Description of extreme adaptation: huvash settlers of the 20th century in deep Siberian forests

Adaev V.N.  (Tyumen, Russian Federation)


               page 137148


The article is aimed at analysing ethnocultural adaptation that is close to the possible limit. It is proposed to single out extreme adaptation as a separate field of studies in cultural ecology. The term is to be understood as a forced rapid adaptation of an ethnic group to drastically changing environmental factors, occurring under the conditions of high stress for the community. The research is conducted as an ethnographic case study and its data were obtained via semi-structured interviews and archival document review. The study focuses on the history of three Chuvash peasant families who fled the political repression of the 1930s to the adjacent back country the upper Demyanka River area (Uvatsky district of the Tyumen region, Russia). It was a remote and isolated taiga region covered with dense forests and vast swamps, a land of hunters and reindeer herders where farming was considered to be hard and unprofitable. The Chuvash families were typical farmers who had come to Western Siberia from the European part of Russia in 19001920s due to land shortages. The Chuvash, initially poorly adapted to the life in the taiga and inexperienced in forest foraging, managed to cope with the extreme adaptation to a new area over a short time. An important result of the adaptation consisted in the families creating a new local type of the subsistence system with priority being given to agriculture and livestock farming, while hunting and fishing were a complementary part of the economy. Their way of life proved to be very stable and reliable under the most difficult conditions. First of all, the Chuvash laboriously built a strong peasant base of their eco-nomy, in the fullest measure possible, despite all of the local difficulties and efforts required. In addition, the Chuvash increasingly adopted the foraging experience: initially from the neighbouring Russian and Polish taiga settlers, and soon directly from the most skilled peoples in this matter the Khanty and Evenki. Moreover, while acquiring the skills, the Chuvash were persistent in mastering the subtleties of each trade (sometimes much better than other local settlers), as well as in rethinking and transforming them according to their own experiences and economic preferences.

Key words: Siberian ethnography, cultural ecology, Irtysh region, political repression, forced migration, refugees, peoples of the North.


DOI: 10.20874/2071-0437-2019-46-3-137-148


Fundiing. The article has been written within the State Project No. -17-117050400150-2.


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Submitted: 20.05.2019

Accepted: 10.06.2019

Article is published: 26.09.2019


Adaev V.N.

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