Field Work in Western Siberia, Roza Laptander

Starting to the tundra from Aksarka’s central square

Young generation of reindeer herders from Yamal

As a member of the Oral History Anthropology Research Team I am now doing do my field work in Western Siberia, in a little village not far from the capital city of Yamal-Nenets autonomous district.

To readers of the Arctic anthropology blog it should be interesting that the people here are quite surprised by the strange weather in Yamal. It was quite warm here at the beginning of January just – 15°C and was a bit cold at the end of the month approximately – 30 – 33°C and now it is – 22°C again.

Most of the reindeer herders are located close to settlements, and they visit their relatives in villages quite often. They also come by snowmobile to privately sell reindeer meat, making money to buy food and petrol.

Some older people come to the village to visit doctors; some of them at a hospital. Before my trip to the tundra, I already met some of these older people, and got an introduction to the topics of their life and family history.

Roza Laptander

5 thoughts on “Field Work in Western Siberia, Roza Laptander

  1. This is great Roza that you manage to be there in Aksarka at the time when everybody comes there to resupply, services, medical care. You can see then who are the most interesting people for you to talk about, before you decide whom to join in the tundra. Surely this will be fascinating material from people’s biographies, which we can maybe analyse and compare with other narratives from Europe as well. Best of luck. Florian

  2. Steven meijer

    I heard your story in Groningen, Holland, and are going 2014 to Yamal and visit nenet. Yar sale and on THE toendra. We are super enthousiast about iT and read THE book siberian survival, THE nenets and their history.
    Can you give perhaps more books or info?
    Of possible?
    Thanks à lot, steven meijer ossenzijl THE netherlands.
    We live in à neighbourhood wit lots of musquitos. ;-). Ossenzijl
    Steven Meijer

    1. rozalap1978

      Dear Steven. Good to know that you like that story about Nenets in Groningen. Well, as you already read in Florian’s comment there are more publications about Nenets. And I know as well that there is one book also in Dutch written by Jelle Brandt Corstius ‘Rusland voor gevorderden’, Amsterdam. 2008. Indeed, that book is written from a tourist point of view but probably it would be interesting to read it. That place in Yamal where are you going is one of the most attractive places not just for scientists but also for ordinary people who like to get to know more about other cultures, about northern people and about Arctic, especially at this time when there is so much attention from media about global warming and climate change.
      Just write more about your plans; it would be nice to be in touch with you.

  3. fstammle

    Dear Steven
    The Yamal Nenets are comparably well studied by now, if compared with other Russian indigenous minorities. However, every time you go of course you find out loads of new interesting stuff about this dynamic society. Golovnev’s Siberian survival is a good read, but it’s a bit older already, and it comes with an understanding of culture that is contested in anthropology. Golovnev is the best known Russian expert on West Siberian cultures, and has much more in depth understanding of this case than you can read in that book. There, one gets the impression a bit that the Nenets are so vibrant and powerful nomads because their ‘culture’ is stronger than that of other indigenous northerners. I think the approach for studying that should look in detail how it actually works on the ground in the tundra, how people adjust their individual life trajectories and decisions on a day to day basis and in relation to the social environment surrounding them. You can read some of this detailed analysis in this monograph ( , here this article ( and here in this book chapter 10 called “oil without conflict?”( In the two latter publications you will also find out how the current most pressing challenge for Nenets nomads is dealing with the incoming gas industry on the one hand, and for the coastal people with the unclear governance of the Ob and Taz Bay waters that creates almost unbearable conditions for fishing. At the heart of Nenets lifestyle is of course their relation to their reindeer, which is a fascinating anthropological topic to study. About this you find some more publications on this website:,-Florian/Stammler-pubs
    Particularly the 2012 chapter called “Earmarks, Furmarks and the Community”, and the book “Good to Eat, Good to Live With”.
    To whom are you going to go in Yamal in 2014, and what’s the journey going to be about?

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