The Alaas

Cattle Economy and Environmental Perception of Sedentary Sakhas in Central Yakuti

in Sibirica
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Thermokarst depressions in the permafrost environment of Yakutia (northeastern Siberia) provide fertile hayfields for Sakha cattle economy. These areas of open land in the boreal forest are called alaas in Sakha language. At this northern latitude cattle breeding is particularly in demand of nutritious fodder, because cows spend nine months on average in winter stables. Therefore alaases are the focus of Sakha environmental perception. Sakhas not only dwell in alaases, but through their economic activities, they modify and maintain them. This process is based on control and domination rather than on procurement of food by a “giving“ environment. Villagers in Tobuluk (central Yakutia) consider the areas surrounding their village as controlled islands of alaases (hayfields) in a sea of uncontrolled forest. This article examines Sakha environmental perception in which landscapes and cardinal directions evoke and define each other, and characterize those who reside there. Due to the subsequent transformations of Sakha economy and lifestyle by the Soviet and Russian state administration in the last 100 years (collectivization, centralization, and decollectivization) the way that Sakhas interact with their surroundings has transformed radically within the four generations causing profound differences in the way generations relate to, interact with, and understand alaases.

Sibirica

Interdisciplinary Journal of Siberian Studies

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