Kolomiets O.P., Nuvano V.N. 

The rite of cremation in contemporary burial practices of the Chukchi reindeer herders

In the Reindeer Chukchi and Koryak cultures, cremation practices did not interrupt for centuries. In contemporary Chukchi culture, burial practices include cremation, leaving the body in the open space, and burial in “Russian style”. Cremation is still practiced among Reindeer Chukchi nowadays, although with some modifications and simplifications. The article is based on the fieldwork materials assembled by authors in 2000–2021 from the villages of Vaegi, Khatyrka, Meinypylgino, Omolon, Kaiettyn, and Ilirney of the Anadyr and Bilibino municipal districts, as well as on published materials. For the comparative analysis, the ethnographic materials from Kamchatka and Magadan regions were used. The informants’ answers suggest that contemporary burial rites in Vaegi, Khatyrka, Meinypylgino, and Omolon villages are the closest to the traditional cremation ritual. The purpose of this article is the reconstruction of the rite of cremation of Chukchi peoples and compare the traditional ceremony with the contemporary rituals of Reindeer Chukchi from Vaegi, Khatyrka, Meinypylgino, and Omolon localities. This paper described the full cremation ceremonial cycle: the preparation for the burial, sewing the burial clothing, crafting specific tools, distribution of the ceremonial roles, activities on the day before, during and after the cremation. The rite of asking the dead, preserved virtually with no changes till modern days, is described in detailed; the actions of main participants on every stage have been reconstructed. The local differences in the burial ceremony between various Chukchi groups have been specified. Special consideration has been given to the local Chukchi terminology, formulas, and spells, which were in use in the burial rite until 1970–1980s. Currently, informants practice simplified elements of the rite, the Chukchi language is not routinely used for the ceremonies, some words being spelled in Russian. Nevertheless, the burial practices have kept the mythological elements such as crossing the border into the other world, dividing of the worlds, creatures-guardians, evil spirits, guardian spirits.

Keywords: Chukotka, burial practices, cremation, reindeer herders, re-construction.


Vorobey I.E., Khakhovskaya L.N.

Constructive association of paleo-Asian sled transport and mobile dwelling in evolutionary and modernization aspects

This article represents an attempt to utilize the heuristic potential of the hypothesis proposed by V.G. Kuznetsova. Her assumption is based on the analysis of Chukcha rituals and constitutes a view of the nomadic wagon called “kaaran” as an example of the original movable dwelling in the period of formation of pastoral reindeer husbandry. In nomadic cultures, the fundamental close activity-related conjugation of sliding transport and housing constructions cannot but breed aspirations towards their constructive fusion as one of the tendencies of life organization. The realization of such aspirations takes place during the times of severe cultural transformations within the society, stipulated with internal innovative processes and/or external influences. We assume that the a relevant tendency could have been realized as a mobile shelter (constructive associations of a small living cell and a moving platform) at the stage of development of paleo-Asian reindeer herding, in the context of deficit of transport reindeer. The design variability of the sleds and framework bodies of known wagons along with its reasons remains unresearched. Still, one can observe the morphological and technological resemblance between bent carcasses and temporary twig-based dwellings, that occured widely in the south of taiga region from the right bank of the Ob River down to the Amur River. The structural constrains of the paleo-Asian sleds and particular features of the reindeer gear and harness did not allow the development of the sled-wagon towards a complete, although still small, portable housing on a standard traditional base. However, this tendency revealed itself quite clearly during the Soviet modernization period: the archive and literature sources of the Soviet time display some constructive solutions that connected vehicles (sled, tractor sledge) with demountable and solid dwellings in order to optimize the systems of cargo transportation and grazing, and also to create convenient environment for the herders. In this case, the newest intercultural Chukcha’s “hybrid” (a tent hoisted on a snow sled) recorded by V.N. Davydov, turns out to be another incarnation of the once emerged deep notion mated with new technical capacities.

Keywords: Chukotka, paleoasians, mobility, sled transport, dwelling, domestication, Soviet modernization.


Badmaev A.A. 

