Nomad Blog und Forum
NOMAD Blog und Forum
Fieldnews Edition 25 (in English)
15 February 2008
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
Fieldnews Edition 25 (in English)
15 February 2008
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
Summing Up NOMAD Fieldwork (March 2007 - February 2008)
[Picture 1: On the move, accompanied and helped by local friends]
Route of the nomadic research station
The station began its work in the village of Lovozero, where preparatory activities were carried out between 15 March and 6 April 2007. The station was then moved out to the tundra, where despite a number of difficulties (to organize transport, mainly), it was with the deer and the herders uninterruptedly till the last days of November.
[Picture 2: Visual documentation of corralling activities at Belaia Golovka Corral Camp]
In December and January we divided our efforts between herding events in the tundra and public presentations of NOMAD in the village.
Brief itinerary: Belaia Golovka
Going back to the beginning of our trek, the station's first stop was at the foothills of Belaia Golovka Hill, 60 km to the south-east of Lovozero. Here there is a combined herding camp of the "Tundra" right wing teams with a big corral enclosure close to it. At Belaia Golovka we could observe the last rounds of the corralling sessions of winter 2007 - events that lasted late into March and even dragged on till early April.
In the third decade of April we transported the station to the spring territories of the right wing teams and pitched camp on the northern bank of the small Ketkozero Lake. Previous experience had shown this to be a very advantageous position for monitoring the spring and autumn migration. We decided that Ketkozero shall be a main camp for us when the deer were trekking out to the sea and then when they were coming back.
At Ketkozero we were in the middle of a line formed by River Iokanga and the chain of lakes, through which it flows. This stretch, which we called "The Iokanga Line" was where herding activities were most intense. Correspondingly, the herding camps are strung along the Line like beads on a string - of Brigades 1 and 8 of "Tundra", and then Brigades 1 and 3 of Cooperative "Olenevod" of Krasnoshchel'e.
With its intermediate position, the camp at Ketkozero Lake thus offered many advantages. We could observe closely the passage of deer during the spring and autumn migration, and, at the same time, we could see the work of the herders and participate in some herding events. The herders from all brigades along the Line, from Brigades 2 and 6 to the northwest, to as far as the Kanevka brigades in the southeast, made it a point to stop at our camp and share news with us. At critical points our assistance was asked for and we were very gratified to know that we were not merely observers, but also participants in the life of this small community.
[Picture 3: Up the Iokanga River-Lake System during the long summer trip]
The summer migration of the herd toward the Barents Sea Coast proved to be one of the greatest challenges before us. We had to cover a distance of close to a hundred kilometers between the spring pastures along the Iokanga Line, and the Barents Sea Coast. The terrain in between was intersected by rivers and lakes, as well as swamp land that often stretched to the far horizon. A June trip to the camp of Brigade 1 of Krasnoshchel'e was by chartered all-terrain vehicle (vezdekhod), but for the most part we had to rely on an inflatable 4.5 m long canoe for navigating rivers and lakes. The swamps had to be traversed on foot. This was the part that was hardest to bear. Nevertheless, most of the distance had to be covered this way. Despite the mosquitoes and the shaking pale green cover of the swamps we managed to observe the summer range deep into the tundra to the banks of the huge Lake Enozero. Further passage was off-limits for us as we risked stepping into the 25 km zone by the coastline where the border troops restricted all civilian movement.
In early autumn our attention was focused on herding events by the biggish Porosozero Lake on the northernmost part of the Iokanga Line. At Porosozero we waited for the first returning deer to appear on the far horizon and shared the anxiety of the herders in a series of failed attempts to catch much needed sled-bucks. The deer finally arrived and then more and more of them. Work in the various corrals began in earnest. We gradually moved back to Belaia, then to Rodnik and back to Porosozero. The trek for us ended with the end of January 2008.
Structure and strategy of the NOMAD research station
The main logistic objectives of the NOMAD method of research were mobility and flexibility that should allow adequate monitoring of the annual migration. To be able to move freely in all seasons, proved, however, to be a very serious task which, with the transport possibilities at our disposal, could be met only half-way.
Despite such difficulties, we devised a system which worked fairly effectively most of the time. We managed to fulfill in substantive terms the principal objectives of the expedition: namely, to achieve close contact with the migrating herd and from this vantage point to relate to the human part of the Human-Rangifer complex. The system was based on a three-partite structure of the research station. Its most "permanent" unit we located in the village of Lovozero, our main supply base, the place where the reindeer herders lived with their families, and also the place where we could share the results of our work with the greatest part of the local community.
[Picture 4: The central position of the Ketkozero Camp made it convenient for herders to stop by for a cup of tea and share news with us. Vladimir Khatanzei and Ivan Cuprov from Brigade 8 discuss Vladi's book]
This village part of NOMAD relied on a rented flat for accommodation and office space while were in the village. Apart from this flat at Vokueva street 2-20, we also had the use of two garages for storing machines, boats, and other equipment. The garages were also used for repairing the snowmobiles, sleds, generator, and other parts of our equipment. Here everything was finally sorted, stored, and packed before journeys to the tundra.
[Picture 5: On the look out for returning deer near Lake Porosozero (September '07)]
In Lovozero we worked in cooperation with the village library. Assisted by a parallel sub-project of the University of Tromsø ("eNOMAD: eHealth for Reindeer Herders in the Kola Peninsula, NW Russia". A project of the Institute of Social Anthropology at the University of Tromsø, supported by the Roald Amundsen Centre for Arctic Research at the University of Tromsø. 10 March 2007-15 February 2008) we provided a computer for the use of the library, as well as for our own use, and covered its internet costs. Tatiana Sherstiuk, a librarian and field-assistant in a second sub-project ("The State in Post-(state)socialism: Budget sector and tundra land use in the social economy of a subarctic village (Kola Peninsula, NW Russia)". A research project at Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle, Germany. Investigator: Vladislava Vladimirova) received e-mail messages from us, while we were at the tundra camps, which were transmitted as textual messages by a satellite phone. She also received CDs with our field reports for the NOMAD web-site, which we were sending regularly to Lovozero by available all-purpose tracks vehicles. Tania would then send their contents on to the Siberian Centre of the Max Planck Institute in Halle using the computer and its Internet access. This pattern, among other tasks, made it possible for the field notes of the expedition to get regularly published on its website.
[Picture 6: Auxiliary sheds at the Ketkozero Camp. With its tarpaulins down, our cellar reveals its contents. Behind it a small tent provides shelter for the generator]
The second unit of NOMAD was in the tundra and was organized as a base camp. It had a living/office tent, as well as a number of auxiliary sheds for housing food products, clothing and heavier equipment. This base camp lived mostly at Ketkozero, where it spent the entire spring and autumn migration periods. An important unit of this camp was an electric generator with which we could recharge our two lap-top computers, as well as the satellite phone. The generator also recharged a snowmobile battery which, in turn, fed two electric bulbs in the tent. All other pieces of electronic equipment, video- and still camera, and two GPS receivers, ran on non-rechargeable batteries.
The movable NOMAD research station provided the possibility for primary processing and preservation of the rich field data that was being collected. Not in the last place, it made it possible to publish our field news regularly on the NOMAD site, as said above (see also Data Transmission, below, and "eNOMAD - Final Report" in the following issue).
[Picture 7: The Kektozero camp in November '07]
When doing scouting trips which radiated from the base camp, we used a small light tent with as little else as possible, besides visual equipment, binoculars, and GPS receivers. The small tent we also used when visiting herding camps and participating in herding events. The tent proved to be very useful, but it had its seasonal limitations. When the winter let itself be felt more seriously, which in 2007 was in early November, the smaller tent became unusable. From that time on we had to rely increasingly on putting up at the log-cabins of herding camps when engaging in herding events.
In our opinion this structure of the station is the optimal working pattern for research in the subarctic tundra environment, and for the problems which NOMAD targeted. It can cover a very large space, one or another part of which remains often under-observed, should the researcher rely exclusively on staying in the village, or, alternatively, on living at one of the herding camps. A crucial part that remains under-observed in such "classical" research situation is the herd itself, as well as a variety of herd-related actors, both human, and non-human. Positioning itself for a long period close to a moving herd enlarges many times the perspective on the Human-Rangifer relationship and the intricately interwoven social and political arrangements that grow and change around this central pivot.
[Picture 8: Using a small tent and lighter equipment when scouting for groups from the fragmented herd in the vicinity of Isakievskii Sobor Hill (May '07)]
Mobility of the station
Transport is of critical importance for the tasks such a research unit sets before itself. The terrain in which the research took place poses a number of challenges. The village of Lovozero stands at the end of a road, which connects it with Murmansk at the other end. After Lovozero, however, there is only tundra land all the way to the Barents Sea Coast to the east, and the White Sea Coast to the south. Depending on season, the means of transportation across this vast roadless land change. It is easiest during the winter when there is firm snow and ice surface. This is especially so towards the end of the winter, in March and April, when the snow-roads (zimnik or burannik) become so hard packed that the snowmobiles can be driven at speeds of up (and even over) 70 km/h. When the snow melts, all of this changes. The only transport that can be used year-round remains the all-purpose-track-vehicle (vezdekhod), and, of course, the Mi-8 helicopter. These are however very heavy and very expensive options, especially the latter.
[Picture 9: An inflatable canoe is a good solution for summer journeys: it is stable and carries a lot of luggage. Besides, the boat itself can be carried in a back-pack in case it comes to crossing on dry land from one water-basin to another (Lake Porosozero, September '07)]
During the NOMAD Expedition we partially solved the transport problem by having the use of two snow-scooters and three sleds for winter travelling. Two inflatable boats, a 4.5 m long canoe, as well as a very light dinghy, ensured transport during the non-snow months, relative to the length of a trip. A mechanic from the village, Evgenii Nikonchik (Zhenia), worked part-time with us and carried out running repairs in the tundra, or in the village, depending on the seriousness of the situation. Snow-scooters are fragile machines, and it is a rare day that everything with them is in order.
While the snow and ice surface held, which was till about mid-May, following the many different developments around the spring migration was relatively easy. We contacted the various parts of the migrating mass on the basis of daily snowmobile trips. This easy period over, by 23 May we had to begin following the deer on foot, using a small tent. These trips lasted from three to five days. Then, after the lakes became completely free of ice, combined trips by boat and on foot became the usual practice.
Our modest transport means and walking capacity had, however, their limits. For some difficult trips we had to hire a vezdekhod, as other options could not do the job at the chosen time. Thus a journey to Brigade 1 of Krasnoshchel'e by the Iokanga River, made in June, brought us in time for an important herding event which would have been missed otherwise. The timely appearance and the precious time saved were used to work with the Brigade 1 herders. For three sleepless nights under the midnight sun we tried getting a herd across the Iokanga, a drama for animals and herders we had never experienced before. Much that we hated the destructive machines, we were glad to join the herders who were using them and thus overcome tight spots. Regular journeys from Brigade 8 at Kolmiavr Lake to Lovozero and back were especially useful for us for bringing in supplies, fuel and spare parts. A most important mission of these journeys was, again, sending CDs with field-data to Tatiana, who would be waiting for them at the village library.
[Picture 10: A vezdekhod is useful for covering distances and bringing in supplies, but it often gets stuck into swamps. For the fragile tundra environment the impact of these machines is disastrous]
[Picture 11: Passing helicopters often stopped at the main NOMAD camp at Ketkozero bringing in fuel, food products, and letters]
In a community which had only recently learned that transport services in the tundra were a commodity for sale, for vezdekhod trips we were often asked to pay prices that were not merely unreasonably high and could not be accommodated within our modest research budget, but were simply fantastic. For example, taking us from Ketkozero and moving our camp toward the Barents Sea coast was estimated by a local private vezdekhod owner to cost us three thousand US dollars. Another private driver from Lovozero was prepared to come to Ketkozero and help us move our camp to Lake Enozero for 40 000 rubles (approximately EUR 1,170). Having information from other northern regions of the Russian Federation and from previous fieldwork in the Kola about real costs of such trips, we could not agree to pay such prices.
As local people explained, the probable reason for such immense overpricing of tundra transport services was the increasing number of rich Russian businessmen from Murmansk, St Petersburg or Moscow (the "New Russians") coming on recreational trips to the Kola. The relatively short distance to the Peninsula, compared to similar "wild nature" terrains in Siberia or the Far East, made salmon fishing and hunting trips for moose, bear, and wolf a fad rising in popularity among the newly rich. The availability of easy money coming this way had whetted the appetites of local operators to such a degree that no "reduced" rates would be easily given to foreign researchers like us. Willy-nilly and pleading dire poverty all the time we tried to accommodate to these absurd circumstances as best we could. What that meant was that prices for us eventually became lower than what the oligarchs were paying with a flourish, but still pretty high and eating deep into our budget. It also meant that during the summer we had to rely mainly on the rubber dinghies and our feet. This was a better ecological solution by all means, but it made work pretty difficult when the herd spread far and wide over the summer range.
[Picture 12: Opening a parcel with fresh supplies and letters is an occasion of great joy at the camp]
Some readjustments to initial plans had to be made. Instead of chartering a number of vezdekhod trips at cosmic prices, as we had planned initially, we decided that it was more sensible to move around light and shorten the treks. This meant also that generator, computer, satellite phone and a number of other items had to be left at the main camp. This in turn necessitated the coming of our technical assistant Zhenia to keep an eye on the camp, as well as to carry out much needed repairs on the generator and snowmobiles. The latter, especially, had to be in good running condition in anticipation of the coming winter.
The Globaltel satellite phone we used was capable of transmitting/ receiving only brief textual messages, but could not support Internet access [The state-of-art concerning satellite phone services in Russia are discussed in detail in our Final eNOMAD Report (see next issue on the NOMAD web-site)]. For this reason we had to send our field notes on CDs which vezdekhod drivers would take to Lovozero on their return trips from the tundra camps. As explained above, the CDs would be collected by Tatiana at the other end, and from the Library be sent as e-mail letter attachments to the Coordinator of the project - Otto Habeck. Otto would subsequently process them and they would eventually appear on the web-site. The method was slow, due to technical and human factors, but it still allowed a more or less regular updating of the field journal.
There was one small, but happy discovery we made in connection with the satellite phone. One never knew in the space of an hour when the temperamental device would connect with its satellites, but the good news was that the waiting could be done from within the tent. Here in the tent's warmth and comfort, one could be busy with other things while waiting, or simply rest snugly on the skins. Which was impossible in a hut with even a very thin roof above; to get connected from there one had to go outside in the cold and sometimes wait for up to an hour under the northern lights.
[Picture 13: Brigade Leader Vassilii Kanev discussing a blog with Vladi before it is sent to Lovozero]
Sending the blogs by vezdekhod was a slow way of getting them to Otto in Halle, but there was no other option. We had to bear with the fact that vezdekhod trips defied predictable schedules which meant that we had to be in regular connection with the nearest herding camps, by available transport or on foot. Luckily, the herders got so enthusiastic about keeping up a regular transmission service that they would paddle down rivers and wade across swamps to come and tell us that they heard on their radio-phone that a vezdekhod had left Lovozero and was on its way to the camp.
Apart from the enthusiasm of our herding friends, we were also very lucky another way. Cooperative "Tundra" was carrying out repairs to a number of camps and enclosures and for that purpose many more trips than usual were organized to the right wing territory. In result we could use relatively cheap transport for our news to be taken to the village.
In view of this long and complicated procedure, we decided that it would be better to publish a short narrative, illustrated with photos of current events, rather than send out a standardized protocol. We decided that the blogs should contain data covering a longer period of time than was originally decided (the original decision was to publish at a weekly rate). For that purpose we needed to manage the data in a comprehensive way, making initial analysis in order to give the right choices of emphasis to our readers. The chosen type of presentation reduced the factual weight of the blog, but it also opened it to a wider public, we believed. This could also serve as a test before designing a standard information blog in a possible future edition of the project.
[Picture 14: Thanks to Tatiana's insistence and devotion, the NOMAD project had a reliable computer and internte out-post in Lovozero]
Achievements and problems
As the already published field data and initial analysis shows, the suggested NOMAD research methodology approximates the results that have been laid out in the project proposal. It has the potential of providing an in-depth understanding of the Human-Rangifer relationship. In this way the NOMAD way can complement other methods of anthropological research.
The structure of the research station ensured the observation of this relationship from a number of different angles. As a rule, the Human-Rangifer link is observed from the vantage point of the Human, and not of the Rangifer part of the relationship. On many occasions, however, humans as hunters/herders may have only sporadic seasonal contacts with the herd, and even during these encounters may not be able or willing to take researchers along. Researchers' contact with migrating deer and direct observation of Human-Rangifer encounters are taken for granted inside and outside the academic community, but, upon closer scrutiny, may turn out to be often a sporadic, limited, or chance affair.
[Picture 15: Petr Terent'ev (Pet'ka) of Brigade 8 and Vladi: a tea break]
By observing how hunters/herders interact with the herd, we can study tundra knowledge in practice. We have often witnessed how short-time visitors seem to believe that such knowledge may be "collected" or "harvested" by simply visiting indigenous communities and conducting interviews. The knowledge about Rangifer, how to herd and how to hunt, is difficult to acquire by such methods. Interviewing people "at home" may help to explore how people talk about Rangifer, but it cannot make explicit what people know about Rangifer, how they come to know these things, and how people and deer respond to each other. This kind of knowledge and knowing can only be studied, we believe, in the actual encounters between humans and animals in a tundra environment.
Furthermore, human hunters/herders are not the only ones who interact with the herd. There are important other actors, both human and non-human: hunters and fishermen, a variety of poachers; non-human predators; tourists and anglers; military; geologists; oil/gas workers; traders. The dependence on a small user collective, with its specific interests and pursuits, tends to diminish, often critically, the angle of vision of individual researchers. Their contact with the overall picture of the Human-Rangifer diverse connections may often come to depend on the particular reading provided by a small group of users, with highly specific interests and political goals.
What we consider to be the main contribution of NOMAD was the shift of the vantage point of observation of the Human-Rangifer link from the Human to the Rangifer part of the relationship. In this way, the research group could observe how hunters/herders interacted with the herd as users, but also how the diversity of other actors related to the herd. The research team moved along the migratory circuit as an autonomous nomadic camp, with an own independent tent/sled infrastructure. At the same time it worked closely with user teams, but enlarged its angle of vision by not solely depending on them for infrastructural services. An additional benefit of this tactic is that the research team, through its own infrastructural base and manpower, was capable of providing services for users and thus building up a symmetrical relationship with them. Especially in the Russian Far North, where many users rely on dilapidating transport and communication relics from the 1970s, a well-equipped research team can turn into an important asset for users, rather than being a burden for them. This created, additionally, a potential for education/ outreach/ communication activities in respect of the local interested community.
The outreach method practiced during the expedition, i.e. regularly updating an expedition web-site from a mobile field station, has important advantages in comparative social-sciences research in the Arctic. It engages with local specialized knowledge in the situation where it actually becomes manifest and where it is relevant, and shares the experience with a potential interested public. This, furthermore, motivates a process of self-reflection on the part of the herders and other actors, and increases importantly their awareness of their significant and unique role in the world.
[Picture 16: Discussing the video-footage of the day (Belyi Bychok Herding Camp, January '08)]
Sharing results with the village community
The NOMAD Project offered opportunities for carrying out a variety of outreach activities, apart from publishing our diary entries on the web. There was also a constant lively exchange of news and experience with the herding teams while in the tundra. Below we speak of a third important locus of such exchange - the village of Lovozero.
The longitudinal character of the research deepened the interaction between researchers and hosts. It unfolded it in new ways, which put a very strong emphasis on the role of the anthropologist in the local community. We were entangled in relations that required active participation in village community life. A number of locally raised initiatives aimed at facilitating such participation. These were meetings with various organizations, as well as with high-school students, with veterans from reindeer herding, and also involved presenting our work to the local press (see NOMAD 21). Our expertise in reindeer herding, and our opinion about its current state as well as our prognosis for the future, was an object of constant enquiry. Some of the most burning questions for the community were: did we think that Kola reindeer herding was doomed, or did we think that there was a future for it? What were the important things about reindeer herding that we had seen in the tundra, having stayed out there for so long? Were we for private or collective reindeer herding? How was the poaching problem to be dealt with? How far had the hidden privatization of the stock gone, and what were the correct numbers?
[Picture 17: Vladi presenting her dissertation monograph at a formal occasion organized at the Nationalities House of Culture in Lovozero (February ‘08)]
A most important event in our outreach program became a whole day seminar. It took place on February 5 as an opening event to the International Sami Day (Februry 6), traditionally celebrated in Lovozero with a number of formal meetings and festive occasions. The seminar was planned as an official event: the first part was a presentation of Vladi's dissertation monograph (Vladimirova, Vladislava 2006. Just Labor. Labor ethic in a post-Soviet reindeer herding community. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Uppsala Studies in Cultural Anthropology no 40. Uppsala: Uppsala University), after which we were invited to share our experience from the expedition, and from previous fieldwork.
[Picture 18: Discussing reindeer herding problems with Sami activists, village intellectuals and residents]
The event was announced in the local press. The All-Norwegian Sami Mission in Lovozero, with their longtime leader Sigfried Giskegerde, undertook the organizational part and personally invited many people. From Murmansk arrived Anna Prakhova, Head of the Indigenous People's Department in the Regional Government, as well as Prof. Aleksei Voronin of Murmansk State Pedagogical University. A most valuable presence for us was that of Vassilii Kanev, Brigade Leader of Krasnoshchel'e Herding Brigade 1, of Valentina Rocheva, who had hosted Vladi during her first field study in 2001, of Stepan Chuprov, who had been helping us over many years, and of many other friends.
[Picture 19: Senior herder of Brigade 2 Vladimir Filippov, this time in a village setting, with his family at the annual celebration of the International Sami Day. (Nationalities Cultural Center in Lovozero, 6 February, 2008)]
After the presentation, the event developed as an open forum, where all people who came shared their views on the most painful problems that reindeer herding in the region was currently facing. Everyone contributed with their thoughts and ideas about possible solutions, and with their hopes for a better future.
This was the last event in which we participated. We were very happy that the expedition ended on such a high note. We felt that our work had been worthwhile when we saw the attention which was given to our research. We were glad to see that it set a stage on which there came herders and other members of the herding community, academics, representatives of the district and village administration, local intellectuals, activists from local NGOs, and they all met and shared their visions on problematic points, many of them brought up by the results of the NOMAD Expedition.
Internet link with the NOMAD Project Team:
Project coordinator: Dr. Otto Habeck, email@example.com
Principal investigator: Prof. Yulian Konstantinov, firstname.lastname@example.org
Researcher: Dr. Vladislava Vladimirova, email@example.com
Wenn Sie einen Kommentar oder eine Frage haben, können Sie sich an Dr. Habeck wenden (habeck [at] eth.mpg.de) oder am FORUM teilnehmen.
Fieldnews Edition 24 (in English)
31 January 2008
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
NOMAD's Last Round Up - Harvesting Season '07/'08
[Photo 1. The track of the great herd leading towards the Porosozero Corral (23 January 2008)]
By 22 January the two parts of the herd, described in the previous issue, had been gathered together into one big mass. This huge herd, counting in the region of 8-10,000 head had been left to graze overnight around the Kys-karan Hut at the extreme northern end of Lake Kolmiavr. That was the same location where a previous smaller fragment had been rounded up in early January (NOMAD 22). It was decided by the brigade leaders of the three brigades (1, 2, and 8) that the driving into the Porosozero Corral should take place on the following day, 23 January, depending on the weather.
[Photo 2. Herders on snowmobiles and draft-sleds closing in behind the herd as it is moving up the entrance to the Porosozero Corral. On the far left and right can be seen the wings of the entrance funnel]
A problem had appeared in the meantime. Irrespective of the general decision that winter counting/harvesting activities should be moved from Belaia Golovka to Porosozero, no final preparations had been made at the latter corral camp and the enclosure itself. There was, consequently, no readiness to process incoming herds, let alone a herd of this size. The higher level leadership of the right wing were in the village, there was no petrol for the generator which was to provide light most of the day and during the night, wood for the three huts was insufficient, auxiliary corral workers had to be summoned to help clean the enclosure from snow drifts. These auxiliary hands - camp workers, carpenters, ATV drivers, the electrician, and others also help in the skinning and gutting of the animals which get trampled in the melee and go subsequently for the common pot (obshchepit).
