Transformation of traditional reindeer herding technologies and pasturing practices on the Kola Peninsula in the 20th early 21st century 

Perevalova E.V.


Vestnik arheologii, antropologii i etnografii, 2021, 3 (54)


              page 206217




The purpose of the article is to give an accent presentation of the transformation of technologies and techniques of reindeer grazing and value attitudes of the Kola reindeer herders in the 20th  early 21st century from an ethno-cultural perspective. The paper is based on the materials of the 2018 expedition to the Kola Peninsula. On the basis of using a system-analytical approach, the paper is structured as a narrative discourse, where the floor is given to the Kola reindeer herders themselves. As the studies show, the changes in the Kola reindeer husbandry brought about by the merger of the nomadic Samoyed-Izhem Culture, introduced to the Kola peninsula in the late 19th early 20th century, with the semi-nomadic cabin Saami herding style, as well as by the Soviet period collective and state farm transformation of the traditional reindeer husbandry and the unfolding snowmobile revolution (the use of the reindeer sled has been reduced to one month in a year), have led not only to the loss of numerous traditional reindeer herding technologies, pasturing practices and herd control, but also to significant changes in the population composition, structure, and organization of the behavioral characteristics of the herds. Today, the Komi-Izhem reindeer husbandry is dominant in the Kola region. However, despite the major changes, the Kola herders are still quite flexible in using, depending on the circumstances, the advantages of both the Izhem and the Lapp reindeer husbandry systems. The return to the semi-free herds ranging practices and transition to rotational organization of reindeer herd tending in the post-Soviet period stimulated the economic revival of the herding industry and added more comfort to the reindeer herders' lifestyle, although the reindeer herding is not considered a prestigious occupation among young people. Rethinking the older generation's life experiences, together with the more critical perception of today's realities, is an indication of changes within the system of ethnic values, which formerly, in a sense, supported both the individual and collective identities of the Saami and Komi-Izhem ethnies. The transformation processes have had a particularly profound impact on the traditional Saami reindeer culture, almost destroying it, which causes painful memories and reactions of its last bearers. Displacement of the Lapp component is carried forward in the choice of preferred deer breeds and disappearance of the Saami language and Saami toponymy from the reindeer herding context.

Keywords: reindeer herding, Saami (Lapps), Komi-Izhem, Kola Peninsula, technologies, traditions, novations, the late 19th early 20thcentury.


Funding. This work was supported by the grant from the Russian Science Foundation (project No. 18-18-00309).


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

Accepted: 27.05.2020

Article is published: 27.08.2021


Perevalova E.V., Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (the Kunstcamera) of the RAS, Universitetskaya Naberezhnaya, 3, St. Petersburg, 199034, Russian Federation, E-mail:,