Homo technicus mobilis in Yamal 

Yaptik E.S.


Vestnik arheologii, antropologii i etnografii, 2021, 2 (53)




              page 120128




The author attempts to investigate how new infrastructure and new technical means affect the social institutions of the indigenous inhabitants of the Yamal Peninsula, who were mainly engaged in traditional activities: nomadic reindeer herding and fishing. The work is based on the author's field materials of 20182020 for the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District (Western Siberia) and publications of other researchers. The paper shows how the autochthonous peoples build new mobile space and master snowmobiles. Domination over the created space takes place with the aid of traditional skills and behaviors. At the same time, deer, which was the main transport animal and the main measure of wealth of Arctic reindeer herders, has not receded into the background, but transformed into a means of technical modernization of the economy. As a result, it has been shown that, when choosing technical innovations, the indigenous people of Yamal are guided by their ease of operation, high cross-country capability and environmental friendliness, preferring the domestically produced Buran in daily routine. Snowmobiles can be found in almost all reindeer herding families, and only their high price indicates the standing of the owners and allows the latter to demonstrate their status in the society. Buranists are involved in the market relations, occupying their niches in the system of commodity-exchange relations in the society. They act as an information and communication link between reindeer herders' camps and settlements. Snowmobiles are vivid examples of adaptation of indigenous people to new conditions and demonstrate possibility of coexistence of traditional reindeer farming culture with modern technologies. The Arctic nomad turned from a mobile man into homo technicus mobilis. This transformation appeared to be only on the outside, as evidenced by frequent accidents during the operation of snowmobiles. The proper use of such technologies in many respects offers competitive advantages to local entrepreneurs. New vehicles boost the entrepreneurial activity of the natives, involve them in the non-traditional sectors of employment: repair and resale of snowmobiles, transportation; and delivery of fuels, where natives can employ traditional knowledge of orientation, satisfy their passion for moving, and to avail themselves of the opportunity to choose a lifestyle and transport, without parting with their mobile lifestyle.

Key words: Yamal, Western Siberia, Nenets, supvival reindeer husbandry, mobility, snowmobile, Buran, transport.


Funding. The article was supported by the RFBR grant for the project No. 18-05-60040 New technologies and social institutions of the indigenous population of the Russian Arctic: opportunities and risks.


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

Accepted: 25.02.2020

Article is published: 28.05.2021


Yaptik E.S., Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the RAS, Leninsky prosp., 32, Moscow, 119334, Russian Federation, E-mail: lizaveta67@rambler.ru, https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8073-2214