«True people» (Nenei nenecha) – self-name of Nenets, the indigenous people of the Yamal peninsula, and the name of the complex 2015–2016 ethnographic expedition. Project participants and the visitors of the resource will be the part of the reindeer herders's family during the whole year just to «dive» in the casual life of the modern XXI century nomads.



February 2016: a shot in tundra

On February 21st we had visitors again: Roman came to our chum on his way back to Yar-Sale town. Mikhail Podovitch Hudi (his chum is standing noth or ours) with his daughter Yana and son Vakato were accompanying Roman.  

In the night, just after everybody in the chum went to bed, we've heard a sound of an approaching truck. Kostya and Alexander rushed out of the chum. Nearby they saw a cross country truck "Ural". A man said that he was for the first time going from Labytnangy to Bovanenkovo town, he looked like a typical businessman transporting food. He also explained that he stopped at the chum, because he and other drivers shooted partriges and didn't want herders thought that they tried to shoot the reindeers. The stranger asked for reindeer's meat, fish or horns and invited our men to join him for glass of vodka. As they denied his invitation, he left, so Kostya and Alexander went back to bed, wondering about this visit. 

On February 2nd we were going to dehorn some bulls from the herd, which started already mew their horns. Reindeer herders try to dehorn animals in time (don't wait for the natural way) to exchange horns for gazoline, food or money. Kostya on his snowmobile collected the herd and suddenly came back with a dead bull. It was a yong and very good riding bull named Yanik (Calm). Its skin was damaged with shotgun pellets in five points. The reindeer was still warm, which meant it died not long ago. Kostya and Albina were both very sad and pity for the riding bull. Who could do that? 

As Kostya and Albina say, they spent several years nears in the area near this winter road and nobody would ever shoot their reindeers. There no chums in 20 kms area around us, and anyway no neighbors would do it. We were told that in the Hansky side, near Kutoryugan, where Yar-Sale brigades spend the winter, such precedents could happen. Guilty are usually town or city residents, or drivers, not tundra residents anyway. Before and after our night visitors we had no other car passed by. Having analyzed their behaviour, we remembered their strange wish to "shoot partriges".  

We concured that it might be an action of our night visitors. We contacted police in Yar-Sale town. An officer on duty asked Kostya carefully about drivers and their car and promised to call back. He said that the truk would be detained and checked in Bovanenkovo town (we all know exactly it's impossible). A policeman explained to Kostya that to explore the situation he would have to go to the town anyway. It was so strange to hear that - on the one hand it's logical to bear witness, but on the other hand it's impossible for the family to go to the town now, no gazoline for tundra ride of 500 kms for instance. "You are riding something, right? A snowmobile maybe?..." - it's all we've heard. We still don't know how this story will end, but as Kostya saidly jokes, one will send a helicopter to testify a polar bear in tundra, but nobody would care the shot reindeer, and the herder would have to go to the town to witness it. 


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February 2016: language notes in the life context

On February 12th in the night Albina's brother Hanuta with his mother stayed in our chum on their way back from Panayevsk town. After 200 kms to their chum on Mordy-Yaha river Hanuta's snowmobile has got a problem with shock absorber. Tundra residents who buy imported machines have to deal with technical problems and problems with spare parts differently. They usually buy secondhand spare parts (and have to wait for them to arrive for a long time) or purchase those parts in the town shops (which means a lot more money, then in the bigger cities). Kostya and Hanuta made several phone calls and found the spare parts they needed - and then started their ride - 600 kms both sides. Albina's mother stayed in our chum. We talked a lot, discussed a genealogical tree of the family with it's numerous relatives.   

We also discussed language differences related to the orientation in space. There are two different ways to express directions right and left in the Nenets language. In the language lesson books one find mahanya' - to the right and syatanya' - to the left. These words derives from maha (back) and sya' (face), but this kind of orientation (to the back and to the face) aften misleads even the Nenets themselves. Many people use more convenient and understandable yinya' and venya', which literally means "from the side of neva'yinya" (rope leading to head of the leading bull, the linkest in the team) - to the left, and "from the wrong side" (other side of the leading bull) - to the right. 

Another example is orientation in the chum space. One call floor boards closer to the stove "lower boards", and those closer to the bed - "upper boards". So if somebody wants you to move down or up, it means that you have to move closer to the stove or to sit on the bed. At first it confused us a lot! 

One more observation is connected to rivers. In the Russian language a river starts from the head/outflow, and finishes in the outfall/mouth. In the Nenets language the outflow is called yaha'mal (end, finish of the river), and outfall is called yaha'nya''av (yaha - river, nya''av - open part, opening, hole).  

The air temperature has risen the day before and stays at the level of -1 to -10ºC.

February 14th:

Our chum now is further north than most private herder's chums, so very less tundra residents are coming to this area. Brigade's herds spend the time from the end of December till the end of March at so called Henska (or Nadym) side - on the other side of the Gulf of Ob. This day we have had guests - Yasha, Yefim Yaptiks and their uncle, known to us since the last year, were on their way to Baydaraks gulf. In the evening Kostya and Hanuta were back in the chum. In the Portsa-Yaha factory (60 kms north of Yar-Sale town) Kostya's bought 300 loafes of bread.   

February 16th:

Our chum's residents all are busy with their everyday's tasks: Kostya is making a new narta, Alexander helps him by cutting boards with a saw, Albina is sewing a malitsa for Semyon, Alexandra is cleaning the chum and cooking, also teaching the kids. The winter road is quite vivid lately - in the evening we've got a guest from Yar-Sale town, Kostya's relative Roman Serotetto, one of the richest herder's Medko (Vassilly Tokolevitch) son. Roman was heading to Bovanenkovo town. 

Alexander, Semyon and Pedava while painting: 

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January and February: finishing the circle

This year's calender winter will finish soon, same our expedition, but for now we are going on with our diary notes.

January 26th: bad weather have last for several days: air temperature is -20ºС, a strong wind and snowdrift (tanzer''). Albina was sewing with her hand sewing machine, Alexandra made over Alexander clothes's hood. Yamal's different areas are knows by their own cuts of Nenets clothing, also hoods are different (people call them "shapkas" in tundra). Alexander's malitsa hood was initially made wrong, so his forhear was open the whole time, and it had to be corrected. We hoped the weather would be better next day so we all would move south and cross Yuribei river. 

The oldest and the youngest are watching a movie: 

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Alexandra while re-sewing the hood:

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January 2016: a new year begins in tundra

Schoolchildren of Serotetto family spent all holidays in the chum. Two years in a row parents didn't take them home from the boarding school - it's because the chum (same as now) stood quite far away from the town. All children stay at school for fall vacation, but in winter some of them go home with their parents by snowmobile, or - less often - by train. These days the children had rest, played a lot outsite of the chum, rode little nartas, watched cartoons and movies. During several evenings we've finished watching all episodes of "Star Wars", including screen copy of the brand new seventh episode. All people in the chum - from little Pedava to Mamanyka and Nache - watched intergalaxy adventures. Senior parents of Kostya vividly discussed the characters, giving them the Nenets nicknames. Guess whom did they call Hariko (Eared), Tartsavey (Woolly) or Paridena Nyleka (Black Villian)? But theier special love gained they "Colombo vesako" - we've watched all episodes we had.    

"Starwars"'new fans:

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December in tundra: "people too", fish and no women in chum

We cotinue our December diary notes. On December 15-16 we replaces our chum - Albina didn't like how it was stood in hurry after last time kaslaniye. We places chum sticks wider apart and thus chum covers could be strained better. Radik and his family places their chum near ours. After family reuniting we both and Kostya's parent moved again (same as in spring) to left part of the chum, and Kostya with Albina moved to the right part. We also replaces nartas and moved some stuff from one to another.

Our chums stay in several dozens meters distance from winter road Labytnangy - Syo-Yaha, and often see loaded trucks. We decided to stay here for several weeks. The herd ran on in 1,5 kms distance from the chum and from time to time come closer. 27 kms southeast from our camp there is Yuribey railway station (station Nr.15 of industrial railway Obskaya-Karskaya). Kostya and Alexander regularly go to the station by snowmobile to collect so called "dry firewood". According to the federal programm tundra inhabitants are supplied with the wood, which is brought to this station. This is a big help to us in winter time in the area where are no wood available.   

