Arctic view on Russia’s changed constitution

The population of Russia officially supported the suggested changes in the world’s largest country’s constitution, with almost 78% of those who voted. Half of the circumpolar Arctic, including most of its indigenous peoples, will be governed by a different constitution from now on. Looking at the results of the vote, it is, however, noticeable how certain regions in the Arctic deferred from the general voting pattern.

Mayor Avsentyeva of Yakutsk during voting – the photo with the cross in the “yes” box was faked later – her office announced that she voted against! photo Алексей Толстяков/facebook.com
Continue reading “Arctic view on Russia’s changed constitution”

Ysyakh 2020 – solstice festival online

Midsummer, solstice on the 21 June is for many northern peoples and cultures an important holiday. In Finland it’s called Juhannus and a state holiday. In Yakutia, where I am now, it’s called Ysyakh, and considered the Sakha people’s new year day. The 2020 celebrations obviously come in a very different format in comparison to any previous festivities, for a number of reasons including but not limited to the corona virus.

The president of Yakutia ‘Il Darkhan’ Aysen Nikolaev congratulating for the Ysyakh 2020 on regional TV. Note his Sakha festive clothes, the Sakha horse on his left, the sacred horse pole Serge behind him, and the few participants in the ritual with covid-19 masks
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Permafrost thaw responsible for Norilsk oil spill, impacting indigenous fishing?

Talking to a friend in Se Yakha, at the shore of the Ob Bay close to the Kara Sea, I realised how far the consequences of the recent Norilsk oil spill could go: the recent New York Times article about the oil spill cite environmentalists and even a Russian minister saying that the consequences of the spill could last for a decade. This is echoed by our friends from the Yamal Peninsula, who might be again among the most vulnerable victims.
The concern is that the spilled oil will eventually end up in the Kara Sea. And if that happens, it will contaminate the water along of the migration route of fish, on which the indigenous population along the shores rely for their subsistence and livelihood.

Continue reading “Permafrost thaw responsible for Norilsk oil spill, impacting indigenous fishing?”

COVID-19 impacts in the Arctic: anthropological research gaps / ideas?

Dear all,
I’m contributing to an expert document on the impacts of COVID-19 in the Arctic. I think it is essential that we highlight research gaps that we notice as anthropologists working in the Arctic. I would like to invite everybody to use the comment function here in this blog to highlight what anthropologists in the Arctic should study relating to the impacts of COVID-19 in the Arctic. It could be that with this we might be able to influence political decisions on this in the future. But actually the question is of interest well beyond that: If you have noticed any important gaps that we should really know but we don’t know yet, please go ahead and write them here as a comment, or, if you feel uncomfortable to go public with your observation / idea, in an email to Florian Stammler at the University of Lapland in Finland. If you want, you can also share some of your impressions how life has changed in COVID-19 times in the part of the Arctic region that you know best. No idea how much is going to come in. But if it is a lot, those of you who are contributing could also think about co-authoring an article in a journal about this. This would be something sort of a “crowd-authored” article, almost like our natural science colleagues, whose articles sometimes get over 30 authors:) Looking forward to your input. Florian

Nenets mothers’ education: another PhD defense

After recently having celebrated the world’s first Nenets PhD defense, now we can witness another one, in three days time, 14 May 11.15 Norwegian time! Zoya Vylka Ravna shall defend her thesis with the very technical name “The Inter-Generational Transmission of Indigenous Knowledge By Nenets Women: Viewed in the context of the state educational system of Russia.” Surely this is going to be an interesting look by a European Nenets woman who studied trajectories of child upbringing in both the European and the Yamal part of the Nenets tundras. At the end of her popular summary to her thesis, she is very critical about the contemporary boarding school system, arguing that it “undermines the ability of nomadic Nenets communities to maintain their traditional and unique Arctic nomadic culture”.