[Sketch 1. A GPS outline of the Porosozero Corral superimposed on a topographic map of the area. The eastern wing is very long (approx. 2 km), while the western one is asymmetrically short, reflecting the main direction of the early spring migration]
The situation was such: there was a herd of ten thousand head at the door of the corral, but the corral itself was not ready to receive it. Moreover, the antiquated radio-telephones at brigade camps could not ensure communication with the Cooperative administration in Lovozero. At this critical point, our satellite phone was the only option available and we decided to try it for whatever it was worth. After waiting for contact with the elusive Globaltel satellites for about half an hour in the cold under the stars, Yulian finally got connected to Vladimir Filippov (Valdemar), the Head of Reindeer Herding in the Cooperative. Vovka, the leader of Brigade 8, hurriedly described the situation to him. Here, some surprise: Valdemar knew already! How had the news traveled to reach him remained a mystery and could only highlight a thought we had been entertaining for a long time, that channels work in the absence of telephone or radio communication in ways that are much less restricted that commonly supposed.
[Photo 3. Pet'ka Terent'ev with his dogs in front of the line, as the herd is approaching the gate]
In the event, Iura, the Zootekhnik of the right wing, as well as Vasilii Pidgaetskii, the vet doctor (vetvrach), were already on their way to Porosozero, hauling sleds with fuel and other necessities with their snowmobiles. The Porosozero Corral Camp thus gradually came to life during the night and early on the next morning. So, as it had often happened before, problems got solved at the very last moment, one never knew how, and the moral of the story, spelled out by the herders, was: "Don't take it too much to heart!" (Ne perezhivai!)
The round up
January 23, the day planned for the round up turned out to be a bright, crisp day with temperatures hovering around -7 to -10, and a moderate westerly breeze, all in all, conditions very favorable, if not ideal, for the task ahead. Most importantly, there was good visibility, which ensured that the fragments could not break off unseen and be difficult to gather in subsequently. The relatively low temperature (considering the plus zeroes of the previous week) made the snow cover stable and prevented the machines from burning excessive amounts of fuel and heating up. For the fuel allowance was indeed very parsimonious: 200 liters to a herder for the whole season.
[Sketch 2. GPS-based outline of the receiving and processing area of the Porosozero corral. During the session of 23-24 January 2008 the offices were distributed in the following way: 1.Krasnoshchel'e deer; 2. Right wing (1, 2, 8, 9); 3.Private; 4. Slaughter]
Just before noon one-half of the herd was separated from the whole mass and pushed slowly from the Kys-karan pastures across Porosozero and up towards the corral's entrance. Three herders on snowmobiles carried out the operation: the brigade leaders of the three right wing brigades. When the herd entered the opening of the enclosure, more herders, some on machines, others on draft-teams, closed in behind the mass of animals and began pushing it up into the funnel, leading to the inner enclosures. Our two snowmobiles were also part of that action. Additionally, Vladi was taking photographs which illustrate this issue, while Yulian was doing the video-recording.
[Photo 4. The sheet maneuver. Yulian's buran is in the centre, to his right a second buran with a sled for deer casualties. Ivan Terent'ev is on foot, then come herders with a second sheet which continues the line to the far right. A similar line is formed on the left (out of the picture)]
It has to be noted that despite the often met description of Kola reindeer herding as a dog-using one, there were only two dogs, led by Pet'ka Terent'ev of Brigade 8, that were part of the action. Evidently, the snowmobiles make them to a great deal superfluous. The herders claim that dogs are used in flushing out fragments from wooded terrain, but we had never witnessed such an occasion. Still, every herder has a dog and would feel uncomfortable without one. The older herders comment sneeringly that nowadays dogs are not trained at all and are only pets. Great stories are told about the "old days" when a dog could be sent to turn round a fragment, or stay sentry around it and herd it like a shepherd dog.
[Photo 5. Casualties. A young male (urak) is lying on the snow, paralyzed by stress]
The final push into the big "hall" (zal) was accomplished by 13.00 hrs. During this last stretch sheets of white canvas were used to prevent the herd from turning back and stampede in panic through the line. The sheets worked successfully and the operation was performed. It had taken twenty minutes to drive the herd from the extreme end of the entrance funnel into the zal, and to secure it firmly behind the fence.
The working chamber
Work here began as soon as the final fencing in was over and the herders had had some tea and food at the living huts (two in number, plus a side office for the "bosses"). The "bosses" (nachalniki) were Iura Filippov, the vet technician, and Vasilii Pidgaetskii, the vet doctor. More and more herders from various brigades were coming on snowmobiles and draft-teams. They looked for spare plank beds in the big rooms of the huts and dumped their belongings as soon as they found one. A huge cauldron with reindeer meat was boiling on the pot, and equally huge kettles were steaming furiously. Every herder, as also guests like traders, relatives, visiting friends, and ourselves could dump their belongings in the room, make themselves comfortable on a plank bed, provided they could find one, and help themselves to the food in the common pot. No ceremonies were observed in this respect and everything, bed and board, was considered to be common property to which any tundra-related person had access.
[Photo 6. A buck has bitten his tongue in panic. Trying to fix him, from left to right: Pashka (Leader, Br. 2), Ivan Terent'ev (Br. 8), Vovka (Leader, Br. 8), unseen herder, Vladimir Bocharov (Leader, Br. 9). Iura Filippov is in the booth, putting down shorthand descriptions shouted at him from below]
The herd, following the pattern of previous groupings, was mostly composed of females with this year's or older calves, as well as two-year-old males or females, urachki and vondel'ki. Nevertheless, the productive females were the most common. Practically all that one could hear, as the age/sex/ brigade description of each processed animal, was cried out to the registering booth, rising above the churn: "Pervy vazhenka" (a female of Brigade 1); "Krasny vazhenka" (a female of Brigade 1 of Krasnoshchel'e), "Shestoi vazhenka" (a female of Brigade 6), etc. In the necessary shorthand for these descriptions, communicated while the herders were grappling with a deer, for some reason the attributes were in the masculine, rather than the feminine, i.e. "pervy" instead of "pervaia (brigada) ", "vtorii", etc.. "Krasnoshchel'skii" was understandably abbreviated to "krasny".
[Photo 7. Casualties. Calves trampled or otherwise maimed get slaughtered for the pot. Skins are for those who care to preserve them, but the "leggings" (koiby), the strips from the knee to the hoof, go exclusively to the skinners. Koiby enjoy a lively market in the village and go for making short fur boots (burki), or thigh-high ones (toburki)]
Another feature on the registering side of the process was that Iura Filippov, the zootekhnik, was jotting down on the "Pentium" both collective and private deer. In other words, no separate counter (shchetchik) was independently taking down the private deer. Nikolai Nikolaevich (Nikitich), who usually performed this function (NOMAD 20, Photo 3), was around, but acting as a corral worker, not as a counter. In this way, the situation was reversed from that of the smaller round ups in October and November. In those, there had been a counter only for the private deer, while the collective ones were not being registered.
[Photo 8. A sample, illustrating the composition of the herd. The antlers of a full-grown male in the foreground, the rest are females and calves. Vol'f (Br. 2) is chasing the ear-marks]
Work went on all through the day and for most of the night. As the polar day is still rather short - there are some five and a half hours of daylight at the most - after 16:00 hrs work was carried out under electric lights. Electricity for the corral and the living premises came from an electric generator.
The work was to continue for many more days as the rounded up herd was big. Fragments could be brought into the enclosure not bigger than the herders could process through the working chamber in about two days and nights. There was, naturally, no grazing in the corral whose surface was quickly trampled to the consistence of concrete. If left longer, the deer would rapidly begin to suffer from lack of food and snow fit for drinking. A lot of hard work had to be done by the herders, but they were happy that there was such to do and that the reindeer herd of the Cooperative was still going strong.
[Photo 9. A batch of deer are driven into the working chamber. All of them are females (vazhenki)]
Leaving for Lovozero and future plans
We had to leave the herders with their work, however, as it was time to finish our fieldwork in the tundra. Ten months had passed since we had pitched up our tent first, and eleven - since our arrival in Lovozero. The imminent task before us was to cover safely the distance to the village with our two machines and three sleds. After that we had to take care of all the equipment so it was safely stored awaiting for NOMAD 2, a continuation of this project for which we had now gathered hard-earned experience. We had begun planning for this during all the past months: how to manage to keep contact with the herd, despite all of its unpredictable movements.
We could see also that imminent changes were on the horizon. A new structure of reindeer herding could be felt to be coming, but what form it would take remained yet to be seen. Many new actors, some of them rather ruthless, were beginning to claim possession of tundra resources, like the hunters who got hold of the former GMS "Kolmiavr". There were also others of rather unexpected nature. A few words about each of these before we close the tundra chapter.
The herd and other actors
As we passed by the corral to say good-bye on the following day, we saw two rather newish foreign-made snowmobiles with armed men on them. "We are not OMON", they said, "we are UGRO". The first being the anti-terrorist formation, enjoying a rather ominous reputation, while the second was explained to be an investigating branch of the Militia, or ugolovny rozysk (Criminal Investigation Department). As it turned out, they had been traveling to the out flung Brigade 9 and were now on their way back to Lovozero. There had been a case of poaching in the territory of Brigade 9, but as always, no conclusive evidence was managed to be found after the event.
[Photo 10. The main hut at the Porosozero Corral Camp. In the foreground: Dedushka tied to one of our sleds]
On the foraging side of the equation, there was our charge - an old dog we had named "The Old Man" (Dedushka). Dedushka had been found living near the herd in the vicinity of Bely Bychok about a week before. The herders had brought him to the camp then and had passed it on to us to take him back to Lovozero where he was expected to find his home. How long had Dedushka lived by the herd, some 120 km away from Lovozero, and how? Long debates in the Bely Bychok Hut led to the conclusion that poachers must have brought him along to that area. The back-light of an unknown snowmobile had protruded through the snow when drizzles bit through it during the warm days. Dedushka may have got lost and abandoned while chasing after the deer, or he may have been abandoned on purpose. The opinion was that he had lived off carcasses of deer that had been brought down by the very active and numerous wolverines during this winter. As there were no wolves to be seen, and the bears had gone into hibernation, there had been little competition for Dedushka, but for the crows.
Running ahead, we can say that the journey back was uneventful, except for Dedushka falling off Yulian's back sled several times, until Vladi took him on her machine and held him in front of her. As soon as we reached the village, Dedushka jumped off the sled, and without further ceremony went away, evidently straight for home. A limp he had developed around the camp had suddenly disappeared! During the week that followed, we met him several times until it turned out that he lived in the next entrance in our block of flats.
We finished our fieldwork with the reflection that no matter how objective one tries to be, there is no way myth making can be avoided. We imagined how Dedushka's owners, whom we never managed to meet, would be proudly saying that he had returned on his own from the tundra, 120 km away from the village.
[Photo 11. No caption]
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Fieldnews Edition 23 (in English)
19 January 2008
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
The mid-winter herd
[Picture 1: no caption]
Holding the herd at the Belaia Golovka-Kuliok Line
After the rounding up of a fragment of the winter herd, described in the previous issue (NOMAD 22), we set forth on 15 January in the direction of the Belaia Golovka Corral Camp. According to information from the herders of Brigade 8, the composite herd of the right wing of "Tundra" was grazing in two parts along the Belaia Golovka-Kuliok Line (see map, NOMAD 22). These two parts were reported to be fairly large: of about three to five thousand animals each. The herders had every reason to believe that these two big fragments represented, in their main part, the basic stock of the right wing, korennoe stado. A few words need to be said about this concept, which has been a key point in herders' discussions throughout the migration.
Korennoe stado or basic stock is defined as that part of the composite herd, which is bonded to the migratory circuit, characteristic of each sector in the overall reindeer herding territory. In our sector of observation, i.e. the range allotted to Brigades 2, 1, and 8 (ordered from NW to SE, see map in NOMAD 22) the basic stock is considered to be the animals which graze in the winter range of the sector, and the calves get born in the calving grounds to the east of the Iokanga Line. When this herd reaches the Barents Sea Coast during the summer months, it gets mixed with parts of the other "great herds:" those of the Left Wing from the north, and those of Krasnoshchel'e from the south. On the back migration this mixture is retained, but at each corralling session the "left" (left wing) and "right" (Krasnoshchel'e) parts would be gradually weeded out and escorted to their proper winter range. In this way, in theory, the basic stock would gradually remain in its "pure" form in its respective winter range. As we shall see later on in this issue, actual practice reveals that although a certain central "basic" profile of the herd becomes gradually apparent with the progress of winter corralling, a great mixing of the herd remains the norm. To what an extent this is a mark of recent developments, or has a deeper history, we are at present unable to say.
Herders' talk, one may note, is characteristically elliptical in this respect. The invariable comment, when outsiders see a bigger or smaller group of deer is: "Ah, this is only a fragment" (eto tol'ko kusok). This often means not only that the observed group is small, but also that it is an outside part, not integral to the basic stock. The statement is sometimes qualified by the herders. "This is not the herd" (eto ne stado), they might say, meaning that a particular fragment is not of the basic stock.
Deployment of herders
With the movement of the basic stock towards its winter grazing grounds, the tactic of the brigade leadership was to hold it at the Belaia Golovka-Kuliok Line, get the two parts together into one big mass, and drive this slowly back towards the big Porosozero Corral. It would have been much easier to run this herd through the Belaia Golovka Corral, but organizational reasons had blocked that option.
To be able to use the Belaia Corral this winter, long needed repairs had to be carried out during the previous summer. These in turn required heavy ATV (vezdekhod) transport, but the existing machines in running condition had been deployed to the Brigade 1, 8, and 9 camps and corrals during the summer, and there had remained none to be sent to Belaia. There was a general shortage of carpenters and other technicians, too, or more precisely, there was only one carpenter available (Sergei Tikhonov) and one electrician (Sergei Shestakovich).
[Picture 2: Evening at the Belaia Hut. Left to right: Vladi, Kuz'kin, Vol'f, Zeba]
Regarding the much needed ATVs, the administration claimed they had arranged the buying of new, i.e. little used vehicles from the Army, and that they would arrive any moment, but winter came and still there were no new vezdekhody in sight.
In this situation, the Porosozeroa Corral was the only answer to the demands of winter processing of herds, and the herders' tactic had to be adjusted accordingly. To accomplish the intricate task ahead, small groups of herders from the three brigades (1, 2, 8) were deployed all along the Belaia Golovka-Kuliok Line, a stretch of some 20 km as the crow flies, at the huts at Belaia Golovka, Bely Bychok, and Kuliok. One herder from Brigade 1 was left at the Rodnik Hut, halfway between Belaia Golovka-Kuliok and the Iokanga Line.
At Belaia Golovka Camp
Three herders from three different brigades were stationed at one of the three Belaia Golovka Camp huts: Alexander Zakharov (Kuz'kin) from Brigade 8, Vladimir Filippov (Vol'f) from Brigade 2, and Alexander Chuprov (Zeba) from Brigade 1 (Many herders' nicknames date back to their schooldays at Lovozero Professional School (PU 26) when they were schoolmates. German-related nicknames like Vol'f, Kamrad (Kamerad), etc. come from the fact that the foreign language taught at PU 26 used to be and still is mainly German, although nowadays there are also Enlgish classes). Their task was to hold the northern part of the herd from crossing deeper into the winter range to the west and also help, when the time came, to join this part with the one held near Kuliok. In addition, these herders had to take care of their sled-bucks, dogs, and sleds, as the only mechanical vehicle they had at their disposal was a Buran in a very bad shape and with a very limited quantity of fuel.
Belaia Golovka Camp is situated close to the winter snow/ice road, which connects Lovozero with Krasnoshchel'e, 60 km from Lovozero, or a little more than one third of the overall journey from Lovozero. Day and night, passing snowmobile riders stop at the hut to drink tea and have a bite. Those who have alcohol with them share it with the herders. Several groups of travelers passed through the hut, during the two days we stayed there. In the afternoon of 15 January a group of three young people appeared in the doorway: two girls and a boy. They turned out to be high school students from Krasnoshchel'e, returning to the Boarding School (shkola-internat) in Lovozero after the long winter vacation. The boy was driving a buran, the girls were hauled behind on a sled. It turned out they were short of petrol and Vol'f gave them some with the promise they would give it back in Lovozero.
Deep during the night, a group of three hunters stopped outside the hut, but did not come in. As it was learned later, one of them was a former herder from Krasnoshchel'e, now a free lance hunter, generally suspected of poaching. The second was an official from the Hunting Inspection from Lovozero, known to be poaching around Krasnoschel'e with the ex-herder as a scout. The third was also a hunter from Lovozero. The herders described all three of them as poachers.
On the next day, 16 January, a large group of herders from Kanevka arrived from Lovozero on three snowmobiles. They were on their way to their home village. One of them, the leader of Brigade 2 of Kanevka, happened to be a relative to one of "our" herders, Kuz'kin. A long and very festive happening developed with the help of vodka. A short time after the Kanevka herders had left, Ivan Terent'ev from Brigade 8 arrived and offered to lead us on the way to the Bely Bychok hut, where the main part of Brigade 8 was staying.
[Picture 3: Vasia, a staunch traditionalist, arrives at Bely Bychok from the lower Kuliok Hut]
Bely Bychok Hut is situated at 22 km to the east of Belaia Golovka Camp, in a fork, formed by upper tributaries of River Kuliok. Vovka, the leader of Brigade 8, was there, his brother Grisha, and now Ivan came with us driving behind him. The hut was in a bad condition, the roof was leaking right onto the plank beds. The weather had warmed up outside and the snow changed to drizzle. We went to sleep, trying to cover our heads somehow, so drops did not hit us in the eye.
On the next day Vasia and Pet'ka arrived on reindeer-drawn sleds from a new small hut which had been built the previous summer lower on the Kuliok. Vasia, with a changing company of various other herders from Brigade 8, had been keeping an eye on the winter migration since last October. Now he was coming with Pet'ka to take part in the round up of the massive herd that was gathering between Kuliok and Belaia Golovka.
[Picture 4: The skin of the vazhenka killed by a wolverine. The hole in the middle of the back is where the predator had severed the spine and paralyzed the animal]
Next morning three herders on snowmobiles, Vovka, Grisha, and Ivan went to see how the herd had moved overnight. It was decided that we should go with Pet'ka on our snowmobiles and sleds to cut wood in the forest and bring it back to the hut. The big stove there was burning day and night. Kettles with hot water (kipiatok) and with brewed tea (zavarka), as well as a huge pot with boiled reindeer meat were constantly in demand. We were glad to be of use, but had to wait for another day before we could at last contact the herd. In the meantime, other interested parties were doing so. Pet'ka brought back from the forest a beheaded female deer - the result of an attack from a wolverine. The little animal had jumped on the back of the vazhenka and had gnawed at the spine until the animal fell. Then the wolverine had severed the head and disappeared with it. It was decided that since the blood
had freely flown out of the body, the vazhenka was good for eating and so it went for the pot. We thus effectively engaged in scavenging from predation on the herd. Wolverines were rather convenient from this point of view since they could be easily chased away from the carcass, or, more precisely, would disappear before one even saw them.
It was only on the third day that we set out with Ivan to contact the herd. The huge mass of some five thousand head of deer was located grazing halfway between Bely Bychok and the Rodnik Hut, another salient landmark in the winter range. In the meantime various fragments were being flushed out from the forest by Vovka and Grisha, and moved to join the main mass of the herd.
For two more days, we gathered in the herd each day as it moved towards the low hills around Lake Rodnik. Ivan Chuprov (Van' Vanich), the Leader of Brigade 1, and Pavel Sorvanov (Pashka), the leader of Brigade 2, joined us at the leaky Bely Bychok Hut, with plans for joining the two big herds together.
[Picture 5: The great herd in the valley of River Kuliok]
[Picture 6: no caption]
[Picture 7: Another wolverine victim. The predator has bitten through the back and
paralyzed the animal which is still alive]
One more victim of wolverines fell about this time. On 18 January, as we got close to the herd some five kilometers before the Rodnik Hut, a lonely deer stood alone, at some distance from the main mass. The animal had been bitten all over by a wolverine, and stood, looking at us in a state of stupor, but still upright. The herders decided to kill it for dog food and soon afterwards the animal was dragging on the snow, hitched to a snowmobile.
Late the same day, we moved camp to the Rodnik Hut with the idea of staying there for the night and continuing to Base 8 on the next day. The Brigade leader decided, however, that we should continue to the Base Camp immediately and contact the herd from that position, i.e. from the front rather than from behind. We followed these instructions and guided by Grisha and Ivan made for Base 8 in a crisp, moon-lit night. The twenty kilometers separating the two camps, we covered in about an hour, arriving at the camp well before midnight.
[Picture 8: Spare time at Bely Bychok Hut. Yulian showing the video recording of the day to the three brigade leaders. Left to right: Van' Vanich (Br. 1), Vovka (Br. 8), Pashka (Br. 2)]
[Picture 9: Pet'ka Terent'ev and Vladi enjoying a cup of tea while keeping an eye on the herd]
New neighbors at the Base Camp
As we were crossing Lake Kolmiavr and approaching the base camp, we saw strange lights on a hut that was considerably higher that the familiar buildings of the camp. It turned out that the front part of the former Hydro-Meteorological Station "Kolmiavr" had been lit with little bulbs by some new owners.
Andrei, acting as the warden of the base, told us these were hunters from Monchegorsk, actually, those that were suspected of taking part in two major poaching incidents during the last months. The first of them was the one recorded by us on 23 April, involving the killing of a pregnant vazhenka (NOMAD 6). The second was an incident with twelve killed dear by the Lake Ostrovnoi Hut (see NOMAD 21). As neither of these incidents could be conclusively tied to the names of herders' new neighbors, they were clean before the law. As Andrei explained, they had arranged with the Head Meteorological Office in Murmansk to rent the premises of the former station for an unknown period of time and use it as a bear-hunting camp.
The herders were aghast at this insolence and made gloomy remarks about the wolves being in the herd now. A great sense of frustration could be felt at the inability of the responsible authorities to do something for the defense of reindeer herding. Bitter comments were passed at the Cooperative administration for not being able to hold a stand against the long-suspected urban poachers. With such sad thoughts we went to bed to catch some sleep before the corralling. That was to begin early on the next day.
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Fieldnews Edition 22 (in English)
10 January 2008
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
[Photo 1. No caption]
By early January various fragments of reindeer had begun congregating in the winter range between Belaia Golovka Hills and the upper reaches of River Kuliok. The main task of the herders this time was to keep the reindeer to the northeast of this line and not allow them to pass over to the western part of the winter grazing range (see map, below). This latter extends all the way south to Panskie Tundry (Panskie Hills) which mark the present westernmost border of the winter grazing territories of the right wing of "Tundra". These are primarily Brigades 2, 1, and 8, if we order their territories from northwest to southeast. The neighbor of Brigade 8, Brigade 9 is also part of the right wing, but its once numerous herd (in December 2001 the present NOMAD team witnessed a round up by Brigade 9, led by a now retired herder Semen Kanev, which was of around 8000 head) has at present dwindled to an uncertain, but decidedly small number which is difficult to locate. The team at present is composed of only two persons. The future of this brigade is rather precarious - it is the most distant of all "Tundra" brigades and its open tundra position makes life for the herders there very demanding. Additionally, it bears a constant poaching pressure from the nearby closed military town of Ostrovnoi (Gremikha).
A 1962 map of Kolkhoz "Tundra" shows right wing territories to extend all the way south to Panskie Hills and beyond, to the administrative border with Terskii Raion. Properly, as it can be seen from the map below, only the territory of Brigade 8 reaches so far, Brigades 2 and 1 being left with winter pastures which resemble closely those of the present situation. The much greater winter range allotted to Brigade 8 suggests that even by the early 1960s mixing of brigade herds during the winter was a recognized practice. At present mixing of brigade herds is a routine practice throughout the year.
