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.

*****

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”

Who closed the border between Finland and Russia? A reply to The Independent Barents Observer

The saga about the Northern migrant route for asylum seekers wishing to reach a European country recently got a new turn: Since April 2016 the Russian-Finnish border in Lapland is closed for third-country citizens. The international staff of researchers at the Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi including me personally (a Swiss-Italian citizen) are deeply concerned by the new agreement between Finland and Russia about these new border-crossing limitations between Russia and Finland. It limits our possibilities to act as researchers in Russia, as well as it undermines the Euro-Arctic Barents Cooperation in general. For example, I do research among the Russian Sami people, and it has been essential in the past years to cross the border to reach the Murmansk Region for doing my research.

Many people seem to wonder: Why? How could it be that such a deal could happen?

Barentsobserver

I have been talking a lot with other people both in Finland and in Russia, and also read some materials about it. The most visible English language source of information on the topic is The Independent Barents Observer. In their article “Russia insisted on closing Lapland borders for third country citizens” they basically give this explanation: “Russia wanted to split Finland from the EU”, and this also seems to be a mainstream opinion in Rovaniemi, where I live. However, in my opinion, this explanation inadequately reflects the true situation behind the current border closure for third-country citizens. I would like to elaborate on this.

It has been conveyed also by the Finnish mainstream press (which I am going to criticise below) that the closure of the border was Finland’s initiative, and that Finland asked to include the EU/EEA+Switzerland countries into the list of allowed countries. However, what is not conveyed by any of the mentioned sources is the principle of reciprocity which is a basic principle of any bilateral negotiations (I worked myself in diplomacy before joining the Arctic Centre as a researcher).

In this case, reciprocity means an approximate balance in the amount of countries exempted by the agreed border restrictions. According to oral information by a Finnish border guard, during the negotiations Russia asked also to include several countries which it is on good terms with, exactly as Finland did. That are countries like Kazakhstan, Kryrgyzstan and some other countries, which are not producing refugees (although for some Western populists and their followers countries with a name ending on “-stan” may by default evoke such fears). In simple words: If Finland asked to include its friends, then Russia also wanted to include its friends. By all standards, it is highly unlikely that an unequal deal FIN+30 countries vs. RUS+1 country is possible, and in the end the Finns evidently opted for a deal only FIN+RUS/Belarus. As it is a common practice in international diplomacy to make agreements on equal terms, this sounds to me as a much more rational explanation than the simplistic explanation mode “it’s Putin, stupid!”. It must be said clearly: It was the Finns who rejected an equal deal with a higher number of included countries on both sides and thus heavily undermined Barents cooperation and European cooperation in general.

Instead of giving a balanced analysis explaining the reasonable arguments of all involved parties, both the Finnish tabloid Iltalehti and The Independent Barents Observer (which is even more disappointing given its declared “devotion for cross-border cooperation, dialogue and mutual understanding“) adhere to a way of reasoning which long since has become a standard explanation for almost everything which goes wrong in relations between Russia and the West. This shallowness of reasoning is highly regrettable. Their statement that Russia insisted on such a deal because it wanted to tear apart Finland from the EU is not just shallow. By presuming that Finland would have had no other choice than agree with Russia’s demands it also wrongly presumes a limited sovereignty of this country. However, Finland is a fully sovereign country, and it could have simply withdrawn its initiative on closing the border if it did not agree with Russia’s legitimate demand for signing an agreement on equal terms. Unfortunately, it opted for the isolationist way.

The Khanty Bear Feast revisited

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The honored bear’s head (Photo Antti Tenetz)

I have visited the Western Siberian Khanty in the vicinity of the oil towns in the Surgut region for twenty years now. Never could I have imagined I would see a performance of the famous Khanty Bear Ceremony documented thirty years ago by the Estonian intellectual and film director Lennar Meri in his film ”The Sons of Torum”. I was certain that the practice of organising a several days long ritual after a successful bear hunt had become extinct among the Khanty at the Tromyogan, Pim, and Agan Rivers north of the middle Ob River in Western Siberia.

