Problem Of The Development Of Siberia In Russian Historiography


The article is devoted to the analysis of the debates in Russian historical science at the end of the 19th – first third of the 20th centuries when the problem of the development of Siberia was raised. Based on the method proposed by M.V. Nechkina and D.Y. Rezun, the author identified an array of historiographic sources, studied their content, outlined the main stages of the discussion, the approaches of researchers, and came to the following results. At the first stage, the participants in the discussions were researchers who adhered to different political views and concepts in historical science, linking the process of the development of Siberia with the development of capitalist relations. Explaining the advance of the Russian state to the east by necessity, they saw the reasons for the decline in the people's standard of living in the development of capitalist relations. The question of the nature of these relations, which caused heated debate, remained with the scientists who held social democratic positions. Whereas, following the theory of M.N. Pokrovsky, the development of Siberia took place through interaction with external markets. The conclusions of the scientific work indicate that during the discussions held throughout the period under review, their theoretical framework gradually narrowed given the political conjuncture associated with the establishment of the Marxist-Leninist paradigm in historical science, which had a noticeable impact on the topics of further research on the problem raised.

Keywords: Discussion, development, historiographic source, problem, Siberia


In a strictly scientific sense, the study of the problem of the development of Siberia, the creation of a certain economic order on the Siberian lands, is associated with the genesis of capitalist relations and the development of the internal market – fundamental issues that attracted the attention of Russian historians at the end of the 19th century and have not lost their relevance to this day. Raised by the power of the steam engines of the industrial revolution, aggravated by the deepening social stratification, the deterioration of the people's well-being, and the growth of protest sentiments, the issues of the economic life of the country and its regions appeared in the scientific world on the wave of the rise of the social movement, moved to the pages of scientific works from the rebellious streets and squares, becoming an object heated discussions of domestic thinkers belonging to different currents of historical science. The problem of the development of Siberia did not stand aside either. Putting aside disputes about the role of the Stroganovs and Ermak in the, about the relationship between the and principles of Russian colonization, historians turned to an explanation of the reasons for the widespread decline of the people's welfare beyond the Urals (Golovachev, 1902). The irinterpretations of the indicated problem requires historiographic comprehension.

Problem Statement

We assume that the problems of Soviet historiography of the development of Siberia were based on the foundations that were laid in historical science in the pre-revolutionary era, were born in the depths of its worldview. Perhaps that is why it turned out to be bypassed, subsequently, by the attention of Russian researchers, who dogmatically perceived the opinion rooted in the scientific community about the crisis of Russian historical science in the late 19th – early 20th centuries. Probably, such an assessment represents an incorrect interpretation of the well-known position of Lenin that” (Lenin, 1981). Since science, as noted in the Soviet historiography of the 1960s, is (Nechkina, 1965), subordinated to the requirements of the party ideological system, Lenin's thesis was categorically extended to the entire history of the development of historical knowledge from the early 1930s and implying the elimination of any scientific alternative to the Marxist-Leninist teaching (Repina, 2004), as well as the suppression of scientific searches in it. Following this approach has actualized two problems in the history of Russian historical science in general and Siberian studies. First, this became the reason for the opposition of both pre-revolutionary and Soviet, and Marxist and historiography. And this opposition, in turn, contradicted the words of Lenin that (Lenin, 1967). Secondly, the previously indicated approach raised in historiography the question of the correspondence of a scientific theory to the facts of the historical process that it is designed to explain. We recognize that public consciousness, although it is conditioned by real historical processes, develops in many respects independently, under the influence of its specific laws. This is especially evident in the study of the history of the development of Siberia. Publication of Ananyeva et al. (2006), Repina (2004), Rezun (1982), Savelyeva and Poletaev (2007), Zuev (2007), foreign authors – Lincoln (1993), Litvin (2001) testifies to the need to revise and rethink the content of historiographic sources proposed in the previous period.