Replacing of the chum - Albina, Yana'mama and Alexander: 

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December in tundra: polar night, frost and chum full of people

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As we wrote before, Kostya has changed his plan to stay near Yasavey river over winter and decided to repeat last year's route to Yuribey river's area. So we had about 50 kms ahead of us to one of the winter camp places. On Decemper 17th Alexandra and Albina had to go for Salekhard and Yar-Sale town. 

We have no chance to make many photos and videoa these days, because we have to help our nomadic family in many everyday matters. this is one of the points that distinquish longterm stay in tundra from short terms visits when esplorer, tourist or journalist stays in a chum as a guest. Weather conditions also often change our plans for filming - our technics sweats, light days are short, and at least but not last, it's very cold. Hands freeze - so from time to time we dream about our personal video operator.  

On December 7th we arrived at our 51st encampment place:N 69º28'37,9'' E 069º46'00,9''. The linear distance from our last camp - 4 kms. 

We woke up at 5am as usual during kaslaniye day. Snowstorm started in the night, but Kostya didn't change his intention to move the herd - he anticipated weather change. After longer stay at the same place the preparation is long: it's a lot to be done - to sweep ice-covered nartas, to cleat chum covers from snow. Albina says, we took to many things from the nartas.    

Light days are very short now, so all preparation are made during the dark time. While we collected bed stuff and chlother and packed them to narta-yuhuna during the snowstorm, we still hoped Kostya will change his plan. But he was firm in his intention: we had to reach Yuribey in time. 

During picking riding bulls sky got partially clear and the wind calmed. We haven't see the sun for many days: the sky is covered with dense and heay clouds. Our navigator believes that in this part of Yamal peninsula the sunrise happend on November 17th (or 18th?). At time we've written this report, the navigator was fully ouf of battery, but if you are eager to check the timing you can find the information in the Internet. A lot of people who never have been to North, are full of myths about polar night from the mass culture. A real polar night appears further north than 80 degrees northern latitude, but the populous part of Subarctic, including Yamal peninsula, is located southward. During the darkest month, December, the sun doesn't appear over horizon, but there is still a light day which lasts for 5 hours. It feels really spectacular: one can not see the sun disc, but in in the southern part of horizon there is an amber colour line.

This time Alexander led argish of Albina, and Albina herself rode snowmobile with Padava and controlled the herd from the back. Because of long preparation we've covered a short distance that day, after only 3,5 kms it started to get dark, we stopped and made the chum. The weather was still bad, with snowstorm and poor visibility. Next day we wanted to move forward and, tired going to bed, dreamed of a better weather conditions. 

On December 8th we reached our 52nd encampment place:N 69º20'54,2'' E 069º49'27,4''. The linear distance from the last camp  – 14,3 kms.

Another kaslaniye day. According to usual local conditions, it's quite warm - not colder that -10 degrees Celcius. Almost no wind, and no snowstorm. Compared with the moving on the previous day, this time is felt like vacation. Preparation in the morning was very quick, we dismanteled our chum in the dark - we already used to it. This time our camp is located near the big coral - Hariuma'va. 


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December in tundra: road extreme, slaughter base and new plans

We congratulate all our readers regarding the new 2016 year. Here we continue publishing our diary notes and tell about December in Yar-Sale tundra. 

On December 4th and 5th Kostya and Alexander went to Yuribey for the second time, with the same goals as before: to exchange horns for gazoline and to buy bread from the factory worker. We won't explain rules of "barted trade" in tundra. When we write "went to Yuribey", it could sound so easy, but in reality it is 60 kms driving to Kostya's parents' chum, and then again 30 kms to the slaughter base, where Anatoly, the factory worker, could provide gazoline and food. With other words, Kostya has made about 150 kms ride in tundra with fully loaded sledge.   

We think it's important to notice that tundra isn't a highway: it's a flatland covered with snow (often the layer is really deep) with some frozen hills. This road is quite difficult for drivers and for his passengers as well - they feel all unevennesses. Another problem make rivers and lates with their banks covered with snow. All these landscape specifics are turning the driving to some kind of extreme sport with a certain grade of risk and traumatic experiences. 

We were interested in the work of Yuribey slaughter base, and Kostya made a turn to this place. There are several slaughterues in Yamal tundra, all belogning to "Yamal reindeers" company - in Yar-Sale, Syo-Yaha, Payuta and Yuribey. Sovkhos brigades can sell there reindeer meat from November to beginning of December. On the day Alexander and Kostya were visiting the base, herders from Panayev tundra have brought there their reindeers.  

Usually the slaughtery takes only carcass, while heards, fell and tripe are thrown away. This year this order has changed - fell is also kept for furhter downstream processing - same as in Northland. But our friends as many tundra reindeer herders have got fells and heads of slaughtered reindeers.   

Kostya and Alexander came back with gazoine and bread in the late evening of December 5th. Our nomadic family has changed their plans for firther moving. Before they wanted to stay for longer winter stay near Yasavey river - further north than other reindeer herders families and closer to the places they stay in summer. Kostya was afraid that his traditional winter stay places have to so much reindeer lichen as needed for animals - because of many brigades and private herders stayed on these places before him. Nevertheless we will move in this direction - closer to Kostya's parents' chum to collect the animals that splitted from the herd. So we have 60 kms ahead of us, and have to cover this distance before middle of December. 

Slaughter base Yuribey:

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November 2015: part 4 neney had, house spirit and bread crisis

We continue publishing our daily notes. 

Nov.20-24th: After Kostya, Albina and Alexander came back, the weather turned bad. They call here windy weather with a snowfall with the word "haad" (Nenets хад – snowstorm). This time Kostya and Albina said, "neney haad came" (Nenets ненэй (real) хад): wind really knocked us down, snow was falling as a dence curtain, minimal visibility and air temperature about minus 20 degrees Celcius. It's impossible to do anything outside.   

While our hosts were away to collect their reindeers, we've got our of firewood, and haven't succeed to collect more before the snowstorm. We only had a small pile of cut osier-bed bushes and some birch logs. That days all the other families who collected reindeers, also had to survive without firewood. To save firewood we burned the stove only three times a day while preparing tea. During 4 days of snowstorm we also have burned some of Kostya'd wooden details for new nartas and temporary used huners (Nenets хунер''– floor mat made of thin birch trees, used under the bed) of osier bed which we underlay on the floor in the places there there are no real huners. We could not cook meat, so we ate frozen fish sent by Kostya's relatives from Yuribey, and drunk a lot of tea. It was very cold in the chum - everybody just sat there fully covered himself in fur yagushkas. Seldom heroes walked outside the chum, and after coming back they had to carefully remove a lot of snow from the clothes. 

But as they say, every cloud has a silver lining - during the haad we discussed a lot of things with Kostya and Albina. For instance they told us about a house spirit in chum - hartso. From time to time one can hear a special sound - scrape of the chum's wooden strips. This sound "forecasts" bed weather is made by hartso, the chum spirit. The legend says once a man heard hartso scrapes. He took an axe and cut the strip into small pieces. Then hartso  went to another strip - the man cut it also. This way he cut all the chum strips - and hartso entered then his body -and started to make sound from within and the man killed himself. 

Aftes 4 days, on November 24th, snowstorm quited down, we picked out riding bulls, and Kostya with Albina went to collect firewood. This evening we burned a lot of wood, finallly cooked soup and were just happy. 

On November 25-27th Albina and Kostya went again to pick our the reindeers, this time in Albina's uncle herd (Georgy Aybaevitch Hudi) and spend a night there. Kostya caught animals with his lasso, Albina helped him to lead them to them chum. This time they collected 13 reindeers. So totally after herd mixed together in the summer, our hosts collected 73 their reindeers, led them back - and the herd look much bigger now. 

In addition to all our misadvantages with the weather we've got out of our dry bread supply (Nenets "talbey nian" (талбэй нянь (dry bread). The situation is usual for autumn months in tundra families. If it is imporrible to purchase bread at selling factories or in an industrial town, one can "borrow" this important in tundra food from neighbors. As Nenets say, people could survive in tundra without meat, fish, butter and sugar, but "there was no life without bread". So Albina took a 10 kilometers long ride to Alexey Podovitch Hudi (our summer neighbor) and brought back a sack full of freshly backed bread. The most people in tundra understand that they can be in similar situation without bread and gazoline, so they likely help to other in need. On the same day, November 27th, Kostya and Alexander went to one of our spring encampment places and brought back our big "snowstorm pulk" (a case wooden case on heavy runners covered with plastic). In tundra one use this pulk to carry heavy loadings. 