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Reindeer sacrifice at the beginning of the Bear Feast (Photo Antti Tenetz)

A generation after Lennart Meri had filmed the Surgut Khanty, I thought the time was due to revisit the remaining participants of “The Sons of Torum”. I wanted to learn how they remembered the bear festival and why it had ceased being performed. I set out with multimedia artist Antti Tenetz to the Tromyogan River in November 2015 to visit Iosif, the son of the main protagonist of the film, the shaman Ivan Stepanovich Sopochin. We showed him Meri’s film and promised to repatriate copies of the recordings made in 1988. At the end of our journey, we received the surprising invitation to attend a new attempt to perform the ceremony. Up to the very last moment when I arrived in March 2016 with Antti at the Tromyogan River, we were not sure if we would really have the possibility to participate in the ceremony and whether we would be allowed to make the recordings we had intended.

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Awakening of the bear (photo Antti Tenetz)

We learned upon arrival that the official initiator of the event, the Khanty folklorist Timofei Moldanov of the Torum-Maa Museum was counting on our recording devices in order to document the whole ritual. Three linguists, Lyudmila Kayukova, Agrafena Sopochina and Zsófia Schön suggested to collaborate on the documentation of the ritual and we met two long-time friends, Olga Kornienko, a film maker from Surgut, and Aleksei Rud’, a PhD student from Ekaterinburg. The main local performer and organiser of the ritual, Sergei Vasilievich Kechimov, was also very keen on documenting the whole ritual and allowed us to film virtually everything.

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Antti Tenetz, Stephan Dudeck, Lyudmila Kayukova, Zsófia Schön (from left to right)

The ritual started with a reindeer sacrifice near the Tromyogan River in the presence of the remains of the hunted bear. A ritual entrance into the house of ceremony and a divination ritual followed. The symbolic five days of the feast, containing theatrical performances, dances and songs were fit into three days from the morning of 21st March to the morning of 24th March 2016. We learned about the clear distinction between shamanic rituals and the bear feast, which explicitly excludes every shamanic practice. It’s another strict taboo to argue and take offence during the days of the feast filled with laughter at even the most coarse jokes.

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Performance with mask (photo Antti Tenetz)

Curious TV journalists showed up and left us with mixed feelings as they showed no interest in the meaning of the ritual and its ethics among the Khanty. They all left bored by the long repetitive songs on the second day. The first days consisted of eleven hours of performances while the last day and night the performers didn’t stop singing, acting and dancing for 23 hours. I recognised with pleasure all generations and quite a number of young Khanty were present.

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Sergei Sopochin with Narkisyukh and Jakov Rynkov with the ritual stick for marking the performances (photo Antti Tenetz)

The future will show what direction the research of the performance will take. It will have to start from the interest of the Khanty to repatriate the collected and archived materials and to revitalise the bear ceremonial. A priority will be to make the recordings available to potential singers. I am still amazed by what I have witnessed and have already discovered a lot of details not yet mentioned in the existing literature on the Surgut Khanty bear feast.

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Performance with mask (photo Antti Tenetz)

In contrast to the well researched bear feast of the northern Khanty and the Mansi, descriptions of the ceremony among the Khanty along the middle Ob remain rare. At the beginning of the 20th century, two researchers were able to visit a Surgut Khanty bear festival, Kustaa Fredrik Karjalainen on 10th January 1901 near Surgut, and Raisa Pavlovna Mitusova on 3rd September 1924 in the settlement Yaur-yaun-pugol by the Agan River.

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Semjon Rynkov singing (centre), Danil Pokachev and Andrei Ernykhov backing (photo Antti Tenetz)

The main research questions have yet to be determined but some general directions have already become clear. The research will have to reach beyond the common discourse of victimisation and endangerment to explore the complexity of cultural revitalisation in the form of killing and reincarnation. My starting point is the insight that the ritual as well as ethnographic film deal with the relationship of difference and affinity and with death and return. The bear ritual encounters the bear as a significant other. It stresses the difference and affinity of the bear to the human community and transforms the dead bear into a cultural hero and implements a long lasting relationship between the hunter and the prey as well as the human with the non-human spiritual being. To be part of this process and to start to understand such a unique cultural performance is what makes anthropology one of the most exciting professions in the world.