Deer and roe deer in traditional Buryat beliefs and rituals

The article is devoted to the identification of the Buryat complex of mythological ideas about deer and roe deer, and understanding of the role of these wild animals in the shamanic rites of the Buryats. The chronological framework of the study spans the end of the 19th — middle of the 20th c., the time when the Buryats were exercising and broadcasting a complex of traditional ideas and rituals. The study is limited to the territory of South-Eastern Siberia, which embraces the ethnic Buryatia. The research is based on diverse sources, including folklore, linguistic, ethnographic and field materials. The technique of the study is the structural-semiotic method, which allows identification of the symbolism that conveys ideas about deer and roe deer. It has been determined that in the mythological judgments of the Buryats, the images of deer and roe deer are ambiguous. It was revealed that in the traditional worldview of the Buryats, deer had a positive connotation. This animal was carrying solar, celestial, and terrestrial symbols. We found that in the Buryat mythology and folklore there was a replacement of the image of deer with that of a horse. In folk beliefs, deer was associated with the motif of the intermediary between the worlds, the idea of the connection of the human soul with the deer. It has been emphasized that in the folklore of the Buryats there is a motif of a man turning into deer and roe deer. The Buryats likened these Reindeers to domestic animals: the deer to a horse, the roe deer to a goat. In contrast to deer, the roe deer in the popular views of the Buryats received a predominantly negative characteristic: It bore the sign of death, and was associated with eschatological ideas. This animal carries the symbolism of fire and correlates with natural rhythms, acting as a harbinger of winter. In the Buryat rites, there are relics of the cult of deer. In shamanic rites and related poetry, the motive of the shaman's shapeshifting into a deer has been revealed, which is manifested, in particular, in the shaman's attribute — the iron crown. It has been proved that the high semiotic status of deer was reflected in shamanic rituals and poetry, where it was positioned as an animal that has a special role among other sacred animals. The roe deer was only a part of the circle of shaman's assistant spirits. The importance of deer and roe deer is evidenced by the use of their scapular bone in the shamanic mantle.

Keywords: buryats, deer, roe deer, mythological representations, ritual, late 19th — mid 20th century.


Krikh A.A., Mulina S.A., Chernova I.V.

Informal economic practices as a mechanism of adaptation of migrants in the south of Western Siberia in the late 19th — early 20th centuries

During the process of development of remote regions of Russian Empire, the state played the most important role, legislatively regulating the resettlement process and penal colonization. Despite the efforts of the state, informal economic practices became the means of adaptation of migrants to the new climatic and social circumstances they were exposed to as a result of migration. The variety of the practices was most vividly manifested during the years of large-scale peasant resettlements to Siberia at the turn of the 19th — 20th c. This phenomenon was reflected in the reports, essays and travel diaries of officials, which supervised the land management matters of the resettlement, which made possible the comparison of informal economic practices in different climatic zones — the taiga and the steppe. The methodological basis of the study is the concept of the informal economy by T. Shanina, which considers the informal practices as a universal restorative mechanism that makes it possible to “soften” the most acute social and economic contradictions. That mechanism provides survival in such conditions when other social mechanisms fail. The resettlement households of the taiga regions were characterized by primitive methods of deforestation and felling for sale to the steppe districts, which prompted chances in the nature of urmans. As a consequence of the informal economic behavior of late settlers in the areas with abundant forests, the building density of homesteads became high, which resulted in that even newly formed settlements appeared as solid wooden walls. Such dense building development contradicted the directives of the resettlement officials, which appealed to the building statute regulations. In the southern steppe regions of Western Siberia, the settlers used land holdings on the basis of a seizure right using shifting cultivation system and seeding the fields mainly with wheat without applying crop rotation. In the settlements located at the bitter-salt lakes, hydraulic engineering works were carried out. However, the late settlers ignored such improvements; they denied the suitability of the filters, did not monitor their condition, and even contributed to the pollution of the water reservoirs arranged for drinking. The adaptive result of the informal practices is the increased stability of the peasant economy. Depending on the yields, the new settlers was able to transfer the center of economic operations to and survive difficult times. The development of promysels saved peasant families from hunger and financial collapse, yet contributed to the spread of non-progressive, backward forms of land and resource use, which were based on extensive agriculture and a predatory attitude towards nature.

Keywords: informal economy, traditional use of nature, colonization, peasants, settlers, Western Siberian urmans and steppe.


Goleva T.G.

Komi-Permians traditional beverages in the context of modernization of the society

