national character of the population began to change, and the Polish population started to undergo the process of forced integration with the Russians. Currently all that is left in the Siberian village of Biełystok is the awareness of the Polish roots of its founders and a Catholic church repossessed after 1990.
Keywords: Siberia in the 19th century; colonisation; Poles, Biełystok (in Siberia); national identity.