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Sergei Kechimov singing (photo Antti Tenetz)

In August 1985 and 1988, Lennart Meri recorded the bear festival at the settlement Vat’-Yaun-Pugol at the invitation of the Khanty writer Yeremei Aipin, who left a short description of the ritual in one of his novels. The musicologists Jarkko Niemi and Katalin Lázár and the Hungarian linguist Márta Csepregi recorded some bear songs with the Surgut Khanty in the 1990s which have remained unpublished until today. Parts of bear songs collected by Jarkko Niemi were published in 2001 on the CD ”The Great Awakening”. Olga Balalaeva and Andrew Wiget have recorded bear feast performances at the neighbouring Yugan River.

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Sergei Kechimov singing (photo Antti Tenetz)

Post Doc ad, Rovaniemi, Arctic Indigenous Anthropology?

Dear friends,

The unversty of Lapland advertises a 2 year postdoc in Arctic Indigenous studies. It would be great to get as many as possible good applications from good anthropologists. The candidate could then work together with our team here in Rovaniemi and thus increase the anthropological academic community at the Arctic Circle significantly!!! Currently we have already 8 people doing great work here, and if we get another postdoc on that position, that would be even greater. If we get a very strong candidate as an ally of our team and our blog, maybe we can get the person to work with us at the Arctic Centre in the same building (if the candidate wishes so). If not, the postdoc would be working at one of the faculties at the University.

I am not myself involved in the appointment of this position, but I can only encourage interested candidates to apply. Hopefully then the best candidate will be chosen and we have a great addition to the team!

Please don’t be scared by the official text of the job ad that you are encouraged to know Finnish and all that stuff. It is actually not a requirement, and fluent english is enough to qualify for the selection. However, of course if you know any northern language, that will be an advantage maybe.

Here is the link to the official job ad, and here below is the official job ad text. Continue reading “Post Doc ad, Rovaniemi, Arctic Indigenous Anthropology?”

Report from two workshops at the Arctic Science Summit Week in Helsinki

“Permafrost Dynamics and Indigenous Land Use” was the title of a two-day workshop at the Arctic Science Summit Week in Helsinki – which is still ongoing at the time of writing this post (5-11 April 2014). Organised by Joachim Otto Habeck and Hiroki Takakura, the workshop brought together scholars from different disciplines (from geosciences to cultural anthropology) to discuss changes in the unique landscape and land use in the Central Yakutian Lowlands. Discussions were truly interdisciplinary, and fascinating from my point of view, tackling complexities in understanding the dimension of this specific landscape that is subject to many influences. Conversations focused on the interaction between natural processes in the formation of a thermokarst landscape, global climatic changes and local changes in cattle farming. Traditional forms of cattle farming have undergone transformations during the Soviet era, inducing lasting changes on the social organisation of for instance hay making in the grasslands of the alaas landscape. In addition, modern lifestyles and state subsidies are playing an important role in the local economy today, raising the question in which direction future land use will develop.

Further meetings are planned to foster cooperation on the theme. In case of interest, please get in touch with the conveners of the workshop (Joachim Otto Habeck, Max-Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, and soon University of Hamburg, Germany; Hiroki Takakura, Center for Northeast Asian Studies, Tohuku University, Sendai, Japan).