November 28th - December 1st: 

Alexander and Kostya prepared the snowbike, changed oil and oil filter and too a ride to Yuribey to purchase there some gazoline, bread and other food - and also to look who's chum is ahead of us. They rode 60 kilometers until the chum at Yuribey river, where was a summer camp of Kostya's parents and his brother Radik with the family. 

Next morning Kostya and Alexander visited neighbors' chums and help their inhabitants to collect reindeers from mixd herd. It was another time when we realized how important is to take camera to such long distance ride. Without it Alexander could not film a spectacular view of 15 men picking reindeer from 1500 heads herd. Kostya and Alexander had to came back next day, on Novermer 30th, but because of snowstorm they had to wait in the chum. Next day they collected reindeers in Yury Hudi's herd, and his son, 13 years old Anton (who also same as Rako left the school) helped to them. Only in the evening Kostya and Alexander could start their way back to the chum at Yasawei. 

Reindeer herders picking out the animals from the mixed herd:  


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Summer memories: kaslaniye day

Let's remember our summer days and take a look at the movie we called "Kaslaniye day" (day of nomadic movement). At the moment we've added subtitles only in Russian, but you can still check the timing.

Sorry for the quality - this video was taken and edited in the field circumstances. It shows an usual day of the Nenets reindeer herders' family from wacking up a one camp to going to bed at other camp. 


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November 2015: part 3 it's time to collect the herd

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The whole time since our last report we've spent at the same place, where we got on November 14th. The herd ran on not far from the chum, and "domesticated" reindeers - avkas - walked close by the the chum and men. 

These days Kostya and Albina continued to collect their reindeers from other herds. Kostya left for our summer neighbors, taking several riding bulls with him. He wanted to change them for young bulls from Yaroslav's herd. Old bulls will go to Yuribey slaughtery. This kind of change is a usual way to trade reindeers among reindeer herders. 

The slaughteries of meat-processing factory "Yamal reindeers" in Yar-Sale, Syo-Yaha and at Payuta and Yuribey railway stations started their functioning in October.  "Yamal reindeers" cooperates directly with former state farms, and also buys meat from private reindeer herders. They can sell meat only if they entered the union of herders - if not, they have to find a way to sell mear through relatives or friends. 

In 2015 one kilogramm of meat's price was 180-200 Rubles, so one reindeer would cost about 7-10 thousands Rubles. Not all the herders sell their reindeers' meat this way. Kostya for example, for last three years haven't sell the meat (after severe loss of the hers in 2013). As fas as we can calculate, private herders sell not more than 10% of  the herd, and there is no risk for the herders who have more than 400-500 reindeers. 

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November 2015: part 2 real winter

On November 7th we arrived at our 48th encampment palce, here are its geographical coordinates:  N 69º42'41,1'' E 069º24'54,4''. The linear distance from our last camp - 14 kms. This time we crossed Limbya-yaha river (last crossing in May we described here). We decided to stop on the place rich of reindeer lichen and spend there several days. 

Next day Kostya went to the big coral pick his reindeer in other private herder's herds. This day we have had visit from unexpected guests - Myangcha (Kostya's nephew) who left us in summer, and Sergey Hudi - Yaroslav's son. They were on the way to the same coral, spend a night in our chum and left in the morning. 

Local people here have their own orientation sighns in the tundra, even in complete dark. Reindeer herders know every spot on their movements ways. In the clear nights they can find orientation with the help of stars on the sky, and also of smoke's smell from chums. In one is riding during snowstorm, people can fire a torch near the chum - a pice of geofabric soaked in disel fuel. Of course there are no extraordinal abilities of tundra people (as often mention anthropologists) - they also can lose the ways in tundra and try to find it for days. Also now Nenets use modern navigation systems which makes movement in tundra much easier.   

Sergey and Myangcha (13 and 17 y.o.) on their 40 kms long way in tundra.  

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Reindeers and "sunny rainbow" in the sunny day:

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Our 48th encampment place: 

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Kostya came back on November 10th. Next day we moved forward. 

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November 2015: part 1 Where are tundra children found?

We continue to publish our diary notes. 

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After arriving to our new camp place on October 27th, we stayed there for more than a week. Not far from us there are other private reindeer herders, and we are in a way squeezed in a narrow movement passage. This time of the year herders are collecting their reindeers which were mixed earlier with the reindeer of other herds of private or brigade herders. In autumn the separation of herds is done in a special "collection coral". In this coral one also separates animals for further slaughtering, then moves to slaughtering points (for example one near Yuribey). 

On October 29th we chose reindeers for meat and for nartas. Kostya went for longer trip and looked for his reindeers. Once he came back together with Kostya Hudi (our summer neighbor), and after short stay they were gone together to the big coral. 

These days Albina looked after the herd. Usually it is a typical men's work, but in private herders' families women aften have to fulfill men tasks. Every day we woke up about 6 am, and after a morning tea Albina left to look after the herd. She was worried that the herd could mix with other herders' reindeers. So she went to look after the herd several times a day, especially in the evening when animals can move far away from the chum. One has to wait until reindeers stop to dig for reindeer lichen and rest. 

We could not do yerkolava without Kostya and choose bulls for Albina's narta, so she put in "domesticated" avka reindeers giving them bread as reward. Several times she caught bulls (not domesticated) with a lasso, but not in the way men do it, but by putting the lasso bend on the ground. For example near the urine spot (some reindeer like to lick urine because of salt containing in it - they are in special need for sold being on their "reindeer lichen diet"). Albina did her task very well - during Kosty's absence everything was OK with the herd. 

This time our camp was placed near the spot we left nartas with winter stuff in summer. Albina brought these nartas back, and we spent some time sorting and replacing things. 

The biggest advantage of this place is that firewood is close to chum and quite abundant. it allowed us to burn the stove and warm our "summer chum" (with summertime cover). Also we tried to collect firewood for the future encampment places where wood is not so easy available. So we collected osier bed, cut it, loaded it to nartas and brought to our chum. This way we collected three full nartas of firewood, and it would be more if snowstorm wouldn't come. 

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October 2015: part 2 some of our everyday life

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On October 19th we arrived at our 42nd encampment place since beginning of our journey: N 70º11'49,2'' E 067º51'57,9''. The linear distance from the previous camp - 16,4 km. This time we started our way from the bottom land of Mordy-Yaha river to the place where we are going to spend winter months. Usually winter everyday routine is different from summer time, it depends strongly from current weather situation and short days. So our everyday schedule look as follow: Albina or Alexandra starts to burn wood in the stove about 6 am (later it  will be at 5 am). Then all adults are having breakfast under the light of a petroleum lamp, while it is still dark outside. For breakfast we have tea, bread with butter, sugar and seal oil (so it's more teatime than breakfast).

After everybody is done with the food, we pack all bed stuff and other things on nartas, dismantle the chum and make a coral. Kostja leaves to collect all the reindeers and lead them closer to the chum. Whle we haven't reach syabu narta (narta with wooden floor planks), in our half of the chum we use planks and plastic sheets we found on the way (construcion garbage). Albina and Kosta use old floors given by their relatives-fishermen's family.

In the morning on October 19th the termomether showed -18 degree Celcius, the day temperature was -15. Next tea time is outside, and after it it's yerkolava time (picking bulls for nartas). Because this time rest time between two movements are rather long, bulls don't enter coral that easily, and without proper practice we are also making mistakes.  

We are moving in Southern direction: Kostja goes first in the same narta with Semyon, then goes Alexandra's argish. Albina in her argish and Alexander are controlling the herd from the back, and Kostja's dog Seryau helps them in this task. The nartas started the way about 1 pm. Some of our nartas were left in the bank of Mordy-yaha river in the end of August. Kostja connected them to his narta, and we crossed Mordy-yaha river again - this time over ice. 

