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Yamalo-Nenets National Okrug: Encyclopedia Arctica 10: Soviet North, Geography and General
Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962

Yamalo-Nenets National Okrug

Form for receipt of article "Yamalo-Nenets National Okrug"

Yamal-Nenets N.O., Mandel ORIGINAL COPY

YAMALO-NENETS NATIONAL OKRUG (Area) having 36,000 people in embracing a territory of 244,600 sq. mi. (about the size of France), lies within Tiumen Oblast (qv), lies in the northwestern–
most corner of the Siberian Arctic, between 62° and 73°28′ N., and 62° and 86° E. [: ]
The population is somewhat, perhaps considerably, in excess of 20,000. The Okrug is
bordered on the west by the Ural Mts., beyond which lie the Nenets National Okrug (qv)
along the northern part of the border, and the Komi Autonomous Soviet Socialist Repub–
lic [: ] (qv) along the southern. On the south it is bordered by the Khante-Mansi 25,000 [: ]
National Okrug (qv), and on the east by the Taimyr (Dolgano-Nenets) National Okrug (qv)
and by Krasnoiarsk Krai (qv) proper. On the north it fronts on the Kara Sea (qv) of the
Arctic Ocean. The capital is at Salekhard (qv), formerly Obdorsk, located on the east
bank of the Ob River (qv) exactly and exactly on the Arctic Circle. Administratively,
the Okrug is divided into six raions (counties): Yamal in the extreme northwest, em–
bracing the peninsula of that name (qv), with its seat at Yar-Sale, a fishing new village
of recently-settled nomads on the north shore of Ob Gulf, just above the Arctic Circle; Taz in the extreme north–
east, embracing the western half of the Gydansk Peninsula, and having its seat at
Khalmer-Sede above the Arctic Circle at the mouth of the Taz River; Pri-Ural, embracing
the mouth of the Ob River proper, and having its seat at Aksarka, on the Arctic Circle
just east of Salekhard; Nadym, embracing the valley of the river of that name, and hav–
ing its seat at Nyda, on the east side of Ob Gulf at the Arctic Circle; [: ]
Pur, embracing the valley of the river of that name, and having its seat at Tarko-Sale
on its middle reaches; and [: ] Shuryshkar, embracing the upper portion of the Ob
valley within the confines of the Okrug, and centered at Muzhi on the river. Each of
the counties is, in turn, divided into two to five townships. The Okrug was organized in
Physical Geography . The Arctic Circle divides the territory of the Okrug approximately
in half. The population is concentrated chiefly along the Circle, for the mouth of
the Ob River and the head of Ob Gulf lie along that parallel, and provide fishing and
transport, while the mixed forest-and-tundra there is ideal for reindeer during the
winter. During the summer the reindeer are driven north to the shores of the Arctic,
and the nomadic population shifts accordingly. The southern part of the Okrug is very
swampy; its reindeer and their owners are poorer than those to the north.
The climate is quite severe. The average annual temperature varies between 10.4°
and 17.6°F., depending upon locality. The entire area is underlain by permafrost. The
entire whole Okrug lies within the West Siberian Lowland with its unique geological history,
resulting in [: ] geographic uniformity for [: ] the entire territory.

YAMAL-NENETS National Okrug (Area), within


[: ]
From 68° N. the vegetation is that of the tundra. From there south to 66° it is mixed
forest and tundra. South of that is a zone of marsh and [: ] widely-spaced [: ]
fir and larch.
The settled population dwells chiefly along the Ob River and Gulf, and the Nadym and
Taz Rivers. Reindeer, raised everywhere in the Okrug, are the basis of its economy. The
presence of the reindeer and their owners in one or another portion of the Okrug depends
upon the season of the year and the [: ] availability of feed. Each year the nomads make
long seasonal treks from North to South and back again. The 7,500 Nentsy are divided
into three groups, in terms of their seasonal wanderings. One group spends the winter
on the south shore of the head of Ob Gulf, between the Nadym River on the east, and the
Polui, which joints the Ob at its mouth, in the west. For the summer it they cross the
Ob estuary to reach the mosslands on the west shore of Baidaratskaia Bay on the Kara
Sea, immediately adjoining the Nenets National Okrug (qv). The second, and most numerous
group, are consists of the Yamal Peninsula Nentsy proper. Half of that group spends the
[: ] winter on the south coast of the Peninsula, i.e., the north shore of the head of Ob Gulf.
The other half crosses the estuary to winter on its south shore and on the west bank
of the Nadym. For the summer both stream high into the Yamal Peninsula and occupy moss
lands on both the Kara Sea and Ob Gulf coasts as far north as Malygin Strait, marking
its the northern extremity . of the continent in this longitude.
The third, Taz River group, spends the winter in the vicinity of the Nadym delta
and along the Nyda River, and in the spring ascends the [: ] peninsula be–
tween the Ob and the Taz far to the north, some of them reaching the northernmost dip
of Gydan Peninsula for the summer. A smaller group, separating off from the main stream,
pastures its reindeer in the summertime along the lower reaches of the Pur and Taz.
A small tiny group of nomadic Komi, numbering 691 in 1926, [: ] dwell during the winter in two spots, along
the Syna and the west bank of the Polui River. In the spring they cross the Ural and spend
the summer near the Kara River and Bay in the Nenets National Okrug to the west.
In 1926/7 there were 286,000 reindeer in the Yamalo-Nenets National Okrug. Two-thirds
of the families owned one or more of the animals, but most of them were in the hands of a few
large owners, while one-third of the families had none at all.


Reindeer Ownership Before Organization of Collective Farms in Yamal National Okrug
Number of Reindeer Owned
Per Household
Number of Households
Owning This Number
% of Total Number of
Reindeer-Owning Householdd
Total Reindeer
in This
% of
[: ] 10 or less 302 14.8 2,000 0.7
11 to 50 712 34.9 21,500 7.5
51-100 388 19.0 27,500 9.6
101-250 392 19.2 58,100 20.3
251-500 133 6.5 45,500 15.9
5001-1,000 84 4.1 65,100 22.8
1,000-2,000 22 1.2 36,600 12.8
2,000 or more 7 0.3 29,700 10.4
Total 2,040 100.0 286,000 100.0