For a long time, at least for a decade, contact with the herds had only occasionally reached beyond the Belaia-Kuliok line, most of the winter activities being concentrated between this line and the Iokanga river-lake system. In this way at least a third of the former winter range is underused at present. As herders explained, the reason has been the difficulty they faced when trying to flush out the herd (vykuryvat' stado) once it got into the hilly terrain between the Keivi Ridge and Panskie Hills. An aspect of this situation can be seen in the ease with which Cooperative "Tundra" agreed that the Canadian company Barrick (Barrick works in Lovozero Raion as ZAO "Fedorovo Resources" with plans for exploitation till 2030) established itself for mining and processing of platinum around the highest peak of Panskie Hills, Kamennik (NOMAD 16). When discussing the lease with the reindeer herding administration, the explanation they gave was that the Cooperative had not been using that part of the range for a long time anyway.
To keep the fragments from crossing the Belaia-Kuliok Line and move towards Panskie Hills, a small number of herders had been positioned at three salient points: at Belaia Corral Base, at the Kuliok Hut (Kuliok Domik), and in a small mobile hut (furgonchik) at Lake Rova. For their transport needs these sentries relied mostly on sled-deer, thanks to the great effort invested in catching sled-bucks in October-November (NOMAD 16-20).
[Map 1. Territories of Brigades 2, 1, and 8 of "Tundra" from winter to summer range. Scale 1:750000 (1 cm=7.5 km)]
Keeping sled-buck teams requires a lot of work: the animals have to be moved to fresh grazing spots and tethered there twice a day, granulated feed (kombikorm) is to be given to them as additional nutrient, new animals have to be trained, harnesses have to be seen to. On the return side, however, sled teams are much more reliable than the constantly breaking down snowmobiles, and, crucially, one can save on fuel. This latter, as well as a host of other snowmobile essentials, the administration of the Cooperative is giving very grudgingly and in chronically insufficient quantities. A great deal of the constant tension between the administration and the brigades is rooted in the question of fuel allowances which one side sees as over generous, and the other - as appallingly miserly. Against this background sled buck teams certainly make a lot of sense.
[Photo 2. Daybreak at the Kolmiavr Camp. The herders are getting ready for the round up. In the foreground: the Brigade Leader's "foreign brand" snowmobile (inomarka)]
[Photo 3. A middle rank herder on his Soviet "Buran", called jokingly "kolun" (the axe). Grigoirii Khatanzei (Grisha) is on the look out for the herd. Note reserve fuel canister at the side and spare essentials tied behind]
[Photo 4. A lower-rank "traditionalist": Petr Terent'ev (Pet'ka) with his sled-bucks]
Transport and brigade hierarchies
By the end of December only the left wing brigades had managed to organize successful round ups and corralling. Two fragments destined for slaughter had been sent from the Polmos Corral to the Swedish Norfrys slaughter station in Lovozero. Now came the turn of the right wing to deliver, as the greater part of the collective herd grazed on its territory. The first of these events was planned for the first week of January. Due to sudden illness, Vladi had to stay back in the village and Yulian left for the tundra camps by himself. He joined Brigade 8 at their Kolmiavr Camp on 6 January and contacted the targeted fragment, together with two herders from Brigade 8 and one from Brigade 2, on the next day.
The targeted fragment of some 850 head had been moved about a week before from the Belaia-Kuliok line and left to graze at the northernmost end of Lake Kolmiavr. As with other fragments, no vigil was kept around the grazing animals. The leader of Brigade 8, Vladimir Khatanzei (Vovka) had driven to the fragment on the previous day and was sure the deer would not move far, as it subsequently proved to be the case.
Vovka was dashing about on his "foreign brand" snowmobile (Photo 2 above), a recent acquisition of the Cooperative. Rounding up is usually led by brigade leaders and the foreign makes, Lynxes and Yamahas, go to them. The lower ranks drive ageing Soviet Burans, while at the bottom are herders with sled-buck teams. This hierarchical order is not so straightforward, however. Thus, the most experienced and highly respected senior herder of Brigade 8, Vassilii Khatanzei (Diadia Vasia) would never have anything to do with a machine, giving his exclusive preference to the sled-team. "Traditionalists" are not rare in other brigades too, so who is where in the brigade pecking order, cannot be so easily surmised only from the vehicle one is driving.
[Photo 5. No caption]
A little beyond the Kys-karan hut, at the extreme northern-most end of Lake Kolmiavr, the fragment was grazing peacefully. The snow cover was unusually thin for early January so without great difficulty the deer could get to low brush and lichen under the snow. The branches of the birch-groves were also easily available. Under these conditions the herd had not much reason to roam the range far and wide in search of food. This explained why the herders had not opted for keeping a round-the-clock watch near the fragment.
The round up
Having located the fragment, the three herders fanned out behind the animals and began driving them in the general direction of the Porosozero Corral. This extensive structure stands on a hill on the left bank of Lake Porosozero, about a kilometer away from the smaller enclosure, the Porosozero Tandra.
[Photo 6. The unusually thin snow cover in early January 2008 allowed easy reach of brush and lichen (The range between Kolmiavr and Porosozero, 7 January 2008)]
It took about four hours for the herders to bring the fragment to the vicinity of the camp - covering a distance of only ten kilometers as the crow flies. Small groups of deer broke off right and left from the main mass; they had to be chased and turned back. All of this required a lot of difficult driving through birch groves. Branches would often swish into one's face, or the machine would burrow into a snow drift and have to be extracted by lifting the body, and then executing a series of maneuvers. All of this ate up time and also precious fuel. After the end of the operation, Yulian had burnt some 20 liters of petrol, or as much as had been consumed for covering the 100 km from Lovozero to Kolmiavr. The herders were right in complaining that the administration did not account for the excessive consumption of fuel that occurs routinely in round ups.
By 14:00 hrs the fragment came to the entrance of the corral. We slowly pushed it up as the fences on both sides gradually came closer. When the distance between them was about a hundred meters across, more herders on snowmobiles came from behind and a line of all these prevented the fragment from turning back and breaking free. Here and there a calf would lie trampled or paralyzed by excessive stress. Such animals were put on sleds and removed; they were later slaughtered outside the corral fence and went for the pot (obshchepit). By moving forward and then waiting, the herders on snow scooters and others on foot finally pushed the fragment into the main "hall" (zal) of the corral. The operation was over by 15:00 hrs. Processing the herd began soon afterwards.
[Photo 7. Fencing in the fragment after pushing it into the main hall (zal) of the corral]
Composition of the fragment
As during all previous round ups, this fragment showed an overwhelming presence of female animals. Vazhenki with this or last year's calves counted for approx 4/5 of the whole fragment. There were very few castrated bucks and only a small number of productive males (hirvasa). In consequence, productive females and calves formed the main part of the slaughter fragment (zaboiny kusok), This came up to some 300 head and was separated into an enclosure to be subsequently driven on hoof to the slaughter house in Lovozero.
Fieldnews Edition 21 (in English)
31 December 2007
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
Village Life in December
[Picture 1. A board announcing amusements during the coming New Year holidays. House of Culture - Revda]
Toward the end of November it looked like the polar winter had finally set in. Although the treacherous Lake Efimka (Efimozero) did not fully freeze even at this time, Lake Lovozero, the huge lake from whose eastern banks the tundra properly begins, froze firmly enough to provide stable ice surface for crossing snowmobiles. At last normal traffic between the village and the tundra camps to the east could be resumed.
Our own contact with the herd also benefited from this. When the first November colds came we had the possibility to contact fragments and see them rounded up into the lower and smaller corral enclosure on the banks of Lake Porosozero - the Poroska Tandra (NOMAD 20). We were also able to document the first journeys of meat traders (kommersanty) who once again began to ply the thin snow roads between Poroska Tandra and Lovozero in search of cheap reindeer carcasses (tushi) from the round ups. And then, when the surface became still firmer, we decided to use the chance to go back to the village after seven months of uninterrupted fieldwork in the tundra. We needed to take a little rest, buy fresh products, stock up with fuel, and carry out some repairs. Of these last a most pressing one was for our satellite phone. One of the fine needles in the socket for recharging had got bent and the charger could not connect with the battery. We had to send the phone to Murmansk for this repair as otherwise we had to face remaining incommunicado during the following months in the field. Another major task which had to be performed was the relocation of our tent camp closer to the winter pastures. The Ketkozero camp had to be abandoned - hopefully only till one of the following years.
The first news that we heard after reaching the village was that while we had been traveling, a poaching accident had taken place in the tundra, at a small transit hut (perevalbaza) on the banks of Lake Ostrovnoi. A group of hunters, most probably the same ones that had killed the pregnant vazhenka back in April (NOMAD 6), as the herders suspected, had this time killed twelve deer at Ostrovnoi, right under their noses. The distance between Poroska Tandra, where several brigades had been working since August, and Lake Ostrovnoi was barely ten kilometers. So while the herders had been busy with corral work on 13-16 November, these men had lived in the herders' hut on the banks of the lake and hunted on fragments that were being released from the tandra. What number of deer they had killed was impossible to tell.
Just before the end of activities at Poroska, a party of herders from Brigade 1, together with the brigade leader Ivan Chuprov and the right wing zootekhnik Iura Filippov, were driving out a processed fragment. When they were passing by the Ostrovnoi hut they saw twelve freshly skinned hides lying on the snow. Iura, who described the incident to us, said that probably the hunters had heard snowmobiles coming and had disappeared with the carcasses, or had hidden them somewhere.
[Picture 2. Growing poaching on reindeer during the recent years is turning the Human-Rangifer relationship from a herding to a hunting one. As this picture, taken with a left wing herd twelve years ago shows, the reindeer had not as yet begun to readjust to the new situation]
Two herders, the leaders of brigades 1 and 8, immediately left for the village and a couple of days later came back with police officers. Despite this reaction, which was as prompt as conditions permitted, no valid proof could be gathered. A court hearing that followed dismissed both cases as lacking secure evidence. The reindeer herders were once again left with the feeling that they were no longer masters of the tundra (hoziaeva tundry). For them those days had passed with the Soviet Union itself.
Soon after we left, autumn corral work was declared to be over and the greater part of the herders left for the village. The opinion of the brigade leaders was that too few deer had passed through the late autumn grazing range and, consequently, the round ups were meager. They calculated the number of captured and processed deer to have been only about five thousand, approximately one third of the whole composite herd of the right wing brigades.
To find out where the rest of the herd had disappeared, the leaders of Brigades 1 and 8 undertook a journey to the summer pastures, all the way to the Barents Sea coast. The deer were not there either. When Vladimir Khatanzei (Vovka), the leader of Brigade 8, came back from this trip, he said that the predominant part of the herds had probably migrated along an unusual route, together with the reindeer of the neighboring Krasnoshchel'e Cooperative. He suspected that they might have crossed Iokanga River in its lower reaches, and then had continued toward the winter pastures that were situated to the east of the usual trek. The truth of this speculation was to be checked later in the winter, when the brigades were planned to be relocated to the winter camps - those of Belaia Golovka, Kuliok, and Rodnik.
[Picture 3. Deer carcasses bought at Poroska Tandra by meat traders leave for the village. Despite prohibitions by the Cooperative administration that no trade should be carried out at tundra corrals, such activities are as vigorous as ever, assisted by the loads of vodka the meat traders take to the tundra camps]
Meanwhile, the reindeer herders were not planning any more corralling work before the New Year holidays. A skeleton crew of herders from various brigades were sent out to keep guard over the fragments that had gradually gathered in the forest zone between Belaia Golovka and Kuliok. These were mostly animals that had passed through Poroska Tandra and had been subsequently released. Other herders were collecting whatever new of "unprocessed" animals were appearing in the winter range. The task of the herders was to keep the herds there till January, when counting/ harvesting corrals were to take place at the bigger Porosozero Corral.
[Picture 4. Vladimir Khatanzei, the leader of Brigade 8, seeing us off on our journey to Lovozero via Brigade 2 camp at Lake Liavozero]
At the same time the Norfrys slaughter house in the village was getting ready for processing the left wing slaughter fragments. These, driven from the third biggest corral on the Kola (the other two being Porosozero, which we have often mentioned, and Semiostrov'e further to the south east in the grazing territories of Brigades 1 and 3 of Krasnoshchel'e.), The Polmos Corral, were expected to start coming in during the second half of December. The left wing had the ambition of getting finished with counting/ harvesting corralling before the New Year.
[Picture 5. The last fragments of the autumn migration slowly move to the winter range]
[Picture 6. The thin snow and high temperatures in December barely allowed sculpting figures of Ded Moroz (Father Frost) and Snegurochka (Snow White, in Revda's central square]
Staying in the village
While reindeer herders were busy guarding and collecting reindeer herds in the region of the winter pastures, it so happened that we had to spend a whole month in the village. Vladi's research with reindeer herding families bound her to spending December in the village anyway, but Yulian had planned to move the station to the winter camps as soon as repairs and stocking up with food and fuel was over. The weather, however, stood in the way of these plans.
After some colder weather towards the end of November, temperatures in the first weeks of December rose once again, often above the zero point. On the news it was announced that Russia was having its warmest winter for 120 years, ever since regular meteorological monitoring began. It was only towards the end of the month that weather conditions slightly improved and temperatures fell to -10, then to -18 degrees. We decided to use the chance and get the camp to the winter pastures around Belaia Golovka.
On 26 December we set off on two snowmobiles and three sleds loaded with all our equipment, food, and fuel for two months. As soon as we left the village, however, the track of one of our snowmobiles stuck to the runner and would not rotate. We summoned Zhenia Nikonchik, our technical manager, who hitched the defective snowmobile to his car and we all returned rather ingloriously to the village.
[Picture 7. Tatiana Sherstiuk of the Municipal Library in Lovozero and NOMAD's team member (taking this photo), with students from the Boarding School (shkola-internat) and their teachers, watching film material from the NOMAD expedition]
It turned out upon inspection that due to the very thin snow surface on the road, the rubber track had heated excessively and had got sealed to the guiding runner. Another round of repairs loomed ahead. In this situation and with the village slowly grinding to a halt in anticipation of the long New Year's holidays (since Russian Orthodox Christmas is on 7 January, official holidays in 2007/08 stretched uninterruptedly from 28 December till 8 January) we had to concede temporary defeat insofar as moving out the station was concerned. We were nevertheless heartened by the thought that for the first time in many years - for Yulian twelve, for Vladi six - we would be able to see how the village community celebrated the coming of the New Year.
Sharing NOMAD with the people of Lovozero
Despite the worries about the snowmobiles and the satellite phone, as well as about a host of other prosaic problems, we decided to use our time in the village for intensive parallel activities, like research and sharing.
[Picture 8. Students from the Internat at their extended lesson in the Municipal Library, acquainting themselves with the work of the NOMAD Expedition]
Lovozero Municipal Library is one of the four main cultural centers in the village (The other ones being Dom kul'tury (House of Culture), Lovozersky istorichesky muzei (Lovozero History Museum), and Natsional'ny kul'turny tsentr (National Cultural Centre)) which, besides lending books and journals, serves also as a mediator between visiting researchers and the local community. The Library assists a never ending stream of visitors with finding literary sources and getting in touch with local people. At the same time it performs a reciprocal function: that of acquainting the village community with what foreign or home researchers are doing when pursuing their various interests, in Sami or Komi culture and language, in reindeer herding as in our case, or in various applied projects.
To this communal function of the Library, the NOMAD expedition added a modest contribution. For the purposes of sending our website reports to the Siberian Centre in Halle we provided a computer and a scanner to the Library and covered the costs for Internet supply (Part of these costs, together with those for the purchase and support of our satellite phone, were generously provided by the Roald Amundsen Centre for Polar Research at the University of Tromsø, Norway). During the rest of the time, Tatiana Sherstiuk, who was in charge of these facilities, could use the computer for community needs that suddenly appeared on all sides - from taking down from the Internet scores of music for the village amateur brass band, to assisting secondary school students in various searches, as well as printing out demanded literary materials.
The Head of the Library, Nina Mikhailovna Krauze, kindly acknowledged this contribution in a letter which we are happy to publish below. With the help of the staff of the Library, as well as that of other interested institutions in the village and in Murmansk, a series of events were organized in December, at which we had the chance to present the work of the NOMAD Expedition.
[Picture 9. The text reads: "To Professor Yulian Konstantinov. We thank you for the opportunity which has been given us to use for the needs of Lovozero Library the computer equipment which is at your disposal. At present the Library is experiencing technical and financial difficulties in being supplied with Internet. By using your facilities and its Internet connection, the Library has added new documents to its stock. It became possible to support with information users from other regions, who are interested in our area. With the help of Internet the Library assists regional researchers in their work with archival documents, and in their contacts with other libraries and institutions. The Library is actively helping extramural students, offering them through the Internet information in various walks of knowledge, which compensates for our limited stock of teaching aids, and for its slow growth. We are grateful to you and to Vladislava Vladimirova for your support and help in our regional studies work and we hope that our cooperation shall continue. Head of Library N.M.Krauze, 12 December 2007."]
On 12 December, initiated by Anna Prakhova, a well known Sami activist and politician, at present lecturer at the Murmansk State Pedagogical University, a lecture to be given by Yulian was organized at the Reading Room of the Library. Representatives of all cultural institutions in the village, teachers from the three high schools, NGO members, local journalists, and visitors, attended the lecture. Yulian presented his long term research engagement with Kola reindeer herding leading up to NOMAD, or Kochevnik, as the Expedition had been dubbed in the local press by this time. In the discussion that followed, a wide range of questions were asked. Above anything else the audience was interested in our opinion about the future of reindeer herding and which way we think it was going. There were questions about how Bulgarians came to be so deeply engaged in Kola reindeer herding, were we doing that for some big money, or for other reasons? But the question that was persistently asked and prevailed above all others was what transformations we thought should take place in order that the reindeer herding economy was preserved.
[Picture 10. One of the several articles about the work of the NOMAD Project, published in the municipal newspaper Lovozerskaia Pravda.]
Subsequently the event was described as an exciting one in the local newspaper, Lovozerskaia Pravda. Running somewhat ahead and beyond the dating of this issue, we include above the first page of the material, which came out on 11 January, and described our work (This is the second article about NOMAD, published in Lovozerskaia Pravda. The first appeared on 13.04.07 as Sashenkova, L. "K novym issledovaniiam i k novym sversheniiam" /Towards new research and new achievements/, p.3. , announcing the beginning of NOMAD /Kochevnik/):
An influential group in the village of Lovozero is the NGO of the War and Labour Veterans (the full designation of this NGO is: Vserosiiskaia obshchestvennaia organizatsiia veteranov (pensionerov) voiny, truda, vooruzhionnykh sil i pravookhranitel'nykh organov / All-Russian Public Organization of the Veterans (Pensioners) from the War, Labor, Armed Forces, and Law-enforcing Organs). On 13 December we were kindly invited to share with them experience from the field. Those present at the meeting showed keen interest especially about our experience with poaching on the herds by hunters who had obtained licenses for shooting wild reindeer. The Raion Hunting Inspection (Okhotinspektsiia) was sharply criticized for issuing during 2007 over three hundred licenses for wild deer, on the strength of which probably at least three times that number had been killed from the domestic herds. The meeting asked us about other aspects of our work and were very interested to know: were we in favor of private herding or not? Yulian explained our position that, in the first place, it was a matter of decision by the herders themselves. Further retaining of the residual sovkhoz structure served, in actual fact, to the progressive drying up of cooperative assets, as at the same time a process of "hidden privatization" had been taking place for quite some time. That had led to the gradual accumulation of private herds of many hundreds of reindeer by some persons higher up in the herding hierarchy. This opinion and various other observations about the situation were received with approval.
The meeting was a hard test for us, as many of the Veterans had been administrative and Party bosses of reindeer herding in Soviet times. We felt very gratified that such stern judges "passed" us on our knowledge of the situation. They invited us to share opinion with them again (which we did on 30 January, sharing with the Veterans our concerns about a hunting lodge, owned by the suspected poachers from the incidents of 7 April, and 25 November '07, that was being currently set up close by the camp of Brigade 8, see following NOMAD 23).
Vladi took a leading part in a number of extended lessons, organized by the Library, whose purpose was to acquaint students from the Internat with the NOMAD Expedition, the current state of reindeer herding, and its social and economic implications. The main aim of these lessons was to present before the students the specifics and potential of the region they live in.
[Picture 11. Retired reindeer herders look at Vladi's and Yulian's publications. The general opinion is that they should be published also in Russian, a task we are taking steps to fulfill]
Domestic economies and the "budget sphere"
Besides the lessons, Vladi also carried out interviews with various persons in the village, connected with reindeer herding. She was particularly interested in the reliance of reindeer herding families on stable salaried income from a state enterprise. In the cases when the wives worked in the "budget sphere" i.e. in state offices, while husbands brought in low and unpredictable herders' salaries from the Cooperative, but supplemented this deficiency with proceeds from the sale of private deer. The features of this complex domestic economy was the topic over which many cups of tea and trays of cakes were consumed in the warm and friendly atmosphere of the herders' homes.
Finally, the unexpectedly long stay in the village provided us with the excellent opportunity (which we had been seeking for some time), to meet with "veterans" of reindeer herding - with retired reindeer herders. As previous fieldwork had taught us, they were a most reliable source of information when it came to detailed description of reindeer herding techniques, to the geography of Kola herding, to the meaning and ethos of the herding profession. Such questions and details are often difficult to discuss with currently active herders, as they are busy most of the time, always on the rush. In the tundra, in the midst of reindeer herding, the discursive practice is very economic, elliptical, not to say hermetic. Thus talking with retired herders is very important as it compensates to an extent for this hermeticism surrounding herding activities. As a result of intensive meetings with retired reindeer herders, we could turn defect into effect: the unplanned long stay in the village advanced our understanding of the data we had already gathered. Consequently, we felt that the quality of our work in the tundra increased. That was resumed soon after the New Year, as we described in the following issues.
Fieldnews Edition 20 (in English)
1 December 2007
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
Early Winter Corralling
[Picture 1: no caption]
Rounding up marked the greater part of November. Making use of the still fragile surface of the lakes, which prevented deer from crossing to the forest zone, the herders were able to drive fragments along the northeastern banks of the Iokanga Line (see previous issue) and into the Poroska Tandra. Other fragments were gathered in from the direction of Brigade 2 territories - particularly from the area around Lake Spiridon (Spiridonovka). Below we focus on one such herding event - the round up that took place on 13-16 November at the lower Porosozero Corral (henceforth: Poroska Tandra).
Locating and driving the fragment
Following an already described pattern (NOMAD 19), for three days preceding the rounding up the fragment of about a thousand head was briefly contacted once each day. A young herder from Brigade 8, Ivan Terent'iev, would arrive around noon on an ageing "Buran" snow scooter and find the fragment grazing around Vas'ka Gora. He would then scare it away from the banks of the nearby Ketkozero Lake so the deer run to the northeastern slopes of the Vas'ka Ridge and into the swamp land beyond, to the northeast of the Ridge. Although it was doubtful that the deer would be bold enough to cross over on the thin ice of Lake Ketkozero, the herders were taking no chances. Once the deer had made it into the difficult terrain to the west of the line, flushing them out would be a difficult task.
It should be noted here that despite such fears, no attempt was made for conducting a constant vigil around the herd; it was assumed that a visit once a day would be enough. This tactic was partly born by necessity. In a brigade with eight herders, such as Brigade 8 was at this time, two had been posted to the winter range at River Kuliok (Vasilii Khatanzei and Ivan Khatanzei), one was acting as a warden of the brigade camp ( Andrei Khatanzei), and the rest, Vladimir Khatanzei, Grigorii Khatanzei, and Aleksandr Zakharov, were working at Poroska Tandra. The brigade could thus hardly spare more than one herder to keep an eye on the fragment. Constant watching would require at least two persons, so that relief came for the herder on duty after he had done a 24 hour shift.
