The Experience of Displacement and Social Engineering in Kola Saami Oral Histories

Public defence of the doctoral dissertation by blog contributor Lukas Allemann on 15 Oct 2020

Our team member and periodic blog contributor Lukas Allemann examines in his thesis people’s experiences of Soviet-time, state-initiated displacement and (re)emplacement on the Kola Peninsula as well as the consequences of these developments. Sources show that Saami communities bore the brunt of these processes. The work seeks to draw – for the first time – a holistic picture of the social transformation among the Kola Saami, while nevertheless respecting the reality of mixed and multiple ethnic belongings as well as other categories of identity in the region.

Continue reading “The Experience of Displacement and Social Engineering in Kola Saami Oral Histories”

Воспоминания коренных жителей Севера о национальных и вспомогательных школах-интернатах – Testimonies about boarding schools among indigenous people in Russia’s North

English text see below.

The native boarding school in Lovozero –
Национальная школа-интернат в Ловозере

Цель данной статьи – предоставить слово бывшим ученикам интернатов Севера России, с особенным упором на вспомогательных школах-интернатах советского периода, в народе приобретавшие печальное прозвище «дебилки». Материалы являются свидетельством событий с 1960-х по 1980-е годы. Я собирал эти материалы в проекте по устной истории в течение последних лет и решил опубликовать здесь небольшую часть в связи с недавним постом на фейсбуке о вспомогательных школах в местах проживания коренного населения Севера России. Пост этот за три дня вызвал более ста реакций и тридцати комментариев. Это было для меня окончательным подтверждением того, что истории о вспомогательной школе в Ловозере Мурманской области не единичные случаи, а вспомогательные школы Советского времени – больная тема для многих жителей по всему Северу России. Ниже приведенные материалы также являются дополнением к моим научным статьям на тему вспомогательных школ на Севере.

В отличии от Канады, Аляски и скандинавских стран, в России тема интернатского школьного обучения коренных детей Севера широкого общественного резонанса пока не получала – хотя есть что обсуждать, как наглядно показала упомянутая дискуссия на фейсбуке. Но особенно для западного читателя важно отметить, что среди бывших учеников в России полностью отсутствует аналог распространенному в Северной Америке дискурсу «сурвайверов», в котором общепринято называть выпускников интернатов «выжившими». Такая терминология казалась бы неуместной большинству бывших учеников в России, так как она заведомо исключает положительные воспоминания и оценки интернатов, а такие воспоминания безусловно присутствуют. К ним относятся, например, положительная оценка профессиональных перспектив и возможность подняться по социальной лестнице; также чувства благодарности и привязанности к бывшим учителям и воспитателям (не ко всем, разумеется!), относившимся к своей работе с приверженностью и с пониманием к стрессу ребенка вдали от дома. К отрицательным моментам в воспоминаниях относятся предвзятость персонала и стигматизация обществом, вклад интернатов в ассимиляцию коренного населения и утерю коренного языка и традиционного образа жизни, психологическое давление и даже насилие, вплоть до отправления подростков в психбольницы в качестве наказания. Для некоторых детей школа показала путь к социальному опусканию.

At the native boarding school in Lovozero –
Национальная школа-интернат в Ловозере

В подборке приведены воспоминания в основном от саамских, но не только, выпускников национальной и вспомогательной школ-интернатов в Ловозере. Кроме того, я включил беседу с бывшим директором вспомогательной школы; она тоже по национальности саами, что само по себе наглядный пример возможностей (или подводных камней) советской системы образования. Отобранные материалы дают представление лишь об одной, но самой темной стороне этой системы среди коренных жителей Севера – попадание здоровых детей во вспомогательные школы, использование этих школ как бы «не по назначению». Определялись такие дети в такие школы в основном в 70-е годы, часто из-за слабых знаний русского языка и советской, городской культуры. Такие «пробелы» соответствующими комиссиями часто определялись как олигофрения. Причины видятся многие, в том числе: предвзятость; заинтересованность в сохранении рабочих мест и повышенной зарплаты; улучшение жилищных показателей (дети выписывались из квартир, многие из которых были переполнены переселенцами из ликвидированных деревень). В связи с данной тематикой отрицательные моменты в этой подборке воспоминаний явно преобладают, но важно еще раз отметить, что в целом среди всех собранных мной материалах об интернатах также присутствует много положительных воспоминаний.