During September reindeers from the herd have gained more weight and become more powerful. In the autumn they can run during the whole kaslanie. After about 3 hours of running we decided to stay overnight on Yorya-yaha river's bank (in August we've made pictures in these places, you can find them here in our diary). 

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October 2015: part 1 Movies and horn

It's beginning of November, and it's time to tell about our October in Yar-Sale tundra, Yamal peninsula, when re observed a real change from autumn to winter. From October 10th to 18th in 6 kms distance from our chum there were fishermen huts located. There lived fishermen "brigate" from Marra-Sale (you can read about our visiting Marra-Sale here: Marra-Sale camp), which came for autumn chatch. Ice layer on the river is hard enough now to ride a snowbike.  

Our new neighbors visited us several times, and every time these evening visits were accompanied with tea and movies. After generators became an inherent part of everyday life in tundra, choosing new movies is very important for nomads. Nenets are constantly exchanging movies, downloading new films at the railway workers etc. 

We have with us a lot of movies to watch together with our hosts. Every family member has own individual preferences: Kotja likes thrillers, Albina - family movies. and kids are usually for animation of any kind. From bit variety of our film list the most popular are two: "Red Ice" (after a book of Khanty writer E.Aipin, dedicated to Kazym outbreak of Khanty minority at the at dawn of the Soviet time) and "Fast Runner" (a story from the life of Eskimos filmed by an Eskimo director, with a lot of everuday life details, which is especially interesting to our nomadic family). So when guests are visiting our chum, our hosts wants us to watch one of these two movies.  

Our guests, fishermen from Marra-Sale:

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Our argish near fishermen's hut at Mordy-Yaha river: 

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These days the temperature goes down to -7-13 degrees Celcius below zero. There is no firewood near our camp this time, so we have to collect firewood in the areas far away. 

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Fall-2015 in tundra: it's time to move forward

In the beginning of October frost was not a rare guest in the tundra. Snow covered a surface with a thin white layer, lakes and narrow rivers were frozen - and it was quite unusual for us. In the european part of Russia where we both grew up, first fall the snow and rivers freeze later. The tundra looks now as a waste braun flat surface.  

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On October 4th Mordy-Yaha river "stopped" (got covered with ice), no boats can go between the ice-cakes and no fishing is possible. Our family had to slaughter a reindeer to get a raw meat meal. Because of the force majour situation of End of September our family could not prepare enough salted fish for the winter - we hope relatives living near Yuribei lake can help us with fish supply.  

Then Kostja waited till the ice on the river get stable enough to move to the place we left our snowbike for the summer time. Daytime temperature went down to -7, and nighttime temperature - down to -12 degrees Celcius. In the night in chum under the sleeping cover the temperature is also below zero. Every night we are observing the Northern lights (the Nenets: "harp") and discussing its nature.

Everybody are getting ready for the winter. Albina has sewn yagushka (pany) - winter female coat. Alexandra has made tobaki for herself, Alexander and Semyon - and making some for Pedava. Most of our winter clothes is "conservated" for the summer in 40 kms distance in South-Eastern direction - we could get there in 3 long winter movements (or 10 days of kaslanie).  

Kostja checked  reindeers every day walking 5-6 kms from chum each direction. His average day route has been about 20 kms, and Alexander sometimes joined him. Alexander has made a traditional Nenets lasso "tynzya" (тынзя') - this kind of lasso is used is nowadays tundra during cold winter time. 

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Fall-2015: between two seasons

We continue publishing of our diary notes. After all events in Salekhard and Yar-Sale we stayed a little longer in Yar-Sale town waiting for a helicopter. In the end we've got to our chum only on September 14th. We sincerely thank everyone who helped us to get on board of the helicopter - as people know here from experience one can wait here for months to get to the chums located in the areas far away.

In the picture below in the middle there is Igor Slepushkin. His father Pavel one day came to Yamal from Sochi as intern for a herd manager. Then he suddenly decided to stay in tundra and become a reindeer herder: he bought his herd, married a Nenets girl and learned the language. Pavel Slepushkin was a very respected man among the reindeer herders and became a true tundra legend.  


11 chums of the 1st reindeer herders brigade "Yarsalinskoye", view from the helicopter. 


On September 14th we've got to our 39th encampment place:  N 70º17'29,2'' E 067º37'58,1''. Our chum was placed in about 2,5 kms distance from the place of our last river crossing. It's hard to find a dry place for the camp near the reindeer lichen grasslands. to the time when we reunited with our nomadic family, the chum already stood on the place for two weeks.  

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Video: in a reindeer herders' brigade

Today we are publishing one more short fim from the Summer tundra. Nothing extraordinal, no celebration or event of any kind - jsut a normal day in a reindeer herders' brigade. It is illustrating a day during so called "mosquito season". Reindeer skins are looking fully like normal in Summer: not even in color and dencity. Reindeer herders are making fire and smoke against mosquito invasions. 


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Video: Marking reindeers' ears

Some time aho we've told about marks on the ears of reindeers made in August:  http://yamalexpedition.ru/en/blog-en/157-ovody-griby-i-metki-na-olenikh-ushkakh-prodolzhaem-letnie-rasskazy-angl

"Usually this time reindeer herders are marking this year newborn's ears (Nenets "сую"). Each family has it's own marks on reindeers' ears and fur. Noticing own reindeer fawn, the herder throws his lasso, stopping the fawn and then marks its ears (cuts the ears). Before we found information in different sources that saami reindeer herders were giving particular emphasis to these marks. But here in Yamal we realized that for Nenets the marks have also a very important function. All neighbors know each other's marks, the marks are officially registered and without them the Nenets can not even sell the meat on the slaughter markets. There is a united and well known by the tundra inhabitants mark system."

The short video is illustrating this process: 

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Our Yamal August_part 3

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On August 19th we arrived at our 37th encampment: N 70º15'41,1'' E 067º47'31,3''. A linear distance from the last camp - 3,5 kms. For the second time we are moving with only one our chum, withour our neighbours. Kostja rode in the first argish and choose the road. Olja lead Albina's argish, Alexandra - hers, and Alexander as usual was leading his own team. Albina drove the herd riding her narta


We've chosen for our camp a place where another family was staying the whole winter. We found the old fireplace, and also a lot of garbage. We made a pile and burned all the garbage. The problem of tundra pollution is connected not only with industry, but with some reindeer herders' families habits. During last 20 years a lot of new materials have come to tundra, and normally these materials need special recycling: glass, plastics, tinfoil ans other - and every family chooses its own way to deal with the garbage. 


Here is an example of a living "in harmony with nature" - only a part of the garbage we've found in this encampment:

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Our Yamal August_part 2

We continue to publish our August diary. On August 10th we arrived at our 35th encampment since beginning of our expedition: N 70º14'37,8'' E 067º58'14,7'',linear distance from the last encampment - 6,1 kms. While our two last times of kaslanie we moved in the North-West direction, now our four chums turned to the West. Later Kostja and Yaroslav Hudi, following the usual route of Savoli Podovitch, will round Lengaz from the North and turn South, cross Mordi-Yaha river and stay for the whole winter near Hralov railway station. Vladimir Hudi will stay at the left bank of Mordi-Yaha, South of Bovanenkovo town. About 2,8 kms from our 35th encampment we'll build a coral to separate the four family's herds.


Alеxander with an artic fox's skin: 

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Drying fish:

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Our Yamal August _part 1

Hello everyone! We haven't publish our diary notes for a long time, because we travelled to Salekhard. We want to share with you some of August 2015  events and pictures anyway.  

On August 1st 2015 we arrived at our 33rd encampment: N 70º12'28,6'' E 067º53'21,3''. The linear distance from the last encampment - 3,9 kms. During this kaslanie we crossed Yorya-yaha river - not a deep, narrow river with the cliffy banks. Usually Nenets try to find place with flat shores, for allow long argishes to enter water easy and same come out of the river on other shore. But this time it was impossible. Herders choose for crossing the wastest place of the river (about 8 meters), and decided to wasten a crossing place with spades. Vladimir led argishes to the water, threw rope across the river to Yaroslav and then Yaroslav pulled the rope to let reindeers cross the river and arrive at our bank.   

