The paper explores the problem of local and regional identities in the late imperial Russia as constructed by the means of academic research, especially in the fields of geography, archaeology and ethnography. It examines the nature of interaction between local amateur research and established academic centres. The paper considers a number of prominent projects launched in the leading academic centres of Russia that were concerned with "mapping" Russian antiquities, local sites of interests, folk customs and culture, and attempted to enlist local contributors. It suggests that recent studies concerned with local research in the 19th century Russia tend to overestimate the degree of mobilisation among provincial amateur scholars. At the same time the paper argues for the need to differentiate between various academic fields, which developed different instruments of addressing and mobilising locally based enthusiasts.