Транскрипция ненаучная, является компромиссом между легкой читаемостью и близостью к оригинальной речи. Это значит, что оборванные предложения, отражающие перескакивание мысли, передаются без сглаживания. Одним словом, передаются все обычные признаки живой речи. Жирный шрифт означает громкую речь, троеточие – оборванную речь (незаконченное предложение). Все имена в текстах изменены. О=отвечающий, И=интервьюер.

Публикуя данную сборку воспоминаний, хочется в первую очередь благодарить всех, кто со мной поделился. Я надеюсь, что эти голоса дадут толчок дальнейшему развитию обсуждения интернатской истории Севера и ее последствий для местного населения.

Цитаты из интервью на русском языке опубликованы ниже после англоязычного перевода этого текста.

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In this contribution, which will be mainly in Russian, I want to give the floor to the numerous voices about boarding schools among indigenous people in Russia and the former Soviet Union, which I have collected during the past years during my oral history research. The discussed period is mainly the 1960s to 1980s.

At the native boarding school in Lovozero –
Национальная школа-интернат в Ловозеро

This is complementary material to my research articles on the oral history of boarding schools (references below) and to a discussion on facebook, which I came across recently. To this day, in Russia there have been far less public discussions on the past of residential schooling among indigenous children than in Canada, Alaska and the Nordic countries. The mentioned discussion on facebook, which gathered over one hundred reactions and thirty comments within the first three days, shows, however, that there is a need to sort out the matter.

At the native boarding school in Lovozero –
Национальная школа-интернат в Ловозере

There seems not to be a demand for a discourse coined by the concept of “survivance”, contrary to for instance Canada. Such a terminology would seem inadequate to most former pupils in Russia as it would preclude the widespread recollections on the positive sides of the system. But this doesn’t mean there is no demand for talking about those schools, which heavily changed the lives of individuals and communities to this day. In my research in Lovozero, Murmansk Region, North-West Russia (also known as Russian Lapland) one of the most negative aspects of the Soviet boarding school system among indigenous children was the local, so-called remedial school for mentally disabled children, which officially had no ethnic dimension whatsoever. It existed from 1970 to 1994. The bigger school though in the village was the native boarding school, which was opened in 1959 and closed a few years ago. This was a general school with some additional elements focusing on (mostly visual and material) features of the local indigenous cultures. This latter type of schools was designed for healthy children. During my oral history research, I found out that there were many wrong appointments to the remedial school among indigenous children due to their lower level of knowledge of the majority language and culture (more information on this in my articles, see references below). However, as this was a qualitative case study in a spatially limited area and there is no other research on those schools, I had difficulties in assessing how widespread this practice was across the whole, immense Soviet North. The timely discussion on facebook gave me an answer. The initial post was about one such school in Russia’s Far East, and it triggered a cascade of comments and accounts on exactly such schools and such practices in many different places of Russia’s North. Continue reading “Воспоминания коренных жителей Севера о национальных и вспомогательных школах-интернатах – Testimonies about boarding schools among indigenous people in Russia’s North”

Pert Yaptik’s speech in the 54th reindeer herders’ day in Yar-Sale.The Yamal peninsula

Dear people, my Yamal Nenets people! Dear reindeer herders!

Listen, what I am going to say. Mostly I am speaking to you, young people who are living now on the tundra. As for me I am living on the tundra 70 years, and by myself I am 70 years old.

