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Pomors, Pomor’e, and the Russian North

A Symbolic Space in Cultural and Political Context

Yuri P. Shabaev, Igor Zherebtsov, Kim Hye Jin and Kim Hyun Taek

Although the European North of Russia is a multicultural region, it is often referred to as a single cultural region. For many centuries there have been common names for this region. Of particular importance were Pomor’e and Russian North. The former term is historical, and the latter is related to a cultural project that emerged in the late nineteenth century. In the 1920s both terms ceased to be widely used, appearing only in academic literature. However, in the early 1990s the term Pomor’e regained some of its earlier prominence and acquired both cultural and political meanings. The revival of the term has led to processes of re-identification, because the long forgotten Pomor identity also started to reemerge. However, the regional authorities considered the revival of Pomor identity and the Pomor movement as a striving for separatism, and a fight with and oppression of the Pomor movement followed. One symbolic element of the struggle was an attempt to counterpose the terms Pomor’e and Russian North and to add a political meaning to the latter.

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Natalya Gramatchikova

Mid-nineteenth-century Russian ethnography used fiction, artistry and education to enlighten the masses. Maksimov’s One Year in the North became one of the first examples of this new style of ethnography. Maksimov constructs ‘cultural masks’ regarding northern people (Samoyeds, Lapps, Karels, Zyrians). His impressions are developed out of long traditions and personal characterisations, such as: ‘little brothers’, blacksmiths, tricksters, ‘friends of deer and dogs’. The most interesting positions on his ‘evolutionary ladder’ are the first and the last, which belong to the Samoyeds and the Zyrians. Samoyeds find themselves partly outside the human space, but they are most diverse in the aspect of artistry. Zyrians, on the other hand, constitute a concern to their well-being. Maksimov’s biases are typical for this period of ethnographic development. Although Maksimov appreciates the spoken word, his colonial discourse replaced it by repulsion for Finno- Ugric languages. Artistry in the text of ‘ethnographic fiction’ enriches scientific discourse.