The tactic proved successful, nevertheless, and on 14 November the fragment was driven by two snow scooters and one draft-team along the left (northeastern) bank of the Iokanga Line. Between first light (around 10 a.m.) and late evening, the fragment was trekked over from Vas'ka Gora to a spot close to the entrance to Poroska Tandra where it was left for the night (GPS mapping of the trail, below). Two herders stayed with the fragment over night, keeping watch. The distance covered from Vas'ka Gora to the tandra was about 20 km.
[Picture 2. Driving 1 000 head of reindeer into the tandra at Porosozero. November 13, 14, 15.]
Early next morning the driving into the enclosure began. During this procedure a fragment of about 150 head managed to break off from the main group and stampede away in the direction of Liavozero Lake, closer to the forest zone. With the remaining part the corral work was carried out on two successive days - 15 and 16 November - processing about 400-450 head on each day. This was the sixth corralling in the tandra since mid-October, with a total number of deer processed getting by now close to around 5000 head.
[Picture 3. Nikolai Nikitich, a former herder working on contract with Cooperative "Tundra" after retirement, is writing down the private deer that appear in the working chamber of the tandra. The wooden board, jokingly called the "Pentium", has the names of the owners in two columns on each side, and five categories of deer (female, male, castrated buck, female calf, male calf)]
The primary goal of all corral work of this stretch (mid-October to end of November) was said to be sled buck retrieval. During the last three sessions, however, when greater numbers had been driven and processed in the tandra, only very few bucks had been acquired: less than ten bucks during the last two corralling sessions, when more than a thousand animals had passed through the enclosure. Judging by this, as well as by our observation of the work on 15, 16 and then 25 November, we concluded that a more important task came to be ear-marking of this year's calves, as well as of any unmarked (Unmarked deer are referred to by herders as “whole-eared” (tseloushnye))more mature deer that had been corralled. When it comes to older animals, into their second year and above, the defining of ownership tends to become arbitrary as it is impossible to tell who the mother of a particular animal is. The distribution of whole eared deer is thus subject to agreement between the various brigades concerned. Consequently, it is in the interest of all brigades to have representatives at each corralling session, in the ideal case whenever and wherever on the Peninsula it occurs.
[Picture 4. A close up of the Pentium]
As an answer to this political necessity, a strong representation of adjacent brigades was present at the observed session, as it had been at all earlier ones. Particularly noticeable has been the increased presence of the neighboring Brigade 1 of Krasnoshchel'e Cooperative "Olenevod".
The herds that passed through Poroska Tandra in October and November had been mainly composed of productive females, as well as of young and older calves. This increased the presence of unmarked animals and in turn necessitated the presence of, ideally, all interested parties. Brigade 1 of Krasnoshchel'e was represented by as many as three members, who took active part in the work during the two days. They left on reindeer drawn sleds for their base camp at Iokanga River on November 17, but subsequently came back.
[Pictures 5 and 6. Reindeer herders often use expressive language to negotiate ownership over whole-eared animals. White skinned deer are especially attractive. Ear-marking a two-year old calf]
Another interesting fact, characteristic of current counting procedures, has been the selective registering of the animals. Only deer with private earmarks had been registered on the Pentium. Nikitich (Photo 3) acted as "counter" (schiotchik) for the private owners. No accounting of the cooperative deer was conducted, though herders earmarked a number of calves with marks of different brigades of the right wing. A possible reason for not registering collective deer - apart from establishing the general number - would be that the animals would join the herd upon release and the latter would undergo corralling again. The usual procedure in such cases is to put skin marks on the flanks of the counted animals, so that they are not counted twice in a subsequent corralling. More extensive events, focusing on counting/ harvesting, have been planned for January-February at the big corral at Porosozero and later at Semiostrov'e.
[Picture 7. One of the four sled bucks retrieved in the corral on November 15-16]
Reindeer herders did not separate animals for slaughter on this occasion. Only a few calves that had been found too feeble to survive the winter were slaughtered for the pot (obshchepit). This is one of the greatest differences from Soviet time herding practices, when counting/harvesting corralling were traditionally carried out in November and December, with all such activities being over by the New Year Holidays. Nowadays reindeer herders explain late corralling and harvesting, stretching even to the first half of April during the last five years, with climatic factors: great delays of freeze up that block free ice/snow transport mobility till well into January. Herders are unable to drive a herd to the slaughterhouse in Lovozero at present, because the snow/ice road is still risky: lakes and rivers are open, and even the swamps are still not well frozen. Instead, a small quantity of eighty calves had been slaughtered by the side of the tandra on a previous occasion in October, and transported on two vezdehody to the village. The carcasses went to the meat processing facility of the Cooperative, which produces salami. As noted above, the harvesting corrals proper are expected to be postponed until real winter sets in, and may again last until March and even April of the coming year.
[Picture 8. Herders saw off the right antler to make a leader less troublesome in a team. Antlers also bring in some additional income when delivered to the sovkhoz]
The sled-buck problem
We gained most valuable information from the herders in the tandra regarding the question why catching sled-bucks had been so complicated and slow during this autumn. Pointing to the very few bucks that had turned up in the corral, herders complained that the male part of the herd of "Tundra" was being persistently decimated. "The Administration of the Cooperative wants us to set apart for slaughter more and more animals, more than the growth of the herd can provide. During the last harvesting seasons, for example, we were forced to send for slaughter to the village a great part of the productive males (hirvasa), and even young male animals. "It is getting difficult to get a male old enough to be made into a draft buck," a reindeer herder bitterly commented. The obvious reason behind this practice has been pointed out to be the greater weight the male animals fetch. The Administration of the Cooperative is attempting somehow to fulfill its meat plan (miasoplan) at whatever cost. Late corralling, on the other hand, well into the high pregnancy period of the females, results in an
increasing number of abortions. When we add to this the poaching pressure, as well as the internal poaching practice, we can see that the herd candle is burning fast at both ends.
[Picture 9. Representatives of four brigades in the working chamber. First row From left to right: Slava Artiev (Brigade 1, SKhPK "Olenevod" of Krasnoshchel'e), Petr Terentiev (Brigade 8, SKhPK "Tundra" of Lovozero), Roman Anikin (Brigade 2, "Tundra"). Back row: Vladimir Khatanzei (Leader of Brigade 8,"Tundra"), Vladimir Filippov (Brigade 2, "Tundra"), Aleksei Chuprov (Brigade 1, "Tundra")]
Apart from the calves slaughtered for obshchepit, slaughtering, allegedly of private deer, was carried out for sale. The carcasses would be sold right at the tandra to visiting traders (komersanty), or be taken to the village to be sold there. The price at the tandra was 100-120 rubles per kilogram of carcass meat (2.80-3.30 euro), while in the village it could reach 160 rubles (4.40 euro). The meat at the tandra is sold by the carcass: skinned, gutted, without the head, and the legs up to the knees. A calf would come up to 32 kg and be sold for 3500-3800 rubles (97-106 Euro) - prices that the traders found outrageous and much higher than during the previous season.
[Picture 10. Carcasses from a corralling event at Poroska Tandra are transported by unofficial meat traders to Lovozero]
As a matter of well established practice, any visitor from the village has to be well loaded with alcohol. Jokingly, the teams of snow scooters and sleds, on which the traders arrive, are called spirtovozy (alcohol trains). From the point of view of the traders, the herders are being unfair to them. "All evening long (before corralling) they (the herders) yell at me: "Nalivai, nalivai!" ("Pour out (the vodka)!") and on the next day they don't know me and ask for a crazy price" a trader complained to us. From the traders' point of view the free vodka they bring should result in lower prices given for a carcass. The non-drinkers among the herders, and it is heartening to see that their number is not small, bitterly complain of this practice. The problem is compounded by the fact that many traders are relatives to herders, close friends, or, in some cases had been once herders themselves.
Tasks before the NOMAD Research Station
The delay of serious freeze up is preventing us from following the further migration of herd fragments. We cannot afford to place our scooters at risk. Instead, we have decided to focus on herding events along the Iokanga Line, where the most interesting encounter between reindeer and people occurs at present. At the same time, the greater part of the station has been packed and is ready for relocation to the winter pastures when weather conditions permit.
Fieldnews Edition 19 (in English)
15 November 2007
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
The first half of the November migration
Towards mid-November weather conditions became more stable and typical for the winter in the central part of the Kola Peninsula. Temperatures fell often under -10°, the lowest night temperatures registered being -17°. Moderate winds from the north and the north-east became the norm. The snow cover reached up to 30 cm in thickness.
Despite this more decisive change of weather, lakes, rivers, and swamps had not frozen hard enough yet to permit unrestricted movement of people and animals. "Snow, no matter how little it was, covered the ground before it could freeze. So, swamps became kind of stewed: the snow closed them off from above. The deer have to walk very carefully there, they are afraid they could get stuck into the mud". This was the explanation the herders gave, as we had noted in the previous issue. On the positive side, the thinness of the snow cover allowed easy feeding on the grass and brush below (Picture 2 and 3).
[Picture 1. The front part of a fragment of about a thousand head on its way to the forest zone. Vas'ka Gora, November 13]
One other consequence, this time for the humans, was that the thin snow cover could easily deceive a snow-scooter driver that passage across swamps had opened. Burrowing through the snow, the 300 kg heavy machine would quickly stall into the soft bed of the swamps. Extracting and taking it to firmer ground could easily become a monumental task, requiring serious help with another machine. To a lesser extent difficulties also existed for the reindeer drawn sleds. Thus, despite the turn of weather towards winter, mobility both for reindeer and for humans remained restricted.
[Picture 2. A fragment has just passed across swamp land, carefully picking its way. The thinness of the snow cover and the soft surface of the swamp underneath can be well seen (November 11, 2007)]
[Picture 3. A communal circular crater approx. 20 m in diameter. Swamp grass (osoka) and low brush are still easily available from the soft surface of the swamp (November 11,2007)]
The "Camping Site"
Despite the still unstable terrain situation, reindeer migration to the forest zone continued to gather momentum in the second decade of November. As already discussed in NOMAD 12, we cannot speak of one permanent route of the migration; neither can we say that it is unidirectional. Different groups of deer, most often between 50 and 100 animals, but also at times up to 2000-2500 head, trek slowly from the area of the summer pastures toward the forest zone, choosing from among numerous migratory routes, firmly beaten into the terrain by many generations of deer (Picture 4). On their way such groups may change their speed of movement or, for a period of time, "strike camp" at certain places. From such a midway position they would go back and forth between open tundra and forest until they decide that further final movement has become necessary.
The choice of routes and the speed of movement depend on a great variety of factors. The variables are so many that they tend to defy attempts at exhaustive explanation and prediction of what shall happen next. What is in the human power to predict, however, is that at least some of the migrating groups shall pass through certain well-known points.
[Picture 4. Taken in June this year, the picture shows a well-beaten reindeer path, skirting the foothills of Vas'ka Gora Ridge.]
[Picture 5. Vas'ka Gora hills seen from the western bank of Ketkozero Lake. Close to the narrow passage between Upper and Lower Ketkozero - the Ketkozero Salma (foreground) - is where the deer prefer to cross the lake (16 May 2007)]
Vas'ka Gora and Melentievskii Pogost
Such a point is the Vas'ka Gora Ridge, as called by the local herders, its map-name being Pedpakhk. Possibly in connection with the well established passage and temporary "camping" of herd fragments in this locality, a spring/autumn Sami settlement, Melentievskii Pogost, had existed there. Another reason for the choice of the place for this tiny settlement of about twenty turf-covered dwellings (vezhi) must have been the closeness of the extremely abundant in fish Ketkozero Lake. Our attempts to establish when the village had been abandoned proved futile.
[Picture 6. A herd fragment (approx. 350 head) crossing Lower Ketkozero from the western bank of the lake towards Vas'ka Gora, from where the picture was taken. The Ketkozero Salma is out of the picture to the far right. 19 May 2007. (See also NOMAD 12 for full description of this crossing)]
Vas'ka Gora is a ridge of low hills forming a crescent along the northeastern bank of Lower Ketkozero Lake, repeating its contour at approximately one kilometer from the bank (Picture 8). Separated by swamps the low line of hills continues further southeast, skirting the left bank of the biggish Kalmozero Lake until the ridge reaches River Tichka. The ridge is quickly traversed by the deer from southwest to northeast (spring), or in the opposite direction (autumn), when terrain conditions allow and the herd has reasons to hurry. Such was the case with a fragment of mainly pregnant does, late in spring this year (see the photos above). When mobility across the Iokanga line is restricted, however, and good grazing is available on or around the hills, the fragments are inclined not to cross the hills, but stop and graze around - i.e. use the area as a temporary "camping site".
[Picture 7. The same spring fragment, as in the previous picture, following a well beaten trail across the ridge.]
Such has been the state of affairs in the first half of November this year. During the after-rut and early winter migration period between, approximately, October 15 and November 15, various forest-bound fragments preferred to stop and graze around Vas'ka Gora. They decided to wait until the lakes became more securely frozen, and use the grazing opportunities around the hills in the meantime. While fear of hard crust formation would demand passage towards the forest zone, the predominant southerly wind did not make this likely. The direction of the wind could, on the other hand, change any moment, when other solutions would have to be found. The presence or absence of humans and their activities would add up critically to the long list of variables. All of this explains why there often arise baffling cases in which reindeer head east towards the coastline in mid-winter, or one sees them in the forest zone in mid-summer like, for instance, the case illustrated in Picture 10, below.
[Picture 8. The "fast lane" trail of the spring/autumn migration across Lower Ketkozero Lake and Vas'ka Gora Ridge. Compare with Pictures 5, 6 and 7 above. Scale 1:300 m]
The boundaries of the half-way "camping site" around Vas'ka Gora are the Putchemverk hills to the northeast, River Tichka to the south, the Iokanga Line with Lakes Kolmiavr, Ketkozero and Kalmozero to the southwest, and small river Iunka to the north.
[Picture 9. The Iokanga Line and related structures]
In view of the well-known attraction of the Vas'ka Gora area as a temporary stop in the course of the spring and autumn migration, several permanent structures were built close to it in Soviet times - more precisely in the ‘70s and ‘80s. They inherited the site from much older human presence, like the already mentioned Sami settlement - Melentievskii Pogost. The main sovkhoz time structures are: (1) a simple spring/autumn enclosure (prostaia tandra) at the northeastern end of the locality, now abandoned; (2) a second simple enclosure which uses the River Iunka as its northern natural "fence", also abandoned; (3) a spring/autumn migration fence, running from north to south, using Kolmiavr and Ketkozero as natural obstacles. This fence, currently in disrepair, continues across the swamps separating Ketkozero from Kalmozero. The new fence along the Iokanga, described in NOMAD 11, and stretching from the southern end of Kalmozero to, roughly, Tichka Tandra Camp, can be considered as a natural continuation of this fence. Finally, as (4) comes Base 8 Camp itself.
Turning back to events around the current state of Vas'ka Gora "camping site" various fragments could be seen roaming round and across it in all directions, but eventually stopping at the Iokanga Line - i.e. by the eastern banks of the lakes (see Picture 8, above). Judging by tracks on the snow, only one small group of ten to fifteen head had crossed over at the passage, separating the upper and lower parts of Ketkozero, the Ketkozero Salma. (Picture 5). The main part of the fragments, still coming in from the coastline, preferred not to cross but to stay around and enjoy the available grazing: swamp grass and low shrub on the swamps, as well as lichen on the hill slopes. Eventually the conglomerate of fragments, big and small, would continue their movement to the north, unless reasons dictated swift crossing of Iokanga or Ketkozero and the ice surface allowed it. With the very unstable weather conditions which have been the norm recently, chances for moving north - i.e. along the eastern side of the Line - seemed greater than such a shortcut to the forest, through a left (westward) turn across the lakes.
[Picture 10. A molting deer in the forest zone west of the Iokanga Line. Foothills of Maria Gora, 21 July 2007.]
The overarching northward migration movement continues up to Porosozero where the left westward turn to the forest could be expected to be finally accomplished in the second half of the month. The reason, as we have noted previously (NOMAD 14) is that a little beyond the northern end of the Porosozero Lake rises the watershed between south flowing rivers, like the Iokanga, and the northern flowing ones - those flowing into the big Efimozero, Liavozero, and Lovozero Lakes.
The northern end of Porosozero is at the foothills of this watershed. The Iokanga here is only a stream and for this reason, from a reindeer point of view, the spot is a preferred place of passage. Under certain conditions, as we have sketched out above, this stands in some contrast to Vas'ka Gora, which, as suggested above, often serves as a temporary stop, a midway "camping site".
Knowing the preference of the deer for passing at Porosozero, the herders have built an enclosure here, the Poroska tandra, described by us in previous issues (NOMAD 13-15). With the growing instability of spring and autumn weather conditions, the importance of Poroska tandra as a key catching structure is likely to increase. This made the herders of the "right wing" of "Tundra", Brigades 1,2, and 8, to invest a lot of effort this summer into repairing the fence of the enclosure, with plans for improving the state of the north-south running fence during the following summer.
[Picture 11. A fragment at the Vas'ka Gora „camping site" (13 November 2007).]
Method of observation
Our strategy for the study of the reindeer migration at this time of the year attempted to adjust to both reindeer preferences and human reaction to them. We conducted regular observation for reindeer around Vas'ka Gora whenever weather conditions permitted. The method proved to be efficient: we registered groups of deer at different points of Vas'ka Gora on November 11 (a group of 20 head approximately), on November 13 (1 000 head), and on November 17 (20 to 30 head). All of these groups were not hurrying to the forest zone, but preferred to spend a few days wandering around and up Vas'ka Gora, as well as in the surrounding swamps. The reindeer herders, however, intervened at this point.
A young herder from Base 8, Ivan Terentiev, whom we have mentioned in a number of issues, would come from the brigade camp at Kolmiavr (Kolmozero), and keep an eye on what was happening around Vas'ka Gora. When the biggish fragment of a thousand head was located by us on November 13 and 14, Ivan intensified his vigil and would drive every day from Kolmiavr to Vas'ka Gora. At first he did these journeys with a draft team, freshly caught at Poroska, but then shifted to one of the brigade snowmobiles because the leader of his team (peredovoi) had received a hoof injury.
At around noon each day the fragment would skirt Vas'ka Gora from the southern end and advance toward the Iokanga at the lower end of Ketkozero. Yelling at it from his snowmobile, Ivan would turn it back into the swamps, lying between the eastern foothills of Vas'ka Gora and Potchemvarek Hill on the horizon.
This went on for three days until the Brigade Leader Vladimir (Vovka) Khatanzei came on a snowmobile, together with Petr (Petka) Terent'iev on a deer-drawn sled. The three herders, Vovka and Ivan on snow scooters, and Petka with his draft deer, contacted the fragment at the southern end of the hills and during the afternoon and evening pushed it towards and eventually into the Poroska enclosure. The corralling that ensued we describe in the following issue.
Fieldnews Edition 18 (in English)
10 November 2007
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
First signs of real winter
The beginning of November in the tundra was marked by sharp change of weather. In the first days of the month it looked like winter had finally come. Temperatures finally fell below zero and snow covered the hills and swamps.
[Picture 2: A fragment of 250 head is driven by a herder (out of the picture, to the right) in the direction of Porosozero Lake.]
After a few such days however, the weather became unstable again. The wind turned from the south and day temperature often rose to zero. Such uncertain conditions did not stimulate fast migration of the reindeer fragments to the forest zone. Instead, most of them chose to graze in the range around the upper reaches of River Tichka and further east in the open tundra. Small groups of deer broke off from this main body and advanced towards the Iokanga river/lake line. They marked the forward-most line of advance at this time, as no deer had been spotted yet to the west of this line. This was reported by the herders sent to watch for fragments appearing in the forest zone. This was Egor Sorvanov (Zhora) from Brigade 1 at Lake Rova (midway to the winter pastures), and Ivan Chuprov and Vassilii Khatanzei, the two senior herders of Brigade 8, at the upper reaches of River Kuliok.
"Deer are afraid to make long marches when the swamps are not securely frozen," was the herders' comment. "When the ground is covered with snow and they cannot see if it is hard enough underneath to bear their weight, they are afraid of getting stuck in the mud. They prefer to wait until the swamps get frozen."
Another comment was about the swamps "having got steamed" this year, "bolota sparilis'". Because snow fell before the swamps had fully frozen, they remained soft underneath, the snow acting as a lid. The herders also said that the first ice on the lakes, which was formed for the first time on October 20, was too thin, "the deer cannot see it". "When the lakes are all white, with snow on the ice, it is only then that they shall cross over."
Among other reasons for the herds not hurrying to cross over to the forest zone in the first half of November the herders mentioned also the current easy access to swamp grass (osoka), shrub, and willow on the swamps and by rivers and lakes, as well as lichen on the hill slopes. "The mosquitoes are gone, the mushrooms also, why should they hurry?" the herders would add.
Despite the reasons that held reindeer back, more and more of them would advance towards the Iokanga line and this movement intensified with each passing day. To make use of this chance, the herders of the "right wing" of Cooperative "Tundra", i.e. the herding teams stretched between Lake Liavozero and Lake Kolmozero (Kolmiavr), continued their attempts to organize corralling in the small enclosure (tandra) at Porosozero ("Tundra," Base Camp 1). The idea was to catch sled-bucks, first and foremost, but also to mark calves or other unmarked animals, slaughter for the pot at the camp (obshchepyt), as well as slaughter own private deer for sale.
After having traveled to the village because of a variety of private reasons (see NOMAD 17) many of the herders from Brigades 1, 2 and 8, again gathered at Porosozero Base Camp 1 in the first week of November. By November 10 they had managed to achieve three successful round ups. The biggest of these was accomplished on November 6, when the herders corralled a fragment of some seven hundred animals. It was noted - and remained a pattern - that females (vazhenki) with young calves formed the greater part of the group.
[Picture 3: On the watch for advancing fragments]
This latter fact was met with mixed feelings. On the one hand, the herders were glad that there were so many calves: about seven for ten does was said to be the average. On the other, however, they were disappointed to see so very few adult males appearing, with an extreme scarcity of sled bucks. Despite this scarcity of bucks, at the time of writing most herders of Brigades 1, 2, and 8 had somehow managed to assemble their sled-teams. Bucks were also been caught for the absent members of the brigades, i.e. Zhora at Rova Lake, and Diadia Vania and Diadia Vasia at River Kuliok.
[Picture 4: Petr Terent'ev, a young herder from Brigade 8, is back to his duties in the tundra after a short treatment of a lung disease in the village.]
A representative of Brigade 1 of Krasnoshchel'e, Pashka, had also caught what bucks belonging to herders from his team had shown up in the corral.
The transport situation
Greater success with round ups at the Porosozero tandra can be seen as a direct result of the more intensive migratory movement of reindeer after the rut, the latter lasting, approximately from September 15 till October 15. Even the few colder days in early November were enough to intensify the migration. The freeze ups also improved - even only for a few days - the transport situation.
[Picture 5: The NOMAD Ketkozero camp in early November. Yulian is servicing one of the two snowmobiles for its first mission after the summer]
In the first place, reindeer driven sledges became the standard transport means for the lower ranks of herders, i.e. those that did not have the few cooperative snowmobiles at their disposal. Draft deer ensured good transport especially for shorter distances, but, on the negative side, bucks required tethering twice a day to be in good shape. As pastures immediately around the camps have been exhausted long ago, the bucks have to be tethered a few kilometers away and thus a lot of walking is connected with keeping the teams fit and ready for use.
Draft teams and sleds (upriazhki) also permit better mobility of herders when they look for groups of deer in the tundra. In the case of Brigade 8, for example, Ivan Terent'ev has been regularly conducting trips to the tundra to the region along the Tichka River since the last days of October. His efforts bore fruit. During such trips he located several groups of migrating deer and managed to keep them to the east of the Iokanga Line. Kept in the swamps between Vas'ka Gora and the Putchimvarek Hills such fragments would be eventually redirected toward Porosozero and the tandra by its eastern bank. Thus, at least one corralling of the last days has been a direct result of Ivan's efforts.