Yaptik

Now officials say that we will have less reindeer. Of course the number of reindeer is going down. In old times, one hundred years ago we did not have so much reindeer as we have now. At the same time we have on the neighborhood Russian culture and people and we cannot live without them. Continue reading “Pert Yaptik’s speech in the 54th reindeer herders’ day in Yar-Sale.The Yamal peninsula”

A Memory Stick Packed With Memory – Карта памяти, заполненная памятью

2015-10-14 12.57.41***Русский текст ниже***

As a major outcome of the ORHELIA project (Oral History of Empires by Elders in the Arctic), our research team is proud to present a USB-Stick with oral history recollections from the different indigenous communities where we have been doing research during the past four years. The stick contains audio-visual and written materials from conversations we had with elders out in the tundra and in tiny kitchens over tea and sweets, all over the Eurasian Arctic from the mouth of the Lena River till Finnish Lapland.

ORHELIA Stick Screenshot 2

The stick offers a selection of remembrances both of happy and sad stories from people who have witnessed huge social, political and economic changes during their lives. There are stories about Stalinist terror and the Germans on the Arctic front during World War II, about boarding schools for indigenous children, about lethally poisonous rocket parts falling from the sky onto the soil of the tundra, as well as about playing Saami football, bear hunting stories, multilinguality or giving birth out in the tundra. A dominant topic throughout many stories from all regions are relocations by the state. This has turned out to be a common thread for many indigenous communities during the many upheavals of the 20th century. For understandable reasons, we couldn’t pack all stories on a stick – during our project we recorded several hundreds of hours of conversation – but any choice has something arbitrary and is regrettable, for no story is better than another. What we tried is to give a glimpse of the thematic, geographic and temporal broadness of the stories collected. Another aim was to show that there are not only stories of sufferance. Both the happy and the difficult moments in life should be present on the stick, as was the case in our conversations.

 

But why a USB stick and not, for instance, a web site? The USB stick is the first step in the popular dissemination of the results of our project. From the outset of our four-year oral history endeavour, it was a primary goal to bring our results back to those people who made our research possible at first hand. The USB stick is a format which allows accessing the information wherever there is a device like a computer or a tablet, even without an internet connection. In fact, even in the remotest tent on Yamal peninsula, families today have such devices, but due to the absence of mobile network coverage they mostly don’t have internet. For the younger generation, it will be a fun way to explore their elders’ past, which – as many told us – is interesting to them, but in the everyday routine only rarely becomes a matter of common conversations. For all generations it will be interesting to compare the stories from their community with fates from other people and places of the North. In the next months, we will go back to our corresponding research areas and disseminate the stick among all our contributors. By bringing back some of our results we also want to express our gratitude to our interlocutors. Special acknowledgement also goes to Stephan Dudeck and Antti Tenetz who dedicated many hours to designing and correcting the actual content of the stick. Without them, our common baby would never have become reality!

ORHELIA Stick Screenshot 3

The current edition of the stick is in Russian. Translated Finnish and English versions will follow. For broader public dissemination, we also plan an internet site with similar content. When we will go online we will announce it here on our blog, so stay tuned!

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2015-10-14 12.59.30Наша команда исследователей от проекта ORHELIA (Oral History of Empires by Elders in the Arctic / Устная история империй, рассказанная стариками Арктики) рада сообщить об издании флеш-накопителя с историями из разных коренных народов Севера, собранными нами в течение последних четырех лет. На этой «флешке» последнего поколения в формате кредитной карточки содержатся видео-, аудио- и письменные материалы из бесед с пожилыми жителями всей евразийской части Арктики, от устья реки Лены до финской Лапландии, записанных то в чуме где-нибудь в тундре, то за чаем на уютной квартире в селе.

В коллекцию мы включили как веселые, так и грустные истории от людей, ставших свидетелями огромных социальных, политических и экономических перемен в течение их жизней. Можно посмотреть и послушать рассказы о Второй мировой войне и о сталинских репрессиях, о жизни детей в школах-интернатах, о ядовитых частях ракет, падавших на просторы тундры, о саамском футболе, о медвежьей охоте, о многоязычности в повседневной жизни, о родах в тундре, а также обо многом другом. Однако красной нитью по многим историям из всех исследованных регионов проходит тема переселений коренного населения. Она оказалась самым наболевшим из множества потрясений, принесенных ХХ веком.

