Maria Czaplicka and Her Siberian Expedition, 1914–1915: A Centenary Tribute

Grażyna Kubica


It was shortly before the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, when a young Polish woman by the name of Maria Czaplicka organized the predominantly female Yenisei Expedition. Czaplicka had been trained in anthropology at Oxford and was the author of the book Aboriginal Siberia, which summarized contemporary scholarship on the area (mostly Russian and Polish). Her book became a compendium for the English-speaking public interested in the region and students of shamanism. The monograph of Czaplicka’s own fieldwork was never completed, but she managed to write the interesting travelogue My Siberian Year and several articles. Apart from all her success, she was also a tragic figure, struggling with personal problems and the lack of a secure academic appointment. In 1921, at the age of 37, she committed suicide. This paper presents the results of thorough archival research which throws light on Czaplicka’s background, intellectual inspirations, and other biographical details that were previously unknown. It also offers a critical overview of her work.

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