The 113 most prosperous families households - those possessing over 500 reindeer - constituting 5.6%
of the total number of Nenets households, owned 131,400 head, of or 46% of the total. The first six
collective reindeer farms were organized in 1930-31 by a merger of the holdings of a number
of the poorest families to derive the benefits of cooperative action. They had a total of
16,000 head. Another group of families, unwilling as yet to go so far as to merge their
holdings completely, organized a cooperative with continued private ownership of the animals
but joint pasturing. It had 2,000 reindeer. Finally, the government set up a state-owned
farm of 12,000 animals, apparently with reindeer confiscated from the one or two wealthiest individuals.
Its purpose was to provide the new collectives with young and blooded stock. Both the state–
owned and collective farms were served by [: ] veterinarians and zoological techni–
cians from the Salekhard Veterinary and Bacteriological Institute.
Hunting is another important branch of the economy of the [: ] Yamal N.O. Polar fox
and squirrel are the chief objects of this field of enterprise. A lesser branch is the hunt–
ing of birds for their feathers and down. Fishing is conducted for a type of whitefish, (salmon),
sturgeon, pickerel, ling, and others. Cattle are raised only by the settled population near
[]the mouth of the Ob River.[] In 1931 there were 482 horses, and 570 cows in a total of 1,255 head
of all kinds within the Okrug. By 1937 there were 2,799 horses, 1,979 cows, 70 sheep and
48 pigs in a total of 4,896 head. The 1950 total may be estimated roughly at 9,000.
Schools within the Okrug, which increased in number from one in 1916 to 1946, (for statistics, see History, below) are conducted in the
Nenets and Russian tongues languages respectively, depending upon the native tongue of the children.
Many boarding schools are maintained for the children of nomads.
Cultural bases - hospital, plus school, plus library, plus radio station and plus clubhouse - [: ]
[: ] were built 20 years ago at the base of the Yamal Peninsula and the mouth of the Taz River,
and have since been expanded in number. At that early date in the development of the Soviet
Arctic t T there were also [: ] two-way radio stations at Salekhard, Mare-Sale on the west coast of
the Yamal Peninsula, and Novyi Port on the eastern shore. in 1931. By 1935 there were 25 stations. [: ] Salekhard has telegraphic
and postal communication with the rest of the country. [: ] Prior to the introduction of air–
craft, the posts were carried by Ob River steamer in the summer, and by horse in the winter
[: ] from Tobolsk, while the rest of the territory was served by reindeer and dog post.
Now a scheduled air line serves all the OB [: Pavet] and Gulf communities.
Scheduled steamer service existed between Tobolsk and Salekhard, while trips were made as
necessary to Nyda and other points. In addition, the Ob and Ob Gulf are plied by vessels
serving the special needs of the hunting, fishing and sealing industries.
, although
furs are air-hauled.

Yamal Nenets National Okrug

Pre- History . V.N. Chernetsov, who has done archeological field work in this region since the
early thirties late twenties, is the ranking authority on its history and pre-history to the 10th Century
A.D. Although there is much controversy over one of his fundamental ideas, the existence
of an Eskimo-type culture here before the arrival of the present inhabitants, an idea con–
tradicted by those who hold to the theory of the South Pacific origin of the Eskimos and
who deny that any of the finds he cites are proof of such a culture, we [: ] offer [: ]
his view of the pre-history of the area
full as the best available to date.
In 1929 Chernetsov discovered, on the Yamal Peninsula, Cape Tiutei-Sale of the Yamal
Peninsula, remnants of an early settlement of coastal hunters of sea and coastal mammals.
Whereas the settlement as such is of relatively late date, not more than a thousand years
old, he believes that its culture is genetically doubtless of related to that of a much
earlier date, and is therefore worthy of particular attention. Similar finds were apparent l -
ly made by others elsewhere along the coast of the Yamal and Yavai Peninsulas, on Belyi
Island, eastward to the mouth of the Khatanga River (qv) and westward along the coast
of the Bolshezem e lskaia and Malozemelskaia Tundras all the way to Kanin Peninsula, which
marks the western limit of tundra in the Russian European Arctic. This unique coastal cul–
ture developed, it would seem, from the so-called "Arctic Neolithic", artifacts of which,
dating to roughly 500 B.C., have been found along the Pechora River, the mouth of the
Indiga (i.e., Cheshskaia Bay), and on Olenii (Reindeer) Island [: ] off the coast in the
vicinity of Murmansk. (q.v. Nenets National Okrug, Pre-History). The harpoons for hunting
sea mammals found in the Yamal area and the others mentioned have identical shape. Both,
however, differ from those of the Bering Sea area in that they are not inset but over-set
This coastal culture was typified by the hunting of sea mammals, particularly the
walrus, as indicated by bone finds, by a settled rather than nomadic existence making use of
dug-out houses, [: ] by locations at the very shore of the sea itself, and
most frequently on capes or at river mouths, by an abundance of bone and clay ware, by the use
of a kayak made of hides similar to the Eskimo, by the use of a harpoon made of bone in hunt–
ing sea mammals and, in places, by the use of the bones of whales in building.
Along the lower reaches of the Ob River, considerably to the south of the tundra
coastal area we have been discussing, that is, in the forest lands, earlier and more ex–

Yamal Nenets National Okrug

tensive finds have been made. They date from the late Neolithic, and and reveal that the
chief occupations of the population were hunting and fishing. The remains of settlements
that have been found are most frequently located in sandy portions of the first terrace
above the river meadow. The utensils found permit these settlements to be dated roughly
at 1,000 B.C. Most remarkable are the large dugout houses, up to 600 sq. meters in area,
which indicate a considerable degree of social development, as the low level of the tech–
nology of the time could not have permitted of the building of structures so extensive
except by the joint efforts of a fairly large number of individuals. It is believed that
they were the common dwelling houses typical of a matriarchal society.
Finds of later date, that is, within the first millenium B.C., show the same general
type of culture to have continued but with better implements at its command. There are
fewer stone tools, while the vessels of clay become better differentiated in form . and orna–
mentation. Flat-based pots and shallow tureens make their appearance. The ornamentation
becomes richer, with other types of stamping in addition to the honeycomb design. The
dwelling, at least during the winter, continued to be a dugout, but its dimensions became
smaller, not exceeding 300 sq. meters. This is explained in terms of the presumed reduction
in the family community, held to be the economic unit, [: ] a reduction which ap–
parently took place [: ] parallel with the development of techniques making it possible
to perform the same tasks with a smaller number of hands.
Very little can as yet be said about the ethnic origins of the people of the Lower Ob
during the late [: ] Neolithic period. Anthropological researches show, on the one hand,
the presence of Mongoloid characteristics, which are apparently of ancient standing in this
area. On the other hand, they demonstrate that, in all probability, there was no consider–
able difference anthropologically between the northern and southern groups of the population.
Ancient connections with eastern Siberia may be traced for both groups. G. Prokofev, basing
himself upon language data, holds that the tribes of the Arctic coast were in some respects
close to the Paleoasiatic peoples of northeastern Siberia. A skull [: ] found
under the in a grave under the floor of a dugout [: ] on Cape Khaen-Sale on the shore of Malygin
Strait, i.e., on the northernmost tip of land in this territory, showed distinctive Mongol
characteristics. In the forest zone the connection of the Ob River aborigines with the East
may readily be traced in the form of their stone [: ] axes, the so-called eared axes for–