ORHELIA Stick Screenshot 6

По понятным причинам, мы не смогли «кинуть» на флешку все собранные нами истории – проект собрал несколько сотен часов записи. Пришлось выбирать, и, к сожалению, любой выбор является произвольным, потому что в принципе нет плохих или хороших историй. В своей вынужденной выборке мы попытались передать тематическую, географическую и временную обширность собранных историй. Другая важная цель была включить не только истории о страданиях, а передать тот баланс между счастливыми и трудными моментами в жизнях людей, который мы встречали в беседах.

ORHELIA Stick Screenshot 1

А вот почему мы сделали флешку, а не сайт? Сайт несомненно будет, но флешка была для нас первым приоритетом при реализации очень важной цели нашего проекта: вернуть собранные знания тем людям, которые нам их давали. С самого начала нашего четырехлетнего проекта по устной истории Арктики это было одной из главных целей. Флешка – это формат, который соединяет два требования: интерактивность и в то же время доступность из любого места, где есть компьютер, ноутбук или планшет. Такие устройства сейчас можно встретить даже в самых отдаленных оленеводческих бригадах, а вот с интернетом из-за отсутствия мобильной сети во многих местах труднее. Для представителей более молодых поколений это будет познавательный, а иногда даже забавный способ узнать о жизнях своих предков. Многие нам признавались, что им истории бабушек и дедушек интересны, но в суете повседневной жизни стариков просто некогда расспрашивать. А если свободное время все-таки появляется, то хочется посмотреть «видик» или полазать в планшете. С флешкой можно будет соединить одно с другим. А для всех, включая старших, будет интересно сравнивать истории своего народа с человеческими судьбами в других арктических регионах, во многом, кстати, удивительно похожих.

ORHELIA Stick Screenshot 4

В течение следующих месяцев мы собираемся вернуться в те места, где мы собирали материалы и раздать флешки участникам проекта, а также другим заинтересованным людям. Возвращая людям истории из Арктики, мы выражаем всем участникам свою глубокую благодарность. Отдельное спасибо также заслужили Штефан Дудек и Антти Тенец из нашей команды. В основном они провели много часов за созданием дизайна, форматированием и корректированием материалов. Без них наше детище не получилось бы!

Текущее, первое издание сделано на русском языке. Попозже выйдут финская и английская версии. А вот для широкой публики позже мы планируем создать сайт с теми же материалами. Мы объявим об этом здесь, так что подпишитесь к нашему блогу и следите за новостями!

 

Oral history: bringing our results back to the people

Honouring our partners in the field: Arctic elders and their representatives
Most of the Rovaniemi anthropology research team went this last week to Naryan Mar, the capital of the European Russian Nenets Autnomous Okrug, for celebrating the 25th anniversary of our field partners there, Nenets peoples association Yasavey. Congratulations!

The posh "Arktika" culture and business centre in Naryan Mar was chosen to be an appropriate venue for our presentation
The posh “Arktika” culture and business centre in Naryan Mar was chosen to be an appropriate venue for our presentation

We are honoured and proud that they granted us as only foreign partner a whole hour in their anniversary programme, and thankful to the Naryan-Mar Social and Humanitarian college for hosting us.
Over the last four years, the Nenets Okrug was one of the key regions for our ORHELIA oral history project, and nowhere our Finnish Academy project (decision 251111) got more material on Arctic indigenous people’s oral history than here in the Nenets Okrug. That is thanks to Stephan Dudeck and his partners in the field. Continue reading “Oral history: bringing our results back to the people”

ORHELIA’s trip to Lovozero

Last weekend our almost complete research team of the ORHELIA project (only Roza was unfortunately missing) went to Lovozero, the Sami ‘capital’ of Russian Lapland. It was probably my shortest field trip ever, with only one full day at our disposal and almost two entire days spent in a car. The main goal this time was not to gather as much information as possible but, on the opposite, to spread ORHELIA’s voice. It is the goal of our project to have such meetings in all our field sites. We already had one before in Sevettijärvi (Finland) and our next one will be in December in Naryan-Mar.

