Komi reindeer herding: the effects of socialist and post-socialist change on mobility and land use

  • Mark J. Dwyer
  • Kirill V. Istomin

Abstract

This paper contributes to the discussion concerning the way in which Soviet state policies have influenced the lives, social organization, economy and culture of a group of indigenous Komi reindeer herders of northern Russia: its main focus is to explain how these policies have changed the herders’ patterns of migration and land use. Extensive anthropological fieldwork—to determine current and past herding practices—was carried out and archives were thoroughly investigated to document land use changes in relation to state reindeer herding policies. It was found that compared with those of several decades ago, the migration routes are now much shorter, as the herders have abandoned large areas of winter pastures located in the southernmost part of their herding territory. This “abandonment” phenomenon is endemic amongst reindeer herders generally, throughout the Komi Republic. Whereas the reasons for the abandonment of winter pastures are diverse, they can be attributed mostly to the state sedentarization policy, which has modified the family structures of herders, and the continuing decreases in state subsidies that have changed the balance between state and private ownership of reindeer. Both these factors have greatly contributed to the herders’ dependence on visiting towns, where they now own flats, and on selling reindeer products, upon which they are increasingly reliant for financial security.

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Published
2009-08-01
How to Cite
Dwyer, M., & Istomin, K. (2009). Komi reindeer herding: the effects of socialist and post-socialist change on mobility and land use. Polar Research, 28(2), 282-297. https://doi.org/10.3402/polar.v28i2.6117
Section
Research/review articles