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The Horse of Sakha

Ethnic Symbol in Post-Communist Sakha Republic (Iakutiia)

Emilie Maj

This report is on contemporary processes related to horse breeding in Sakha (Iakutiia), northeastern Russia. I demonstrate the importance of the horse figure in the philosophy of the Sakha, a hunting and herding people of Siberia, as well as the parallelism between the diminishing utilitarian function of the horse and reinforcing symbolism in the post-communist context.

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Sakha Community Leaders and Their Historical Mission

The Relevance of Soviet Ideology to Contemporary Sakha Politics

Eleanor Peers

This report presents an analysis of material from regional government-owned newspapers in the Republic of Sakha (Iakutiia). The analysis reveals a high level of respect for Sakha community leaders who regard the technological and industrial progress of the Sakha people as their main interest. The newspapers indicate tolerance for Sakha nationalism on the part of the republican government, even though this tolerance could jeopardize its relationship with the Russian Federation's central government.

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Stars without the money

Sakha ethnic music business, upward mobility and friendship

Aimar Ventsel

The Sakha have had their own popular music since the 1970s. During the Soviet era, music culture was controlled by the state. Starting in the 1990s, new pop-music institutions and venues emerged and new entrepreneurs entered the music business as club owners, managers, producers, DJs, etc. In this article, I examine multiple social relations in the music business. Music has become a possibility for village youth to leave their villages and gain fame as artists. The Sakha music world contains various networks where criminal structures, artists, businessmen and media are interlinked. Through this linkage, music is used to gain a community's support for semi-legal business activities. At the same time, both the artists and producers present themselves to the public as the custodians of Sakha 'national' culture. The article discusses ways in which the artists' popularity is connected to their position in the music business, and how ethnic symbols are used to gain success.

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Aimar Ventsel

This field report summarizes an international interdisciplinary research project in Saidy, Republic of Sakha, in the Russian Far East. The aim of the research was to study ecological adaptations of communities in northern Sakha, combining methods of anthropology, archaeology, and ecology. Most indigenous communities in this region demonstrate a high level of self-organization—for example, forbidding sales of alcohol and transforming drinking to a hidden activity. These communities are actively engaged in the informal economy where officially unemployed people run informal grocery stores, hunting, and transport enterprises. Local practices are a mixture of Evenki and Sakha culture with emphasis on individualism. People in these communities are not nostalgic about Sovietera collective farms—something that is unusual in Siberia—and see current life as better than that in the Soviet era.

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The Alaas

Cattle Economy and Environmental Perception of Sedentary Sakhas in Central Yakuti

Csaba Mészáros

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.

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Sakha Music Business

Mission, Contracts, and Social Relations in the Developing Post-Socialist Market Economy

Aimar Ventsel

This article is about the Sakha music business and the people involved in it. It discusses different strategies of making music and shows that different music genres have their own setting of social relations. Due to the specific economic and social situation, social relations in the music business are often informal. The classic theory of the cultural industry states that producing music is a calculated market economy-oriented activity. This article questions such an approach and shows that social and cultural ideas are present in the music-making process. The Sakha music business cannot be seen as only a profit-oriented sphere. Whereas producers and musicians are interested in formal, contract-based relations in purely economic cases, the informality maintains its importance. Ideas of solidarity and mutual support are linked to the perception of being in one music community, which uses different elements of Sakha culture in their music. As is demonstrated in the article, incorporation of Sakha motives is not only a marketing strategy but also a way for musicians and producers to act as carriers of the Sakha culture whose mission is to develop it.

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The Concept of Manhood in Post-Socialist Siberia

The Sakha Father as a Wise Hunter and a Pastoralist

Hiroki Takakura

This article analyzes the family relationships of the Sakha people with particular focus on the concept of the father, both in a historical setting and in a contemporary context. The aim of this article is to shed light on alternative aspects of the life of Sakha pastoralists and to examine them within the broader historical and cultural perspective. Unlike previous studies on manhood and gender in post-socialist Russia, I suggest that the realization of a masculine identity as a father was possible, and that it has been transmitted through the generations, even during the socialist era. Hunting as a mode of minor subsistence and the perception of the socio-ecological environment related to it has been crucial for the preservation of the status of a man among the Sakha.

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“Is It Bad That We Try to Speak Two Languages?”

Language Ideologies and Choices among Urban Sakha Bilingual Families

Jenanne Ferguson

This article discusses urban ethnic Sakha bilinguals and their language ideologies and choices, especially with regard to the language socialization of their children—both at home and within the educational system. The usage of the Sakha language within urban spaces has been on the rise in the post-Soviet years, but still tends to be acquired in the home environment as a first language, whereas Russian is acquired later in the public sphere and reinforced in the educational system. The article explores some of the ideological and structural barriers toward Sakha acquisition and maintenance that speakers face, with apprehension regarding bilingualism and the mastery of two languages in educational contexts being a key concern for many Sakha parents. The article also discusses language instruction—especially in schools—in light of the need to begin to accommodate those with little or no Sakha knowledge in order to continue to increase the usage of Sakha by urban speakers.

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Ekaterina Chekhorduna, Nina Filippova and Diana Efimova

This article discusses the normative and legal foundations, laws, principles, approaches, means and methods of organizing the educational process and analyzing the content of the authors’ ethnopedagogical program—Olonkho pedagogy. The article relies on the aspiration of ethnic groups to preserve their own distinctiveness and maintain their ethnic and cultural identity despite the current circumstances of globalization. By basing its approach on the Sakha heroic epic tradition—the Olonkho—the article describes how this tradition can introduce children to ethnocultural traditions, customs, and ceremonial rituals. The article examines manifestations of civic and ethnic identity among students, as well as their values and attitudes toward their native language and the cultural and historical heritage of their ethnic group.

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Natsionalizm

Enemies and Scapegoats

Tatiana Argounova-Low

This article is about natsionalizm as an instrumental concept used manipulatively in the Soviet state by the ruling elite. It argues that accusations of natsionalizm in the Soviet Union served a particular purpose of manipulation and punishment. An instrumental character of accusations turned the victims into enemies and sacrificial scapegoats in order to prove the righteousness of the Soviet society. This article uses case studies from the recent history of one of the Russian republics, Republic of Sakha (Iakutiia).