Research Questions

The relevance of the study of socio-economic processes in Russia was substantiated as early as 1880 – the 1890s. in domestic historical, economic, and – geographical works, the authors of which, from the standpoint of different methodological concepts, tried to comprehend the nature of the changes taking place in the country and determine their patterns. So, Milyukov and Lyubavsky, relying on the theory of colonization, tried to understand the peculiarities of the socio-economic development of Russia. They saw an obstacle to the establishment of its civil and economic well-being in the between the number of the Russian people and the size of the territories they occupied in Eastern Europe and North Asia (Lyubavsky, 1909). The outstripping demographic growth of the territorial expansion of the Russian state, especially in the eastern direction, had quite definite reasons. The main ones were seen in the predatory exploitation of the country's natural resources and in the government's actions to ensure the defense and security of the Russian borders in the 16th – 18th centuries. (Lyubavsky, 1909; Milyukov, 1896). The construction of more and more frontier fortresses, the transfer and attachment of service people and peasants to them (Lyubavsky, 1909) turned out to be (Lyubavsky, 1909) and, in the end, led to the indicated. This, according to researchers, contributed to the preservation of the subsistence economy, poor development of communication routes, a low level of urbanization and social division of labor, caused the isolation of local markets, the slow formation of the merchant stratum, the weakness of domestic commodity circulation and the passivity of foreign trade (Milyukov, 1896). According to scientists, in a country without capital, without workers, without entrepreneurs, and without buyers, the organic development of the economy was impossible. In such conditions, it was the monarchist absolutist power, which was a derivative of the same, that took upon itself the responsibility of creating large-scale industrial production and developing trade, including in Siberia. Providing increased patronage to entrepreneurship, the authorities provided monopolies, in the person of exiles and serfs (Lyubavsky, 1909), set high import duties, and ensured a guaranteed sale of manufactured products. The increased attention of the state to industry and trade, government intervention in solving market problems led Russian researchers to the conclusion that the capitalist development of Russia was artificial (Milyukov, 1896). Historians – the were also convinced that there was no ground for the development of capitalism in Russia. They believed that capitalism in Russia was imposed – ​​by the state and developed at the expense of the treasury (Vorontsov, 1882). Ultimately, this violent led to the, to a reduction in the number of workers due to the technical improvement of production equipment, to the deprivation of a part of the population of earnings., Vorontsov (1882) noted,. The government, not understanding the reasons for such colonization, and fearing that (Vorontsov, 1882), as much as they could, held back this movement. Seeing that it was not possible to restrain the people, the state took measures to form a capitalist economy in the new territories. As a result,, declined there, and production itself fell with it. Explaining all the, the ruin and exploitation of the working people, by the actions of state officials who sought to rebuild the economy in their own selfish interests, the Narodnik concept linked the growth of the people's well-being with the entry of capitalist production into foreign markets. But since this way out was in the hands of the advanced Western European countries, with which it was extremely difficult to fight (Vorontsov, 1882), the identified several possible ways of further economic development. First, they offered to remain forever at its lowest level. Secondly, to make the transition to the socialization of labor in a different, non-capitalist way. Finally, thirdly, to continue the movement only after, in the countries that have gone ahead, capitalist production has completed the entire cycle of its development, turns into a national one and ceases to strive for expansion (Vorontsov, 1882). Conclusions about the nature of Russian capitalism and its characteristic feature, which supposedly consisted in the fact that it covers only the area of ​​marketing, and not the production of goods, have drew criticism from scientists who held social democratic positions. At first, Isaev (1884), Kablukov (1918), Struve (2015), and then Tugan-Baranovsky and Lenin. It was their scientific views that had a strong influence on the subsequent development of Russian historiography. According to Tugan-Baranovsky, capitalist relations began to take shape in Russia before Petr and, developing, went through two stages – first commercial and then industrial capitalism. In the era of the domination of commercial capital, large-scale industrial production did not exist in Russia. The production was small, his technique was primitive, and the products he produced were crude and cheap. Small producers were completely dependent on large traders, whose role in the socio-economic life of the country was great. It was to the means of commercial capital that the government of Peter I turned, hoping to create several new industries in a short time to meet the urgent state needs. The newly created large enterprises enjoyed direct support from the authorities, which provided landowners for the construction of industrial establishments, assigned workers to these establishments, and guaranteed the sale of the products produced. The growth of its volumes, observed throughout the 18th century, made it possible to satisfy the demand in the domestic market and go beyond it. Merchant and noble manufactories, formed with the participation of the state and under its patronage, were one of the forms of development of large-scale production in Russia. Another form was enterprises that did not enjoy state support and gradually grew