Cultural transformation: modern materials and technologies in the life of the Tundra Nenets reindeer herders (Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Russia)

Adaev V.N. (Tyumen, Russian Federation)



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The paper presents an overview of the new elements that have come into the life of the Tundra Nenets of Northwest Siberia in recent decades, and their prospective impact on the traditional reindeer husbandry. The emphasis is on those innovations or their aspects that have not yet been reflected in modern studies. These are, in particular, such points as reindeer herding, dwelling, transport, means of communication, toys and entertainment. The culture of the Nenets nomads is characterized by a special dynamism and an active driving approach they not only easily adopt technological innovations coming from the outside world, but are also constantly ready to search and try things out to improve the quality of their living. In recent years, this process has become particularly fast and intensified. It is concluded that the presence, spreading and functioning of these innovations in the life of the Tundra Nenets often becomes an effective catalyst for large and accelerated changes, the consequences of which can become destructive for the Tundra Nenets reindeer husbandry as a traditional economic and cultural base. The topic under consideration is part of a larger issue of adapting the Tundra Nenets to the modern circumstances of active industrial development in the YNAO. There are several alarming symptoms that are caused by these modern innovations. The first symptom is a rapid reduction of the sacred sphere in the objective world of the Tundra Nenets. The second one is the increasing disruption of internal social ties, manifested in the cutback of direct personal contacts between people and in the deterioration in the quality of the traditional knowledge transfer to younger generations. The third is the trend of a cardinal change in the traditional mode of reindeer pasture management, where one plausible option for development now is the cessation of the practice of year-round nomadic movements led by family groups. And the fourth is the increasing economic and psychological dependence of the indigenous population on external resources and services.


Key words: Siberian ethnography, nomads, technological innovation, cultural sustainability, indigenous knowledge.


DOI: 10.20874/2071-0437-2018-42-3-158-168




V.N. Adaev

Tyumen Scientific Centre of Siberian Branch RAS, Malygin st., 86, Tyumen, 625003, Russian Federation