The article examines one of the aspects of life and activities of a prominent Siberian gold miner Yakov D. Frizer (1869–1932), Barguzin merchant of the 1st guild, the owner of the majority of private gold mines in Transbaikalia. Yakov Frizer belonged to a special type of Siberian entrepreneurs who had extensive practical experience, understood the needs of the region, implemented various projects for its study, provision of necessary facilities, and economic development, and represented the interests of gold mining both on the regional and on the national level. Frizer’s distinctive features were the spirit of constant innovation and experimentation, proactive attitude to life, desire for professional self-education, and ability to see new opportunities for investing his capital in opposition to the policy of the state authorities who did not know the potential of Siberia well and did not trust the initiatives of Siberian people. Frizer viewed the gold mining in Eastern Siberia not as an independent branch but as a complex industry interconnected with the development of the system of communications, scientific study of gold mining business, and the solution of the issues of legislation, customs policy, planning, technical innovations, the necessary professional training of workers and middle management personnel, the development of domestic Russian mechanical engineering and the related infrastructure. He was not afraid to take risks, investing his funds in the prospecting for new deposits. Through trial and error, he determined the best way of managing and became a pioneer in many endeavors, most of which were crowned with success. The article analyzes Yakov Frizer’s activities on the development of the Barguzin taiga through the prism of private vs. national perception. The emphasis is placed on the transformative role of private initiative in the development of the natural resources of Eastern Siberia, when without any assistance of the state, exemplary enterprises were founded, roads were laid, schools and churches were built, and the foundations for the scientific study of the region’s resources were established. The article is based on the personal archive of Yakov Frizer kept by his descendants in Israel, his articles and books, and the materials from the Russian State Historical Archive.
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