Another workshop, organised by the Nordic branch of the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists aimed at “Connecting Early Career Researchers and Community Driven Research in the North”. In her keynote, Gail Fondahl (University of BC) emphasised the possibility of involving members of indigenous communities in the co-management of projects. “Such an approach acknowledges that local communities can best identify their problems and prioritize their needs, that local knowledge and local resources can inform solutions to these problems, and that collaborative research can contribute to developing community capacity and thus help to empower communities.” (Fondahl et al. 2009, Co-Managing Research: Building and Sustaining a First Nation – University Partnership, UNBC). Arja Rautio (University of Oulu) explained how important this kind of collaboration is in health research where studies as well as new policies and schemes can only be devised successfully if they are relevant to the target community. Heidi Eriksen (Utsjoki Health Centre) raised attention to the fact that scientific (and in her example: medical) studies on indigenous peoples have been highly exploitative in the past, with little benefits for the researched communities themselves. Past injustices have to be acknowledged in current research and health care services.

Heidi Eriksen at the APECS workshop in Helsinki 8 April 2014
Equality? Heidi Eriksen at the APECS workshop in Helsinki 8 April 2014

Anna Afanasyeva (International Barents Secretariat), gave insights into her research on the relocation of Sámi of the Kola peninsula between 1930 and 1970, as well as her work in the project DOBES that aims at recording Sámi languages, especially of those which have only few native speakers left. Regarding the theme of the workshop, Anna told how she as an indigenous Sámi from a relocated family has been trying to methodically distance herself from her community to gain a “view from outside”, while researchers from outside the community have been trying to achieve “the view from within” – and how she has been discussing these experiences with fellow researchers.

New book on polar geopolitics

Narratives, bureaucracies and indigenous legal orders: Resource governance in Finnish Lapland is the title of our chapter in a volume titled “Polar Geopolitics? Knowledges, Resources and Legal Regimes”, which has been published end of January. The aim of our chapter is twofold: Firstly, to examine narratives of indigeneity and secondly to investigate how these are tied into struggles over natural resources. Especially the narrative of indigenous peoples being the “original ecologists” seems to open up opportunities for claim-making by indigenous groups, but on the other hand also allows for patronising approaches to resource management in indigenous homeland. The specific example we then look at is the conflict over forest resources in Finnish Upper Lapland, and in particular the Nellim conflict. In the following, we discuss how state bureaucracies sometimes contradict local management regimes, which, in the case of Upper Lapland, are still based on indigenous legal order. To illustrate this contradiction, we juxtapose reindeer herding principles of the Finnish state and of the indigenous Sàmi population adhering to the notion of “reindeer luck”.

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Together with the chapters by Lassi Heininen, Jeppe Strandsbjerg and Mark Nuttall our text forms Part III, “Indigenous and Northern Geopolitics”.  Part I of this volume focuses on “Global and Regional Frameworks” and part II engages with “National Visions”. Follow the link below and check out the excellent contributions to this book, edited by Richard C Powell and Klaus Dodds, and published by Edward Elgar.

http://www.e-elgar.co.uk/bookentry_main.lasso?id=15044

Enjoy reading!

Hannah and Nuccio

New publication: Nomadic and Indigenous Spaces. Productions and Cognitions

Nomadic and Indigenous Spaces. Productions and Cognitions. Edited by Judith Miggelbrink, Joachim Otto Habeck, Nuccio Mazzullo and Peter Koch (2013). Surrey: Ashgate.

With contributions from the editors, Denis Wood, Denis Retaillé, Gail Fondahl, Brian Donahoe, Joseph J Long, Kirill V Istomin, Florian Stammler, Claudio Aporta, and Tim Ingold (epilogue)

Nomadic-&-Indigenous-Spaces

How is space produced and how is it perceived? Looking at nomadic and indigenous peoples, we investigated this question between 2008 and 2012 in a collaborative research project between the Arctic Centre, University of Lapland and the Leibniz-Institute in Leipzig, Germany. A conference we organised in 2010 brought together international scholars to discuss experiences from different fields.  During the conference, it quickly became clear that cognitivist and phenomenologist paradigms come to very different interpretations of nomadic and indigenous spaces. This book continues that debate and invites readers to further engage with the topic, since the main contestations have not been resolved, as Tim Ingold notes in his epilogue. Continue reading “New publication: Nomadic and Indigenous Spaces. Productions and Cognitions”