out of the depths of the peasant handicraft industry. Due to the simplicity of technology and techniques, the cheapness of goods and ease of sale, the use of the labor of civilian workers, they developed dynamically, practically not competing with those that surpassed them in terms of production and worked largely for the treasury. It was in this industrial environment, devoid of government tutelage, at the end of the 18th century. new industries appear (cotton, leather, rope, etc.). Their enterprises in the conditions of the industrial crisis of the second half of the 1830s. demonstrated certain flexibility, expressed in the rapid introduction of improved machines, and resulting in cheaper production and increased sales. Appearance in the first half of the 19th century a new type of meant that Russian industry had reached the level of industrial capitalism. During the industrial revolution, the was becoming a thing of the past, and in its place was taken by a new capitalist factory based on a free contract between an entrepreneur-capitalist and a hired worker. Thus, large-scale production, which arose based on peasant crafts, according to Tugan-Baranovsky, was not an, but an that developed in market conditions (Tugan-Baranovsky, 1922). In contrast to the scholars who took the populist positions, Tugan-Baranovsky was convinced that the volume of the market in a capitalist economy is not determined by the level of public consumption. He rightly noted that the social product consists not only of consumer goods but also of the means of production, the increased demand for which is created by developing capitalism. As one of the founders of market theory, Tugan-Baranovsky (1998) tried to investigate the process of realizing the social product in the capitalist economy. The scientist found that as capitalism develops, industry increasingly needs both external and internal markets. Historically, capitalism developed based on the external market due to the initial production of mainly luxury goods. Since there were few luxury consumers in their home country, entrepreneurs had to look around the world for them. This is the manifestation of the international character of capital, which strives for unlimited expansion of production and the search for buyers of its goods everywhere. To realize the surplus product, the country of developing capitalism increasingly needs to sell its products on the markets of those states in which the economic system is not capitalist. Given that the capitalist system is developing rapidly throughout the world, the market for the surplus product of capitalism should have stopped developing long ago. Meanwhile, (Tugan-Baranovsky, 1998). This is because, along with the external market, the internal market is also growing rapidly. The growth of the domestic market takes place in two ways. In the old capitalist countries, it is expanding due to the proportional distribution of the surplus product in the industry. In young capitalist states, the market is created not by a proportional increase in the volume of products of its other industries, but by the destruction of the natural economy and the decline of small non-capitalist production, that is, the growth of capitalist enterprises was seen as possible due to their displacement of forms of non-capitalist economy. Therefore, in the countries, the market for the products of capitalist industry expanded with greater ease than in the “old” ones, since it created conditions conducive to the inflow of capital from the countries to the (Tugan-Baranovsky, 1998). Discussing with Tugan-Baranovsky, Lenin argued that the border between the internal and external markets for capitalism is conditional and does not matter, since capitalism cannot exist without the development and expansion of the sphere of its domination. According to the scientist, the process of forming an internal market for the large industry has two sides: economic and social. Economically, this process is divided into several successive stages: the natural stage, the commodity stage, and the capitalist stage (Lenin, 1971). In the era of the dominance of the natural economy, the manufacturing industry was combined with the extractive industry. The society consisted of a mass of homogeneous economic units (peasant families, peasant communities, monastic estates), within which all types of economic work were carried out from beginning to end to meet local needs. With the beginning of the social division of labor, that is, with the beginning of the separation of one after other branches of the manufacturing industry from the extractive industry and their further fragmentation into smaller types, the formation and development of a commodity economy take place. Each of the emerging industries specializes either in the production of a product or parts of this product. Since agriculture is at the head of the extractive industry, the development of a commodity economy is carried out by separating one branch of the industry from agriculture after another. The first form of industry that separated from agriculture was handicraft, that is, the production of goods to order, which, although it was characterized by narrowness and routine, but developed in conditions of increased competition and the departure of some artisans to work in other areas where there were few artisans, incomes are high, and life is cheap (Lenin, 1971). On the new lands, they founded small establishments and worked not only on order but also for the market, gradually turning into commodity producers. The gradual transition to a new form of industrial production – small-scale cooperation, was due to the initial narrowness of the market and small distances between producers and consumers. With the expansion of the market and the folding of the specialization of the areas of commodity production, a need arose for an increase in commodity circulation, and the representatives of the wealthy minority began to concentrate sales in their hands, turning into buyers. By buying up products or raw materials in large quantities, they reduced the cost of