The news from the tundra was a shock: last year we celebrated Sergei Serotetto’s 66th birthday together in his chum in the tundra of Yamal. Full of his typical humour and warmheartedness, surrounded by his family of three generations. Now he passed away, on the 27th May, in the tundra. Sergei Serotetto was one of the best-known reindeer herders in the Soviet Union, in post-Soviet Russia, as well as in the rest of the world probably.Continue reading “Reindeer nomadism as profession, lifestyle, passion and love: Sergei Serotetto”
Just found out from the local news that in the Novyi Urengoy hospital two Nenets elders survived covid-19 and recovered from pneumonia, at the age of more than 100 years! These elders are so tough! I have also had the honour of meeting quite many people over 100 years old in the tundra particularly during our oral history project, who lived most of their lives with minimal imported stuff: eating mostly meat and fish, bread and tea. Little sugar, being outdoors 24/7 in Yamal, or in the chum, which in terms of fresh air is basically also outdoors:) . This shows that a lifestyle like that is perfectly healthy for the human body, much more so than a life in towns, let alone apartment blocks in skyscrapers… I dedicate this entry to all elders friends I have encountered throughout my field trips since the 1990s, and thank them for their openness, cooperation and their teachings.
A story about my failed attempt of shooting a wild reindeer, and of a successful hunt for petrol
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.
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
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”
(English version see bеlow, after the end of the Russian text)
В связи с этой датой хотелось бы обратить внимание на один аспект эпидемии ВИЧ-инфекции в России, который еще недостаточно изучен и мало известен широкой общественности. Я и сам относительно недавно узнал о нем.
Как показывают исследования у коренного населения Севера риск заразиться ВИЧ выше, чем у остальных жителей России (см. Буторов 2018, Волова и Родиниа 2016, 2014 Истомин и Мефодьев 2015). Эта инфекция в России встречается гораздо чаще, чем в странах Европы, а среди коренного населения Ямало-Ненецкого и Ханты-Мансийского округов ВИЧ распространяется еще быстрее. Continue reading “1st December: “World Aids Day” Всемирный день борьбы со СПИДом – ВИЧ и коренные народы Севера в России HIV and indigenous peoples in Russia”
The Siberian Times and other english language sites report about the recent anthrax outbreak among reindeer in West Siberia in a slight geographical confusion . Ignore the maps in this Siberian times article. We are actually witnessing this on the YAMAL PENINSULA close to the FAKTORIYA (trading post) Tarko Sale, which is close to the Yaro To lake around 300 km Northeast of the regional capital Salekhard.
This is not to be confused with the other (bigger) Tarko Sale, administrative centre of the Purovski District in Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. The proper location and latest news about this can be found here for example.
I have myself moved together with private herders around the Yaro To lake. The location is an important passway for many reindeer nomads, used in all seasons: The nomads with the furthest longest migration routes use it in early May, just before calving time, moving up North in spring towards their summer pastures. The second “wave” of herders use this location as a summer site, where they group with several households uniting many small herds into a big one for withstanding mosquito harrassment. People stay close to the Yaro To lake for fishing there in summer. In autumn the site is again used as a passway for herders returning from their summer pastures south heading towards the slaughtering sites in the south of the Yamal Peninsula. In winter, some private herders use the site and get supplies from the trading post in Tarko Sale. If you are interested in more detail on these migration routes and nomadic seasonality, you can have a look at chapter 3 of this book, or a part of this chapter.
This shows that the place is very intensively used. Due to the high mobility of herders using this site, utmost care has to be taken for preventing of anthrax being spread all over the Yamal Peninsula.
One of the biggest tragedies for the Nenets nation happened on 21th June 1943 in the Polar Ural Mountains. Officially Mandalada is known as the struggle of this little tundra nation against new Soviet empire rules. It was heavily suppressed by soviet authorities. It is often referred to as a Nenets uprising. Unofficially – people just tried to survive during that time. It was their reaction against authorities who started to confiscate their last belongings during World War II. How would they survive the winter in the arctic tundra without clothes, food and reindeer?
Near Polar Ural. Photo R. Laptander
Therefore people tried to hide with their families in the open tundra and survive this way the pressure of the communist regime. There was a small group of people who were prepared to resist local authorities in case they would take rigorous measures against their families. Soldiers where sent against this people and tried to arrest the men. The Nenets had no means to resist and had to give up after a short skirmish. 36 men were arrested and their belongings confiscated forcing their families to starve and to search for help near the settlements. Most of the arrested men died in prison or on the way to the prison camps.
N. Khudi’s father was among the Mandalada people in the Polar Ural Mountains. He tried to hide this fact during all his life. Photo. R. Laptander
It is a pity that there are not so many people left who could tell us about this part of Nenets history. For a long time it was almost a taboo among the Nenets to talk about the time of collectivization. The Mandalada was really a turning point in Nenets history which changed cardinally their relationship to the state authorities.
While doing oral history interviews I was very much surprised that the memories about this movement are still alive among the elder generation of Nenets. Once an old man told me he read in one Russian journal that nobody could tell anymore about what really had happened because all eyewitnesses of the events are dead already. This old Nenets wanted to correct that statement and prove that there are still memories about the Mandalada. People keep them in their collective historical memory. I could tell a lot about the superficial adaptation of Nenets to the Soviet regime, but in reality it has a tragic background. Of course it helped people to integrate into the Soviet regime and society.
Slowly life in the tundra became more or less stable and prosperous again. People tried to forget the Mandalada tragedy and the people who suffered. They even stopped to talk about them. By this way Nenets probably tried to hide their pain. Maybe it was an act of self-defense from the shock, bewilderment, confusion, and fear that this could happen, and that no one is ever protected from the harsh and cruel wheel of the state policy. During my oral history work on the Yamal tundra I managed to collect these stories. It was an acknowledgement of the fact that even if people try to forget their trauma, they have to live with it for a long time and this historical trauma can cause social problems in their communities.
A longer Russian version of this article is available at http://priuralye.ucoz.ru/news/mandalada_70_let_spustja/2013-09-06-1680 and http://www.yasavey.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=678:-70-&catid=67:2013-09-16-09-03-55
More information in English http://www.academia.edu/479640/Two_Wars_in_Conflict_Resistance_among_Nenets_Reindeer_Herders_in_the_1940s_2005_