The availability of reindeer-sled transport helps a lot in the round ups. Still, the herders' would rely much more on snow-scooters when corralling. A reindeer drawn sled cannot match free running deer for speed and prevent small fragments of a group "splintering off" (otkolivatsia). The snowmobile, with its ability to be driven at 70 km/h or even more, depending on the state of the surface, is clearly the more powerful and advantageous vehicle. When, however, the machine does not break down, and the surface is good. To the great chagrin of the herders, these two vital conditions are rarely met. Concerning the state of the surface, after the promise of the first few days of the month, conditions quickly deteriorated. The swamps could not freeze properly, and the ice on the lakes is still about only 10 cm. thick at the time of writing. These conditions permit only very limited use of snow-scooters, but, despite this, with even the first light snowfall the herders instantly put their machines to use. Surface or no surface, it was easier to drive the deer with them and besides - the Cooperative would repair them in case they broke down.
[Picture 6: For a few days there was some relatively colder weather at the beginning of November]
The NOMAD research station
The first cold days, few that they were, still helped us considerably in reestablishing continuous contact with the migrating fragments. Despite the still dangerously thin ice on swamps and lakes, we managed to monitor the movement of the various groups of deer as the general migratory rhythm intensified. We were also in close touch with the herders who were accomplishing one round up after the other at the Poroska Tandra. With this current success of corralling, an increasing number of traders (komersanty) came to be seen at the camps, an issue we shall bring up in following diary entries.
With the intensification of the migration of deer across the Iokanga Line, we also plan to move the mobile research station toward the winter pastures of the right wing of "Tundra". From such a vantage point we could better follow the second part of the migration of the reindeer to the forest zone of the Peninsula and to study human impact and activities on the herd during the rest of the winter.
Internet and satellite phone link with the NOMAD Field Station
The station has the use of a Globaltel satellite phone through which we can be accessed by e-mail messages to the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org. For ordinary e-mail messages please use email@example.com.
Fieldnews Edition 17 (in English)
31 October 2007
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
After the Rut
[Picture 1: no caption]
Release of the harems
On 16 October we noticed the first fresh tracks of fragments returning from the rut. The general direction was southeast to northwest, or, in terms of the topography of the area under observation - from the upper reaches of River Tichka to Porosozero Lake. The line of the migration ran upstream along the eastern side of the Iokanga river/lake system. The herders' comment to this observation was that the productive males (hirvasa) had finally released their harems, previously held at one spot while the rut was in progress. The general duration of the event was estimated to have been about a month, with a beginning in mid-September. Regarding the trek of the after-rut movement, the herders' opinion was that the deer would not dare cross water at this time being apprehensive of thin clear ice that they might not be able to notice. Only when the ice on the lakes became covered by snow they would go over it.
The weather was rather mild, however, for any such fears to arise in the herds. Apart from a very brief spell with temperatures below zero on 11-13 October, when the lakes froze in their shallow parts, day temperatures kept being rather high all through October: +6 - +8 with warm southerly winds and frequent drizzles. Nevertheless, we could not detect any presence or tracks on the western bank of the lake; all tracks and observed presence was along the eastern banks, heading in the general direction of Kolmiavr-Porosozero. It looked plausible then that crossing over the Iokanga line was indeed not in the plans of the animals, not before they reached Porosozero. It could be, then, that the reason for the deer to be so determined to cross over to the forest zone exactly on the northern side of Porosozero Lake was that there the Iokanga was only a shallow stream and the system line could be easily waded. Whether fear of thin ice was involved in this tactic remained an open question given the prevailing very mild weather.
Fragments at close range
On 18 October we saw a small fragment of about fifty head resting on the western slope of Vaska Gora. Soon afterwards a larger fragment of about a hundred animals slowly emerged on top of the Vaska Gora ridge. The animals were coming from the southeast. Grazing unhurriedly they walked down the northwestern slope.
Wishing to observe the deer at closer range we made a big detour behind the low hills that lay in the line of vision of the animals. We came out at the easternmost end of Vaska Gora and headed to its top walking against a fresh southerly breeze. From this elevated position we could see that the bigger fragment was moving at an angle of about 20 degrees to the breeze which was blowing from behind the animals. Thus, not for the first time we were registering deer movement with the wind (po vetru), contrary to an often heard statement from the herders that the deer would never go with a wind that is blowing "against the fur" (naprotiv shersti). In our experience the deer would often disregard wind direction in favor of other concerns. From what followed during this particular contact with the animals, this opinion received rather strong confirmation.
[Picture 2: Looking down at the bigger fragment from Vaska Gora. Wind direction is from left (south) to right (north), as is the movement of the deer.]
After we had gained the top of Vaska Gora we crawled for about twenty meters to avoid detection and crouched behind some huge glacial boulders. The fragments were directly below us. The bigger fragment gradually stopped and spread at the foot of the hill. The time was around three in the afternoon and thus the pausing for rumination and rest was in tune with previous experience as well as herders' opinion: between two and four in the afternoon movement usually ceases.
Just then, the smaller fragment, which had sat for about an hour not far away from the larger group, decided to end its siesta. Grazing on the way, the deer slowly walked upslope through a birch grove. They were moving exactly with the wind. Above the birch grove and overlooking it there stood a group of rocks. The animals were thus heading straight below a spot where a predator could be easily lying in wait for them and could not be detected neither by vision nor by smell.
Wondering not a little at this over confident behavior of the deer we skirted a small ravine that separated us from the convenient rocks towards which the fragment was heading. We tried to move as huddled down to the ground as possible using bushes and rocks for cover, but still came into view of the deer once or twice. They did not see us, however, so we could make the rocks ahead of them and take position for shooting with still and video-camera.
After about ten minutes the first animals of the group slowly emerged from below. There was a full grown male, then another younger again male animal and then females with this year's calves. As more animals appeared we could see also castrated bucks among them looking rather fresh compared to the hirvasa. One of these last, grazing very close to us, had his head low to the ground all the time and was visibly limping. We read that as a sign of exhaustion after the rut. The rest of the fragment, some thirty head or so were females with this year's calves grazing side by side with them. The calves had gained their full weight of about 30 kilos after the summer. Their pelts were rich brown color and thick looking. The antlers of the mothers were reddish after an evidently recent shedding of the skin. There was only one rather smallish white calf in the group. It must have been born very late, possibly in mid- or even late June.
The fragment was feeding on the rich wet lichen that covers much of Vaska Gora. Our conclusion was that this lichen was a strong attraction in favor of which the fragment disregarded wind direction. A young three year old male (urak) detected some danger nevertheless, possibly by seeing a flock of partridges suddenly take flight. The flock could have been alarmed by a predator trying to get to the herd against the wind, just as we had done. The buck raised his tail as a flag of alarm, but then lowered it and went on grazing. Neither he, nor we could detect anything; perhaps an wolverine had slinked away, having smelled or seen us.
[Picture 3: Stalking a fragment. The wind is blowing from left (south) to right (north).]
Poor sled-buck catching
During the following days more fragments came into view gradually attracting the attention of the herders. This was a good chance to exchange news with them and hear their opinion about what was happening.
The most important bit of news was that the sled-buck campaign at Porosozero had finally born some fruit, but in a rather miserable way. All in all, only four draft teams had been caught. One of them belonged to the Krasnoshchel'e Brigade 1, one - to "our" Brigade 8, and the rest went to the hosts at the Porosozero Base, Brigade 1, and to Brigade 2 (Liavozero). This was then the result of an effort which had begun at the end of August and had lasted for just under two months. The explanation was that there were too few people for a successful round up, that the deer were getting less and less each year, and also, according to critical opinion from the Krasnoshchel'e herders, that deer there were enough "but they (the Lovozero herders) were not able to catch them." Whatever the truth, the results were very unsatisfactory.
Human fates and movements
The sled buck catching was over the time being, activities being called off around 16 October. The greater part of the herders went to Lovozero, some called by tragic events. The brother of Vladimir Filippov (Volf) from Brigade 2 had died. Another brother had also died - of Valentin, the camp worker who had moved from Brigade 8 to Brigade 9. Ivan Terent'ev from Brigade 8, who brought the sad news to us, remembered that Valentin's younger brother had died in a fire a year ago, when a new private hotel on Lovozero Lake rather mysteriously burned down. Ivan himself lost a relative in that incident. A total of three persons had died in that fire.
Illness had struck also Petr Terent'ev (Petka) from Brigade 8, one of our closest friends. Petka had pains in the lungs and left for Lovozero to seek medical help. Aleksandr Filippov (Kamrad) from Brigade 1 had some serious stomach pains so he also left. The mother in law of Aleksandr Chuprov (Zeba) from Brigade 1 was ill so he left to Lovozero from where with his wife went on to St. Petersburg where the old woman lived. He himself complained of pains in the spine and later stayed in Lovozero for treatment. Other herders simply wanted to see their families and also left for Lovozero after two months of repairing fences and waiting for deer at Porosozero.
Of those few who stayed behind three got positioned in the forest zone in anticipation of the late autumn migration. Egor Sorvanov (Zhora) from Brigade 1 was left to live by himself in a tent by Rova Lake. Here the fence, separating Krasnoschel'e and Lovozero grazing grounds (see NOMAD 8: The River Rova Fence) had a gap. It reached one end of the fence and continued from the other. Zhora's task was not to let the migrating fragments get through this opening in the fence. Two senior herders from Brigade 8, Vasilii Khatanzei (Diadia Vasia), and Ivan Chuprov (Diada Vania) were sent deep into the winter grounds to the hut at River Kuliok. Here they would wait for the fragments to coalesce and be then gradually pushed to Belaia Golovka and eventual round ups. In the absence of available draft teams these herders had been deployed by vezdekhod which subsequently drove on to Lovozero.
[Picture 4: Same fragment as in the previous photo. A young productive male (urak) with a released harem. He has seen some movement in front of him, but cannot catch the scent. Note the raised tail. Three females (vazhenki) and two this year's calves are grazing beside him.]
Birds and rodents
As noted at the beginning, the weather in October remained rather mild for the season. This confirmed the general conviction that all seasonal events tended to be delayed by a month or more. As noted in the previous issue, the tundra partridges could not adjust to the rhythm and remained dangerously exposed in their white winter feathers. They had donned them at the beginning of October and by the time of writing had been very visible for nearly a month. The birds resorted to hiding under bushes for most of the day. In the previous issue we noted the staying of partridges very close to the tent in daytime. On 31 October, Yulian was cutting firewood by the lake with partridges sitting close to him all through. The birds would go out in the open only in the evening and feed practically in the dark. With the change to winter time on 28 October this was after 16:30 when twilight began. With overcast skies by five p.m. it would be practically dark.
A pair of late swans are still with us, having the whole of Ketkozero Lake to themselves.
Fieldnews Edition 16 (in English)
15 October 2007
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
15 October 2007
[Figure 1. Trying to get to the herd. Potchemvarek.]
Toward the end of September it began to look hopeless to wait any further for the herders at Camp 1 to catch sled bucks. There was also the danger that if we stayed longer at Porosozero, adverse weather conditions could easily halt us there for an indefinite period of time. The winds blew up serious waves across the lake and with our small rubber canoe it was not an easy task to navigate it. With such thoughts in mind we decided that we should leave for our base camp with no further delay, giving up the attempt to participate in an eventual sled buck catching at the Porosozero tandra.
[Figure 2. Looking for the herd from the top of Big Potchemvarek Hill.]
There was also a growing fear that we might easily lose contact with the herd fragments from the mushroom migration which had been in our field of observation before we went to Base 1.The rut was already beginning, rutting males (hirvasa) were spotted near Lake Spiridon (Spiridonovka) some 20 km to the north of the Porosozero camp. Other fragments could be expected to go to open spaces at some such distance from the entire Iokanga line.
For all these reasons, soon after our arrival at our Ketkozero camp, we set off on foot in the direction of the upper reaches of River Tichka, where we expected to find fragments of "our" herd. We reached the two Potchemvarek hills, or Big and Small Potchemvarek, some 16 km from our camp. During the summer a group of geologists had camped there and we expected to see traces of their intrusion, as well as search further off for signs of the herd.
What we saw far surpassed anything we had expected in the way of geologists' presence in a reindeer grazing area. The two low hills bore the deep scars of generations of digging and drilling, going back, recalling herders' stories, to the late 1950s. The Big Potchemvarek hill had been dug from end to end by parallel trenches (shurfy) at equal distances of about fifty meters between them. Metal tubes where the drills had gone into the rock had been left gaping all over the place as well as hundreds of meters of rusting pipes, drilling tubes, and all sorts of scrap. Wooden structures supporting tents belonged to the latest generation of exploration here -- of the now passed summer. Not surprisingly, not a single reindeer trail could be seen anywhere near the hills. Neither could we see any deer on the close or distant horizon.
[Figure 3. Big Potchemvarek Hill. Parallel trenches slice the hill from end to end.]
This negative impact on centuries old migration routes made us think, not without serious apprehension, about new explorations opening up. There has been recently the case of a Canadian company -- "BERRIK-Gold". They were beginning to operate in the westernmost end of the winter pastures very soon. As we learned from the herders, the Cooperative got some minimal compensation for this intrusion on their land, but how would mining there reflect on the deer? No one asked them.
[Figure 4. Big Potchemvarek. Vladi is looking down an abandoned shaft.]
[Figure 5. Localities visited during autumn 2007.]
[Figure 6. Vasia Kanev looking at the pictures of his brigade trying to get a herd across the Iokanga on 19-22 June (NOMAD 9).]
The Raion Administration got the lion's share of the compensation, according to herders' reports, and was glad that some serious money went into the always fragile municipal budget. "We could have scrounged some more money out of that deal", the Head of the Reindeer Herding Department bitterly commented, when we discussed the matter at Base 1, "but there was no one who could stand up to the Municipality and defend our interest."
After a few days of trying to locate the herd in the area to the east of the two Potchemvarek Hills, but with no success, we returned to base camp. To our great disappointment we had to concede that contact with the herd had been lost. Luckily, just when we were wondering what to do, a senior herder from Brigade 1 of Krasnoshchel'e, Vasilii Kanev (Vasia), was passing by boat through Ketkozero on his way from the Porosozero base camp. He had left one of his brigade's herders there to wait until some sled bucks were finally caught and in the hope that there would be Krasnoshchel'e's bucks there. We asked about how the situation looked after we had left. "There are small fragments passing by", he sighed, "but they cannot get them in". So, the situation at Poroska had remained as we had left it. We rapidly calculated that the sled buck chasing had already lasted for more than a month.
Vasia confirmed that the overall herd had gone into rutting and he advised us not to try and reach "our" part of it -- the animals would be too far away and difficult to locate. "You better sit it out and wait for the fragments to pass through here", he said. "There shall be a wave of them after the hirvasa release their harems". They themselves were going to do just that and sit it out at their Iokanga camp till freeze up. When that happened they would try and corral their herd at Mount Devin Corral.
[Figure 7. A white-tail eagle gliding over the Iokanga.]
[Figure 8. Hiding close to our tent, a tundra partridge is clearly visible in its winter plumage.]
By the way the tundra partridges (kuropatki) were changing their summer plumage to white winter attire we could see that the snow was not far away. Indeed, the first snow fell during the night of 10 October. On 11 October we woke up feeling a strange silence. The habitual rush of the wind and the crashing of waves were absent. The wind had died down for once and the lake was frozen and strangely silent. A few days afterwards strong southerly gales began blowing once again and temperatures quickly rose to 5 degrees above zero. Snow and ice disappeared and the partridges became strikingly visible in their white feathers. Their solution, or at least of some of them, was to try and get as close to our tents as possible. In the face of serious dangers from the air, they decided to abandon all fear and would crouch under a bush a few meters away from us, as we went about household tasks. Only in the evening twilight -- towards six -- they would leave their hiding place and go out to peck berries in the open space behind the tents. By 7 October all water fowl had left for the south: geese, ducks, and finally a big flock of swans. A gyrfalcon terrorizing the partridges left soon after this exodus, but a pair of white-tail eagles remained, as well as hawks. Thus, the partridges had enough reasons to fear attacks from the air. We thought that they must be eagerly awaiting a more serious coming of the snow when they would become invisible once again.
[Figure 9. Fresh bear prints after a mother with two cubs had walked along the shore at Lake Porosozero.]
Of the other predators, the bear was more visibly active. On coming back from Porosozero we could see clearly fresh prints on the western shore of the lake. Closer to our base camp at Ketkozero we came twice across rather impressive fresh mounds of excrement. Judging by them the bear had been harvesting the voronika -- a black tasty berry which is so abundant on open dry spaces that it is difficult not to walk on it most of the time. As no hairs could be seen in the feces we concluded that the deer must be still far away in the open tundra.
Fieldnews Edition 15 (in English)
30 September 2007
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
[Picture 1. Great moment! Finally a fragment of about a hundred deer coming towards Porosozero.]
On 15 September, three parties of reindeer herders were sent further out to the north to scout the territory deeper into the tundra. Shortly after, on the 16th and 17th, several small fragments, of about fifty to hundred head each, approached the corral fences. The few herders who had been left in camp did their best to round up these groups, but their attempts failed because of their small number. "We are too few to be able to drive them into the tandra", a senior and very experienced herder, known by the nickname Kamrad said. "To get them they have themselves to decide to walk in". The deer decided otherwise however and turned back to the forest line, from where they had come.
[Picture 2. A group of deer is turning back, alarmed by the wings of the corral at Base 1.]
The next day seemed even more promising for corralling. One of the scouting groups of four herders spotted a kusok of about hundred head coming slowly from the northwest, i.e. from the direction of the forest. Shortly afterwards, a smaller group of about fifty animals were seen approaching the tandra from the northeast, the tundra side. At this end there was only one person left to intercept whatever deer chose to come. This was the old-age pensioner from Brigade 1 Aleksandr Sorvanov (Ded' Sasha) who was supposed "to do something" singlehanded, should the need arise. In spite of the energetic efforts of the herders, who were spread rather thin on the ground, the deer simply walked away, each group turning back to where they had come from.
[Picture 3. Another hope of getting deer into the corral is fading.]
When all scouting parties met in camp on the next day, the unanimous conclusion was that there were simply too few deer migrating towards Porosozero and thus the prospects for a successful round up were dim. The reading of the situation was as follows. The groups we have been seeing were of those deer that had previously migrated to the forest belt in search of mushrooms. They were returning now to the tundra where the rut was or would be taking place. From the opposite direction, some "mushroom pickers" were still coming from the tundra, trying to break through the line along the Iokanga and get to the forest. But eventually these would also go back to the tundra to engage in the rut. As Ded Sasha explained it, the productive males (hirvasa) needed open space (chistye mesta) in the tundra where they would keep their harems to themselves, chasing away competitors. Once the rut was over the hirvasa would let go of the harems and then the migration would roll forth like a wave ("poidet valom"). The time when this could be expected to happen was after mid October.
In the meantime the problem of catching sled bulls remained, but the passing fragments were too elusive and, moreover, they would soon disappear. The only possible strategy which looked right in this situation was to wait till the migration finally took place in earnest, .i.e. to wait for another month. The scarcity of pre-rut fragments moving towards the forest zone or coming back from it was explained by some informants with the general delay in the seasonal development this year. The fact of the matter was that the summer did not begin till after mid-July, so everything seemed like happening a month later than usual. The herders were unhappy with the situation as the so urgently needed reindeer transport could not be obtained, and also meat for the pot had been lacking for far too long. To carry on herding on foot and without meat was seen as unbearable and demeaning, so tempers were running rather short. Only the presence of the Head of the Herding Department, as well as that of the two brigade leaders, of Brigades 1 and 8, could keep things in some order. Privately though many critical remarks were being passed, while, at the same time, it was considered pointless to try and change the situation -- one had to wait till the deer came.
[Picture 4. A driving sed slowly coming into shape.]
Meanwhile, free from chasing the deer, the herders engaged in various private jobs, the main one of those being the making and repair of sleds. At any given time at least two or three herders could be seen behind one of the store houses, masterfully engaged in carpentry. Another main task was fishing or hunting for fresh food -- both activities bringing in meager results with the exception of one more productive deer hunt which we were able to register and from which we were also handsomely provisioned. Fishing however was invariably poor as Porosozero with its deep waters and stony bottom was lean in fish unlike the very rich shallower lakes down along the Iokanga.
The so far unsuccessful attempt to corral some bits from the pre-rut "mushroom migration" tend to fit in a pattern formed by a series of herding experiences we had observed during the year. With the diminishing of human contact with the herds, the reliance on megastructures, like fences and corral enclosures, increased, as has been emphasized in previous issues (see NOMAD 13). So far we have observed only Brigade 1 of Krasnoshchel'e (NOMAD 9) making an attempt to resume some form of close herding. The other brigades in our field of vision, Lovozero's 1, 2, and 8, seem to have given up close herding entirely. Absence of continuous contact with the deer and the consequent "wilding" of the herds diminish chances for accurate prediction of reindeer behavior. The strategy to invest in ever longer fences seems also to be the response to the steadily diminishing number of herders in recent years. By the time of writing, "Tundra" brigades which were nine in number ten years ago, are now one less, with another on the brink - the most distant Brigade 9.
[Picture 5. Serezha Mal'tsev braves the autumn weather in yet another attempt to get some fish. "Fish from our lake is good only for slimming", herders from Brigade 1 jokingly complain.]
The leaders of the Cooperative as well as the herders explain these adverse developments with the perennial problem of difficult recruitment and a deficit of experienced and able herders. This complaint is all too common over the greater part of the Russian Subarctic. Observing events from close to the ground in our particular location seems to suggest some unexpected explanations. There is a general expectation than sooner or later the Cooperative herd shall fall into private hands or be "privatized" as the herders say. As we were dodging unsuccessfully the passing fragments, news reached the camp that a much vilified former director of "Tundra" had become the owner -- together with another businessperson -- of the Swedish slaughter-house in Lovozero. This sensational event was clearly pointing to what was to be expected in the future. Trying to forestall developments, the brigade leaders seem to welcome old age pensioners, preferably close kin, and general workers in their teams. This might prove to be a prudent policy at future decisive moments when the fate of brigade herds may have to be decided.
In a situation in which the emphasis of herding is shifting rapidly to fences, one can feel the growing unpredictability of herd movements. This unpredictability exists at the best of times but now, with herders spending minimal time in contact with the herd, it is indeed very palpable. Reindeer herders are finding it more and more difficult to solve the constant multifactor equations, in which there are so many variables: grazing opportunities, wind direction, presence or absence of mushrooms during the mushroom time, the demands of the rut, as it is at present, etc. Enquiries about when an event could be roughly expected to take place, like the current buck-catching, elicits more often than not very vague answers like "We shall see" ("Posmotrim kak budet"), "It depends on the weather" ("Kak pogoda"), "As it happens!" ("Kak poluchitsia"), or even "Who knows!" ("A kto znaet!").
In terms of meat production, the primary goal of the Cooperative, the growing uncertainty of herding, as well as diminishing herd numbers, have been steadily drawing a downward curve all through the last decade. Recognizing that this is a stable trend for the near future, the Swedish "Norfrys" as mentioned above, finally decided to pull out of what had been thought to be a very lucrative operation fifteen years ago. The herders saw this development from a somewhat different angle. "They have skimmed the milk and are now pulling out" ("Sniali slivki i seichas ubiraiutsia"), was the dry comment of a friend from Brigade 2.
Fieldnews Edition 14 (in English)
15 September 2007
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
[Picture 1. Porosozero watch: on the look out for deer from the "mushroom migration".]
By the first days of September most of the herders from the two neighboring brigades 1 and 8, as well as from brigade 2 (Liavozero), had already gathered at the Porosozero base camp of brigade 1. Their main herding task in this season was to round up the deer from what we called the "mushroom migration" and drive them into the lower enclosure (tandra, tandara), described in the previous issue.
