Public education was as important as military structure, entrepreneurship, and missionary work in developing frontier territories, all of which were used as tools of colonization by modern empires. Imperial experience includes both external and internal colonization. This article presents a social and historical reconstruction of the educational colonization of Western Siberia, considered the longest and most extensive example of internal educational colonization in the Russian Empire. Colonial/peripheral universities were essential to this process, serving as advocates of colonization and agents of decolonization in different historical circumstances. The article analyzes the origins of higher education in Siberia, drawing on discussions about the nature of the soon-to-be Siberian university. Some discussants envisioned an authentic people's, “rustic” university, while others pictured a particularly classical institution of higher education. The author concludes that two models of organizing the peripheral university took shape at the turn of the 20th century in the Russian Empire. The first model involved the creation of a green-field university by sending teachers from metropolitan universities to work in the periphery, which is how Tomsk Imperial University was established. The second model, on the contrary, considered normal schools in place as a base for establishing universities. Later, in the Soviet Union, the second model was primarily used to establish institutions of higher education in the regions.
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