Yamal Nenets National Okrug

merly believed to be limited to Eastern Siberia.
In the last 500 years B.C., elements of cultures familiar to archeology in more southerly
steppe cultures, but not hitherto in among the peoples of Northwestern Siberia, begin to make an
appearance there. At first they are rare, but at about the beginning of the Christian
era they take on definite shape. An axe and a miniature votive double-bladed hatchet found
at the mouth of the Polui River, i.e., at about the location of present-day Salekhard,
have been dated to the period of 500 B.C. or a century or two thereafter. This spot, with
its very convenient location on a high sandy shore at the confluence of the Polui and Ob,
near the Ob Gulf and yet at the [: ] meeting-point of tundra and taiga, has been was has been the site
of [: ] a settlement for fully a thousand years. From the
4th to the 15th centuries A.D. it was a place for the bringing of sacrifices, and at
other times it was both a settlement and a site of sacrifice at one and the same time. At
one time there was even a town of sorts, for there remain the remnants of a wall and moat.
The nomadic reindeer-raising Samodii (Samoyed, Samoed) peoples made their appearance in the tundra of
Northwestern Siberia in about the 10th century A.D. Moving from the east and partly
from the southeast, westward, the Samodii assimilated the aborigines of the Arctic, and
in part they also assimilated the northern group of the Finno-Yugrian peoples, while adopt–
ing those elements of the culture of both which were best suited to the local physical [: ] and
geographical situation. By the first centuries of the second millenium A.D. the tundra
had pretty well been overrun by the Samodii peoples, but the ancient coastal culture
continued to exist in the most inaccessible corners of the area until the 16th and 17th
centuries. By this time the present-day Nentsy had emerged from the Samodii migrants, while
the northernmost Yugrian peoples (Khante, Mansi, Komi) had learned reindeer-keeping from them.
It is to be hoped that [: ] analysis of the extensive finds made by Chernetsov
and V.I. Moshinskaia in 1946 [: ] will, when published, enable give us a much clearer and more com–
plete picture than we have given above. These finds included were made near Salekhard,
along the Polui River and its tributaries. They included a late Bronze Age campsite near
the Salekhard pier, an early Iron Age site on the left bank of the Shaitanka River, and
late Khanty relics both in Salekhard proper and on Elovyi Cape. The remnants of the forti–
fied town at the mouth of the Polui, referred to above, were thoroughly explored, and a new

Yamalo Nenets National Okrug

site with pottery relics of the same type was found at the mouth of a stream called
Khar-Soim. Khanty graves [: ] of the 17th and 18th centuries were found at
various points along the Polui and Khar-Soim. Remnants of temporary campsites of the
late Bronze and early Iron Ages were found along the left bank of the Taz River, and
a fortified town of the late Iron Age was found in Salmer-Saz. Excavations at Zelenaia
Gorka showed successive culture strata, the lowest revealing an early Iron Age, the second,
a Polui-River mouth type culture, and the upper, with semi-dugouts, dating from the 9th
and 10th centuries A.D.
History .
Trade for furs with these peoples, or at least trade for their furs through the
peoples immediately to the south as intermediaries goes back at least to the 10th
century A.D., when Arab traders described a people called the Yura, north of the Volga
Bulgar [: ] kingdom. [: ]
[: ]
[: ]
[: ]
[: ] By 1030 A.D., an astronomer, Al-Biruni,
was writing in a textbook on his subject that: "Beyond that (7th) climate there live
only a few peoples, including the Isu (Visu in other Arabian sources, now identified
as the Finnish Ves), the Varang (Scandinavians), Yura (Yugra) and others like them."
The Persian author Aufi, writing at some time after 1228 A.D., stated that it was
a twenty day's trip from the Bulgars to the land of the Yugra. The Bulgars conducted
trade with the Yugra, he reported, providing them clothes of fabric, salt, etc. For
transportation they used "something like a [: ] barrow" (i.e., sled) drawn by dogs,
as no w other animal could cross that country due to the snow. They also used skiis.
From the land of the Yugra the Bulgars brought beautiful sable furs. Beyond the Yugra,
on the shore of the sea, lived a people who regularly plied out to sea and caught a
"fish" - the walrus, apparently - from whose teeth the handles of knives and swords
were carved. "When, in that sea a vessel plies northward, it reaches a place where
there is virtually no night in the summer, so that in a year there is one night and
one day."
It would appear that the people living beyond the Yugra in the on the seacoast are

Yamalo-Nenets National Okrug

the Samoeds of the Russian chronicles, i.e., the Nentsy.
L.S. Berg, the present head of the All-Union Geographical Society of the USSR, states
that Russians first made their appearance near the mouth of the Ob in either 1364 or 1365.
The Fourth Novgorod [: ] Chronicle, for that year, carries the notable entry: "that winter
men of Novgorod went from Yugra fighting down the Ob River to the sea."
For more than a century Novgorod controlled the fur trade with the Ob mouth area. After
its defeat by Moscow, however, the latter dispatched a large expedition of 4,000 men –
indicating the respect in which the fighting abilities of the natives were held - to subdue
the Nentsy both west and east of the Urals; and, unlike Novgorod, to erect permanent forts
from which the country would be ruled. It was in 1483 that the soldiers of Moscow crossed the Urals and again fought down the Ob. However, it was almost a century after the founding
of Pustozersk west of the Urals, in 1499, that before the Russians were in a position to
establish a permanent hold at the mouth of the Ob, with the founding of Obdorsk, now
Salekhard, in 159 3 5 . This was subsequent to Yermak's conquest of western Siberia nine 11 years earlier. Insert p. 8a. However,
t T here is abundant evidence, particularly in the reports of
English representatives of the English Muscovie Company, that the Russians had traded with
the Ob country for a century if not longer . before the founding of Obdorsk. This evidence reveals three routes for this com–
merce. One is was by river and portage to the site of present-day Obdorsk, previously known
as Nazova or Nozova. The second was by ship along the coast to the Yamal Peninsula, then
across it by river and portage, and up the Ob Gulf to the Ob River, or to the Taz Gulf and
River where Mangazeia was founded. The third route represented navigation of the Arctic
proper (the Kara Sea). It followed the west coast of Novaia Zemlia up to Matochkin Shar,
then crossed that strait and the Kora Sea due eastward to round Belyi Island and course southward up the Ob
Gulf. This route was reported described , with unassailable detail and accuracy, to Anthony Marsh,
a chief factor for the Muscovy Company of England at Moscow in 1584, by four Russian mer–
chants in the Ob trade whom he had engaged to report on it to him. It will be found in
Purchas' Pilgrimes , Vol. XIV, [: ] and the route, including Matochkin Shar
and Belyi Island, is depicted in Isaac Massa's map of 1612, half a century before the sup–
posed date of discovery of Matochkin Shar strait. Berg believes the use of this route, later
abandoned, to prove that ice conditions in the Arctic were quite mild during the latter half
of the 16th century.
The knowledge of the native peoples gained by the [: ] military expedition of
1483, led by Prince Kurbskii, and by the [: ] fur-gathering parties which preceded