While argishes were moving to the new encampment's location, some of the men moves to Yorya-yaha river estuary - we place where Yorya-Yaha fall into Yumba-yaha river. There they speaded fish nets and in just several hours have cought fish for all four chums. For the first time we saw humpback salmon among the catch. It's interesting that the Nenets used to so called white fish (muksun, broad whitefish and other ciscos/whitefishes, don't like humpback salmon that much. They are really ironical to "lutsa" (Russians in a waste sence of the word) who are interested in red salmon. Some of our neighbors are sure, that red salmon caviar isn't tasty too. An explanation for such an attiture could be that the Nenets are quite conversative, and red salmon's history in these places isn't long at all, according to some data it starts not earlier that in the beginning of 2000-ies. Another reason is that together with red salmon, seals can enter Mordi-Yaha river, and with the seals white bears as well, which can be dangerous for human.

Our nomadic family slaughtered two reindeers to make winter clothes. There is a lot of meat and fish. We made a underground "fridge" near our chum. Partly we dry fish and meat, make yurik (yukkola).  

Crossing over Yorya-yaha river, 01.08.2015.

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Gad-flies, mushrooms and reindeer ear's marks

On July 15th we arrived at our 30th encampment since the beginning of our journey: N 70º10'21,0'' E 068º09'27,8''. Linear distance from the last encampment - about 4,9 kms. This time during kaslanie our argishes crossed the underground gas pipe line Bovanenkovo-Uhta. On the surface there are signs and gas pipe line looks just like low clayey banks.  

Two gas pipe lines Bovanenkovo-Uhta: 


There is a disused quarry near the gas pipe line, all covered by grass. Its geographical coordinates: N 70º11'16,9'', E 068º13'17,1''

Our new encampment is 8 kms away from the workers settlement Lengazspezstroy (Lengaz or "zero kilometer" - Bovanenkovo-Uhta gas pipe line starts here). Reindeer herders who move with their herds near this area, buy  fresh bread in Lengaz canteen and visit local shop for other purchases. Security quards on the gates told us that this summer reindeer herders have visited this settlement ten times - all visits are fixed down in the special visit journal. For one more time we noticed that shift workers in tundra are not very interested in knowing more about local tundra inhabitants: in the journal we haven't found even one correctly written Nenets family name (and as you might notice there are not many of them at all).  

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July 2015: new neighbors, velvet antlers and a few words about food

Hello everyone! This time we are publishing just a few pictures of our life here in tundra - more will come in the beginning of September. We are planning to visit Salekhard and appear with more visual updates. 

On July 11th we arrived at our 29th encampmentN 70º09'26,8'' E 068º16'45,2''. Linear distance from the last stop - about 5 km. This time during kaslanie we joined together with one more chum and herd  - this of Vladimir Hudi. His herd's male reindeers have mixed already with our families' joined herd. Recently his herd became very small, and he often stayed at one and the same place for longer time. Some of Vladimir Huid's family members go by foot with the argishes during kaslanie, and his son Alyosha is riding a snowmobile.  

4 chums of our encampment:  

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About 2 km away from our 29th encampment there is a sacred place Yalepya suty (Nenets: "Hill with thin larch-trees"). Anthropologists have never registered this sacred place before. Alexander visited it together with Segey Hudi. Similar to other sacred places of Nenets visited before, Yalepya suty looks like a small hill: on the top one can observe a pile of reindeers' horns and hardly recognizable rests of nartas. No one could tell us worship's history of this place, there were also no signs of recent visits - only a narrow path at one site. 

Sacred place Yalepya suty:

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July: quests, mosquitos and food

First of all we'd like to show you beauty of our Northern summer! Below is view to our 27th encampment:

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Geographical coordinates of the 27th encampment's place: N 70º06'45,9'' E 068º27'17,5''. Linear distance from the last point – about 3,1 km.

Wild rosemary's flowers: 

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Argishes among cotton-grass flowers:  

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Making a traditional Nenets lasso

We've already observed some of traditional summertime activities like shaving the reindeer skin, making nartas and horeys). This time we are watching Kostya's nephew Myangcha, who is following our neighbor Yaroslav and making tynzyan - the Nenets lasso.  Alexandra decided to film the process as detailed as possible, so please watch our short film - though we didn't film all stages of the lasso making,so will be continued.

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The first stage is to soak reindeer skin in water - to remove all fur from it. Then one cut a narrow (about 1 cm) skin strips in a spyral from the middle of the skin. For one lasso one cut a strip about 80 machs (usual measure of length in tundra, equals a distance between two hands stretched in sides).

Wet skin then is puled on nartas to dry - this time it needed just one night to dry. Then one have to soften the dry skin using a metal ring, after that one checks if the whole strips' width is even, and cuts the unnesessary parts. The width must be a little less than 1 cm. It's the stage were our film ends, but the meticuluos work of Myangcha doesn't end here. Later he must fold the skin strip four times, interweave it and add plastic (or traditional horn) block. So appears s skin lasso: it's value on the internal Nenets market equals 15 thousands Rubles (a high-quality lasso for a competition will cost about 20 thousands Rubles).

Myangcha is making a lasso:

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Albina and Myangcha are cutting skin straps:

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Mosquitos and "Mammoth fever"

On June 25th after our trip to the Kara Sea and Bovanenkovo we returned to our tundra family. While we were away people and herd moved two times, and we  met again on the 24th encampment (calculated from the start of our trip), about 11 km away from Mordy-Yaha river's crossing point: N 70º02'09,0'' E 068º36'11,0''. Linear distance from the 22th stop - about 9,5 km. 

Exactly this time we realized in full scale what is what Nenets call неняӈг иры (Nenyang Iry.  "mosquito month"). Reindeers' behavior is different now - suffering from bloodsuckers, the aminals trying to huddle together in one herd, and usually stay not far away from chums. During this period men are keeping the watch not in pairs as usual, but alone and on foot. 

The herd during mosquito month: 

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End of our journey to the Kara Sea: June chronicles part 8

As you remember, in our last post we stopped at the description of Marra-Sale end everyday life of it's inhabitants. After a very rich of events day in Marra-Sale we decided to go back to tundra. We planned to start around June 22nd, but how it's often happening in Yamal, weather always had its own plans. A strong wind from the West drove ice-cakes to the sea shore which made it impossible to put out to the sea. This is how we fund ourselves in the "ice isolation" again.

Ice-cakes block the way out of Marra-Sale:

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Alexandra at the Kara Sea seashore: 

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Kara Sea near Marra-Sale: 

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Ends of the earth: June 2015 chronicles part 7

On june 21st about 5 o'clock in the morning we arrived at one of the chums of Marra-Sale, chum of Hadko Hudi, one of the oldest and most respected inhabitant of the village. For Pupta and Hanuta this chum is practically a home - they've spent their childhood and young years near this nomads camp's families. Without any questions, they gave us some tea and places our wet clothes closer to the fireplace to dry. Then we were shown a plece to sleep. Hadko's chum's geographic coordinates: N 69º44'46,0'' E 066º50'00,9''

There are just 4 chums in Marra-Sale now, located in short distance one from another on the hills, divided by gorges. Before this was a territory of the military baze, which got abandoned after dissolution of the USSR. In 3,5 kilometers distance from here there is a meteorological station "Marrasalya". 

Nomads camp Marra-Sale:

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Hadko Hudi's chum:

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There are 26 inhabitants in Marra-Sale nowadays. They all are officially regirested in Panayevskaya tundra (with a administrative center in Panayevsk, Yamal district). But all the time we had a strong feeling that here we are among so called "unregistered, uncalculated" citizens of Russia, who are hardly known to anyone else. They have no apartments in the nearest town, they visit the town just once a year (except for the kids who study in the boarding school in Panayevsk). A helicopter can come over only to pick up or bring back home schoolkids, or during next presidential election. 

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June 2015 chronic: part 6 - trip to the Kara sea

In the evening of June 19th we still have been in the hydrology station in Bovanenkovo: N 70º22'12,1'' E 068º26'08,6''. From here we've started by boat to Marra-Sale - fishermen encampment on the West coast of Yamal. To reach the point we had to travel till Mordy-Yaha river estuary, to enter the Kara sea and then travel in the Southern direction. Our first stop has been the home of Pupta and Hanuta close to one of the Mordy-Yaha's duct, where live parents of the the brothers. The linear distance between hydrology station and the brothers' is 35 km, but along the curvy Mordy-Yaha river we've made more than 60 km. In its lower flow Mordy-Yaha river is much wider than in the crossing point we've written before - about 300 meters. 