marketing, achieved an increase, made it regular, cut off small producers from the market, and put them in a certain form of dependence on merchant capital. The small producers became wage laborers working at home for the capitalists. The transition to the widespread use of the labor of hired workers marked the transition to the next stage of capitalist development – manufacture, which was an intermediate link between handicrafts and small-scale commodity production and large-scale industry. Such a progressive growth of the social division of labor, accompanied by a change in the forms of production and the transformation of products of individual industries, into equivalents for each other, was fundamental in the process of creating an internal market for capitalism and marked its development. Having reached a high level, the manufactory, which began to move into a factory and seized the market of Central Russia, began to look for new markets, including among the population that colonized Siberia. The search for new markets, according to Lenin, is associated with the unevenness and originality of capitalism, in which various industries, serving as markets for each other, develop unevenly. A more developed industry outgrows the boundaries of the local market, the regional market, and then the state. And this is the progressive historical work of capitalism, which destroys the ancient isolation and isolation of economic systems and connects all countries of the world into a single economic whole (Lenin, 1971). In social terms, the development of a commodity economy means the separation of an increasing part of the rural population from agriculture and, consequently, the growth of the industrial population. This separation is characterized by the isolation of one part of the producers from the means of production that belonged to them earlier and the transfer of these funds into other hands, their transformation into capital. New owners, expanding their production, present the market demand for new tools, raw materials, means of transport, consumer goods, etc. Broken producers, feeling the need for these funds, are forced to resort to selling their labor. In general, Lenin concluded, the numerical growth of employed in various industrial sectors is of great importance, reflecting the dynamics of the development of capitalism and education in the market conditions of two new social subjects: on the one hand, the owners of the means of production, and on the other, hired workers. (Lenin, 1971). Despite the visible differences, the concept of Tugan-Baranovsky, and the concept of Lenin had a certain similarity. Scientists affirmed the natural nature of Russian capitalism, noted the ways of its development, and were the first in domestic science to connect the development of new territories with the expansion of market relations, indicating the directions for further research of the problem. Work in these areas was continued in Soviet historical literature. The development of Soviet historiography in the 1920s and 1930s took place in the conditions of the approval of the Marxist-Leninist ideology and was closely associated with the name of the famous historian Pokrovsky. In the mid 1920s under his leadership, Soviet scientists turned to the study of economic history and for the first time in the USSR raised the problem of the formation of a single national market, in the mainstream of which they paid special attention to the historical role of national outskirts. Investigating individual issues of this problem, Pokrovsky (1933) came up with the theory of. He viewed as an intermediate stage between and, as the period of the domination of trade. The historian attributed the beginning of this period to the 16th century, when the Russian state, overcoming fragmentation, became unified and centralized. The products of were two new classes: the", which had successfully settled down with the conditions of the new small economy, and the "bourgeoisie", which had matured within the framework of close cooperation with foreign capital for the independent commercial exploitation of the Russian market. The, represented by large traders, was a necessary intermediary between producers (village artisans) and consumers. Occupying such an important position, representatives of the could not but be major figures in public and political life (Pokrovsky, 1933). As an important element of Muscovite Rus, they exerted a tremendous influence on both the foreign and domestic policy of the government (Pokrovsky, 2002). For this, the tsar's power was only a in achieving certain goals, one of which, it should be assumed, was the conquest of a new large trading market – Siberia. According to Pokrovsky (1933), the beginning of the development of Siberian natural resources,,. By proclaiming enrichment as the only goal, the played an important role in the transition to. Allowing facilitating the process of transformation of the feudal mode of production into a capitalist one, the exploitation of Siberian riches based on gross violence had not only economic but also important socio-political significance. Through the foreign sale of agricultural raw materials and furs from Siberia, Russia joined the international trade system.., Pokrovsky (1933) concluded. The originality of Pokrovsky (1933), their difference from Lenin's concept of the formation of an all-Russian market was in denying the development of Russian capitalism according to the scheme "from craft through manufacture to factory. "According to the scientist, such a development was impossible under the conditions of domination in Russia in the 16th–17th centuries. European capital, which then. Linking the formation of a national market with trade and commercial capital, Pokrovsky promoted the idea of ​​the development of a commodity-money system in the depths of the feudal economy, the emergence of which led to social differentiation of society, to a change in political forms and contributed to the further development of social production, expressed in the separation of the manufacturing industry in the cities. Although