[: ] Yamalo-Nenets National Okrug

Apparently the immediate vicinity of the Ob River was populated by Khante, rather than
Nentsy, at the time of the Russian conquest and until very recent date, judging by all avail–
able sources. Record and legend make it clear that fire and sword were not the only means
used by the Russians in their advance. It goes without saying that they preferred less costly
means. When possible, they attempted to subject the natives by [: ] buying off
[: ] their chieftains, whose influence they relied on to deliver the furs that were the
main object of the Russians. This method was not usually successful among the most primitive
people, like the Nentsy, who had [: ] no civilian state structure or even a specific permanent warrior chief.
But it did work, at various time and places, among the Khante. Thus, shortly after the found–
ing of Obdorsk, the local Khante princeling set off for Moscow - presumably at the invitation
of the Russians - to make his obeisance to Tsar Fedor, son of Ivan the Terrible. He carried
with him rich presents: polar fox, sable, ermine and marten. The Tsar made it a point to
shower attention upon him. He and his party were given the use of separate mansions, they
were banquetted literally to the king's taste, shown the sites of Moscow, and taken to a
bath-house, the threshold of which the Khante chieftain crossed for the first time with great
trepidation. Two After two months he accepted conversion to the Christian faith. He was bap–
tized Vasilii, took an oath of fealty to the Tsar, and sent home in peace.
Chief Vasilii came down the Ob on his return voyage to Obdorsk in the spring of 1602.
Before reaching the settlement he halted his floating caravan and had the last boat, filled
with barrels of the home-brewed beer of that day, brought forward. Retaining only one for
himself, he had the others carried into the fort. Waiting a few hours, he then was rowed up
to the spit near Obdorsk, and found it, as he expected, thronged with merry celebrants. The
point was that he had feared recriminations from the Khante for changing his faith, but the
malt [] had worked [: ] its miracle, as he had hoped.
After he had told his tales of the wonders of Moscow and his voyage, and the last bar–
rel had been emptied, he proposed to celebrate his return by erecting a church on the site.
In response he was asked why there was he hadn't brought more beer, but he replied that by
fall there would be both [: ] beer and bread, for which the natives had developed a taste which the natives needed to live on now that they had to de-
vote more time to hunting trapping and less to caring for their reindeer, because of the Russian demand for tribute.
and he Vasilii began to toss handfuls of barley-seed, which he had brought with him, on the ground.
Whereupon the Russian chief of the fort, Mitrofan Zotov, seized the sack from his hand, and
stopped the sowing until the ground had been properly broken. Vasilii's seeds did not ripen,
but Zotov's did. However, the plants were killed by hoar-frost, and it was 325 years before
grain was grown here successfully, on however small a scale.

Yamalo-Nenets National Okrug

and followed it, is indicated by a Russian manuscript of the end of the 15th or beginning
of the 16th century, called On Unknown Peoples in the Eastern Country Ana On Various Languages .
Along with much that is fantastic, it contains a good deal of accurate information. For
example, it states, with regard to the Siberian Nentsy (Samoeds):
"In the Eastern country, beyond the land of Yugra, along the sea, there live a Samoed
people called Malgonzei [: ] . Their food is reindeer meat and and fish.
These people are not tall in size, flat-faced, with small noses, but very mettlesome, and
rapid and great archers. And they [: ] travel with reindeer and with dogs;
and their [: ] dress is of sable and reindeer, and their commodity is sables."
The clan of Malgonzei, or, more accurately, Mongkasi, later gave [: ] their name to
the town of Mangazeia on the Taz River, founded in 1600 by Princes Miron Shakovskbi and 1601.
Danil Khripunov . The name, Mangazeia, is derived from the Enets ( [: ] Yenisei Nenets) word
Mongkasi and the word Ya, or land, thus, the land of the Mongkasi clan. The name of the
clan means forest-dwellers, from mongka for forest, indicating that the Enets people, now
living in a treeless land, had come from the south. Insert (9a) here
In the broader sense the name Mangazeia was applied to the territory lying between
the Taz and the lower reaches of the Yenisei. This territory, embracing and even extending
a little beyond the easternmost portion of the National Okrug here under our consideration,
became known to the Russians not later than the middle of the 16th century. The Englishman,
Richard Johnson, who visited Moscow in 1558 with Jenkinson, informs us of the tidings
brought him by the Russian of Kholmogory (near Arkhangelsk), Fedor Tovtygin, that beyond
the land of Yugria live Samoeds, whose country, which Tovtygin had visited, was called
Molgomsay (Mangazeia).
The coast east of the Ob was sufficiently well known for the English to request, in
1582-83, monopoly rights to trade in the mouths, not only of the European rivers Northern
Dvina, Mezen, and Pechora, but of the Ob and Enisei. In 1595 [: ]
[: ] seven Dutch vessels under Cornelis Nai, meeting Russian ships at Yugorskii
Shar on September 3, learned from them that the men of Kholmogory made annual trips by
sea to the Ob and, further, to the Fillissy (Yenisei) where they traded in fabrics and
other commodities. A week later the Dutch, south of Yugorskii Shar, met Nentsy whose chief
told them that there were two rivers beyond the Ob, of which the further was called the

Yamalo-Nenets National Okrug

Molconsay (apparently the Taz, on which the town of Mangazeia was founded five years later).
What is most important is that the Dutch were told that the land beyond extended toward
Novaia Zemlia (i.e., northward, apparently the Taimyr Peninsula), and that beyond it there
was a great sea extending along Tartary to the warm countries.
In 1598 Moscow sent out one Fedor Diakov "to explore the Mangazeia country, and also
to the Yenisei River". Having collected tribute in furs from the natives there, he returned
to Moscow in 1599 or 1600. By this date, Russian and Komi fur trappers and traders had
built a number of outposts in the Yamal-Nenets country "for the safety of trade with the
Samoeds". Supplies to Mangazeia, built in 1600 1601 , reached it downriver via the Ob, and then
by the Ob and Taz Gulfs. Insert p.11
For half a century , From 1600 to 1660, thereafter , the Obdorsk-Mangazeia route was a vital link in one
of the two major Russian routes for the discovery and conquest of Siberia and the exploit–
ation of its resources in fur through plunder, taxation of the natives, and hunting and
trading by the Russians themselves. [: ] On the west bank of the Ob oppo–
site Obdorsk, where it is entered by its tributary the Sob, Moscow erected a customs post
through which all persons crossing the border to or from Russia had to pass. 919 men regi–
stered at the Sob-Obdorsk barriers in 1 1639 and 745 in 1640. The next year's figures are
broken down into incoming and outgoing. 125 registered as entering Siberia and 638 as
leaving it. They had entered it by the more southerly route, but left this way because they
could go downstream on most of their journey. The government also used this route to
transport to Europe and then to Moscow its tribute, taxes and tithes in sables from as
far east as Yakutsk. After the closing of Mangazeia, partly to bar Siberia to uncontrolled
access by foreigners, and partly because warmer, more southerly routes were available, the
downriver route [: ] out of Siberia via the Ob and its eastern tributaries to Obdorsk
and then continued to be used until closed by Peter the Great in 1704. The Russian state
itself had [: ] ceased using the Obdorsk-Mangazeia route in 1660 because of its dangers,
the Ob Gulf and Taz Bay being broad and open bodies of water. Prior to 1620, 25 to 30
small, decked Russian ships each year travelled in flotilla from northern Europe to the Ob
via the coastal or Novaia Zemlia routes. The change from river to ocean boats, or vice versa,
was made at Sob-Obdorsk. The river boats were flat-bottomed, up to 50 feet in length,
equipped with both oars and sails, and carried up t to 50 men with provisions and goods.

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[: ]
In the ir first, unsuccessful expedition of conquest in 1600 , Shakhovskoi and Khripunov had a fighting force of
[: ]
100 Cossacks under Yakov Cheremnyi, and, as guide, a merchant Semen Novoselov, who had traded with the
"unpacified Samoyeds", Semen Novoselov . In the Ob Gulf, which the traders called the
Sea of Mangazeia, a storm blew up, and the clumsy clinker-built boats were cast ashore.
The flour stores, dried oatmeal and other food supplies were ruined by the water, and
the expedition, repairing its boats with whatever materials lay at hand, made its way
back toward its starting point, closely hugging the shore. After great hardships, it
reached the Russian trappers' outpost of Pantuev Gorodok, and there awaited snow and frost to
make travelling easier. Meanwhile Prince Shakhovskoi prevailed upon the Khante and the
pacified Nentsy to carry the supplies of his expedition to the "Yurak [: ] Samoyeds" (the Taz River
When the rivers and lakes had frozen, and snow had covered the ground, the expedi–
tion set forth again, travelling on skis. The Nentsy retain a vivid folk memory of this
catastrophe in their history. They place it quite accurately in time. They say ing that a
reindeer lives twenty springs, a polar fox ten, and a duck five. Ten reindeer, ten
polar foxes and ten ducks have had been born, lived and died since this happened, in their
legend. The total, 350 years, is remarkably accurate. As they remember the time, the
Taz River country was rich in wild reindeer and foxes. The people ate well, slept se–
curely, and were at war with no one.
Rumors now reached them of iron [: ] (i.e., armored and helmeted) men who
were coming upon them from the Land of Midnight (the north - the Russians were moving
upriver) and who killed with blue fire. The legend says the Nenets dogs trapped a bear
which dropped dead without an arrow hitting him, and when the shaman ate the bear's
heart, he broke his teeth on a round blue stone the size of a reindeer's pupil and the
weight of its hoof. He recognized it as the blue fire of which they had heard.
When great sacrifices of reindeer and other [: ] wealth failed to placate the gods
(i.e., apparently news of the Russians' approach continued), the strongest, fastest,
shrewdest and best hunter in the tribe, [: ] Naido, said that the gods themselves had
turned cowardly and were afraid of the iron men, and that the gods should be beaten
to make them help the people. The shaman warned that this would bring disaster, but
the people followed Naido, and beat the idols with their long reindeer guide-poles.

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Now the Taz Nentsy received more detailed information of the behavior of the
men in iron clothing like fish-scales. The Tavasi clan had been overtaken during its
spring hunt for wild reindeer. The Cossacks had killed all the reindeer for food,
except the transport animals. They had taken the best clothes from the natives and
put them on themselves. They had taken all the skins of sable, fox and polar fox.
A hungry wolf was a ferocious animal, but the Cossacks were worse than wolves . , says the legend. They
had killed the children and old men, taken the young women into their wigwams, and
compelled the grown men to gather firewood, make the fires and milk the reindeer
(women's work).
Hearing this news, Naido, the chief warrior, now the leader in place of the
shaman, advised [: ] moving to the east to hunt, out of the way of the Russians.
They drove their reindeer without rest for three days. The bulls staggered; the cows
fell. A warm wind from the south made it harder to pull in harness. On the fourth day
they reached the Yenisei, but found the ice moving, making it impossible to cross.
For two days they awaited a freeze, but in vain. Naido called together the elders,
and told them that in five days - five feedings of the reindeer, ten smokings of the
pipe - the Cossacks would be masters in their tents. He asked their advice: [: ]
should the clan take off its fur clothing and go naked into the snow to freeze? should
they disperse the reindeer and throw themselves from the cliffs into the Yenisei or
go aboard an ice the ice flows floes and drift into the land of the white bear and the
walrus? [: ]
The elders smoked in silence for a long time. The shaman, first to speak, pro–
posed more sacrifices, but none agreed. Another wise old man, Yumgalo, proposed that
the tribe select its best sable and polar fox skins and lasso the fattest reindeer,
bring these voluntarily to the greedy Cossacks, and let them take these gifts home with them to
their midnight land. Naido replied that wolves want fresh blood - the Cossacks wanted
all the wealth of the Nentsy. He proposed to fight. The elders considered this long, gave this long consideration,
but agreed. The tribe sent out messengers behind the fastest reindeer, each man with
a broken arrow in his bosom - the sign of war.
Men gathered at Naido's call from all the clans. Each brought his bear bow - i.e.,
the strongest. Their arrows were tipped with fish bones, flint or the beaks of birds.

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Their skis were smeared with the fat of wild reindeer. Each hunter carried the nostrils
of a sable and the claw of a fox to help him. for luck.
The Nentsy surrounded the Cossacks the first night after setting forth. At dawn,
in response to Naido's owl hoot, they drew their bows and left fly their arrows. The
Cossacks, who had slept in their armor, rose in response to the cries of the Nentsy.
Two of them fell, hit in the eye. But those hit in body and head went unharmed, while
their guns soon took terrible toll of the Nentsy, who fled in terror. Then things
went badly with the Mongkasi tribe. The Cossacks killed every man they could catch, as
punishment for resisting. They snatched sable and polar fox furs even from the backs
of children. They took the women.
Having defeated the Mongkasi, the Cossacks pressed on, but [: ] Naido went before
them everywhere, warning the natives to disperse, but and gathering the strong-willed
around him. They decided to make themselves snow-colored cloaks of the skins of the
white polar fox. Then, one night when the blizzard blew, and even the reindeer lay
down and the dogs [: ] dug themselves into the snow, the Nentsy, "like wolves",
crawled up to the Cossack encampment, knives in hand. They killed all but two, who
succeeded in getting to their sledges and escaping.
After this victory, happiness again reigned in Reindeer land . says the legend. The dispersed ani–
mals were herded together. The smoke rose from Nenets fires once again. The polar fox
[: ] and sable were caught in large numbers. The reindeer gave many calves.
The fish ran well in the spring. The Nenets clans prospered, and Naido was praised
to the heavens.So goes the legend, and the Russian chronicles bear it out, except
for saying that only 30 Cossacks were killed, and 60 [: ] wounded. Thereupon the
Tsar ordered a new expedition the next year. This one had 200 Russian soldiers and Lithuanian
(presumably Baltic German) [: ] mercenaries, plus officers, i.e., twice the numbers
of the previous party. All were armed with rapid-fire arquebuses. They also had three
siege guns, much powder, lead and ball, and a two-year food supply. The expedition
moved in 13 open and decked boats. The commander was Prince Vasilii Masalskii, and
his assistant was Savluk Pushkin.
The new expedition travelled uninterruptedly, day and night, down the Ob Gulf
into the Taz Gulf, and then up the Taz. There it united with the beaten remnanants of

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the force sent forth the year before under Princes Miron Shakhovskii and Daniil Khripunov.
This large combined force of about 265 men defeated the [: ] "warlike [: ] Samoyed",
and built the new fort of Mangazeia 125 miles up the Taz from its mouth. Whereupon a
royal edict was issued at Moscow, saying:
"...And now the monarch and his son, the crown prince, having mercy on the Mangazeia
and Yenisei Samoyed, have caused a fort to be erected in their land to protect them
from the merchants, so that they might live in peace and quiet, and pay tribute in
furs into the royal treasury without disobedience...."
Just to make sure they did so, the Russian traders were forbidden to sell them
armor, spears, swords, axes and knives. Free trade in liquor was permitted at first,
but when its extreme profitability became evident to the Voevodas, a [: ] government–
owned liquor store was set up instead.
The [: ] conqueror of the Taz River Nentsy and founder of Mangazeia, Prince
Masalskii, called the Scarred, or the Cursed, was the first Voevoda of Mangazeia, in
1801 1601-1602. His second nick-name dates from the Troubled Times, the decade after
his return to Russia, when he was known as a murderer of children. He switched his
loyalties from Tsar Boris Godunov to Prince Vasili Shuiskii, then to the False Dmitrii, and
finally, as acknowledged leader of the feudal boiars, he invited Wladislaw, son of
Poland's king Sigismund, to take the throne of Russia. Describing his ultimate death,
the chroniclers tell us that he had caused others' tongues to be torn out to their
very roots, or their chests cut open so their innards could be seen, or to be burned
alive. All of which gives one some idea of how he behaved in the "pacification" of
the Nentsy. Naido and the others who killed the first attacked the first Cossack party
were hung, in this treeless country, by reindeer thongs from reindeer guide-poles set
up as a gibbet. His body dried and weathered, and the word went through the Nenets
camps that he would be resurrected if he were bathed in the tears of Nentsy. The people
wailed day and night, and preserved their tears in reindeer-bladders, according to
legend. The Russians, it is said, learned of this, raided the wigwams, found the blad–
ders, and sent them off to the Tsar with the fur tribute.
The the very literal-minded Nentsy, the fur tribute was described as being for the
Tsar in person. and He was pictured as the biggest of men, and when the Cossacks [] de-

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manded additional furs, they said: "Now the Tsar has [: ] grown bigger yet, and he needs an
even larger fur coat."
The Nentsy did not cease their resistance after the defeat of Naido, and during
most of the 17th century, the majority of them paid no tribute. The Cossacks could
wring it out of those they caught, but to catch them, scattered as they were across
the tundra and forever wandering, was not easy. [: ]
The carrot was used where the club was not successful. In 1631, Prince Trubetskoi, Voevoda
of Tobolsk, gave instructions to [: ] send "50 gallons of hot wine for the Ostiak (Khante)
and Samoyed (Nenets) [: ] chieftains, so as to accustom them to pay tribute".
A much more effective means was that of seizing the most respected elders and
holding them in chains as hostages for the payment of tribute. When it was payed promptly and in
full, they were fed reindeer meat and bread. When it was not, they had to eat carrion
and the type of dried fish fed to the sledge dogs. As a result, in 1629 alone 4,500
sable were collected at Mangazeia, [: ] excluding other types of furs. When the [: ]
Nentsy raised a hand against the [: ] tribute collectors in the tundra, they were
punished, as specified in the chronicles: "ears cut off", "beheaded", "quartered",
"impaled on spears", "hung by the feet".
The fire of 1643 which destroyed Mangazeia is ascribed by some historians to care–
lessness, and by others to the [: ] Nentsy. Nenets legends agree with the latter version.
They say that the Cossacks, in putting down a war between two Nenets clans, killed more
than a hundred people and captured several chieftains. Once again the tribes sent forth
messengers with broken arrows in their bosoms as the signal for rebellion. One summer
night they stole up to the walls of the town and set it afire, killing the whole popula–
tion. The Russians themselves admit that only 24 people remained in the town, although
they say nothing of a rebellion. The Nenets legend says that they took only the fiery
water from the ruins, but left everything else, because they believe it the greatest
misfortune to touch the property of the dead.
Insert here last paragraph of p.10

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Even the brief period during which Mangazeia was open to unrestricted trade was
won only by a petition merchants' petition to [] the Tsar. [: ]
Learning of the dispatch of Fedor Diakov by the Tsar in 1598, they knew that it could
only result in the building of a town, [: ]
perhaps with a government effort to monopolize the fur supply for the treasury,
[: ] and their free trading would be brought to an end. Therefore, the
following year, ahead of Diakov's return, they beseeched the Tsar "to be gracious to
them and to permit them to travel for trade and enterprise to Mangazeia by sea and
by the River Ob, to the rivers Pur, Taz and Yenisei and trade at will with the Samo–
eds who dwell along those rivers." (The Ob, Pur and Taz are the main rivers of the
Yamal Nenets National Okrug.)
The Tsar gave his permission for continued unrestricted trade [: ] with these areas,
subject to the usual 10% duty and on the condition that they refrain from dealing in
the commodities on the usual prohibited list. This edict was issued in January, 1600.
The following year, in the [: ] reign of Boris Godunov, the town of Mangazeia, 125 miles
up the Taz River, was founded. Travellers' records describe Mangazeia as having been
surrounded by a wooden wall with five towers, linked by a solid tree-trunk palisade
10 feet high. The huts of most of the residents were built into the inside of that
wall, which thus provided them with one side of a house. The town had two churches,
the mansion of the Voevoda, another for travelling dignitaries, a customs house, an
inn for transients, a public bath-house, barns, stores and a jail. In 1946, Chernetsov
and Moshinskaia conducted excavations which enabled them to draw the conclusion that
Mangazeia was not only a military and commercial outpost, but a normal Russian settle–
ment of its day, whose inhabitants strove to establish the way of life and economy
to which they were accustomed in all permanent towns.
The annual fair, [: ] conducted at the time of year when the traders and hunters were
preparing to return to European Russia, brought more than 2,000 visitors to the town
temporarily. The permanent population consisted of soldiers and their families, [: ]
clergymen and interpreters. The trade turnover was considerable for the time, commodi–
ties worth hundreds of thousands of rubles being brought in, and the government's in–
come from all this made the establishment of the town well worth while. To raise that
income as high as possible, the merchants and hunters were burdened with a head tax, a
levy on each [: ] warehouse, store and head of livestock or reindeer, as well as for