Alexander and Pupta a in the boat:

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Pupta. The two brothers are definetely dividing tasks between them: we've never seen the elder one at sailing the boat. 

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Hanuta is sailing the boat:

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June 2015 chronic: part 5 - Bovanenkovo town

With this post we'd like to begin publishing our notes about one week travel along Mordy-Yaha river. This post can count as a preview. 

The trip we are going to talk about was organized with initiative and support of Yamal region public movement of Northern native minorities "Yamal", and we are sicerely thank it's leaders for help. During the trip we planned to visit the industrial town Bovanenkovo, sacred place Parne-Sale, Mordy-Yaha river's estuary and fishedmen's village Morra-Sale. These locations were in the past already visited and studied by our colleges, also the aspect of intercommunitation between reindeer herders and rotarion workes from the gas field town. What made this trip special, it's that this time two locals were guiding us, Pupta and Hanuta (brothers of Albina Serotetto, our chum's hostess), the young Nenets fishedmen born in Morra-Sale, who have lived here for their whole life and know all details of local social and economic circumstances.

Initially we were planning to start in the beginning of July. But after the brothers have heard (locals do not need any phone connection to pass the news) that our chums had already crossed Mordy-Yaha river, they immediately came to see us. They told that there was a pause in their schedule, so why do not start at once?   

Kostya and Albina let us go without any trouble, they jsut had to rearrange our nartas. So, on June 16th then all three families from our group were getting ready to one more kaslanie, we packed our staff, packed also our yuhuna narta (with bed staff and some essential belongings, which are transported to chum during the stops) and took to the road. On the way back we were planning to bring to our tundra family some very popular gifts: first of all - freshly backed bread, then gasoline and tobacco, and possibly also some sweets, candies and fresh vegetables.

Our main transport during these months are reindeers. For some change now travelled by motor boat. Distance between our chum to Bovanenkovo was about 40 km, and after that we had to make more that 150 km along Mordy-Yaha river. Unfortunately we didn't film all beautiful landscapes on the way to Bovanenkovo: wind was too strong, and we didn't rist to take out our cameras. But we suredy have noticed that in the middle and lower flow Mosdy-Yaha river is a wide river with many curves. 

Our first stop was an abandoned trading station Neruta in the Neruta-Yaha river estuary (Neruta-Yaha is the rightside feeder of Mordy-Yaha river) : N  69º51'32,7'' E 068º52'43,2''. Now the former trading station looks more like a pile of rusty construction rubbish and could serve as a decent background for another anti-utopy movie or suspenser. 

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The trading station was built in 1990ies and was funtioning for just two years. Reindeer herders bought here food, could order freshly baked bread in the backery, sold horns, velvet antlers, fish and meat. As an inhabitant of a nearby chum later explained to us, the station was closed because of poor quality of houses (built for living and working purposes) and other equipment. 

Alexandra, Pupta and Hanuta: 

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June 2015 chronic: crossing Mordy-yaha river

On June 14th we arrived at our 21st encampment since beginning of our journey. As usual we are carefully noting our coordinates: N  69º57'02,5'' E 068º52'08,9''. Linear distance from last point – 6,5 km.

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Since the beginning of June Hasavako is alone leading his team:

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Sergey, Yaroslav and Maya's son, is 13 years old. He was leading his team alone the whole time. but now he suddenly said he was bored and wanted to lead the team of "wild bulls". The Nenets call "wild" the reindeers who are not good trained. 

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Albina's argish:

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June 2015 chronic: part 3

On June 9th in the morning heavy rain has started, and we cancelled our moving to the next encampment place. Children are watching to the animation on tablet PC.

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During yerkolava (picking up bulls for herdsmen on duty) this day for the first time we are observing joined together herd of three families. Before bulls were separated from the she-deers and reindeers-fawns. The total number of reindeer in herd is more that 1300 now - it's really impressive to the eye. Before yerkolava they give reindeer some rest, men use this pause for training with lasso. On the picture there is Myangcha, little Igor is watching him throwing the lasso:

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Reindeers of three families are moving together:

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June 2015 chronic: part 2

We continue our notes from June 2015. On June 7th Kostya Hudi slaughtered a reindeer (we say "slaughter", but the Nenets normally are choking a reindeer to death, because this way all blood is saved and can be used as precious vitamin source. According to the local custom, all neighbours were invited to share the raw meat meal. Men population after the meal smoked cigars, which we've given to them, it's a new tradition lately. Alexandra used the opportunity to stay alone with women (traditionally women eat after the men have finished the meal) and discussed the more convenient lesson schedule for her nomadic kindergarten.  


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Here is another cigar lover - Kostya. There is a lasso in his hands (made in Finnland). This is a capronic rope coated in plastics, and reindeer herderer usually are adding to it a plastic or horn-made spinning top. The Finnish lasso is considered more convinient for summer time than traditional leather lasso (tynzyan).  

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«Old man», «grandfather», «the chief» – Savali Podovitch Hudi

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June 2015 chronic: part 1

Summer is here! During sunny days our nomadic kindergarden's lesson are held outside of the chum:


But sunny weather didn't continue for long. On June 2nd it started to rain heavily during we were sleeping (daytime, because we are moving mostly at nights). Wind was so strong, that it almost took away our chum:  Kostja and Albina have reacted and woke up just in time to to put nartas to all sides of the chum,  tie additional ropes and save us all.  

On June 4th 2015 we arrived at out 17nd campside since beginning of our nomadic journey:N  69º48'49,2'' E 069º12'59,0'', slant range – 4,6 km. This time we have changed our day regimen: collected reindeers in the morning and started to move forward in the daytime.

This time we've left at our encampment place another three nartas, changed them to three nartas of Albina. One of those nartas we've left was syabu or "unclean narta". Usually they put in syabu floor boads, huners (bed mats), women's foot wear and underwear in the separate sack or bag - everything with can touch woman's feet. In the same narta they put stove, tea-kettles and cooking pots. All these items are made of metal, so it's considered "safe" for them to travel in syabu -  according to the Nenets beliefs metal can "neutralize" female energy - syamei (that's why in the modern culture  women are allowed to step, for example, over generator's electric cable. And some ladies believe that such modern time material as foam plastic have same neutralizing qualities as metal). 

The Nenets have a whole complex of tabu connected with beliefs of female's "danger/unpurity" (Nenets: syamei), especially during the menstruation time. Women are not allowed to step over/step on the items related to reindeer breeding (ropes, leading sticks etc), men's and children's staff. Also it's not allowed to cross an invisible line leading from the stove to chum's backside, and to go round the chum

Syabu narta, left till next Autumn:


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May 2015: part 5 - It's getting warm in tundra!

From May 27th to May 29th we stayed at our 15th encampment. As you remember, last time we crossed the Limbya-Yaha river. After the crossing women decided to wash clothes. Usually in tundra they wait a sunny and rather warm day, and start washing by soaking clothes in a small puddle and/or plastic tank (as we did). On the picture are our little helper Semyon and Pedava: 


We are often eat geese these days. Men are haunting them until geese start building nests. Haunting season is very short by Nenets: it's concidered a sin to haunt a bird when it is already sitting on eggs.  This time the herd, devided in three parts, starts actively mix together. Reindeers spread out in tundra looking for fresh green grass.  We finished firewood from winter stock, and now pyung (dwarf birch, or Betula nana) is used to make a fire.  Normally in the Russian midland nobody would call these fragile twigs a firewood, but there is no other choice in tunra. 

On May 30th we arriven on our 16th encampment: N  69º46'40,1'' E 069º16'35,2'', distance from the last point -  2,8 kilomenters, moved at nighttime.  

In the afternoon Albina and Alexandra have cut the whole narta loaded with bread (which we've bought in March) - 170 loafes - because is started to mould. Warm spring days are for tundra inhabitants the time to dry bread for Sumemr and Autumn. Women from two neigbor chums started the same drying process, because weather was so rarely favorable for it, and time to stay on the same place was long enough. Usualle women are cutting bread to three pieces along the breadloaf and spread over special nets between two nartas.  


We left our nets in winter nartas, that's why first we just places cutted bead pieces in the form of "little chum".

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May 2015: part 3


On May 19th we've arrived at our 12th encampment: N 69º41'16,7'' E 069º21'51,8'',  distance - 6 kilometers. We don't make more than 5-7 kilometers daily. Fully used to new rhythm: moving at night time - and then sleep till late afternoon. Usually we reach our next encampment, build the chum and drink tea about 4- o'clock in the early morning, and then go to bed.  

This time during the standing we've slaughtered one reindeer and ate raw reindeer meet. It's second time herdsmen slaughter reindeers from the beginning of April.


On May 22nd we arrived at our 13th encampment: N 69º43'26,3'' E 069º23'15,7''. This day we've covered a distance of about 4 kilometers.  

Because of unexpected warmth rivers are already freed from the ice. This day we crossed two narrow rivers -  Neva-Yaha and Yabto-Limbya-Yaha - and made our camp on the bank of Limbya-Yaha river. Myangcha haunted two first gooses and partriges.

On May 22nd we arrived at our 14th encampment: N 69º44'29,0'' E 069º19'50,9'', covered a distance of 3 kilometers.

This days we had to cross Limbya-Yaha river, one of the wide rivers on our nomadic way. Next wide river will be Mordy-Yaha, which we are planning to cross about June 15th. After we arrive at the river bank, we realized that water is too high and decided to wait for another several days. 

We also would like to publish here a Facebook comment of Hudi Sergey, vice-president of Association "Yamal for descendants":

Reindeers are extremely weak this time of the year. First reason is the food: after winter time there is not much to eat for them, and underskin fat is almost gone. if reindeers were not vaccinated against botflies in Autumn, it can be another reason for discomfort and weakness. She-deers are feeding newborns and also get skinny and exhausted. Also velvet antlers are growing and require a lot of energy. This time there is no other choice but continue moving, but covering very shord distances every time.  

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May 2015: part 4


On May 25th we reached our 14th stop since the beginning of this nomadic trip: N 69º45'25,1'' E 069º18'42,4''. Moved for 2 kilometers. This day we decided to cross over the river, and started to pack things and get ready for kaslanie later than usual. Everybody was was quite nervous, and we both especially.  

Crossing the river is not for "weak-nerved". At the place we've chosen for crossing Limbya-Yaha, the river was 29 meters width and about 1,5 meters deep. There are less deep places and we could cross there, but there was another important factor - the bank's relief - because fully loaded argish (karavan of 6-7 nartas) must be transported to the water and then from the water to the bank. 


We started to prepare the crossing by carefully packing and preparing all nartas. When argish reached water range, the person who's leading the argish, sat in the gumboot. Yaroslav was under oars, and literally rope the argish and reindeers into the water.  It was crutial that reindeers all swan across the river not tiying themselves and whithout any of nartas got turned upside down. Loading of the nartas didn't got wet. 


Crossing the river. Yaroslav is under oars, his wife Maya is holding the rope and giving direction for swimming reindeers. 


Argish is crossing the river. Kostya'nisya is helping on other river bank. 


After crossing the river we stopped on the other bank near the place, where summer nartas of our neighbors were placed. The temperature dropped a lot, and the damp weather reminds us Russian Saint-Petersburg in late Autumn days...  

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More news from May 2015: part 2

On May 12th we arrived at the 11th standing point on our nomadic way:  N 69º38'05,8'' E 069º23'49,0''. We moved forward this time just for another 10 kilometers. Reindeer herdsmen usually are moving this time of the year at nighttime. We are also adjusting to this timetable now. From End of April there is polar night on Yamal: it never gets completely dark. These days when we are moving, the first goes narta of Kostja'nisja (Savoli). He shows the way for other nartas and choose place for next encampment. 

This time we decided to stand at Pirtsja-Yara-Yaha for more than a week, till May 19th. All three chums inhabitants at once started to check summer nartas (they were palces on this place from last Autumn). Another process is to pack winter staff into winter, heavier nartas, and leave them here till next Autumn.  We fully packed all our expedition nartas and also left them on this place till next cold season. Till very last moment we could not say goodbuy to our snowmobile, but the time has come...All families also have left their chums' fur covers, and from now on chums will be cover from outside with tent-cloth and geofabric. 


Around May 15th first newborn reindeers were born. Same time first goose appered in sight, which has made all the men happy -they have took out their guns in enthusiasm. Although you can imagine that in tundra there seldom people who obtain officially registered guns, same as registered snowmobile. 

This rather long time at the same place gave Alexandra a good oportunity to continue her kindergarden lessons. Four neighbour kids joined our group. Children also spend free time playing games together. On the picture bolow there are Hasavako, Semyon, Pedava and Nadja (daughter of Yaroslav Hudi):


// пост публикует группа поддержки на большой земле 

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More news from May 2015: part 1


As we already mentioned before, the second part of May was full of some important changes in our nomadic life. Kostja decided to join together with two other reindeer herdsmen's familie - already in May, thougth usually they go for this kind of aliances later in the year. 

Now more anout the families we joined together with. It's actually one family of private reindeer herdsmen Hudi, which is living in two chums. They usually call the family after the name of the eldest man and head of the household - Hudi Savoli Podovitch (also called Kostja'nisja - Nenets: father of Kostja). In one of the chums live Savoli himself, his wife and the family of his son's Kostja. In other chum there are Yaroslav Hudi (husband of Savoli's daughter) and his family living. Kostja and Yaroslav are almost the same age as our Kostja and Albina. They also have small children, who joined our nomadic kindergarten group.

We joined together the herds as well. She-reindeers started to give birthes to fawns. This is the most busy time of the year: men one after another have to watch the herd round of the day.  

Spring is unusually early this year. Same time last year Kostja and Albina still were standing south of Yuribei river, there was a lot of snow and temperature still kept below zero. But this year we crossed the river on April 20th, and changed our fur shoes - kisi - to gumboots, which for this time is also extremely early. Snow started to melt, and everywhere appeared big thaw holes. Then we realized, that we won't be able to cross Mordi-Yaha river on ice as planned before. Mordi-Yaha river is the biggest river on our route, which flows close to Bovanenkov gas-field.  Now we are moving slowly without rushing she-deers and newly borns.  

On May 11th we celebrated our 10th kaslanie after starting our nomadic route. Here is graticule valuesN 69º34'32,4'' E 069º35'37,7''. We moved about 5 kilometers further, and joined above mendited two families on their standing place. After that we stay alltogether.

Here on the picture Albina is checking staff from winter nartas:


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Some news

Today is the sixth day when we stay at the same location. It rains the whole time, and moving is very inconvenient now. There already first newborn reindeers came into the world, and everybody is happy about it! If one would ask us, whether they move with these newborns or not, we'd answer - yes! But speed of this movement is usually very slow, much slower then without young reindeers.  

Alexandra continues teaching kids in her kindergarden group. Now there are seven preschoolers and two schoolkids. Four children joined the kindergarder, are from the families our Serotetto family is joined together with.    

//this post is published by our technical support group, because the Internet connection is still a problem for us. 

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Joined together with two other families

We are heading North, before rivers haven't free from ice. Sometimes we are moving two days in a row, app.13-14 kilometers every day. We are moving extremely slowly, because reinreers break down through the wet and soft snow surface. 


Alexandra leads argish (Nenets.: myud) of 6 nastas (not including her female narta), Sasha rode snowmobile behind the herd and drives reindeers in the needed direction. In the female narta of Alexandra there is another passanger - Semyon. Snowmibile was then left behind. 


The most important news nowadays is that we joined together with two other families. Herd are mixed for easier pasturing, and with put our 3 chums closeby at the standing points. We also have already had first kaslanie together. These two families also have children, but we stil didn't have time to make joined lessons in our moving kindergarden. Now the main activity is to control and recollect nartas: winter staff and heavy nartas will be left behind. 

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News from our kaslanie

Hello everybody! Unfortunately we have very limited access to the Internet, because there are not only connection limitations, but also A LOT OF WORK! If one coming to these places for a short time, one remains for locals just a tourist/researcher/friend...a guest anyway. If you stay in a reindeer heardeders' brigde, you are in a big group, where sometimes workers have free time (because there are many of them). But our situation is different. We are here for the whole year, and also in a private reindeer headerers' family, where are only 4 adults at the moment - including us (these days there are five actually, because Miangcha, son of Radik is here and wants to continue kaslanie with us). It means that everybody is busy from early to late.  

After we left the elder generation back in Radik's chum, we step bu step went to a certain rythmus of everyday life. Also we live on the separate side of chum now (look at the picture below).


Radik and his wife gave us wooden floor plates, Mamanka and Albina shared with us hooners - bed mats. (to continue please press "Читать полностью)"

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Victory Day

The 9th of May - Victory Day - is a special day for people not only in Russia, but in many contries - this is the day when the Great Patriotic War finished. And we congratulate everybody!

Today we don't move forward, but for tomorrow another kaslanie is planned. The weather turned bad today: it's foggy, air temperature dropped a lot.  Spring is usually the time when they tame young riding reindeers. At the moment they are still move freely, and special split sticks - longali - are hung on their necks.  


These sticks make it easier to drive aminals to the corral. When these young reindeers are put into argish (with freight nartas), they remove the longali sticks. Today one of activities was also building the corral to teach these new riding reindeers (Nenets: longalitna). 

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Heading North

We continue our kaslanie and rushing more in the Northern direction. April 30th, May 3rd, May 5th, and tomorrow - all these days are dedicated to further nomadic movement. Finally spring is coming to these areas: it's been already three days when air temperature doesn't drop lower that 3 degrees Celcius. Snow is wet and sticky. 

We want to share with you some pictures from April 2015.

Little Hesavako Serotetto provides already a big help to his reindeer herdsmen family. 

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Pedavako with the Finnish lasso:

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Mamanka sorting food supply in the freight narta:

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Vandako - freight narta. Wintertime they load to this kind of carriage not more than 150 kgs and then control maximal weight manually. Vandako is used to store provision, clothes and other staff not essential for everyday use.

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//this post was published by our support team 

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We are going North!

On April 27th we moved more in Northern direction. Here is no mobile network coverage, but sometimes we are able to send short messages from satelline phone. Yesterday we've bought bread from long time of nomadic movement. Just imagine - 800 loaves of bread - this much we will carry with us. Bread will be eaten in form of dry tosts, often soaked in cup of tea. Generally speaking, bread is one of the main foods in Yamal tundra. Summertime the most desired gift for reindeer herdsmen's family would be several loaves of fresh-backed bread! 

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To give you more clue into the everyday life of a reindeer herdsmen's family this season we would like to publish here Facebook comment of Hudi Sergey, vice-president of Association "Yamal for descendants"

"Soon young reindeers will be born. Everyday herdsmen will drive reindeer does with newborns in the Northern direction. Newborns are small and weak creatures, move slow, and herdsmen must go with them on foot. Women also have a lot to do: drying stuff, currying of reindeer fell, tailoring repairs. They also must cary about water and firewood for everyday use."

By the way, if someone wants to write a letter to us, we leave here address in the nearest town - Yar-Sale: Tyumen Region,Yamal-Nenets autonomous district, Yamal district, Yar-Sale town, Mira street, 6A, ZIP code: 629700; ЯРОД КМНС "Ямал" (for Terekhina and Volkovickij). All letters will be sent to us by the nearest oportunity. 

One more comment of Hudi Sergey:

"800 loaves of bread must be dried End of May - of beginning of June, when short warm time will come to tundra. This time reindeer herdsmen's family is waking up very early, because there is a lot to do: cut bread into 4-6 pieces lengthwise and lay these pices out for the drying. But if rain or snow start falling, people must collect all bread very fast. Sodden and then dryed again, bread will be firm as brick, one can really break teeth. And for all this work there will be several days needed, because besides bread drying there are many other domesticities and herdsman's tasks."

// This post is written and published by our technical support group. We can send our latest news only by sms, because Internet connection still doesn't function properly. We will reply on your comments as soon as we have Internet. //

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Wednesday April 29th

We are moving in Northern direction almost every day, because we want to snake off from other private reindeer herdsmen and their herds  - to avoid herds mixing. Every day there is a lot of things to do: our family is keeping the reindeers herd nead the chum to avoind them to move away and mix with animals from other herds.     

We hope during next days to find time to install the Internet smeller and connect to the Internet. But everyday labour takes the whole time until now. 
We displaed the bread we've bought (800 loaves of bread) into several narty (180 loaves a narty). We will dry bread later, when weather becomes warmes. 
Hung mobile phone almost to the top of one of the chum poles - this is only way to connect to mobile network here in tundra. Alexandra staying high on the stool called to her sister to wish her a happy birthday.  
We are ready to go to another kaslanie tomorrow.
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//this post was published by our support team 

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Hello everybody! Here we are!

This post is written and published by our technical support group. We can send our latest news only by sms, because internet connection still doesn't function properly. Anyway we are happy to send this message to our friends and relatives and briefly share some of our news. We will reply on your comments as soon as we have Internet. 

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This week, on April 23rd we migrated 15 kilometers further in the Northern direction. Alexandra led argish (a train or caravan of narty) consisting of 6 narty for the very first time (it was quite scary, but she did it perfectly!). Sasha rode a snowmobile. We crossed the icy river of Yuribei. 

At a new pleace where we stayed and installed our chum  after kaslaniye also stands the chum of Radik, Kostja Serotetto's brother.  After this standing point our family will devide into two groups. Mamanka (Kostya's mother)  with Nacha and two Kostja's children - Yana and Edejko - will stay near river of Yuribei for the whole summer, same for Radik.  

Yesterday, on April 25th Sasha and the whole male part of our family and Radik's family visited a big holy place - Serotetto' seda. It is strictly forbidden for women to visite those sites.  


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The April snow storm


Kostya took Dmitriy and Eduardo to his brother Radik, who stayed 45 kms to the south. The Spanish photographer was interested especially in taking photos of kaslanie and Radik was ready to move towards younger brother. Since morning the weather got worse, the visibility reduced, the wind turned to a storm (we hardly could judged but it was blowing not less than 20 m/sec); although we decided to ride and our expedition parted. While Alexander Volkovitskiy was travelling in tundra mapping the nomadic camps and talking with neighbors (all of them are free herders), Alexandra Terekhina started the work of a nomadic group of kindergarten.

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 Semyon, Pedava and their father.



Yesterday wet and snowy gusts turned into a real snow storm. The visibility didn't exceed 20 m and the wind swept off the feet. Our family (like any in tundra at the moment) tried to stay inside the chum, people were occupied by home affairs and watched movies we had brought.

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Mamanka, Hasavako and Alya. Watching the most resonant movie at Yamal. "The White Lichen" is the film about the life of Nenets based on the novels of Nenets writer Anna Nerkagi. 

Of course except the guys who willingly (that was a real surprise for us) “visit the kindergarten”, i. e. the opposite half of the chum. Read further in the section “Education for nomads”: http://yamalexpedition.ru/en/education-for-nomads-en/68-detskij-sad-otkrylsya-angl.

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The journey to the nomadic camp


At last we left from Yar-Sale with our masters – Kostya and Alya. Svetlana the wife of Radik (Koastya's brother) also ride in our sledge. Our caravan formed two snowmobiles. The second buran (“buran” is a snowstorm in Russian and a type of the Soviet/Russian snowmobile, but at Yamal people call buran any snowmobile, although in our case it was the real “Buran” snowmobile) Myangcha, Radik's son carried the Spanish photographer Eduardo and his guide Dmitriy. We had to cross 260 km in tundra in special hand-made snowmobile sledge (the open wooden box fixed on solid skies without any amortization) – not the most pleasant journey full of anxities for our photo and video cameras. Moreover, to every buran sledge was one more traditional sledge (narta), so were formed two mobile argishes (argish Komi-Zyrian, the common term for the caravan of sledges).

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The first kaslanie


All the day our family prepared for the future kaslanie (kaslanie,n., kaslat', v. Komi-Zyrian, nomadic movement, nomadic move). Having checked the new brought sledges our tundra natives criticized not the perfect work of village craftsmen and repaired the narty. All the luggage was put in vandako and yukhuna, the different types of the freight sledges. They formed 4 argishes of app. 8 sledges.


 Our master Konstantin Serotetto.


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