The "mushroom migration" happens before rut time and can be said to cover the time between the first appearance of mushrooms (20 July this year) and mid-September, when the rut generally begins (see also NOMAD 12 and 13). During this period deer fragments seek to move into the birch woods (berezniak) in search of mushrooms, but quickly go back to open or higher places in case insect pressure becomes too high. After the end of August, when insects generally disappear, the movement intensifies. Castrated bucks and other non-productive animals may then move into the forest zone with no intention of going back into the tundra. The productive part of the herd, however, would seek open tundra spaces (chistye mesta) and those of them who have gone on the mushroom trail would now turn back to the tundra once again. In this way August and part of September would be marked by an oscillation between tundra and forest relative to productive status.
As noted in NOMAD 13, the most important objective of the September corralling was to catch sled bucks. Alongside this main activity there was also the pressing need for fresh meat. There had gathered over twenty hungry herders in the two huts of the base and a uniform diet of macaroni and tinned meat (tushonka) was bringing spirits down with each passing day. The relatively deep and stony Porosozero Lake is rather poor in fish, and thus the chances for enriching the diet from this direction were meager.
There was also the hope for some calf-marking, but still catching sled bucks remained undoubtedly the main task. Transport in the difficult months of September, October, and well into November, when the rains come and the swamps present a formidable obstacle, relies very much on reindeer. Buck transport is the only solution for numerous daily tasks, from going to other camps, to tethering bucks twice a day, to fishing, carrying wood, and numerous other smaller chores which abound in the daily routine of a herder.
As is well-known among herders, the most difficult exercise is to catch deer for the first sled-team (at least two or three animals). Until this is done the herders can rely solely on their feet. With the help of even one sled catching following teams becomes considerably easier and, by and by, all other tasks.
[Picture 2. During the non-snow months traveling for the team was mainly by boat (Porosozero, September 2007).]
To highlight further the importance of reindeer-sled transport in tundra life during the non-snow months one could also add that without the teams even ensuring regular meat supply from passing fragments, becomes a serious problem. One can dodge and shoot down an animal, but it is difficult to take it back to camp. And without reindeer meat in abundance (huge pots permanently boiling on the stoves) herders quickly tend to find life in the tundra unbearable.
In order to observe this most important seasonal encounter between Rangifer and human, we relocated the NOMAD research station to a spot at Porosozero Lake, close to the herding camp of Brigade 1. As emphasized in the previous issue, it was here that the migration was most likely to pass.
[Picture 3. Following the migration often demands building makeshift temporary camps. A "kitchen/sitting room" at Porosozero, built with remains from a former geologists' base.]
At Base 1 we found intensive preparations for the corralling going on. In the first week of September, three vezdekhody arrived from Lovozero, bringing herders from Brigades 1, 2, and 8, as well as the Head of the Reindeer Herding Department of "Tundra", Iurii Filippov. His responsibility was to command and control the rounding up activities, as well as oversee, as the immediately responsible member of the administration, corral and fence construction and repairs. As a result, the herding camp, designed to shelter one brigade at a time and never enlarged so it could cope with a situation like the present one, was barely able to provide enough living space.
[Picture 4. Anatolii Chuprov (Tolik), a long-time worker of the Cooperative, is combining the functions of a carpenter with that of the camp baker. "I learned bread making from the female camp-workers at Corral Km 69", he recalled. (Km 69, now dismantled, used to be the third big counting-harvesting corral of "Tundra" and was situated on the road from Murmansk to Tumanny. The fact that there was an easy access to the northernmost herds along this highway, dealt the deathblow to the former Brigade 5 and eventually to the corral itself.)]
After the obligatory alcoholic bout lasting for a few days after each arrival of vezdekhody from Lovozero, Iura, the Head of the Herding Department, took up the organization of life and work in the camp. First, he distributed the herding and household tasks among the available personnel. Then some herders were dispatched on the look out for deer, while others went into the woods to fell and bring back fire wood for the following months -- this for the camp as well as for the counting-harvesting corral three kilometers upslope, with its three biggish log-cabins and bath hut. The vezdekhody were busy going back and forth between the base and Efimozero (Efimka), coming back with loads of pine trunks, needed for fence posts. Tolik, and Sergei Mal'tsev, a new camp-worker, assisted by a few pensioners, carried out the household tasks. A "Kazanka" motor boat was supporting contact with Base 8 at Kolmiavr, as such by radio-telephone was unreliable. There was also the need for people to move constantly between the two bases, often in connection with fetching necessary spare parts for the vezdekhody.
At the beginning of September the herders were hopeful that corralling may happen "the easier way", i.e. when a group of reindeer either entered the corral by chance, or appeared close to it, so it could be rounded up without much effort. Such an opportunity did indeed appear on 3 September, but at the very last moment wind direction shifted abruptly and the reindeer veered off and disappeared. After a week of waiting it was decided, as described above that scouting parties of two-three herders each should be sent to various directions on both sides of the Liavozero-Porosozero fence. However, the first two weeks of the month went by without spotting any reindeer. The herders would come back tired and often wet and freezing. They had no glad news to share.
[Picture 5. A scouting party of herders sets out from the base camp at Porosozero. The first leg of the journey is by vezdekhod.]
From previous years we knew that corralling should already have taken place by this time. Rather puzzled we began asking the herders whether there was a chance for the migration to take another route and perhaps pass the Iokanga line at another spot and not at Porosozero. But they were dead sure: "Don't worry, sooner or later they shall come!"
Fieldnews Edition 13 (in English)
31 August 2007
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
The second half of August saw the gradual return of senior herders to the tundra base camps. The main task to perform was catching sled bucks from migrating herd fragments, as well as, whenever possible, marking calves, and making meat supplies for the autumn. But, again, the main emphasis was on assembling enough buck teams, these providing essential transport in the snowless autumn months.
[Picture 1. The dangerous mukhomor (Amanita muscaria), deadly for humans, is said to be liked by reindeer.]
The weather happened to be unusually warm, often even hot, during the second half of August. Cooler days came only after August 26, when temperatures fell to 8 degrees centigrade during day time. The first frosts turned the tundra white at night and damaged the mushrooms and the blueberry.
The herders said that all seasons were coming in late this year. This was the likely explanation, according to them, of why the reindeer were staying back in summer grounds longer than usual. Apart from zig-zag forays to the forest zone and back in search of mushrooms, as was noted in the previous issue (NOMAD 12), there was no visible sign of the autumn migration beginning in earnest. In previous years the movement would normally begin toward the middle of the month.
[Picture 2. The summer of 2007 was marked by long needed repairs to tundra base camps. Renovation and re-insulation of walls at the Kolmiavr base camp of Brigade 8.]
[Picture 3. The building and repair of mega-structures, corral enclosures and fences of many kilometers in length, is done manually.]
By 20 August reindeer talk had it that the fragments were late in coming due to very high insect activity which herders connected with the general delay of seasons. To illustrate the situation, Vasilii Khatanzei, a 51 year old hereditary herder with a life-long experience with this particular herd, gave an example with his sled bucks. He had kept a pair all through the summer. "To save them from the insects I keep them in the old sauna hut during daytime. This is unusual so late in August...".
Another reason for the delay of the migration the herders saw in the possibility that mushrooms, so abundant this year, were abundant in the summer pastures too. Hence many herd fragments did not bother to seek them in the birch groves. This tied in well with our own observations of the animals. The core female part of the herd showed a
tendency to stay back together with the calves, this year's as well as older, while the "zig-zaggers" tended to be full grown productive males (hirvasa), as well as castrated sled bucks. When mushroom are scanty in the tundra, herders said, deer hurry earlier in August to the forest zone, where the plant is easier to find.
Another scenario the herders shared with us was that it was possible that an early rut (gon) could have already begun in the summer grounds. In such a case, the rut might keep the reindeer herds out in the tundra and closer to the Barents Sea coast well into the autumn, possibly till October.
[Picture 4. A device for carrying rolls of steel wire.]
All through the second half of August the herders were slowly gathering at their main herding camps in anticipation of the autumn migration. The camps stretch between Lake Liavozero in the north and Ketkozero in the south, along a line of about 50 km. In this upper part of the Iokanga river-lake system there is a point in the middle which becomes extremely interesting in September and October. This is the northern end of the Porosozero Lake, where the base camp of Brigade 1 ("Tundra") is situated. Why the autumn migration would flow exactly through this point it is difficult to say. The fact, however, is certainly connected with a series of north-south fences, the closest of which is 25 km fence between Liavozero and Porosozero, as well as another 15 km fence connecting Porosozero with Kolmiavr. Further down between Kolmiavr and Kalmozero the fence line continues, but at present is in a dilapidated state.
[Picture 5. While waiting for the bucks to appear the herders are busy building sleds.]
Porosozero, where Brigade 1 is stationed, features two enclosures: one for spring-autumn passage, and a counting harvesting winter corral, some three kilometers higher up. Both structures follow the low hills on the left bank of the lake. For the moment the lower simpler structure was the interesting one. This corral (tandra) had the quality of being so positioned that fragments would often simply walk in without any need of pushing from behind through the entrance. This enclosure, built very close to the camp, is said to be one of the most functional herding structures in Central Kola. For this reason it has become usual during the last years for the herders of brigades 1, 2 and 8 to gather at the two living huts of the Porosozero camp and eagerly wait for the appearance of reindeer groups on the northern horizon.
[Picture 6. Paddlers continue on their journey up the Iokanga after visiting the NOMAD research station at Ketkozero Lake.]
There were strong indications that herding in this part of the Peninsula was beginning to increasingly rely on fences. This was the Lovozero brigades answer to the fact that trying to keep control over the herds by closely working with them was practically recognized to be a lost cause. As brigade leaders shared with us, the ambition was to build a checking fence all the way across the Kola, from north to south, thus connecting existing fences of the left wing of "Tundra", the right wing with which we are currently working, and the Krasnoshchel'e brigades. This giant fence is believed to make spring and autumn corralling easier and compensate for the absence of human touch with the animals for the greater part of the year. From the point of view of the human-Rangifer relationship, the tendency, if taken to its logical outcome, would be for humans to ultimately meet deer only in corral enclosures, save for sled bucks. In order to study this interesting herding situation in more detail, the next planned step of the NOMAD research team shall be to move to herding camp 1 at the beginning of September and observe herding activities going on there.
Despite often circulated talk at herding camps about passing paddlers vandalizing cabins and even poaching on the deer, a couple of such tourists appeared for the first time on 16 August. We thus encountered the tourist factor in the guise of Vladimir and Ira, a couple of professional people from St. Petersburg. Ira was a medical doctor, while Vladimir was a university lecturer, teaching physics. These polite and soft-spoken people showed great surprise to find a research camp in these parts and asked us many questions about our work. After a very enjoyable conversation over a cup of tea, we learned that they were long-term fans of water-tourism in the Kola. They had been coming regularly for a couple of weeks in the summer ever since the mid-1980s. Between complaints about the unexpected rise of tundra transport costs during the last years, we also learnt that they knew very little about reindeer and herding in the region. With a clearly expressed nature-protecting mentality, Ira and Vladimir could hardly be accepted to fit the standard description of herders and local residents of "wild tourists" being vandals, poachers, and a general threat for the tundra. They were a very far cry from the bear hunters-poachers whom we had described in our May issue (No 6).
Fieldnews Edition 12 (in English)
15 August 2007
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
[Picture 1. In the Iokanga river-lake system the cloudberry (moroshka) ripens in the first half of August.]
August began with relatively stable warm weather. At times day temperatures reached up to 30 degrees centigrade, but most of the days stayed at about 24 degrees. Southern winds blew with changing speed, mercifully chasing away blood-sucking insects for most of the day. Brief showers intervened, facilitating the rapid growth and ripening of numerous kinds of berries and mushrooms.
[Picture 2. A colorful rainbow marks the end of yet another summer shower.]
At this time, according to plan, the NOMAD team was back to the Ketkozero camp, getting ready for the start of the autumn migration. The first group of deer was not late to come: it passed Ketkozero Lake and continued its way to the forest zone on 3rd August, using a short spell of insect-free weather and trying to keep to high ground. The abundance of mushrooms was a primary motivating factor for this early movement back to the woods.
As reindeer herders predicted, such early migrating groups of reindeer would quickly get back to the open tundra, once the weather calmed down and a second wave of insects attacked. After the mosquitoes, it is the midge (moshka) that now came on the scene. The tiny insects bite the tender skin around the eyes of the animals, swelling the tissue and impairing vision. An even more dangerous enemy comes in the form of gadflies (ovod) which can make deer stampede for hours until they are fully exhausted. Both of these insect species, the warble and the skin fly, are strongly dependent on weather conditions, being especially sensitive to wind. Most favorable for them is calm and wet weather of the kind that descends before it starts to rain. For humans the bite is very painful as we both were able to register.
[Picture 3. Mushrooms and insects are the major factors that influence reindeer migratory behavior in August. The most attractive mushrooms are of the Boletus species, as the mushroom in the foreground (krasnogolovik).]
Our observations of reindeer behavior in the first half of August confirmed what we had encountered previously. We now have strong reasons to outline a pattern, according to which migration in the central part of the Kola Peninsula is very far from a clean and tidy picture of unidirectional movement of an imaginary monolithic herd. In reality, we can observe differential movements of many different groups and often -- of individual animals. Moreover, the migration of many parts of this aggregate herd would follow at times a zigzag course between forest and open tundra, the direction being motivated by seasonal factors, such as the search for mushrooms and avoidance of insects noted above.
From the point of view of a researcher, using the NOMAD field methods, i.e. following closely the movements of deer and people, the picture that emerges is one of complexity, often resisting ordering and explanation.
Recognizing such complexity, we tentatively put forward the following general outline. Every single deer would move along a complex course that receives stronger individual contours in summer time and in what is nominally defined as summer pastures. In winter time, group behavior is paramount, as is well known. What is less readily noted, however, is that at any given season one may find groups or individual animals not where they are supposed to be on the grazing territory. Moreover, before they settle for either summer or winter pastures, the groups or individuals may oscillate between forest and tundra many times, using favorable chances, or avoiding dangers. In the final account it can be safely said, that with the type of very lax herding that prevails in Central Kola, a deer can freely move between the summer and winter pastures many more than the expected two times per year, and that can easily happen irrespectively of season.
As we have encountered during previous fieldwork, many expected winter time round-ups of reindeer have failed because of a sudden movement of a herd toward the Barents Sea coast (the summer pastures). Reindeer herders, the local experts of reindeer behavior, usually explain such movement with weather factors, or simply reindeer will, often not wishing to risk any reasonable explanation. Herders well recognize the fact that there are too many variables that may influence a reindeer decision of where to go on a territory which is characterized by relatively short distances between forest and tundra. With an ability to cross distances of up to 30 km a day, the longest distance between winter and summer grazing range in Central Kola is 100 km, while the actual zigzagged span is of roughly 50 kms along the longer axis. Or, in other words, should insect pressure in late summer diminish, and mushrooms ripen in the forest, the deer may go mushrooming there for a few days and then get back to the open tundra in case the pressure resumes.
Given this picture of reindeer movement, the reindeer herders of the right wing prefer to wait for reindeer at camps, with rare forays to the tundra, to see where more sizable fragments may have moved. At each herding camp a few herders stay during the summer, observing how many reindeer would pass nearby. From this vantage point they can check when the more mass-scale migration toward the Iokanga line is to start and the time for autumn corralling may be expected to come.
[Picture 4. Individual animal crossing briefly into the forest zone in mid-August.]
Meanwhile, the main concern of people living in the tundra and the main factor behind human summer movements is berry-picking with pride of place held by the cloudberry (moroshka). Cloudberry's high attractiveness lies in its economic importance, it fetches good prices at the numerous gathering points in Lovozero. A major player that utilizes this sub-arctic resource is the Swedish company Norfrys -- the same that trades in reindeer meat, as we have described in earlier issues. The price at which people can sell cloudberry to the numerous local small middlemen, located at literally each corner of Lovozero in the summer, reached 90 rubles (approximately EUR 2.70) by mid-August. The profitability is increased by the fact that the berries are watery and heavy, i.e. easily
making up "weight". Herders from Brigade 1 of Krasnoshchel'e complained that although cloudberry is abundant this summer, it is more difficult than usual to pick it, because of the late spring frosts damaging the frail white blossoms.
Despite such mishaps the movement of people around the herding camps was mainly subjected to the task of picking as much of the berry as could be transported to the village, where some part went for making preserves, but the greater part was to be sold for instant cash. All the trips of the vezdekhody of the Cooperative, made officially for providing building materials for the ongoing repairs of huts and corrals, were so planned as to utilize the best possible timing for picking and transporting the berries. This included also two helicopter trips, provided by the Forest Preservation Unit (Lesookhrana) sent out to scout for possible forest fires.
While it may seem that picking of berries is not a factor of importance for reindeer herding per se, it is of more direct relation than commonly expected in at least two ways. First of all, because being employed as a herder gives access to more plentiful berry resources than the non-herding residents of Lovozero can enjoy. This also includes free of charge transportation to the village, either by vezdekhod, or more rarely -- by helicopter. Secondly, it is a fringe source of cash, which is not to be ignored given the low salaries paid irregularly by the Cooperative. Finally, it is an occupation that characterizes principally the behavior of herders in August, instead of that role being played by properly herding activities. The fact that the Cooperative leadership condones this state of affairs and tacitly, but effectively supports it, highlights the recognition of the fact that the Cooperative is seen as a community supportive entity over and above any economic rationale propelling its activities.
[Picture 5. Reindeer herders from Brigade 8 alarm us that a person "had run away into the tundra" and got lost in an delirious state after excessive drinking. The occasion was the arriving of two vezdekhody from the village to the herding camp.]
In the first days of August a tragic incident occurred as part of the berry-oriented movements of the herding community. One evening, shortly after our return from the trip to the summer pastures, two reindeer herders from Brigade 8 visited us. They asked us to phone urgently the administration of the Cooperative and raise the alarm that a person had disappeared from Herding Camp 1. As it became clear later, the man was not an employee of "Tundra", but had simply followed his friend, a herder from Brigade 1, possibly with the intention that they collect and sell berries together. To our greatest sorrow, the lost person never turned up in subsequent days and weeks, neither attempts by the herders to find him bore any fruit. The accident was reported to the police, but as herders shared with us, the usual police practice is to send their representative in a helicopter only when a dead-body is eventually discovered. According to the herders, this is the fourth such incident in recent years. By mid-August, the lost person, Alexander Riabkov of Lovozero, 33, was declared lost for good by the herders. "He is as good as buried", they said ("My ego uzhe pokhoronili").
Fieldnews Edition 11 (in English)
31 July 2007
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
[Picture 1. The sun setting over the small Mar'ia Lake at the foothills of Mount Mar'ia Gora.]
In the last decade of July the weather remained unstable. Strong southerly gales alternated quickly with colder northerly winds, the weather changing very rapidly from oppressively hot with temperatures reaching up to + 30 degrees centigrade, to cooler days, with frequent but short rainfalls.
Blood-sucking insects gained finally their full force and their pressure quickly reached culmination. Gradually the midge (moshka) became prominent, besides the mosquitoes, as well as the skin flies pestering the deer. Covering the trek under these conditions became a serious task, especially when boat and rucksacks had to be carried across insect-thick marshland. Our trip in the summer pastures was generally marked by such conditions, with only brief respites on elevated stony ground and wind blowing in our faces. A lot is also to be said about the shelter from rain and insects various herders' cabins provided: at Tichka Corral, the tiny fishing cabin at Mar'ia Lake, and the cabin at Mount Devin Corral.
During this part of the trip we did not register events that would not correspond with the already described pattern of summer grazing of the herds of "Tundra" and "Olenevod" (see previous NOMAD Fieldnews). On our way back, however, we collected data that completed our understanding, adding important details of the behavior of the reindeer in the summer and the impact of humans on it.
We put special attention on the several reindeer herding facilities, such as corrals and fences, that were strewn at intervals along the migration trek route. These "mega-structures", observable in their entirety only from the air, had been erected by "Tundra" and "Olenevod" at various periods of sovkhoz and post-sovkhoz history. We decided to take "pictures" of them by tracing the outlines with GPS in hand, as ordinary photographs could register only separate segments. In addition, the recorded GPS tracing could be situated on computerized maps, which we did at the base camp after return. All of this allowed a fairly precise and detailed picture of how the various mega-structures were situated on the terrain in relation to migration routes. The method provides a good look at the most solid, material presence of human impact on the reindeer herd in a historical perspective and in this way became an important data collecting device in our research activities. In the present difficult and uncertain condition of reindeer herding in the Kola, the existing herding mega-structures provide most valuable data for the researcher of local peoples' changing predictions and perspectives on reindeer behavior and habits, and their ideas and technical solutions about how humans can possibly control them.
[Picture 2. A segment of the fence, controlling the direction of the spring migration of the herd of Brigade 1 of "Olenevod", that goes along Iokanga River. Vladi is mapping the fence with the help of a GPS receiver.]
During this part of summer grazing research we made a second visit to the spring-summer camp of Brigade 1 of Krasnoshchel'e, situated on the right bank of the Iokanga, approximately halfway between Lakes Kalmozero and Mogil'noe. We were eager to see whether their plan for controlled summer grazing had been carried out. Had they managed to turn the tide and stop further getting of their herd out of control? (See Fieldnews 9).
[Picture 3. The living hut of Brigade 1 herding camp at Iokanga River. Cooking stove and oven in the kitchen.]
At Brigade 1 camp, consisting of one solid hut and several auxiliary buildings, we found the brigade leader Nikolai Kanev and the male camp worker, Petr Terentiev as the only inhabitants. The brigade, as it turned out, had left for Krasnoshchel'e in late June, and these two volunteers had remained at the camp to "keep it going", as they said, and also do some repairs: principally renovate the bath hut.
As we learned from Nikolai and Petr, the rest had gone back by the brigade vezdekhod on June 25, after corralling and calf-marking at Mount Devin Corral. After these activities, the herd had been released to roam free for the summer in the general area of Babozero-Enozero and further out to the coast. This meant that the previously stated intentions of the brigade for controlled summer grazing had not materialized. Thus the attempt for resurrecting pre-sovkhoz traditional Komi grazing, we had described at length in Fieldnews 9, had failed. "It did not work out" ("U nas ne poluchilos"), sighed Nikolai.
[Picture 4. "It did not work out" ("U nas ne poluchilos"). Nikolai, the brigade leader, Petr, and Yulian discussing the summer grazing experiment.]
the brigade leader. As we had observed during the previously described driving of the herd across Iokanga River (Fieldnews 9), the reindeer herd in its present state is difficult, even close to impossible, to control with the available human resources of the brigade.
There was also the strong factor, perhaps the most decisive concerning this experiment, of the majority of herders wishing to retain their summer vacation of two months, and especially avoiding spending "empty July" in the tundra. The berries would ripen only in mid-to-late August, fish was pointless to catch as it was difficult to keep even salted in hot weather, there was no meat as the herd was far away. Thus the "sovkhoz tradition" of having summer holidays like all other state employees was difficult to depart from. "Going back to our grandfathers ways", as Vas'ka Kanev, the brigade leader's brother, had so much wished for the brigade to achieve, had proved not possible, or at least for this summer.
We had to conclude that controlled summer grazing had proved to be an impossible task even with the best of intentions of the leaders of the brigade. Apart from other factors, perhaps the problematic fording of the Iokanga in June (Fieldnews 9) had contributed to demoralize the majority of herders, convincing them that important skills and habits had been irretrievably lost during the sovkhoz period. "Monkey's labor" ("martishkin trud") was the curt comment of one of the herders after the fording. He found it utterly pointless to try to do something the deer had being doing by themselves for so long.
There was some good news though. Nikolai and Petr described how with controlled spring grazing of the brigade herd, lasting till late June, more deer than usual had stayed for the summer in areas closer to the spring pastures, in the region between the upper reaches of rivers Tichka and Elvan. Around 20 July they had spotted small clusters and individual animals in the same area, as we also did after them.