IMG_2077
The ORHELIA team just arrived to Lovozero.

Lovozero from its nice side
Lovozero from its nice side.

In Lovozero we organised an info meeting with local people from Lovozero, aiming to let them know about the goals of our project and what benefit it might bring to them as the beneficiary owners of the “raw material” we are working with. This meeting took place in the “Chum”, which is officially called “National Culture Centre” – with ‘national’ meaning ‘indigenous’, the latter being banned from official soviet terminology. Thanks to the organisational support of Valia Sovkina we could manage to gather quite a bit of people.

IMG_2341
Holding our presentation in the “National Culture Centre”.

In the first part of the meeting everybody shortly told about their field site. Our accounts were overarched by Florian’s presentation in which he outlined our comparative approach and the centre-periphery concept: Decisions about the Northern ‘peripheries’ are taken far away in administrative and political centres like Moscow or Helsinki. But is it so evident what is the periphery and what the centre? Doesn’t it depend on where one lives? Aren’t capital cities all too often little-knowing peripheries sending decisions to people’s lifestyle nuclei?

IMG_2333
Florian talking about centre-periphery perceptions.

The meeting was visually accompanied by slideshows and an exhibition of items from our different field sites. These visuals stimulated our discussions with many interested locals while having tea after the presentations.

The exhibition contained items from the Kola Peninsula, Yamal, Arkhangel'sk Region, Sakha and Finland
The exhibition contained items from the Kola Peninsula, Yamal, Arkhangel’sk Region, Sakha and Finland.

In the centre we see a reindeer herder's lasso
In the centre we see a reindeer herder’s lasso.

Our exhibition was sided by mock-up guns n' roses on the orange-black background of the  St. George's Ribbon, a widespread symbol of commemoration of World War II, the end of which was celebrated in Russia on 9th of May.
Our exhibition was sided by mock-up guns n’ roses on the orange-black background of the St. George’s Ribbon, a widespread symbol of commemoration of World War II, the end of which was celebrated in Russia on 9th of May.

For me, who is working with Russian Sami people, having my colleagues from the other field sites here in Lovozero was an important door-opener for my further work. Letting people know who we are and what we are doing creates trust and a feeling of shared interests. I have no doubt that this will reflect in future interviews. In the aftermath of the meeting several people expressed the wish to meet and share their stories with us.

Larisa Pavlovna Avdeeva showing old signatures used by Sami families in official documents before literacy became widespread.
Larisa Pavlovna Avdeeva showing old signatures used by Sami families in official documents before literacy became widespread.

Meeting again with Evdokim Alekseevich Galkin.
Meeting again with Evdokim Alekseevich Galkin.

Anastasiia Eliseevna Mozolevskaia shows her private archive containing materials even from pre-revolutionary times.
Anastasiia Eliseevna Mozolevskaia shows her private archive containing materials even from pre-revolutionary times.

Without any doubt, our most popular team member in Lovozero became Nuccio. While we all could communicate in Russian, Nuccio had a most unexpected common language ready for use: North Sami. A Sicilian in Russia who speaks North Sami with the locals. What an exceptional combination!

Nuccio together with Mariia Alekseevna Popova who originates from the siida Voron'e, which has been flooded due to a dam construction in 1967,
Nuccio together with Mariia Alekseevna Popova who originates from the siida Voron’e, which has been flooded due to a dam construction in 1967.

While Nuccio speaking Sami enchanted our audience, there is another remarkable fact making possible this unexpected way of communicating: North Sami, a language originally not used in Eastern Sapmi, in the past twenty years has become the second most spoken Sami dialect there, behind Kil’din Sami, but with much more speakers than the other dialects of Eastern Sapmi (see Scheller 2013, 409 f.) due to intense cooperation programmes especially with Norway. This example has shown in a nice way that North Sami has become a lingua franca in transnational Sami contacts.