the concept of Pokrovsky was not shared by all historians, she drew attention to the problem of the formation of an all-Russian market and had a strong influence on the plots and topics of research. Pokrovsky can be found in the works of the outstanding historian of Siberia Bakhrushin (1922), who studied the process of the annexation of the Siberian lands to the Russian state and their initial economic development. According to the scientist, one of the main goods exported by Russian merchants abroad and determining the economic role of Russia in the system of European trade was Siberian furs. Its extraction was the main goal of the commercial capital in the spontaneous movement to the east. During this advance, the merchants entered a struggle for trade routes with the Siberian Tatars, who sought to spread their influence west of the Urals (Bakhrushin, 1927). The Russian commercial capital consolidated the conquered Siberian lands by building small forts, which were (Bakhrushin, 1922). On the one hand, these towns were economic centers. In their district, peasants, "strollers",, and, by traders, were engaged in the extraction and purchase of furs, salt and fish industries, ore exploration, and agriculture. On the other hand, merchant townships were of great strategic importance. Defended by archers and Cossacks, whom the entrepreneurs recruited from, the stockades were defended by the Russian population working in the district. Also, the fortresses served as the against which the raids of the were crashed. Along with the defense of their lands, merchants, having enlisted the support of the state, equipped military-industrial expeditions to the east. This method of initial accumulation manifested the of Pokrovsky, and without whom the existence of the would be impossible. The general economic recovery that emerged in the Moscow state as a result of the liquidation of the Troubles, in the 40s. The 17th century was expressed in the discovery of the Eastern Ocean by the commercial capital and in the energetic search for a sea route to the east to exploit marine fisheries and attempts to round the northeastern tip of Asia. The results of the expeditions of Dezhnev – Alekseev and Stadukhin, who explored the routes to the northeast, led to doubts: whether the, washing Siberia and the from the east, or separated by the mainland. These doubts of the merchant capital were resolved a century later when the era in the history of world geographical discoveries was marked by the penetration of Russian merchants into the islands located in the seas near the North Asian continent and the coast of the – America. Despite a certain similarity in views with Pokrovsky, manifested primarily in the priority value of trade in the process of forming a single national market, the concept of Bakhrushin had distinctive features. The first of them determined the status of commercial capital in the process of the development of Siberia. If in the works of Pokrovsky state was the of the merchants, then Bakhrushin thought otherwise and explained his position by the weakness of the Russian merchants, which, despite the breadth and boldness of the scope of entrepreneurial activity, developed in the unfavorable conditions of the feudal system. The weakness of Russian merchant capital was that it did not develop any organized system of credit. This circumstance put merchants in enslaving dependence on the treasury, the main financial force in the country, which had free monetary and commodity resources., wrote Bakhrushin – got along well with the purely feudal methods of the most shameless use of the merchant class. The treasury sucked out everything it could from the representatives of the big trading bourgeoisie, and then,, (Bakhrushin, 1940). This is exactly how the state treated the Sveteshnikov, who got confused in the calculations with the treasury and died on the, and this is how the Guryevs and Stroganovs were expropriated at the time when it turned out to be necessary for the government. Another difference is the concept of S.V. Bakhrushin is that it allows a deeper look at the problem of the formation of the all-Russian market, to reveal the mechanism of its formation. Analysis of the historian's scientific materials devoted to the trade and commercial enterprises of the of the Stroganovs – in the east of the country, the Nazarievs – in the south,, Sveteshnikov – in the Middle Volga region, Pankratov – in Pomorie, etc. shows that the of these merchants, who linked tiny groups of small producers, are nothing more than areas of diverse economic culture, which, interacting with each other, were drawn into the system of internal and external trade relations and ensured the development of commercial and usurious capital. In the Soviet historical science of 1920 – the first half of the 1930s two points of view on the problem of the formation of the all-Russian market were formed. According to the first point of view, the formation of market relations took place based on the growth of the social division of labor, commodity production, and exchange. Following the second point of view, the development of a single national market was due to internal, especially Siberian, trade, which closely interacted with external markets. Through precious furs, Siberia was directly connected with the markets of Western Europe and Asia, being at the same time a vast reservoir for Russian and foreign goods. The international demand for sable furs was one of the main reasons for the Russian advance eastward. Based on the predatory exploitation of Siberia, which used all methods of accumulation – from armed robbery and unequal trade to the organization of industrial expeditions, the concentration of Russian commercial capital increased, which, in the conditions of the beginning of the depletion of Siberian fur wealth, began an active search for sea routes to the east. This search culminated in the discovery of new lands in the North Pacific Ocean in the middle of the 18th century. The issues of their commercial development were to become a further topic of scientific research.

