Interaction between humans and domestic deer on Chukotka in the modern period (anthropological study) 

Khakhovskaya L.N. (Magadan, Russian Federation)


                 page 98107


This article analyses the dynamics of interaction between human groups (camps or deer herding communities) and herds of domestic reindeer on Chukotka in the 20th and early 21st centuries. The author uses the evidence of material culture, considers the autonomous agency of material objects, the independent significance of practices and everyday life. An important methodological prerequisite is the analysis of the nature of power and its manifestations. The author addresses the relationship between architecture and domestic life (Ingold, 2000); considers the changing balance between centralised and localised authority (Mann, 1986). The author shows that in traditional reindeer herding a partner relationship between human and animals was established. Initially, the Chukchi were followed a policy that deer should continue as effectively wild and untamed. Shepherds did not aim for total control of the herd. Grazing patterns were almost entirely uncontrolled. Herders would leave the flock unattended for long periods. Men and deer were in an equal relationship since both were reliant on and limited by their physical capability. In the Soviet period the ideology of human power over natural phenomena and environment became prevalent. The leading ideology in relation to herders and deer became the establishment of centralised control. Chukotka reindeer herding became a part of the governments agrarian policy. In Soviet collective farms a strong control over herders and deer was established. The aim of the Soviet authority was to make reindeer more domestic and human-dependent. Herders were instructed to constantly guard the deer herd. Reindeer were protected from predators and gadflies. The Chukchi were not always in agreement with these innovations. They continued to believe the deer is meant to be wild and move around freely. In the post-Soviet period the prevailing political and economic trend has been the transition to liberalization and democratization. The control of deer herding was now been delegated to regional authorities. This local authority has to conform to national policy, but control over herding activities has significantly decreased. Nowadays, Chukchi manage their deer using cross-country vehicles, snowmobiles and ATVs. The use of new technical devices in the tundra has had the effect of reducing human dominance over animals.

Key words: Chukotka, reindeer herding, interaction with animals, partnership, domination, power, hierarchy, autonomy, material objects, technology.


DOI: 10.20874/2071-0437-2019-44-1-098-107


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Article is published 2.04.2019 .


L.N. Khakhovskaya

N.A. Shilo North-East Interdisciplinary  Scientific Research Institute of Far Eastern Branch RAS, Portovaya st., 16, Magadan, 685000, Russian Federation