Coming closer to the Iokanga line and to the periphery of the forest zone in the last decade of July, we noticed that mushrooms had begun sprouting in the birch forests. The appearance of mushrooms is a very important event in the seasonal cycle of the reindeer, apart from our own delight for the chance to add to our pretty basic diet. Mushrooms are one of the critical sources of the protein, which reindeer need to consume in late summer and autumn, stocking up for the long winter months. The appearance of mushrooms, principally of the Boletus species, (krasnogolviki and podosinoviki) was a sure sign that once insect pressure let up a bit, the migration would turn back to the forests. It has to be
[Picture 5. A female deer staying in the spring pastures during the whole summer. Such deer periodically would search stony ground and wind exposed hills for respite from insects. These "non-migrators" are consequently the first to utilize the first mushrooms, appearing towards the end of July.]
reiterated though, that despite high insect activity in the second half of July, we met occasional reindeer that had evidently remained on the close to forest side of the Iokanga river -- i.e. they had not bothered to migrate out into the tundra at all.
We expect that "early deer", coming from the tundra, would become more and more frequent during the first half of August, before the mass-scale autumn migration take place in its second half. A zig-zag migration is also to be expected, when temporary relief from insects brings forward deer from the tundra, but once insect-pressure, especially from flies goes up, the clusters turn back. The August "zig-zags" can be expected to draw a fairly segmented and complicated migration pattern.
Satellite phone link with the NOMAD Field Station
The station has the use of a Globaltel satellite phone through which we can be accessed by e-mail messages to the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fieldnews Edition 10 (in English)
20 July 2007
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
[Picture 1. In the second half of July fully fledged wild ducklings become a frequent sight in the Iokanga river-lake system.]
On 5 July, after some delay, caused by infrastructural problems discussed in the previous issue (NOMAD 9), we could finally set off in the direction of the summer pastures of the right wing of SKhPK "Tundra", as well as those of Brigades 1 and 3 of "Olenevod". The trip was to be conducted mainly by boat, which was to be portaged when crossing from the Iokanga into the Enozero river-lake system. Apart from a five and a half meter long inflatable canoe "Severianka" we had a small tent and some basic equipment. All of this composed what could be called the non-snow surface unit of the NOMAD research station. Short of using helicopters or track vehicles, it was the next best device capable of providing the high mobility necessary for the objective we had before us. This was to monitor the grazing range in the direction of the Barents Sea coast for seeing how the deer were faring in a situation of quickly intensifying blood-sucking insect pressure. A number of related research tasks were connected with herding activities as well as other forms of human impact on the fragmented herd.
Because of the new regulations of the Russian Federation, increasing the restricted border area of the country to 25 km, as well as the presence of military installations in this off-limits zone all along the Barents Sea coast, we had to limit our movements sufficiently far from the coast itself. Our transport opportunities were also limited to the use of boat and our own feet, which also put constrains on our route.
Preparations for this trip were made during a previous journey (in the middle of June), when part of the necessary equipment was stored in the currently little used Tichka corral base, situated where River Tichka flows into the Iokanga. After setting off from base camp Ketkozero we confronted very strong winds on the shallow but fairly big Kalmozero Lake. A forced camping on the southern bank delayed us for a couple of days. By 8 July we made the Tichka camp. From there we continued up the Tichka towards Mount Diovin and further on to Lakes Babozero and Enozero.
During the boat trips regular stops were made, aiming at observation of the surrounding coastal areas for reindeer. Several longer trips on foot were also undertaken, inspecting areas that are at a larger distance from the lakes, and could not be reached by boat.
In this manner we could observe a fairly close to the ground picture of the summer grazing pattern of the central Kola herd. Our presence in these fairly remote territories was also useful for assessing the impact of human activities that reached this far out.
[Picture 2. Map of the summer pastures of the right wing of "Tundra" and of "Olenevod".]
[Picture 3. After a night at Lake Tichka, we continued the trip on foot in the direction of Mount Devin and the summer pastures.]
In the first decade of July the weather was colder than the expected for the season. Insects were innumerous till the middle of the month, when the weather finally became warmer and an impetuous insect activity started.
By that time most of the reindeer had moved in the open tundra, where the large open areas on low hills, blown by frequent winds, provide worse life-conditions for insect. On our way we saw separate animals and smaller groups or fresh traces of such in those areas, despite our own feelings of despair at certain favorable moments, when nevertheless clouds of mosquitoes were attacking us.
[Picture 4. A simple corral structure with carcasses of two portable dwellings (chum) close to Babozero Lake. According to herders' evidence, parts of the herd of Brigade 1 of Krasnoshchel'e did not move to the coast and was grazed in that area during Soviet time. This new tandra (corral) is an attempt for the resumption of the pattern.]
Our observations from the first half of the NOMAD summer trip (5-20 July) outline the following pattern of the summer grazing of reindeer. The herd is in its most fragmented state. Small clusters and often individual animals are strewn far and wide over the large territory, roughly defined by Tichka on the south-western side, and, ultimately, the
Barents Sea coast to the north-east. At the same time, we could establish also that small clusters and individual animals had remained to the south-west of the Tichka-Iokanga line. These are mainly the swamps and sparse birch groves at the foot of the low Magazin Musiur Range and the low elevations towards Mounts Maria and Isakievskii Sobor. Still, the usual pattern according to which the density of animals is higher closer to the sea coast and decreases progressively as we go south-west towards the forest zone is well evident.
[Picture 5. A lonely deer is pickily choosing titbits in one of the endless swamps that surround the lake chain Babozero-Enozero. Signs of molting are well seen on the flanks and back.]
Despite constant rumors, coming from herders, of poachers and tourists that roam the summer pastures and disturb the summer grazing of the reindeer herd, we did not meet or see anyone during the whole trip. Neither did we see any traces of other humans' activity, apart from those left by reindeer herders around the various corrals and fences. While this is not a proof that activities of "outsiders" are to be ruled out in these parts, it questions alleged frequency and negative effects, often circulated among the herding community.
A further aspect of the situation is related to the very problematic and costly transport opportunities for tundra travel during the summer. Almost all available vezdekhods for renting in the region are known, and most of the vezdekhod-roads pass through or close to the camps of herders. Having in mind the noise that the machines make, it is almost impossible that an externals' intrusion in the tundra remains unnoticed by herders. Long research in the region confirms this observation. The same is also valid for outboard-engined dinghies.. On meeting the herders of Brigade 1 of "Olenevod" later in July, they confirmed that they had not seen or heard of any external presence in the wide area we had been trekking. The largely discussed during previous conversations tourists, they asserted, were to be expected only towards the end of the month and especially later in August, when the weather was drier and warmer for paddlers.
Satellite phone link with the NOMAD Field Station
The station has the use of a Globaltel satellite phone through which we can be accessed by e-mail messages to the following address: email@example.com
Fieldnews Edition 9 (in English)
20 June 2007
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
The first three weeks of June the weather was cold with a prevailing northeasterly wind. There were only about two days with some sunshine and temperatures higher than 10°C. The spring development of the flora and fauna was slower than usual. The good side of this was that blood-sucking insects did not become any real bother till the very end of the month.
The various reindeer fragments in our sector of observation did not have much reason to leave the abundant grounds on the fringe of the forest zone, using the warmer parts of the day to graze in the nearby swamps. Thus, those fragments that had not already passed into the open tundra had ceased migrating activities for the moment. In addition to the fresh weather, lush greenery and absence of insects, they were reluctant to cross lakes and rivers with their still high waters.
[Picture 1. Vezdekhod-drivers, workers, and herders of Cooperative "Tundra" on a fishing trip to Kalmozero Lake.]
By early June the reindeer herders of the right wing of "Tundra" had considered their job around the spring migration and calving already completed. Brigade 8 spent the first decade of the month waiting for the brigade vezdekhod that should take them back to the village of Lovozero. Because of the chronically bad condition of this vehicle, the waiting continued for more than two weeks.
Meanwhile, part of the herders lost patience and preferred to organize their return journey by themselves. Two reindeer herders left on draft deer and sledge. Their route from the Kolmiavr Base was to the Voronia River Ford, a little to the north of Lovozero. The draft bucks were to be released at that place and could migrate freely towards the Barents Sea coast. Using mobile phones, functional at this distance from the village (but not much beyond) the herders mobilized friends and relatives in the village to organize van transport for them and thus complete the last part of the trip, some 30 km from the overall distance of 110. Draft deer thus offer chances for autonomous trips, but, at the same time the option is not without its risks. Close to the village the draft bucks are an easy target for poachers. A driving sledge also offers very restricted possibilities for carrying heavy loads of meat and fish from tundra to village. In this respect the vezdekhod is the incomparably superior vehicle, despite its fragile state and unpredictable timing.
The long awaited vezdekhod at last arrived on 10 June, having covered the distance from Lovozero in a week. That the journey was so long was due, apart from the poor state of the machine, to the salvaging of the Brigade 9 vezdekhod. This machine had sunk on a previous trip when fording Chernaia Rechka River
[Picture 2. The controlled herd of 1 500 head, which Brigade 1 of Krasnoshchel'e collected and drove from River Rova to the Iokanga.]
After a short rest and a fishing trip to Kalmozero Lake, the brigade vezdekhod left back to Lovozero on 20 June. The base was left to the care of Ivan, a younger herder, his wife Galia and their two daughters (Fieldnews 7). An older herder, "Uncle Vasia" (Vasilii Khatanzei) and two old-age pensioners had also decided to stay there for the summer. One of these latter, "Uncle Vovka," had his two grandsons with him, the young boys having arrived on the epical journey of the vezdekhod. This legendary vehicle is expected to bring back building materials and workers on 7-8 July, for planned repairs of the base log cabins. Until this coming of the vehicle, the residents' task is to "keep the base going". No herding activities are planned till the autumn.
With the end of the spring migration and calving for the biggest part of the reindeer herd of "Tundra", and with the departing of the herders, we felt that we had also completed our task for this spring, at least regarding "Tundra" herding activities. But, at the same time, the neighboring location of the territory of Brigade 8, which we observe, and the mixing of reindeer between the right wing of "Tundra" and "Olenevod" on it, had posed new questions and tasks on our research agenda.
[Picture 3. Vasilii Kanev, leader of Brigade 1, is boat-tugging his sledge deer, after the brigade herd had finally forded the Iokanga.]
Our interest towards the herding activities of the neighboring Brigade 1 of "Olenevod" was also raised by the many suggestions and plans, which herders from this brigade had shared with us at an occasional meeting in Lovozero in March and in the tundra in May. The stated intention of the brigade was to collect as much of its herd as possible and try to control it during the entire summer. This, we thought, might become a significant event in Kola herding practices, an attempt to restore all year round controlled herding, practically fully abandoned since the mid-1970s.
[Picture 4. To be able to drive their herd to the Iokanga and ford it on 18 June, the Krasnoshchel'e herders had to camp under the open sky for the previous fortnight.]
So far, in our sector of observation, i.e. the area between the Keivi Ridge and the Barents Sea Coast, an aggregate herd, in which the reindeer of many brigades had roamed mixed, for many decades had met with only minimal, but harsh interference from humans. Apart from poaching forays, this consisted mainly in increasingly late round-ups in counting-harvesting corrals. This year was no exception in this regard as round ups at Belaia Golovka again ended only towards the end of March.
In the second decade of June we undertook a vezdekhod journey to the main herding base of Brigade 1 of Krasnoshchel'e, located on the right bank of River Iokanga. Our efforts to cover the distance during this time of high waters of the year, complicated further by the unfavorable weather, proved to be worth making. We met the herders of Brigade 1 in the midst of an important and delicate herding operation: driving their herd across River Iokanga, towards Mount Devin Corral Base. As we learnt from them, they had controlled the migration movement of that herd of about 1 500 head from the lower reaches of River Rova to the swamps around Tichka Corral Base. With calving occurring about 18 May they had subsequently moved the herd along the vezdehod track from Tichka Corral to their Iokanga Base Camp and the swamps on the eastern side of Magazin Musiur Ridge.
The task to drive the herd to the other side of Iokanga had proved to be extremely hard. Matters were complicated by the large number of calves in the herd, because of which the female deer were reluctant to swim across the deep and fast flowing waters of the river. The steep banks of the patch of the river, chosen for fording, posed further difficulties. Finally, the weather conditions did not favor the operation too. Nevertheless, with persistence and a number of skillfully completed steps, the herders finally succeeded to drive the herd across the river, but only on the third day of a long succession of futile attempts. According to plan, the herd should be corralled toward June 20 at Mount Devin, and the calves marked.
Our journey to Brigade 1 of Krasnoshchel'e bore abundant fruit. What we observed and learnt from interviews with the herders proved that their latest herding practices have come as a deliberate effort for a serious departure from the current state of Kola herding.
Thus, practices abandoned during late sovkhoz time, i.e. since the end of 1970s, were attempted to be discontinued. Brigade 1 demonstrated before our eyes a serious attempt,
[Picture 5. The return to controlled herding poses serious challenges for the herders: the female deer, forced to swim across Iokanga with their month-old calves, felt great stress. Mothers and calves were losing each other in the created chaos, and were swimming back and forth in search of each other.]
a step from a recent series of such, to restore full annual control over their brigade herd. As we learned from Vasilii Kanev, a leader with great authority in the team, they had begun to resume tight controlling of their herd since last summer. Their effort constitutes a very significant departure from existing methods and is to be considered a most significant turning point in recent developments.
Fully controlled herding, or herding "by our grandfathers' methods" (dedovskim sposobom, in Vasilii's words) is already showing a migration profile sharply different from that of the very "liberally" treated Lovozero right side herds. On both sides of the fence dividing Brigade 1 of Krasnoshchel'e from its immediate northern neighbor, Lovozero's Brigade 8 (see issue No 8), the reindeer are behaving differently. The herd of Brigade 1 has yielded, albeit reluctantly, to the suddenly imposed control, a process far from smooth so far, as we saw and herders agreed. Brigade 8 from the "Tundra" side has continued with what may be called "fully uncontrolled herding", following the "late sovkhoz" tradition.
In this situation we are faced with the task of following two sharply different profiles of what had so far been uniform migrating behavior. The "restorative" pattern of the herders of "Olenevod" presented its own demands, while the "late sovkhoz system" of the right side of "Tundra" produced an extreme fragmentation of the migrating reindeer. Consequently, the first three months of the work of the NOMAD Field Station have been marked by efforts to follow two different, but immediately adjacent responses of reindeer to human intervention.
[Picture 6. The approximate track, which Brigade 1 of „Olenevod" passed with its herd in the period 1-18 June, 2007.]
Fieldnews Edition 8 (in English)
1 June 2007
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
May is one of the most dynamic months of the year in the Kola in terms of weather conditions. When it begins, winter still dominates, towards its end, temperatures may reach up to +20°C and buds on the branches of the birch trees are growing fast, soon to open.
An equally dynamic rhythm can be observed in the life-cycle of the reindeer herd. An important succession of events occurs in May. Its beginning is marked by the annual migratory movement away from the forest and towards the tundra zone. In the second half the most important event of the reproductive cycle occurs, calving.
[Picture 1. Reindeer swimming across Ketkozero. May 29, 2007.]
[Picture 2. A fragment of 250 head passing on the last ice of lake Ketkozero, a day before the lake opened fully on May 15, 2007. A northeasterly wind is blowing sidewise from the northeast (right side of the picture).]
As we watch the herd at this time, it continues to follow the same migration pattern as described in the previous two issues: fragments of varying size are passing across the line of the Iokanga river-lake system. Weather conditions are one of the primary factors shaping this movement, wind direction being most important. The fragments are prone to move across the Iokanga line when the wind comes from the north or northeast. With such wind it either blows directly in the face of a migrating column, or comes at an angle from their left side as they move (see Picture 2).
The herders always stress this point saying that the reindeer would never go but against the wind. The general direction of the migration, from southwest to northeast, is imprinted in the numerous reindeer paths with which the migrating columns have marked the trek since times immemorial.
[Picture 3. The same column as in the previous picture climbing Vas'ka Gora, a 304 m high hill, rising above Ketkozero Lake. All reindeer groups consistently follow the same paths and roads, clearly imprinted on the terrain. No calves are as yet seen with this mainly female group on 14 May.]
Compared to the previous month, in May we have observed an increase in the number of reindeer fragments passing across the Iokanga line on their way to the Barents Sea coast. In the second decade of May the head of this movement had gone some 60 to 70 km to the northeast of the line and was grazing in the area between the upper parts of rivers Pina and Sidorovka. By mid May this spearhead part of the herd had reached as far out as the Sidorovka hill, deep into the open tundra zone (see map in Picture 4).
At the same time, groups of deer are still seen in the territory close to the Iokanga line, on both of its sides. The migration to the open tundra is thus showing a considerable spread over time and distance. While the head of the composite herd of the right side of "Tundra" has moved into open tundra pastures already at the beginning of May, the middle and tail end, consisting of fragments of varying size, is spread all along the intervening distance to the forest zone. We may expect that fragments shall be passing across the Iokanga line all through June with buck fragments lagging behind even into July. Thus, the final stage of this migratory movement may be expected to end only when the impact of bloodsucking insects reaches its full force in July.
The calving of reindeer in the Kola is known to take place in the period between the middle of April and the middle of June, peaking in mid May. The length of the period, however, as well as the dates of the culmination of calving, when at least 80% of all females are giving birth in a couple of days, may considerably vary. What we have seen this year suggests a considerable spread of calving, beginning with births in late April. Another feature which is becoming noticeable is that it is difficult to speak of a peak at all: numerous fragments have shown little or no presence of calves till the end of May. Only one very small female fragment that we saw showed anything like a peak state: seven does with six calves were spotted on the northern side of lake Oreshka. The date was 24 May. This fragment was too small, however, for any general conclusions to be drawn.
Following a pattern, which we have observed during previous fieldwork, the reindeer herders of the right wing of "Tundra" appeared in the spring migration territories only by the second decade of May. About that time two senior herders from Brigades 8 and a young herder from Brigade 1 undertook a short journey on snow scooters to the open tundra. With snow cover rapidly receding and one scooter badly damaged, this party had to hurry to get back to base while using the machines was still possible. Back to base by18 May, their activities were limited to locating the herd and observing its movements in the area Lake Pinozero to Sidorovka Hill (see map in Picture 4).
[Picture 4. The Iokanga River, Pina River and Sidorovka River lines.]
By 20 May the main part of herders of Brigade 8 had gathered at their Lake Kolmiavr camp. Two older herders are taking care of the sledge deer, kept in the surrounding swamps. Another pair are busy fishing in the rich Ketkozero Lake. The movement of small groups of deer on the southwestern side of Iokanaga is also followed, and some occasional subsistence hunting carried out. The brigade all-terrain vehicle is expected to arrive any day now, bringing planks and other materials for repairing the main cabin of the base. The arrival of the vezdehod is eagerly looked for, because the brigade leader with the senior herders are planning to go back to Lovozero on the return journey and enjoy their official annual leave. Thus, as far as the herders are concerned, the reindeer may consider activities targeting them to be over soon. The rapidly fragmenting herd shall thus be free to roam unchecked in the open tundra, on its way to the Barents Sea coast.
While "Tundra" right wing brigades, No 1, 2, and 8, have shown little interest in calving or calf-marking activities, the adjacent Brigades No 1 and 3 of the neighboring cooperative "Olenevod" (of Krasnoshchel'e) have indicated a determination to gather their herd and control it during the summer. As the migration refers to what has formed in the last decade as a composite "Olenevod"-"Tundra" herd, our task was to see how its Krasnoshchel'e part was faring. Consequently, we carried out a survey of a length of the fence dividing the two former state enterprises during the current period. We followed the fence from its beginning in the lower reaches of the river Rova, to the foothills of Isakievski Sobor hill (353 m). This trip was made from 24 till 28 May.
The fence was recently repaired and was working effectively, by what we could see. We located at least three fragments of 30 to 50 head each looking in vain for an opening in the fence, so they could follow the general southwest-to-northeast migration. No calves were to be seen with these fragments, although at one spot we came across a recently thrown placenta. The does that we saw were still wearing their antlers though -- a sign they had not given birth yet.
[Picture 5. A placenta, which a female deer has thrown after giving birth. The place is a reindeer herd path along the fence, dividing the spring pastures of cooperatives "Tundra" and "Olenevod". 25 May, 2007.]
The station has the use of a Globaltel satellite phone through which we can be accessed by e-mail messages to the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fieldnews Edition 7 (in English)
10 May 2007
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
[Picture 1. With snow cover rapidly receding, the all-terrain vehicle (vezdekhod) shall soon become the main vehicle that can travel between village and tundra camps.]
The herders told us that they were preparing for the start of calving activities. They were to search for the "main herd" in the open tundra towards the Barents Sea coast. This, however, was not to be. Instead, the herders engaged in hunting activities on small segments of the herd roaming in the swamps close to the base camp.
This move was dictated by the prevailing transport conditions. The quickly disappearing snow cover presented the last chances for this year to use snow-scooters for chasing easily and hunting the reindeer, and for transporting reindeer carcasses to the village.
Consequently, the migrating herd began to experience hunting pressure from two directions. On the one hand, there was poaching by urban hunters which we reported in our previous issue. On the other, the herders wishing to use last opportunities for augmenting domestic private economies before thawing, also stepped up the pressure.
After four days of hunting the elite herders of the brigade, having acted as hunters, left for the village. The first ten days of May are marked by two state holidays: the First of May, Labour Day, and the Ninth of May, Victory Day. The two great holidays open up opportunities for continuous celebrations for a week -- an event not to be missed. With the 'top ranks' of the brigade gone to the village, the base was left in the care of two lower-position herders: an old-age pensioner, and recent member of the brigade, as well as the youngest herder - Ivan, who had brought his family along.
Ivan and his wife Galina were planning to stay all through the summer at the base camp. Galina had been given a temporary contract as camp cook (chumrabotnitsa). Ivan and Galia's two little girls are for the first time in the tundra together with their parents. They are happily watching the TV, which the vezdekhod had brought for their stay in the tundra during the summer. Vladimir Chuprov, the older herder, who has been acting as a guard at the brigade base during the winter, is sharing the fascination of the youngsters for the TV.
[Picture 2. "Uncle" Vovka watching TV at Base 8 with Polina and Tania.]
The hunting activities of reindeer herders resulted in some change in the location of the herd segments that we are monitoring. Toward the end of April they were slowly advancing towards the opening swamps and low hills on the southwestern banks of the lakes Kolmiavr, Ketkozero, and Kalmozero, and the stretches of River Iokanga that join them (see Nomad 6). Between 5-10 May we noticed that the fragments were dislodged from that area and have passed the Iokanga line to the northeast of the Iokanga river-lake system.
[Picture 3. The Iokanga River line is an important geographical boundary: on 5 May the winter is still in its full power in the open tundra to the Northeast of the river. Flocks of tundra partridges are associated with grazing herd fragments, making use of the undergrowth that the deer open up.]
The monitored segments are now roaming in the area between the sources of rivers Tichka and El'van (El' rechka). The white, snow-covered low hills and spacious swamp-land, covered by low shrub and dwarf birch, provide a wide field of view for the reindeer, which can protect themselves more effectively here from predators and humans. At the same time, this region provides worse grazing conditions for the reindeer than the hills and swamps on the southwestern banks of the Iokanga lake-river system offer, where sizable snowless patches are increasingly forming. In the open tundra the reindeer are forced to dig through the hard snow crust.
[Picture 4. Craters for lichen and moss in the open tundra, to the northeast of the Iokanga lake-river system.]
While checking the location of the reindeer segments on May, 7th, our team met a representative of another tundra species, interested in the herd, a bear. This usual reindeer predator has become already active after the period of winter hibernation, and is carefully monitoring the location of the herd, too. Its activity is only one more reason for the monitored segments to prefer the open tundra for calving, where they feel safe.
[Picture 5. The location of the monitored segments of the herd.]
[Picture 6. The bear, alarmed by our snowscooters, is running for cover towards the forested hills.]
While some fragments have already passed into the open tundra, other segments of the herd are still located to the southwest of the Iokanga line and are not hurrying to pass it. The lakes and rivers are opening more and more daily. To check the movements of these "southwestern" fragments shall be our next task.
Fieldnews Edition 6 (in English)
3 May 2007
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
[Picture 1, no caption]
Toward the end of April the migration continues along the already described pattern: small groups of deer slowly advance from the Keivi Ridge towards the basin of River Iokanga, following a general SW to NE direction. Till the first days of May these groups are using the increasingly open, southern looking patches along the right side of the Iokanga Basin, hesitant to cross the lakes or the river itself.
