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A Booming City in the Far North

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.

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Vera Kuklina, Sargylana Ignatieva and Uliana Vinokurova

This article explores the role of higher education institutions in the development of indigenous cultures in the Arctic city of Yakutsk. Although indigenous cultures have historically been related to traditional subsistence activities and a rural lifestyle, the growing urbanization of indigenous people brings new challenges and opportunities. The article draws on statistical data, as well as qualitative data from the Institute of Languages and Cultures of the Peoples of the Northeast (ILCPN) at the North-Eastern Federal University (NEFU) and the Arctic State Institute of Culture and Arts (AGIKI): annual reports, focus groups, interviews, and participant observations. The article argues that students and graduates contribute to the creation of a new image of the city as one in which indigenous cultures can find their own niche.

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Beyond Belief?

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.

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Family on the Edge

Neblagopoluchnaia Family and the State in Yakutsk and Magadan, Russian Federation

Lena Sidorova and Elena Khlinovskaya Rockhill

This paper addresses the notion and category of neblagopoluchnaia family in Yakutsk, Russian Federation, analyzing the ways in which this category is constructed and reproduced. Although this term is not defined in any jural and legal documents, it is widely applied in practice. The authors follow the process of marginalization of families through their increasing symbolic and geographic remoteness. These families constitute the category of neblagopoluchnaia family and include former village dwellers and urban families, irrespective of their ethnicity and gender, although the vast majority are mothers. As soon as such families become visible and fail to meet criteria for “good” parenting, they are demonized using the category of neblagopoluchnaia family as a tool, and their children are taken away. Personal and family difficulties due to symbolic and structural violence are not taken into consideration. Scapegoating parents facilitates social exclusion, expelling parents from moral community, and increasing, but justifying, the production of children without parental care.