Having indicated the urgency of the problem, and having determined the degree of its study, and relying on the array of identified historiographic sources, the researchers directed their efforts to:

  • an analysis of the content of the theoretical concepts of Russian scientists who studied the problem of the development of Siberia in the little-studied, transitional period of the development of historical science.
  • establishment of the main stages of the historical discussion, the line of succession of the presented theories and directions for further scientific research.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study was to study the problem of the development of Siberia in Russian historical science at the end of the 19th – first third of the 20th centuries.

Research Methods

Based on the method proposed by Nechkina (1965) developed in the scientific work of Rezun (1982), the researchers:

  • collected historiographic material and built a chronological series;
  • identified the problems of historical sources replacing each other in this chronological series and the line of transmission of the "relay race" of the study;
  • moved from the problematic to the analysis of the concepts of scientists;
  • checking the concepts for compliance with historical realities, we established the volume and content of the sources based on which each of the authors based his research;
  • paying attention to the nature of the argumentation, found out the philosophical approaches of thinkers and their ideological positions.

As a result of constructing a chronological series, we managed to introduce new historiographic sources and names into scientific circulation, present their source and theoretical interdependence, reveal the basic phenomena that influenced the development of science, and formulate the main conclusions.


At the end of the 19th century, in order to comprehend the nature of the changes taking place in Russia, and hindering the establishment of civil and economic well-being, Russian scientists came up with the problem of the development of the territories of Siberia by the state. This problem was reflected in the discussions, which, within the period under review, we conditionally divided into two stages. The first is from the 1880s until 1921, when the 10th Congress of the RSDLP (B) was held with the resolutions and adopted at it, which demanded strengthening the unity of the party ranks and a steady systematic struggle against the propaganda of anarcho-syndicalist ideas. The second – from 1921 to the mid – 1930s, marked by the defeat of the, which distorted, in the opinion of the supreme leadership, the real history, and the transition to an official campaign to revise Soviet ideology. At the first stage, the participants in the discussions were researchers who adhered to different political views and concepts in historical science, linking the process of the development of Siberia with the development of capitalist relations. Explaining the advance of the Russian state to the east by necessity, they saw the reasons for the decline in the people's standard of living in the development of capitalist relations. The question of the nature of these relations, which caused heated debate, remained with the scientists who held social democratic positions. Speaking about the natural origin of Russian capitalism, they outlined the main ways of its development, linking the development of new territories with the expansion of the domestic market and indicating the directions for further research of the problem. At the second stage of historiography, the discussion of the problem took place in a confrontation between two concepts, one of which belonged to Lenin, and the other to Pokrovsky. According to Lenin, the development of market relations was carried out through the deepening of the social division of labor, the growth of commodity production and exchange; whereas, following the theory of Pokrovsky, the development of Siberia took place through interaction with external markets.


Throughout the discussions held throughout the period under review, their theoretical framework gradually narrowed given the political conjuncture associated with the establishment of the Marxist-Leninist paradigm in historical science, which had a noticeable impact on the topics of further research on the problem of the development of Siberia in the Soviet era.


The author expresses his gratitude to his first teacher of historiography, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor V.P. Fedyuk for his interest in scienсe.


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Popov, R. I. (2021). Problem Of The Development Of Siberia In Russian Historiography. In D. K. Bataev, S. A. Gapurov, A. D. Osmaev, V. K. Akaev, L. M. Idigova, M. R. Ovhadov, A. R. Salgiriev, & M. M. Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Social and Cultural Transformations in The Context of Modern Globalism, vol 117. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1282-1292). European Publisher.