Komi-Permians are the indigenous population of the Perm Kama region. Their traditional drinks include kvass, home brew, beer, moonshine, and herbal teas, made at home from local agricultural products and wild plants. The main purpose of the article is to describe changes in the customs of production and consumption of beverages by the Komi-Permians over the past century and to identify factors that contribute to the maintenance of traditions or the spread of innovations. The study is based on historical and ethnographic methods and the results of research by Russian scientists in the field of exploring the gastronomic culture, traditional cuisine of ethnic groups and the history of their nutrition. Traditional beverages are considered as an element of the food culture of the people and as an ethno-marking feature in the context of household, social and economic development and intercultural interaction. Publications of the 20th c. and modern data indicate a steady commitment of the people to traditional types of drinks until almost the end of the 20th c. Changes in living conditions led to transformations that began to occur most intensively at the end of the last century. Transformations were primarily associated with the inclusion of purchased products into the diet and the expansion of the raw materials base; there also was a slight modification of traditional technologies and conditions for the production of beverages. The sustainability or change of folk traditions is determined by the availability of resources and tools for making drinks, taste preferences, and socio-economic conditions. The changes affected the system of transmitting of folk recipes, and the techniques of practical development of technologies. Presently, special ritual and event practices can be distinguished, in which traditional drinks are still preferred, and the custom of serving folk drinks at official and social events is being developed. Traditional beverages started to play a new role in maintaining the ethnic identity of the Komi-Permians and the representation of folk culture.

Keywords: Komi-Permians, food culture, folk cuisine, transformation processes, modification processes, beer, home brew, kvass.


Rakhmanova L.Ia.

Sublimated products and other time management tools: transformations of Khanty reindeer herders' nutrition practices in the Polar Urals

The key contribution of this article is bridging the perspectives of anthropology of food, mobility studies and anthropology of time, unfolding through an ethnographic study of the dietary practices of the Khanty reindeer herders in the Shuryshkar Region of the Yamal Peninsula in the beginning of the 21st c. We focus on freeze-dried foods, ‘Doshirak’ — the brand name which became genericized in this environment, and the dialogue of these foods with fish and venison, depending on the modes of mobility and the season. The Khanty herder's diet as recently as 20–25 years ago included reindeer and fish, processed and stored in various forms. In summer, during the nomadic period, raw foods are unfeasible, and dried venison and salted fish become key nutrients. Fresh foods and sophisticated cooking can only be afforded at campsite. Mobility periods reduce the diversity and set technological limits for food choice. The process of cooking and eating is integrated into the per-minute plan of the day during migration: one needs to find lightweight meal that regains weight and volume with addition of water. This is how soluble noodles and mashed potatoes are introduced in the reindeer herders' diet during the migration period. Nutrition type reflects the trend towards the “fragmentation” of food resources into small portions, suitable for single meal in a narrow family circle. A brigade of related tents has different diets. Previously, the problem of storing a deer slaughtered for “collective nutrition” (“colpit”) was solved via distribution of meat to a wide social circle. Now whole reindeer is too large for a mobile and small family during migration. Thus, Doshirak has become a way to save and/or speed up time (a longer march during the day instead of boiling cereals), a way to autonomize the family/chum within the extended family and the reindeer herding brigade. At the same time, the phenomenon of Doshirak reflects the pattern of food alienation, unification of food trends. This trend also highlights the understudied discourse of the usefulness and danger of this food — not in terms of freshness/rotting, purity/pollution, but in terms of artificiality/naturalness of food, which raises the question of the “naturalness” of the consuming subject itself.

Keywords: Khanty reindeer herders, mobility, diet, energy economy, nutrition individualization, food temporality, Doshirak, Rollton.


Sokolova A.D.

“Death discarded”: desemantization of death and new understanding of a man in the early USSR

In this article we explore the evolving concept of death and dying in the Soviet political project. The discursive practices of the new state in the field of death and body disposal have been analyzed based on materials from journalism, fiction, memoirs and diaries, archival data and other sources on the history of the early USSR (1920–1930). It has been shown how the concept of creation of a new world and a new Soviet man, the foundations of which were laid in the materialist Marxist approach, transformed the deep understanding of human nature. Discarding the metaphysical interpretation of the immortal nature of man, the Bolshevik ideology destroyed the established principles of understanding of human mortality, without offering anything new in exchange. Thus, the traditional logic of the practice of dealing with death, which worked as an effective adaptive mechanism for reassembling society in the face of natural loss of its members (A. van Gennep, R. Hertz, Davies D.), was violated. In a situation of confusion caused by the loss of the usual semantics of death and funeral practices, the ideologues of the new government made a number of attempts to build new mechanisms of adaptation. One of them was the project of a new civil funeral ritual, reflected in the journalism of the 1920s, although it did not receive widespread distribution. Another practice was the construction of symbolic immortality through the concept of “life in the memory of descendants” reflected both in the literature of socialist realism and in real practices. However, the concept of “living in the memory of descendants” was relevant only for few members of the new society, who could be referred to as “Soviet heroes”. It was an elite political practice that could hardly act as a reassembly mechanism for the entire society. In this situation, ordinary deaths and funerals were thrown to the periphery, having lost the ideological and practical attention of the state.

Keywords: death, funeral practices, USSR, new man, atheism, materialism.