This essay, based on field notes from 1976 to 2013, explores resonances of the GULag and exile system in Siberia, focusing on often ignored indigenous peoples in villages and towns. Interethnic relations, diverse community relationships with prison camps, and dynamics of Russian Orthodox and pre-Christian spirituality are explored. Debates about how to understand, teach, and memorialize the significance of the Stalinist system are analyzed, as are issues of shame, moral debilitation, and cultural revitalization. Featured cases include the Khanty of West Siberia, Sibiriaki of West and East Siberia, plus Éveny, Évenki, Yukagir, and Sakha of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia). The author argues that what local people have chosen to emphasize as they reflect on and process the GULag varies greatly with their and their ancestors' specific experiences of the camps and exiles, as well as with their degrees of indigeneity.
Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer
Sergei I. Kuznetsov and Igor V. Naumov
The eastern region of Russia left a noticeable imprint on the historical fates of the peoples of many foreign countries. Many works on the culture, history, and ethnography of Siberia sprang from the quills of foreign authors of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The study of Siberia was presented by people who were themselves exiled and cast away by the Russian government as undesirable or dangerous elements. This fate did not escape the peoples of foreign nations: tens of thousands of Poles, Hungarians, Germans, French, and Japanese were in various times forcibly sent to become acquainted with Siberia. Unfortunately the memories of Siberia for the peoples of a number of countries (Japanese, Hungarians, Poles,) became serious impediments in the way to mutual understanding and collaboration between Russia and those countries. The arrival of foreigners in Siberia is in large part chronicled differently by Russian historians in contrast to historians from other countries. There are various ‘blank spots’ in the history of foreign prisoners in Siberia (for example, prisoners of war from both World Wars), which Russian (Soviet) historians viewed in different terms owing to differing circumstances (with respect to the political character); the Russian ignorance of scholarship by foreign historians was further limited as a result of their inaccessibility.
Joachim Otto Habeck
Siberia is more than a region of Russia; it is also an integral part of how Russians understand themselves. This cultural historical article examines the process by which Russians incorporated Siberia through the ideology of nash (ours; female nasha, neuter nashe), a possessive term that has deep roots in Russian literary and philosophical traditions. The author argues that it is important for us to understand the 'mental appropriation' of Siberia in order to understand its place in Russia today.
Mobility is an aspect of human activity that is highly contextual but also in need of a framework for comparative analysis through time and space. This article examines Evenki mobility patterns and their relationship to economic practices of hunting, fishing, and reindeer herding, and utilizes a framework for considering mobility cross-culturally. The Evenkis are an indigenous minority living throughout central and eastern Siberia in the Russian Federation. In the fall and winter of 2011/2012, fieldwork among two groups of Evenkis documented patterns of mobility for reindeer pasturage, foraging and logistical purposes. Mobility related to these activities is connected to specific ecological, social, and economic factors.
David Lester and Sergei Kondrichin
Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer
An analysis of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) in the Russian Federation reveals a variety of village and urban reactions to crises of faith and power. The significance for group identity and instances of synergistic group belief are discussed. The transition that has seen amorphous underground shamanic practice lead to the institutionalization of shamanic cosmology is reflected in the recent opening of a temple in the Republic's capital, Yakutsk, and in the various groups that adhere to charismatic healers and seers. Debates about faith, as well as fragmented faith epistemologies, are described. The data derive from over 25 years of intermittent fieldwork in the Republic and with the Sakha diaspora. My approach is situated at the crossroads of medical-psychological anthropology, political anthropology, and new religious movement analysis.
Andrew A. Gentes
Ludek Broz and Rane Willerslev
Two indigenous Siberian groups-the Yukaghirs and the Telengits-share rather similar ideas about success in hunting as an elusive and highly precarious tension between too little and too much luck. In the catalogue of semiotics, it corresponds to the homonym whereby one sound/spelling is the manifestation of two words with different meanings. The result, as we shall show, is that any lucky hunter always inhabits the alternative possibility of his own failure. In this sense, good luck in hunting might at any point be exposed as bad fortune.