It has to be mentioned at this point that the weather conditions of late winter-early spring have been rather special. March was a month of rising temperatures and early thawing, while April was much colder. In early May it is still one or two degrees above zero during the day, and minus five to ten during the night. Snow cover during the winter was generally thinner. Early spring is thus characterized with an abundance of snowless patches, especially on the southern sides of hills, while lower ground has retained a hard snowy crust. All of this makes movement of herds fairly easy, while grazing of shrub and lichen immediately below the Keivi Ridge is abundant. This may explain to a considerable degree why the herd is so fragmented. The other side of this is all-year free grazing and late corralling. Availability of open patches also explain why the animals are not seeking yet the open tundra to the NE beyond the Iokanga. In this light, and contrary to assertions of herders during this and previous fieldwork that "the herd is eager to escape to the Barents Sea coast as early as possible", we cannot see that the fragmented herd is quickly advancing. It rather moves in a slow step, keeping to the good pastures that opening swamps and low hills present.
[Picture 2. Predators are only one of the parties, interested in the reindeer herd in the spring territory in April. An wolverine (rosomakha) tracks along Ketkozero Lake.]
A further reason for the present pattern of the migration may be seen in the relieved human pressure in the region in the second half of April. As described in previous issues, the reindeer herding brigades have devoted their attention to Belaia Golovka (an area approximately 70 to 100 km to the NW), where some minor herding activities are still being conducted on two segments of the herd, and, secondly -- to the village of Lovozero, where the main parts of right wing brigades are still positioned. April, a good month for getting to the tundra, especially this year, is thus traditionally used for village-centered activities, as preparation to getting to the camp. This is the medical check-up (medosmotr), loading up with products for the summer (otovarka), as well as recreational and family activities after the March round ups.
The leaders of Brigades 1 and 8 have spent the second decade of the month scouting over the right wing summer pastures, close to the Barents Sea coast, and searching for groups of deer, allegedly roaming there. The purpose of their journey has been explained to us as a last desperate attempt of Cooperative "Tundra" to collect and drive into the corral, and subsequently to the slaughter house in Lovozero, some more reindeer. The annual meat plan of the enterprise has been under-fulfilled: thousands of heads, planned for slaughter, could not be provided by herders this winter. The mission of the leaders to find a fragment with which to augment the situation has proved fruitless, as we learned later. Vladimir (Vovka) Khatanzei, leader of Brigade 8 said there were no deer to be seen. Instead, close to the ancient summer settlement (pogost) of Varzino they met two persons on snow scooters. "They must have been looking for some lake to buy", Vovka concluded. The topic of a growing number of rich city persons from Murmansk and the south appropriating or renting parts of the tundra, formerly an undisputed herders' territory, is increasingly being circulated at camps and with great bitterness. Outsiders are coming into the territory.
Our team witnessed an accident that put into focus such other actors' interest in the reindeer herd.
[Picture 3. While reindeer herders are away from the spring pastures, regrouping their forces in Lovozero, "bear hunters" take advantage of the migrating herd.]
Following the large herd that we could locate with great effort near River Rova (see NOMAD Fieldnews 5), eager to monitor its movements, on April 24 we heard and then saw a group of five snowmobiles, heading in the general direction of Maria Gora. Looking through the binoculars we saw them on foreign new looking machines, with hunting rifles on their shoulders. As only licenses for bears can be given at this time of the year we decided they were on a bear hunt. Judging by the new and expensive machines they most probably were city persons. Whether they saw us or not was impossible to establish, but in any case they did not stop and continued with great speed on their way.
[Picture 4. Alcohol drinking is an essential part of the "male entertainment" of hunting. Note the ears have been cut off, which prevents identification by ear-marks.]
Suspecting that the hunters would meet "our" herd, we decided to follow their trek. Despite own experience and the gruesome local stories of the cruelties of poaching, we still felt a chill at the view of a freshly killed female reindeer that suddenly appeared at the side of the hunters' trek.
The problem of poaching has always been a part of the reindeer herding situation in the Kola Peninsula, not in the last place as an important part of the discourse of herding. As underlined many times in earlier works, however, its importance is multi-dimensional. While poachers of reindeer, in the common sense of the word, have always existed, the phenomenon of poaching has been of greater weight as a symbolic designation and explanation of the ever increasing process if hidden privatization of the cooperative herds by reindeer herders themselves. Not less considerable is its function to focus and define "evil" in a society undergoing transformation and economic difficulties. Growing poaching in post-Soviet reality illustrates "evil" as unbridled and cruel capitalist appropriation, qualifying negatively economic and political "pro-market" changes.
[Picture 5. The killed female deer was to give a birth in a week or so.]
The problem of poaching has been transferred to a new level of importance during 2005, when the hunting authorities in the region suddenly turned their attention to reindeer. They publicly accused the two reindeer herding enterprises, SKhPK "Tundra" and "Olenevod" in putting marks of ownership and slaughtering in their winter corrals wild reindeer, a resource that officially belongs to the state. The accusation was based on a regulation from the 1970s, according to which all adult reindeer that have no ear-marks are to be considered wild. The contra-argument of the reindeer herding cooperatives, based on the assertion that domestic and wild reindeer can easily be recognized by a number of differences in their exterior, could not help in the debate.
The consequence of the appearance of the state controlling agency (Rossel'khoznadzor) as a major new stakeholder has resulted in a swiftly mounting hunting pressure on the cooperative herds. The main problem of "Tundra" and "Olenevod" is also a result of the present system of herding: because of the absence of calving and spring corralling with marking of calves, as well as the unsuccessful winter corrals, many reindeer that rightfully belong to the cooperatives are left without earmarks and can thus be claimed by hunters as wild deer. The pressure is very much encouraged by the policy of the current leader of the hunting inspectorate in Lovozero, who is eager to sell ever more reindeer hunting licenses.
The outlined changes point out to the claim of new economic actors with interest in reindeer. Until now domesticated and, unofficially, the greater part of wild reindeer used to be an exclusive resource of the cooperatives. The currently developing situation shows new ways of impact of state agencies (in this case the hunting inspectorate) on reindeer herding in the Kola. A further interest in the case is important, because of its potential to transform reindeer herding back to a more control-bound herding methods, a change that previous efforts could not achieve.
We have reported this incident to Lovozero Rayon authorities, responsible for Kola Nature preservation. We have yet to see what the consequences of this move shall be.
Text and photographs:
Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
NOMAD Blog and Forum
Fieldnews Edition 5 (in English)
April 28, 2007
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
As reported in the previous issue, the herd in the vicinity of Belaia Golovka, has been showing clear signs of desire to move toward the open tundra since mid- April. Reindeer herders, living at Belaia Corral Camp, have managed, so far, to keep the herd there. While following this operation we have become aware that a much greater number of deer are moving unchecked towards the open tundra. As herders have reported, only two round-ups have been realized at Belaia this season, thus leaving a considerable number of uncounted deer roaming freely. In fragments of varying size this part is currently moving from the forest zone along the Keivi Ridge towards the Iokanga, or following a general NW to SE direction. This movement is becoming more and more noticeable with each passing day. We have thus faced a choice whether to stay on with the controlled fragments at Belaia, or move to connect with the greater mass migrating towards the Iokanga. We decided to follow the latter course of action. We thus left the skeleton crew of herders at Belaia who continued their controlling efforts.
[Picture 1, no caption]
[Picture 2: Herders are helping the NOMAD team to pack its "office" before leaving Belaia Golovkka]
Following our decision we trekked in the direction of Isakievskii Sobor, one of the more prominent elevations on the Keivi Ridge. We had to move fast as the snow cover has been disappearing rapidly. The trek along Efimozero proved to be especially problematic: in its upper part melted surface water had accumulated under the snow and scooters and sleds sunk into sludge several times. The team could continue its trip after several such accidents only thanks to the expert help of the technical assistant of the NOMAD project, Evgenii (Zhenia) Nikonchik.
[Picture 3. Evgenii Nikonchik (Zhenia), the technical assistant of the NOMAD project, is happy after managing to get the snow scooters and sleds going after crashing into surface sludge at Efimozero.]
Contact with the first fragment of the migrating herd was made on April, 23. About 150 in size, it had come from the forest zone down to where Iokanga flows out of Ketkozero and after a little distance joins the big Kalmozero Lake. The difficult terrain made our movement difficult, posing risks for machines as large snowless parts of swamps had to be crossed. Trying to use snow cover where we could find it, we located the tracks of the bigger herd. The deer had crossed the huge swamps between Maria Gora and Isakievskii Sobor and were grazing along the lower part of River Rova, where it flows into Kalmozero. By all visible signs, like traces and animals we could see, the herd seems to be around 1 000 head strong, but this figure is only very approximate. Other parts coming behind it could swell numbers considerably.
All the evidence we collected during our journeys in the spring territories of the right wing points in one direction. There is no stable reindeer herd in the right wing territories of SKhPK "Tundra". Instead, many groups of deer roam the winter pastures or move toward the open tundra. Occasionally, such groups integrate into a bigger formation ("herd"), but such formations are rarely stable for a longer period of time. Such events, as we have witnessed during previous fieldwork, happen once in several years, the last time we have seen a big and stable formation (approx. 2000 head) being in the spring of 2003.
[Picture 4. April 23: We found the herd. spread in a small forest on two opposite banks of the frozen Rova River.]
This segmented state of the composite inter-brigade herd (see note below) has been reported to have lasted during the whole last winter, posing great difficulties for herders to contact and round up deer. For this reason, for a second year running there have been no harvesting/ counting round ups at Porosozero Corral. As said above, Belaia also saw as little as only two corrallings this season both of them as late as March.
Note: This composite herd consists of previous brigade herds No 1,2,8 and 9 ("Tundra"), and herds 1 and 3 of "Olenevod" of Krasnoshchel'e.
Text and photographs: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
NOMAD Blog und Forum
Fieldnews Edition 4 (in English)
April 22, 2007
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
The NOMAD expedition is successfully following its agenda: studying the annual migration of one of the right wing reindeer herds of SKhPK "Tundra" and the herding activities around it.
The herd, guarded by few reindeer herders at Belaia Golovka is showing clear signs of desire to migrate from the forest to the more open tundra zone of the Peninsula. The herders' task to keep the herd near the corral camp is becoming more difficult. The behavior of the reindeer is following the seasonal rhythm; it is barely a month from the peak of calving and there are clear signs of spring all around. As a result of the growing temperature, accompanied with short drizzles, the snow is disappearing quickly from the southern looking locations, leaving open patches of lichen and dwarf birch. Where the snow cover still holds it is hard and stable, after innumerable freezing and thawing. Temperatures fall to minus 3-5 during the night and rise to a few degrees plus during the day. The crust (nast) is of large-grained snow, strong enough to bear the weight of a person or a reindeer. The uppermost layer of ice on the lakes melts in patches during the day -- a clear sign that the lakes are going to open during the next two to four weeks, depending on weather conditions. Parts of rivers have already opened.
[Picture 1. One of the first reliable signs of the coming spring: crust has formed on the surface of the snow, and people, sledges, and animals can walk on it without difficulty.]
Herders have reported the beginning of the spring migration in the right wing of "Tundra". The first fragments of the composite herd have been noticed a couple of days ago grazing in the area of the lakes Kolmiavr-Ketkozero-Kalmozero (the spring pastures of Brigades 1 and 8). The herders could not point to the exact location in the forest zone from which these segments had moved. They, however, assured us that more and more deer are going to appear in the wide area between Porosozero in the NW and Kalmozero in the SW, preparatory to crossing the river Iokanga line and continuing on their way to the Barents Sea coast. Some of the females are expected to give birth once beyond the Iokanga, before moving further towards the coast.
[Picture 2. Herders are now stricter in monitoring the location of the herd. Vasilii Khatanzei (Brigade 8) is returning on his sled from a daily visit to the herd.]
There is no clear indication yet how long the reindeer herd shall be kept in the vicinity of Belaia Golovka corral camp. As it seems now, the few herders, representatives of Brigades 1, 2, and 8, have a hard job in keeping the impatient herd in check. This creates a great uncertainty as to when the migration of these fragments of the herd may take place. It can be expected that it may happen suddenly and any moment, at the first possibility for escape that the reindeer find, as we have seen during fieldwork in previous years.
[Picture 3. Assisting the herders with the snowmobiles of the team. Photo: Vladimir Chuprov.]
The hard crust of the open tundra, a favorable wind blowing from the sea, and the absence of human control during the night can offer a good chance for escape. From the deer's point of view human chances for successful control are diminishing with each day. More and more open spaces are appearing as the wind sucks up the snow. Chasing the herd over dry ground and stones places snowmobiles at risk, while reindeer-drawn sleds are too slow for the task. An additional push factor is the danger of the Iokanga river fully opening up before the pregnant females get across. The deer have to use every possibility to move forward fast.
According to herders, every effort shall be made for the fragments to be kept in the forest zone close to Belaia Golovka till the first half of May. A slow movement in the direction of the lake Rodnik is desirable then, getting the fragments gradually to the spring pastures
along the Iokanga line between Porosozero and Kalmozero, i.e. the traditional spring-early summer range.
[Picture 4. The reindeer fragments at Belaia are eager to start their annual spring migration out of the forest zone.]
While the deer and a few herders are dodging each other at Belaia, the main parts of Brigades 1, 2, and 8 are back in Lovozero. This is a time for some rest after the round ups, as also for preparing for the summer. An obligatory medical check-up (medosmotr) has to be passed.
At the main base of Brigade 8 (Kolmiavr Camp) an elderly herder had acted as a solitary warden from mid-March to mid-April. A younger member of the brigade has been recently sent to the Camp, accompanied by his wife and two young kids. The arrival of the main part of the brigade there is expected in mid to late May, according to transport opportunities. Three other members of the brigade are still "on vacation" in Lovozero, before adding their forces to the move to Rodnik, or joining the brigade directly at Kolmiavr, for the "calving campaign". We put the last phrase in quotes as, judging by the extremely small number of herders in direct contact with the herd, the calving campaign shall be the deer's own concern.
Fieldnews Edition 3 (in English)
April 13, 2007
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
On 6 April the team traveled to Belaia Golovka Corral Base, a distance of 49 km along a very hard packed winter road (zimnik, burannik). The purpose of the journey was to establish contact with the herd that had been counted at Belaia, after a part meant for harvesting (zaboinyi kusok) had been separated from it. The latter had been driven on the hoof to Lovozero and slaughtered at the Polarica facility there (see previous issue).
[Picture 1. The wooden cabins of Brigades 1, 2, and 8 at Belaia Golovka corral camp. Photo: Vladimir Chuprov.]
Parallel to the snow-scooter road to Belaia, there runs the tractor road to Krasnoshchel'e. Day and night heavy tractors tug huge sleds packed with fuel, building materials, and food stuffs, loaded in Lovozero. Trying to keep the machines away from the deep grooves of the tractor road, we made Belaia in a little over two hours.
[Picture 2. GPS track of the journey to Belaia Golovka and the location of the herd and sled bucks.]
At Belaia the last round ups had been over since the last week of March. Apart from the counted herd, grazing in the vicinity, there is a number of sled bucks (byki): a transport herd of some thirty head, grazing at various spots near the camp. The availability of two machines and two empty sleds was not to be missed by a young herder from Brigade 1. He asked us to take him to the bucks for their daily feed with concentrated grain mix (kombikorm). While some of the bucks were tethered, the main part were grazing freely about three kilometers away. When Pet'ka called to them and kombikorm was strewn on the snow, the bucks trotted eagerly to us. These were private bucks (chastnye byki), belonging to various herders who had gone back to the village after the last corralling.
[Picture 3. The care of the bucks is entrusted to a few members of each brigade. These are typically either young herders (ucheniki), or older herders, close to the current retirement age of 50.]
Herding activities at Belaia are thus restricted to this tending of the sled bucks, as well as trying to keep the counted herd grazing in the vicinity. Thus we established contact with a mainly female part of the herd, estimated to be some 600 head strong.
[Picture 4. After the end of the counting corral, the herd is guarded in the vicinity of Belaia Golovka corral camp.]
Vladimir Filippov (Brigade 2) had tied several dogs on the southeastern side of a narrow valley, skirting the northern foothills of Belaia Golovka Hill (380 m) and running in a straight line to the big Efimozero, some ten kilometers away. The idea was to prevent the herd from straying into the forested zone along the line Belaia-Rodnik, where it would have been more difficult for the herders to check its escape movement towards the coast.
Checked by the line of dogs, during the night the herd had moved a few kilometers into the valley leading to Efimozero instead. The open tundra beyond Efimozero and the River Iokanga was tempting it, especially after the trauma of the last corralling. Away from humans and with good visibility all around, the deer had better chances for a successful calving. Vladimir reported seeing four wolverines around the herd and brought back parts of carcasses which had been left over by the predators.
[Picture 5. The importance of dogs for Kola reindeer herding is undergoing revival. Photo: Vladimir Chuprov.]
After contacting the herd we turned it back towards the wooded part. From the herders' point of view this keeping it from crossing over into the open tundra while the surface was hard (po nastu) gave better chances for some more culling from it, should the demand arise. There is also the usual reason of calf-marking, once the calves appear.
Very late culling, either for collective or for private purposes, seemed to be palpably in the air. It was reported that there had been only two round ups at Belaia during the whole harvesting season. The latter had begun on 27 December and its current end is 1 April. The pattern of beginning counting/harvesting when in Soviet time it ended, has thus been firmly established during the last ten years.
[Picture 6. Friendly exchange of news between visitors and herders in the cabin of Brigade 2.]
While at Belaia a skeleton crew was tending the transport and the counted herd, the brigade leaders of Brigades 1 and 8 were trying to contact fragments close to the coastline. During the winter such fragments had stayed close to the sea, making use of this end of the tundra where the warming effect of the sea permitted winter grazing. On 10 April the two brigade leaders reported being at the Bay of Sidorovka, which marks the extreme northeastern end of the grazing territory of Brigade 8. Due to very bad connection over a satellite phone, it did not become clear whether they had succeeded in their mission. Temperatures are still low enough: down to -10 during the night and around 0 during the day. The snow surface is hard packed and this may allow free movement on snow-scooters at least till the end of April. Serious thawing has been forecasted to begin after 10 May. We can thus hope to stay in contact with the herd and possibly see it calving at its traditional calving grounds.
Fieldnews Edition 2 (in English)<//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong></><//><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong></><//>
April 5, 2007
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
During the last days before departure for Belaia Golovka Corral Base we have been following the results of the last round ups of the "Tundra" Cooperative. According to herders, who keep coming to Lovozero and going back to Belaia, the final round ups are being planned till about mid-April.
[Picture 1. Early April in Lovozero. A view towards the Southern cluster of garages.]
These late round ups are taking place at a time when female deer are in their final month of pregnancy. The highly stressful corralling procedures at such a time reflect badly on the herd by causing numerous abortions and generally compromising the imminent calving process. This abnormal situation has become an established pattern during the last years, leading many herders to ask what they are in this much changed relationship between humans and Rangifer -- are they being engaged in reindeer husbandry or are they acting as "round-uppers" (zagonshchiki)?
[Picture 2. The garages are the main centers of local male activities. Besides serving for storage and repairs of the various transportation machines (cars, snow-scooters, and motor-bikes), they are important storage facilities for tundra-resources: primarily reindeer meat and fresh water fish.]
As this pattern of herding is increasingly resembling predator behavior, the herd itself, and especially its reproductive female part, behave as prey in response, trying to avoid human contact as much as possible. We can expect therefore that as soon as corralling activities are over at Belaia, the herd shall try to get away to safe places for calving as swiftly as possible.
This escape movement is further prompted by climate change factors -- the herd has to cross over rivers and lakes while there is still firm ice and before the calves get born. With early thawing, which has become common, we could expect that the period mid-to-late April shall see a swift movement of the herd between the late winter pastures around Belaia and the calving grounds on the eastern side of the river Iokanga. For our target composite herd, the likely calving spots can be expected to be in the southern looking low hills around lakes Kolmozero, Ketkozero, and Kalmozero.
[Picture 3. The Swedish “Polarica” slaughter facility in Lovozero.]
In the meantime a constant flow of freshly slaughtered deer comes down from the hills. These are deer counted as "private" and slaughtered immediately at the corral. The cooperative deer, by contrast, get driven down to Lovozero on the hoof, and their harvesting is done, in accordance with all veterinary norms of the European Union, in the slaughter house of the Swedish "Polarica" Company.
[Picture 4. Butchering reindeer meat at Polarica. Photo: Vladimir Kuzhentsov.]
Private carcasses find their way into garages (storage and repair shacks which are clustered all around the village. Here they get cut up and sold locally. The trade is part of the local informal economy and follows the social contacts of the trader. One sells to friends or their friends and very rarely to complete strangers. The garages are key infrastructural components of this trade, in which herders are only one category of actors, the rest being friends of herders from Lovozero or from the "remote villages": Krasnoshchel'e, Kanevka and Sosnovka, or simply traders (kommersanty). Currently prices hover around an average of RBL 100 per kilo of carcass meat, or 3 euro.
[Picture 5. In the "slaughter season" reindeer meat is being stored, butchered, and sold in many garages in Lovozero.]
Fieldnews Edition 1 (in English)
March 24, 2007
Authors: Yulian Konstantinov, Vladislava Vladimirova
The field team of the NOMAD Expedition left for Murmansk Region on 10 March and is now preparing for the first field trip to Belaia Golovka Corral Base -- approx. 60 kms to the southeast of Lovozero. The village of Lovozero, located in the middle part of the Kola Peninsula, is a municipal center, with some 3 000 residents. The administrative office of "Tundra" reindeer herding cooperative (SKhPK "Tundra") is located here, as well as the homes and families of the reindeer herders, who work for it.
The beginning of the Expedition was planned to coincide with an important local event: the Festival of the North (Prazdnik Severa), held locally as the reindeer herders' professional holiday since 1934.
On this day, the municipal administration as well as that of the reindeer herding cooperatives of Lovozero and Krasnoshchel'e, traditionally organize a festive event with official speeches, choir performances and reindeer draft team races. Villagers would take part in a variety of other "ethnic sport" competitions, to be followed by prize giving at the House of Culture on the next day. The competitions have always been a theme of importance and pride for the employees in the reindeer herding brigades of "Tundra" and Krasnoshchel'e's "Olenevod".
From its very start NOMAD encounters a situation of heightened anthropological interest and importance. For the first time in its history of over seventy years, the two reindeer herding enterprises of the Kola Peninsula - "Tundra" and "Olenevod" - administration and herders alike, have decided to boycott the event and not take part in the races.
The herders are said to be protesting against measures by regional offices in Murmansk who claim to have controlling rights over the pastures as well as the wild deer herd of the Peninsula. The bone of contention seems to be the status of unmarked deer claimed by Rossel'khoznadzor to be treated as wild deer. Local hunters are of the opinion that an unusually high number of hunting licenses for wild deer have been issued during the past hunting season.
On top of it all, eight head of cooperative deer had been slaughtered illegally in the vicinity of the village just on the eve of the Festival. A serious question arises before the reindeer herders: whether to go back to close contact with the herd "as our grandfathers did", or leave reindeer herding entirely. Thus, we are inclined to suggest that the period which began roughly with the onset of economic reforms (1991/1992) and was reflected in reindeer herding with allowing an unlimited number of deer for private ownership, has come to a close. What is to follow is as yet to be seen and possibly the Expedition may see the first signs of adaptation to the new conditions. For the moment local opinion is focused on criticizing overarching Murmansk based authorities for bending to economic interests and neglecting the social, economic, and cultural role of Lovozero Raion reindeer herding.
<//span><//span><//span><//span><//span><//span><//span><//span></><//><//span><//span><//span><//span><//span><//span><//span><//span><//span><//span><//span><//span><//span><//span><//span><//span><//span></><//><//span><//span>Fieldnews Edition 2 (in English) <//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong></><//><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong><//strong>