Ekaterina Nikolaevna Korkina (left) took us to a spontaneous visit to her best friend Anna Efimovna Novokhat'ko.
Ekaterina Nikolaevna Korkina (left) took us to a spontaneous visit to her best friend Anna Efimovna Novokhat’ko.

A lively garage discussion
A lively garage discussion.

Having some fun with Yuri Dorzdovskii, a 'vezdekhodchik' ('all-terrain-vehicle-man') who regularly supplies the reindeer brigades and villages without road connection.
Having some fun with Yuri Drozdovskii, a vezdekhodchik (‘all-terrain-vehicle-man’) who regularly supplies reindeer brigades and villages without road connection.

Generally speaking, everybody of our team was overwhelmed by the openness and the interest of the attending people, regardless to the fact that Lovozero can be designated without any doubt as ‘over-researched’ in the past twenty years. We take this as a very encouraging feedback on our project. Thank you, Lovozerians!

Sámi people of Jona: pride and prejudice

The anthropology research team, organised by Anna Stammler-Gossmann, invites to a workshop (in Russian) with  Sámi activist and writer, Aleftina Sergina from Jona village (Kola Peninsula, approx. 30 km from the Finnish border, around 100 inhabitants).

Jona village indicated with "1", further places on the map being Rovaniemi ("2"), Kovdor ("3"), Apatity ("4"), and Murmansk ("5")
Jona village indicated with “1”, further places on the map being Rovaniemi (“2”), Kovdor (“3”), Apatity (“4”), and Murmansk (“5”), to give an idea of the location of this remote yet so centrally located village.

Issues  that we shall discuss at the meeting with Aleftina include

–      Lovozero is not the only Sami village in Russia
–      Sami potatoes project
–      Finnish reindeer in Russia, tundra reindeer in the forest and failed project on reindeer re-introduction in Jona.
–      Sacred sites of Sami
–      Soviet and post-Soviet Jona

Our blogger Nina Meschtyb had earlier been to Jona and written beautifully about that trip here on the blog, illustrated with nice photographs

“Before the Snow” – A documentary about Siberian people published online

The film by Christian Vagt features three important indigenous leaders and story tellers from the Khanty and Forest Nenets communities of Western Siberia – Josif Kechimov, Yuri Vella and Agrafena Pesikova. It is a short documentary filmed in 2007 in the West Siberian Taiga about indigenous concepts of their relationship with ghosts and the danger of inappropriate behaviour towards them.

Before_the_Snow_Poster

Josif Kechimov talks about the relationship to the dead and the tragic consequences of encounters with unburied deceased relatives. Against the background of oil development, forced resettlements and the spread of Christian missionizing among his people – and his feelings of danger for the forest live of Khanty reindeer herders and decline of traditions grow.

Juri Vella tells a Forest Nenets tale about the encounter with a supernatural and threatening inhabitant of an abandoned human settlement.  Hunter‘s stories have never a single message or meaning. Yuri Vella leaves it to the listeners to make their conclusions. What to do though if an understanding of the cultural context is missing?

Agrafena Pesikova sends a clear message addressed to the people intruding into the life of the indigenous reindeer herders and hunters.  The interests and interpretations of these people are based on their European and Christian preconceptions. They are not able to understand without careful and respectful interaction with local people. The lesson outsiders can learn from indigenous ghost stories is that distance, silence, and restraint from direct interaction should be part of respectful behaviour. Only if they are able to listen the right way though might they be able to grasp the message.

The film confirms my hypothesis that the indigenous Khanty and Nenets ways of dealing with supernatural beings, the deceased, and animals shape the way of interaction with other strangers be it bureaucrats, anthropologists, oil companies or tourists. The behaviour that is expected from outsiders, the respectful distance needed to avoid conflict and the tragic consequences of inappropriate contact are similar. In the face of the experience of difference, ghost stories teach what respect and disrespect mean.

A German version can be found here: