Success at the edge of the land: Past and present challenges for reindeer herders in the West Siberian Yamalo-Nenetskii Autonomous Okrug

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from conclusion: In this article I tried to show that the pattern of interaction with the surrounding world is an important argument for answering the question, why reindeer breeding in Yamal did not break down, despite conditions throughout the 20th century that were at several times very unfavourable. The existence of a nomadic way of life with herds of domestic reindeer was challenged several times, but the reindeer herders were able to react to these challenges with flexibility and adaptability, with the consequence that they could develop their branch of the economy under various political systems and economic pressures. The nomads survived the Tsars, the Soviets, and the geological explorers. The sedentarisation practice in Yamal also reveals that the Soviet power in this particular Siberian region was less strict in implementing ideological orders from Moscow than elsewhere. The mobile reindeer herders thus were less weakened when the Sovkhozy were weakened and they made use of the commercial enterprises to their favour. By providing ethnographic data on the herders’ point of view, I have tried to make clear, how these people perceive their surroundings and how their way of life is characterised by the two elements of change and continuity, in the sense that continuing such a lifestyle can only be achieved by reacting flexibly to a changing political and economic environment. Further, I outlined the main directions of recent and current developments, arguing that the biggest challenge for the nomads is continuing their lifestyle even under the condition of intensive resource extraction on their territories. I showed that reindeer herding can benefit from the presence of industry and infrastructure, in getting better access to markets, infrastructure and goods. To secure a solid basis for the further existence of Russia's most important reindeer herding region, however, all groups of actors, that is, nomads, industry and the state have to work jointly. Their expressed goal is, that reindeer nomads still could graze their herds, even when the last cubic metre of gas is extracted from Russia's most promising gas extraction region.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-71
Number of pages21
JournalNomadic Peoples
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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