Many Poles were exiled to Siberia, starting with the 18th-century opponents of the Russian Empire's increasing influence in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (most notably the members of the Bar Confederation). After the change in Russian penal law in 1847, exile and penal labor (katorga) became common penalties to the participants of national uprisings within the Russian Empire. This led to increasing number of Poles being sent to Siberia for katorga, they were known as Sybiraks. Some of them remained there, forming a Polish minority in Sibera. Most of them came from the participants and supporters of the 19th century November Uprising and January Uprising, the participants of the 1905-1907 unrest to the approximately 1.5 million people deported in the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939.
Around the late 19th century there was also a limited number of Polish voluntary settlers, attracted by the economical development of the region. Polish migrants and exileres, many of whom were forbidden to move away from the region even after finishing serving their sentence, formed a vibrant Polish minority there. Hundreds of Poles took part in the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Notable Polish scholars studied Siberia, among them Aleksander Czekanowski, Jan Czerski, Benedykt Dybowski, Wiktor Godlewski, Sergiusz Jastrzebski, Edward Piekarski, Bronisław Piłsudski, Wacław Sieroszewski, Mikołaj Witkowski and others.
There were about 20,000 Poles living in Siberia around 1860s. An unsuccessful uprising of Polish political exiles in Siberia broke out in 1866.
Tens to hundreds of thousands of Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians or Poles were deported after the annexation of their states in 1939-1940 and German invasion of the Soviet Union; many Tatars or Volga Germans joined them just a few years later. Others were exiled not based on their ethnicity but also for belonging to a social group, such as the kulaks, rich peasants targeted by the Soviet regime.
Hundreds of thousands of people were exiled there during the years of the Soviet Union, including penal labor in Gulag prison camps, see Population transfer in the Soviet Union and Forced settlements in the Soviet Union for details.