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Arctic Circumpolar Civilization

Philosophical Approaches to the Concept

Sviatoslav Shachin

This article analyzes the concept of an Arctic circumpolar civilization and focuses on contradictions inherent within the concept. Some of these antinomies are the nomadic character of the traditional Arctic civilization and the traditional academic approach that takes a sedentarist perspective; the rich worldview of the Arctic residents and its inadequate reflection in the rational paradigm of cognition; and issues surrounding sustainable development and the global crisis of humanity, which leads to instability worldwide, including in the Arctic. The article proposes method of dialectical synthesis for resolving such antinomies.

TRANSLATED BY TATIANA ARGOUNOVA-LOW

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Indigenous Urbanization in Russia's Arctic

The Case of Nenets Autonomous Region

Marya Rozanova

This article presents the social, economic, and political factors that contribute to the ongoing urbanization of the Nenets indigenous communities (“communities-in-transition”) in the Nenets Autonomous Region. Focusing on the preconditions for “indigenous flight” from traditional rural settlements to urban areas, the article analyzes key indicators—demographics, language proficiency, education level, and occupational sector, as well as social cohesion, interethnic relations, and political inclusion in the larger urban context—to describe the adaptation and integration processes of these new city dwellers. Based on the fieldwork in the region, the article also presents individual life strategies and career choices of indigenous youth and describes the role of gender in indigenous urbanization.

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Mobility and Infrastructure in the Russian Arctic

Das Sein bestimmt das Bewusstsein?

Nikolai Vakhtin

This special issue of Sibirica arose from a 2015 panel that was part of the annual conference at the European University at St. Petersburg (EUSP). The panel—Mobility and Infrastructure in the Russian Arctic: Das Sein bestimmt das Bewusstsein? 1

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Alla Bolotova, Anastasia Karaseva and Valeria Vasilyeva

“There are no roads in the North” is a common stereotype about the Russian Arctic. 1 Social scientists working there often become annoyed by this postulate, not only because it presumes an essential immobility of the local population that is far

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Tatiana Vagramenko

Wanner 2008 ; Wanner 2007 ; Zigon 2011 ). Siberia and the Russian Arctic became one of the most striking spots of postsocialist changes on the Russian religious map, and they were associated with an increasing presence of various Protestant

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Protecting Indigenous Rights from Mining Companies

The Case of Ethnological Expertise in Yakutia

Violetta Gassiy

The Arctic is one of Russia’s treasures. However, Arctic economic development means that business is invading lands that are sacred to indigenous peoples. As a rule, regional authorities are interested in tax revenues from subsoil users, prompting them to decide the culture-or-mining dilemma in favor of the latter. But this does not mean that the price of this encroachment on indigenous lands remains uncalculated. Since its establishment in 2010, Yakutia’s Ethnological Expertise Committee has developed a tool for assessing the damage caused to indigenous communities by subsoil users. The problem of getting businesses to compensate indigenous communities has yet to be solved. This article seeks answers to the problem of fair compensation methods and explores modes of partnership and cooperation on traditional lands.

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Dreams of Prosperity – Enactments of Growth

The Rise and Fall of Farming in Varanger

Marianne Elisabeth Lien

An old tractor serves as an ethnographic entry point to shifting articulations of resources in coastal Finnmark, North Norway. Idle since the 1970s, the tractor is a relic of agricultural dreams, turned to rubble as novel layers of the Varanger landscape are conjured as resourceful. Farming in Finnmark was a geopolitical strategy to secure national borders and to expand a post-war welfare state, it was also a colonial effort to cultivate farmers in the far north. This article details the back-breaking practices required to make thin Arctic topsoil collaborate in realizing modernist dreams of agricultural growth, while state interventions sought to ensure national borders and national identity. The author highlights dialectic relations between mapping and forgetting, crucial in the making of resources and colonizing practices.

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Marlene Laruelle

Russia is unique on the circumpolar landscape in that indigenous communities constitute only a small percentage of its Arctic population. Whereas they represent 80 percent of Greenland’s population, 50 percent of Canada’s, 20 percent of Alaska’s, and 15 percent of Norway’s Arctic regions, they make up less than 5 percent of the population of Arctic Russia. Although indigenous peoples have a more solid demography than Russians and have therefore seen their share of the Arctic population slowly increase over the past two decades, their rights remain fragile. Moscow does not consider the Arctic to have a specific status due to the presence of indigenous peoples, and its reading of the region is still very much shaped by the imperial past, the memory of an easy conquest (osvoenie) of territories deemed “unpopulated,” and the exploitation of the region’s subsoil resources.

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Frida Hastrup and Marianne Elisabeth Lien

This article outlines the thematic section’s main anthropological interventions and introduces the inherently ambiguous notion of welfare frontiers, implying allegedly benign practices of resource development. Through ethnographic analyses from Iceland, Norway, and Greenland, it shows that Nordic Arctic landscapes become resourceful through careful crafting, entangled with practices and ideals of nation-building, egalitarianism, sustainability, good governance, and a concern for liveability for legitimate citizens. Further, the authors suggest that seeing natural resource development as linked to specific welfare state projects, with attention to the sometimes colonizing aspects of such practices, specifies and captures the current era, bringing the Anthropocene back home.

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Arctic Earthviews

Cyclic Passing of Knowledge among the Indigenous Communities of the Eurasian North

Tero Mustonen and Ari Lehtinen

This article examines the mechanisms and manners of maintaining the communal knowledge systems of the indigenous peoples of the circumpolar North. This is accomplished by paying attention to the concerns of distinguished community elders who have experienced the entwining of indigenous traditions and modernization during their lives. The article also introduces the concept of earthview, identifying the ethical and spiritual insights that inform the community-specific everyday skills of living in the North. The conclusion highlights the human/nonhuman cycles of intergenerational knowledge renewal that are mostly practical and oral by nature. The emergence of new elders is therefore critically grounded on the personal and communal skills of passing on the intimate knowledge of sensing changes in nature. By emphasizing the role of oral communication we underline that this knowledge (of earthviewing) only remains while being shared in everyday conditions and routines of land and life. We dedicate this article to the memory of Professor Vasilii A. Robbek.