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entry into and exit from the town. This was in addition to the tribute in furs levied
upon the natives. (The taxes upon the Russians were also paid in furs.) But the main
tax was the 10% levy on all goods and food supplies brought into Mangazeia, save grain
alone. Later this exemption was removed, with the result that 40 lbs. of flour, which
cost only a few kopeks in the new grain-growing areas on the upper Ob, sold at 50 kope c ks,
a ruble or even two in Mangazeia. This was during good crop years. (1 ruble equals 100
In addition to all the foregoing, the government profited considerably by establish–
ing a liquor store there, selling wine and mead.
By 1616 the inland Siberian route was feeling the pinch of the competition of the
maritime route to the north, while, on the other hand, the inland towns were now large
enough to try to do something about this. As a result, in that year, Prince Kurakin,
Voevoda of Tobolsk, wrote complained to Moscow that "traders and hunters go in boats
from Arkhangelsk town to Kara Bay and by portage to Mangazeia, and by a different route
from the sea to the Yenisei estuary in big ships, and that foreigners have hired Russian
people to guide them to Mangazeia from Arkhangelsk town". (My emphasis - W.M.). This
corresponds entirely to the Anthonie Marsh report of 32 years earlier, and the Isaac
Massa map dated four years prior to Kurakin's complaint. It is most improbable that
Kurakin knew of either.
Informing Moscow of the open water route to Mangazeia, he expressed his fears that
it might be used by foreigners foreign states for the military conquest of Siberia
[: ] from the Russians. That idea was by no means far-fetched. The Russians themselves
had held western Siberia for only 35 years, and numbered, perhaps, a few tens of thou–
sands over its entire vast expanse. England and the other countries trading with the
Russian north were in the process of colonizing abroad by sea. He pointed out that
the trip from Arkhangelsk to Mangazeia, with portages and all, and the necessity of
hauling heavy commodities on the outward journey, required only 4 to 4 1/2 weeks.
This news so disturbed the current Tsar, Mikhail [: ] Fedorovich, and his
court, that, in the same year, he prohibited the use of the northern route to Mangazeia,
and ordered that all traders and hunters bound for that destination be directed to
follow the Verkhoture-Tobol[]sk-Berezovo-Ob River route, crossing the Urals in the south.

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This edict would have been a death blow not only to [: ] European, but also to Russian
trade with the north coast of Siberia. Therefore the Tsar was besieged with petitions
from every town whose merchants and [: ] trappers crossed the north Urals or the Kara Sea
each year [: ] to Mangazeia. They asked to be permitted to go to Mangazeia "by the
big sea or across the Stone (ancient name for the Urals) as before, so that they will
not be without occupation in the future, and the Tsar's treasury will not suffer from
their be deprived of its 10% tax". This appeal to his own interests mollified the Tsar.
He permitted crossing to Mangazeia by land or on the open sea, but demanded only that
the route be concealed from foreigners. This may well be the explanation for the fact
that only the Marsh and Jenkinson accounts, and the [: ] Massa map, tell us of the Russian
knowledge of and navigation across the open Kara Sea, as distinct from the coasting route
whose chief object was only the Ob-mouth country around Obdorsk.
Prince Kurakin would not accept this, however. To close the northern route once and
for all would compel all persons going to and from Siberia to pass through his seat of
Tobolsk. He and the merchants and clergy of the town would profit greatly thereby. He
pointed out that travel to and from Siberia by sea permitted evasion of customs, and
claimed that he could not control enforce the Tsar's previous edict requiring only the
10% tax, etc., because of the distance to the towns of north Russia and the fact that
they were beyond his jurisdiction. At this news, the Moscow authorities again took
fright, and warned that any Russians trading with foreigners outside customs and, in
particular, permitting them to find the way to Siberia, would be put o death painfully
and have their houses [: ] razed to the ground.
In 1620, therefore, use of the sea route to Siberia was prohibited on pain of death,
while forts were to be built along the portage route on the Yamal Peninsula for the col–
lection of customs from all entering or leaving Siberia. Patrols were also sent each
summer to Matveev Island and Yugorskii Shar. The collection of the tax was accompanied
by considerable extortion. and The combination, plus the expenses and hazards of the
northern trade, served to squeeze Russian sea-faring to the Ob, Taz and Yenisei out of
existence by the end of the 17th century. Mangazeia declined rapidly, and so did Pustozersk
and other towns of north Russia. Whereas the northern route had required only 4 weeks,
the trip from Tobolsk to Mangazeia took 8 in good weather, and up to 13 in bad, [: ] with-

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out considering the frequent loss of [: ] boats in Ob Gulf. This was bad
enough for merchants from middle Russia, but for those from the north, who now had
first to make their way southward to cross the Urals, it was impossible.
The ultimate disappearance of Mangazeia was facilitated by a number of other factors
as well. The sable and beaver of the Taz River country were hunted out, while new
trading posts came into being further south and east, the first on the permanent
route across Siberia and in the area where grain growing was possible, and the second
where fur trapping was still enormously profitable because of untouched resources.
Finally, not a single vessel with grain arrived in Mangazeia from 1641 to 1644, for
each of the clumsy, flat-bottomed kochi which set forth with that object during those
years was sunk in Ob Gulf. (That series of misfortunes seems almost too consistent
to be accidental, particularly in view of the regular, successful navigation of that
body of water for almost a century prior thereto. One wonders if the long hand of
the rival princes and merchants of the south Siberian towns may not have reached to
that shore in some way. There is also the possibility of native ambush on or near the shore. ) Famine plagued Mangazeia. And, to cap the climax, fire almost
completely destroyed the closely-built, wall-ringed wooden town in 1643. We have already referred to the Nenets legend that they set the fire to drive the invaders from their land.
Whereas the Kazan Palace in Moscow, now dispatched orders to revive the town and re–
build the ruined structures, it was not possible to carry out those instructions, for
the population, had dwindled almost to nothing. [: ] Of 94
soldiers remaining, as the permanent inhabitants, 70 had been dispatched round the outposts to collect the natives'
tributes in fur or to guard the whole en route to Moscow, 10 were confined in the
guardhouse, and 14 remained in Mangazeia to guard government property and the 10 pri–
soners. Moreover, those remaining were suffering from hunger and dispersing, which
makes one believe that a good many of the 70 who had gone out [: ] with the
tribute details had sought to do so in order to eat.
By this time the existence of Mangazeia as a customs depot was more of a burden
to traders and trappers than a help, for they had found the now had to come down the
Yenisei from the overland portage route, and westward from via the Turukhan, then by
portage to the Taz and down the Taz to reach it. However, the government maintained
Mangazeia until 1672, when its government offices were transferred to the mouth of the
Turukhan, on the Yenisei. This new town, Turukhansk, is beyond the territorial limits of