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Successful doctoral Dissertation Defense: When we got reindeer, we moved to live to the tundra – The spoken and Silenced History of the Yamal Nenets

Roza Laptander’s public dissertation defense took place online on the 29th of  April 2020 at 10 a.m. Finnish time.

“In Christianity, at the beginning was the word – in Nenets, at the beginning was silence” (Andrey Golovnev during Roza’s defense).

How beautifully put by Andrey Golovnev! The director of the Kunstkamera acted as opponent in this first ever western PhD defense by a Nenets scholar. We are proud that our team and the University of Lapland were the host of this long and successful dissertation process. Roza delivered an excellent speech, and the discussion with the opponent was on highest scholarly expert level about the meaning of silence in Nenets cultures and beyond. In his questions Golovnev went into great detail, using his own decades-long expertise in Nenets scholarship.

For example, he explored with Roza how we can interpret the fact that Nenets epic songs such as Yarabtsy” or Sydbabtsy” can start with silence instead of speech. So, as Golovnev masterfully put it: “in christianity, at the beginning was the word – in Nenets, at the beginning was silence”.

Continue reading “Successful doctoral Dissertation Defense: When we got reindeer, we moved to live to the tundra – The spoken and Silenced History of the Yamal Nenets”

Fieldwork story Stammler 2: Yamal, hunting for petrol and a wild reindeer

A story about my failed attempt of shooting a wild reindeer, and of a successful hunt for petrol

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Yarkolana (Nikolay) Khorotetto, spring 2001

This story is dedicated to my friend Yarkolana (Nikolay) Khorotetto, who was tragically found dead (link in Russian) in the tundra, probably killed just after my birthday in 2019. This story takes us 20 years back, to my journey in spring 2001 with young Yarkolana and Dennis to Ostrov Belyi, White Island in the Arctic Ocean. We were all unexperienced and adventurous, did not know how to honour the spirits on Yamal KheKhe, the most sacred site in the entire region. Almost we were punished for this, but only almost. It’s a story of a steep learning curve, of immediate Soviet heritage, and of the hunger for intellectual food in the tundra.

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Dennis and Florian in a hunter’s container on white Island on the southern shore
Yap-Stepan bookOB
It turned out we were not the only ones in the abandoned village. For Stepan Yaptik the library was a top destination too: the books that we took along travelled later throughout the different camps of the tundra

 

 

 

Fieldwork story Stammler 1: Yamal, participation over observation is a health risk


participation over observation is a health risk

This was my first cold night ever in a chum in the Yamal tundra. It’s a story of ‘lesson learned’ early on in my fieldwork practice, that you need not only to be keen to participate in people’s life, but also be a good observer for the details. The price I had to pay for this in the end was a fever:(

Here are some photos from that day

after a sleepless night, with high temperature, I still couldn’t hold back and had to participate in the slaughter
He was the guy with whom I swapped the sleeping bag for a yagushka at night. In the rain he was wearing a parka made of Darnit, the material which you use for road construction between the pebbles and the sand.

 

 

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From the trading post Portsy Yakha to the camp site we needed to cross the river
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after a sleepless night, with high temperature, I still couldn’t hold back and had to participate in the slaughter
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He was the guy with whom I swapped the sleeping bag for a yagushka at night. In the rain he was wearing a parka made of Darnit, the material which you use for road construction between the pebbles and the sand.

 

 

“CCC” – corona, climate change and conspiracy in the Yamal tundra

I have been doing fieldwork with Yamal Nenets reindeer herders for more than 20 years now, and have noticed this year a change in their perception of the changes happening around them, maybe partially reinforced by corona virus.

Be it industrial expansion, the icing-over of pastures, outbreaks of diseases, methane holes in the tundra, the change of a political regime or other disasters – they have always given me the impression of incredible self-confidence that whatever comes, these tough enthusiastic nomadic reindeer herders will manage to face the challenge and continue their life. Continue reading ““CCC” – corona, climate change and conspiracy in the Yamal tundra”