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.
The Case of Ethnological Expertise in Yakutia
Cattle Economy and Environmental Perception of Sedentary Sakhas in Central Yakuti
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.
Translator : Jenanne K. Ferguson
On 27 September 2011 at the Sakha Republic’s public forum “The Spiritual Potential of Society in the Innovative Development of Yakutia,” the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) proclaimed the Declaration of the Spiritual Values of the Peoples of Yakutia
Events of the distant past can become the subjects of animated online debates, revealing high levels of ethnic tension between ethnic Russians and minorities. This has been the case with disputes about a recent Russian movie on Genghis Khan, for instance, which is nearing completion in Yakutia. The Internet debate forum has revealed several models of the relationship between ethnic Russians and minorities. First, there is the Eurasian model, which implies a "symbiosis" between these two groups with ethnic Russians playing the lead roles. Second, there is the Asiatic version of Eurasianism, where the Asian minorities play the roles of leaders. Third, there is the concept of Russia for Russians.
A 120-Year Story of Language Shift
Maria Pupynina and Yuri Koryakov
The Chukchi-speaking population is distributed within three regions of the Russian Federation—Chukotka, Kamchatka, and Yakutia. Because of the lack of regular transportation between these regions and different attitudes toward the Chukchi from the local authorities, Chukchi-speaking communities in these regions have become isolated from one another and have been developing independently. This article observes the dynamics of language shift in all Chukchi-speaking areas through the analysis of the data of the Russian Censuses (1897–2015), literature sources, and personal observations. The figures in this article illustrate the distribution of Chukchi-speaking communities within their historical and modern homeland, Chukchi vernacular zones, the participation in traditional economic activities, and contacts with other languages.
Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer
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.
Demographic and Migration Dynamics of Yakutsk, Russia
Svetlana Sukneva and Marlene Laruelle
Many cities of Russia’s Far North face a massive population decline, with the exception of those based on oil and gas extraction in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District. Yet, there is one more exception to that trend: the city of Yakutsk, capital of the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic, whose population is booming, having grown from 186,000 in 1989 to 338,000 in 2018, This unique demographic dynamism is founded on the massive exodus of the ethnic Yakut population from rural parts of the republic to the capital city, a process that has reshaped the urban cultural landscape, making Yakutsk a genuine indigenous regional capital, the only one of its kind in the Russian Far North.
Social, Political, and Shamanic Power in Siberia
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.
prominence in the 1990s; anthropological field studies in Siberia likewise also began to focus on local environmental perception, land use, and human/non-human relations. In compliance with this trend, Yakutia has faced the emergence of many domestic and
Brian Donahoe, Helen S. Hundley, Peter Jordan, David N. Collins, Aimar Ventsel, Sharyl Corrado, John Sallnow, and Kristina Kuentzel-Witt
Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov, The Social Life of the State in Subarctic Siberia (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003) 280pp. illustrations, £36.50. ISBN 0-80473- 462-3
Martin J. Bollinger, Stalin’s Slave Ships. Kolyma, the Gulag Fleet, and the Role of the West (Westport, Conn.: Praeger Press, 2003) 217pp. maps, photographs, tables. £28.99; US $49.95. ISBN 0-275-98100-2 (hb)
Hiroki Takakura, ed. Indigenous Ecological Practices and Cultural Traditions in Yakutia: history, ethnography, politics (Northeast Asian Study Series 6. Center for Northeast Asian Studies, Tohoku University, 2003) 150pp. maps, tables, illustrations. ISBN 4-901449-12-5 (pb).
Josh Newell, The Russian Far East. A Reference Guide for Conservation and Development (McKinleyville, CA: Daniel and Daniel Publishers, 2004) xx, 466pp. illustrations (some colour), maps, chart, tables index. $99.95. ISBN 1-880284- 76-6 (hb); $59.95. ISBN 1-880284-75-8 (pb)
Alexia Bloch, Red Ties and Residential Schools. Indigenous Siberians in a Post- Soviet State (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003) 264pp. illustrations. £28.00/$39.95 (hb) ISBN 0-8122-3759-5
A. I. Kostanov, ed. Gubernatory Sakhalina (Iuzhno-Sakhalinsk: Arkhivnyi otdel administratsii Sakhalinskoi oblasti, Gosudarstvennyi arkhiv Sakhalinskoi oblasti, 2000). 391pp.
Sue Davis, The Russian Far East: the last frontier? (London: Routledge, 2002) 155pp. £60 (hb) ISBN 0-415-27425-7
Judith Thornton and Charles E. Ziegler, eds, Russia’s Far East: A Region at Risk (Seattle, USA: The National Bureau of Asian Research in association with the University of Washington Press, 2002) 498pp. £25.95 (pb) ISBN 0-295-98235-7
Vadim Petrovich Shakherov, Goroda Vostochnoi Sibiri v XVIII – pervoi polovine XIX vv. Ocherki sotsial ‘no-ekonomicheskoi i kul’turnoi zhizni. (Irkutsk, 2001) 264pp. ISBN 5-93219-034-5