SPbU professor Konstantin Klokov has completed a research trip to Chukotka, where he observed the phenomenon of the revival of reindeer breeding in the rural locality of Meynypilgyno. The materials he has collected will form the basis of a series of scientific articles on traditional nature management.
Konstantin Klokov is one of the largest Russian specialists in the nature and indigenous peoples of the North. For more than a decade he has been studying traditional reindeer herding and implementing research projects related to this topic across a number of subject areas, including geography, ethnology and ecology.
"In recent years, scientists have been considering the problems human–nature relations not from the point of view of geography, but in the context of cultural anthropology, ethnology and ecology. Many foreign ethnologists include nature into the scope of their research, and now even such phrases as "reindeer anthropology" are hardly a surprise for anyone," explains Professor Klokov.
The expert notes that it is possible to apply the principle of irreversibility of ethnos disadaptation to the environment to the traditional reindeer herding. It was introduced by the renowned ethnogeographer K. P. Ivanov According to this principle, if any adaptation in a traditional society has been lost, it is impossible to restore it. With that in mind, the process of reviving reindeer breeding in Meynypilgyno can be regarded as a true scientific phenomenon.
Historically, Chukotka was the centre of Russian reindeer herding. In the 1970s–1980s there were more than half a million of domesticated reindeer. During the Perestroika period the farm fell into decay, and by 2001 there were only 92,000 animals left. In a number of villages, including Meynypilgyno, reindeer breeding disappeared altogether. However, local residents continued to perform all reindeer rituals, accompanied by sacrifice. These traditions have survived to this day, but now instead of a living deer its figurine made of crushed sorrel is sacrificed.
"Over the recent twenty years, the residents of Meynypilgyno have been struggling to bring deer back to their village and eventually gained the support of local authorities. This spring 600 deer were purchased in the village of Kanchalan, and now, taking into account the offspring, there are already 800 of them. Now the team of reindeer herders is leading a herd from the Kanchalan tundra to the lands of their ancestors — it is more than 300 km and half of the way has been passed already," says Konstantin Klokov.
SPbU expert notes that for the inhabitants of Meynypilgyno the revival of reindeer herding is significant both from the economic and socio-cultural perspectives. "Unlike taiga reindeer breeding, where animals are used mainly as transport, in the tundra deer are bred to obtain marketable products such as meat and hides. The restoration of this type of animal husbandry will provide new jobs for the inhabitants of the village where the rate of unemployment is very high at the moment. Finally, reindeer herding is a specific way of life and the basis of the traditional culture of the Chukchi," explains Professor Klokov.
Today, largely due to the ethno-cultural features of the region, reindeer herding is best developed in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District. However, according to the scientist, the residents of Meynypilgyno took the first step towards reviving the traditions of reindeer breeding in Chukotka and in the future this kind of traditional economy can be reborn in Russia. At the moment, the total number of domestic reindeer in Russia is over 1,5 million — the increase in the number of these animals after a noticeable decline that occurred during the years of Perestroika is largely related to state support.