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our present study. However, it is of interest to know that, as late as 1914, if not
to this date, a large church-bell of Dutch manufacture, dated 1616 and brought from
Mangazeia, hung in a separate bell-tower at Turukhansk. Because of its size and
weight, it was undoubtedly transferred via the Nnorthern Ssea Rroute, rather than by
portage from the Taz to the Turukhan.
Historically speaking, the fact possibility remains that Mangazeia could have been a perma–
nent and important town, and the Ob-Taz area one of the best, instead of the least–
developed areas of Siberia, but for the levying of customs on trade along a route
in need of encouragement. Moreover, the Northern Sea Route would have been become a
permanent traffic artery three-and-a-quarter centuries before the Soviets brought it
into being. As shall be seen, a similar short-sighted tariff policy destroyed the
second effort to use the route on a large scale almost 300 years later.
After the disappearance of Mangazeia, the development of the area under our
consideration virtually ceased, although entry into Siberia down the Ob from the
mid-Urals crossing to Obdorsk and beyond was permitted until 1704. But following
the [: ] elimination of Mangazeia, efforts to [: ] reach and explore
the northern shores of the present Yamalo-Nenets National Okrug occurred for a long
time only at intervals of a quarter to half a century. In 1690, a Russian sea captain
named Rodion Ivanov navigated the Kara Bay and reached Sharapovye Koshki on the west
coast of the Yamal Peninsula, about 50 miles north of the mouth of the Mutnaia River,
which the old coastal route had taken inland to the portage. However, here he suf–
fered shipwreck.
But in 1730 a group of Obdoisk Russians made a pilgrimage by sea
to the Solovetsk Monastery on I islands off Arkhangelsk.
The next voyage in this area took place a full 44 years later, when in 1734. t T hen
the Great Northern Expedition, conceived by Peter the Great, and commanded [: ]
[: ] by a Dane long resident in Russia, Vitus Bering, but staffed over–
whelmingly by Russians, began its epic work of mapping the north and east coast s of
Siberia Russia in the most extensive single expedition in history. Group One of the expedition,
including Muravev, Pavlov and later Malygin and Skuratov, mapped the coast from Arkh–
angelsk to the Ob, over a five year period. Group Two, numbering almost 50 men commanded by Lieut. D. Ovtsyn,
was assigned the task of advancing from the Ob mouth to that of the Yenisei

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[: ]
Aboard a [: ] two-masted vessel built of green wood at Tobolsk, and with
no knowledge of the previous voyages to this coast and apparently with no local inhabitants to guide him, [: ]
[: ] Ovtsyn pushed north from Obdorsk,
reaching the mouth of Taz Bay on July 31, 1734, and attaining 70°04′ by August 5th. His men
taking soundings in small open boats were already suffering from the cold, and fearing
a wintering, he turned back, reaching Obdorsk September 4th. The next year he set forth
on June 11th, was icebound in Ob Gulf until July 8th and then pushed forward. But scurvy,
which apparently had not bothered the voyagers a century earlier who were natives of
the north, and hunted and picked wild onions and berries as they went, now began to
assail his company. Two-thirds of the expedition, including Ovtsyn himself, were put
out of action and some died , so the vessel again put about and returned to Tobolsk. The following year,
1736, he entered Ob Gulf on August 5th. Finding it blocked by ice, which, he believed
to be there from the previous year, and waiting in vain for it to open, he returned to
Obdorsk at the end of September. By this time his hastily-built vessel was in exceedingly
bad shape, and the naval authorities ordered the building of another for him for the
following summer, while the first was to be repaired. Ovtsyn's fourth effort, in 1737,
was crowned with success. He set fourth forth from Tobolsk on June 29 with two vessels and a total of 70 men. He
reached Ob Gulf on July 14, and on August 8 finally emerged into the open Kara Sea for
the first time. At 73°56′ he encountered solid pack ice, and was compelled to tack close
inshore, often standing at anchor. On August 16 he rounded Cape Matte-Sale, and was
able to set an eastward course for the mouth of the Yenisei, which he reached on the
While he was thus reopening the eastward sea route between the Ob and the Yenisei,
Malygin and Skuratov were making the first successful voyage in nearly a century from
Arkhangelsk to the Ob mouth, rounding the Yamal Peninsula. They reached their destina–
tion Sept. 22, 1737.
The northern navigation that was the only means of calling this slumbering terri–
tory to life was now permitted to lapse again for more than a century, although a seven- However, with the
year long survey of the Kara coast line was made by Ivanor for the Navy
development of capitalism in Russia, there emerged two or three Siberian enterepreneurs
with the vision, energy and money to press for the opening of a route that would enable
in the 1820s.

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Meanwhile, the Nentsy again took the center of the stage. In 1825, when during
the rule of Nikolai I, when St. Petersburg was still talking about the recent unsuc–
cessful putsch the by the progressive noblemen known to us history as the Decemberists, an
armed uprising flared forth in the Yamal Nenets tundra, led by Vauli Piettomin, a
native of the lower Taz River valley. He fought not only against the power of the
Tsar and his agents in Obdorsk over the Nentsy, but also against the exploitation
of the Nenets poor - those without reindeer or owning too few to sustain life - by
the rich, with their great herds. He took the reindeer from them and distributed
them among the poor. His leadership He and his fellows controlled the tundra for
a full fourteen years, although the Russians continued to hold Obdorsk. It was said
that he told the Nentsy that there was no need to pay tribute to the Tsar, the
priests and the native chieftains. Each hunter would have to pay an annual tax of
only one polar fox, instead of two, and that more cloth, sugar, fat, copper ware
and loaves of bread would be paid for each skin purchased. The herder would be
allowed to dwell in the tent of his employer, have enough to eat, and [: ] be
paid fairly in reindeer for his work. The
The chief shaman advised the wealthy to turn to the Russians for help, on the
one hand, and on the other, to drive their reindeer far to the north, to the End
of the Earth (the tip of Yamal [: ] Peninsula) out of Piettomin's reach, and to
bend every effort to capture him.
In 1839, after fourteen years, the Governor at Tobolsk lost patience with the
failure of the Obdorsk commandant, and replaced him. by someone else. In the preceding
two-and-a-quarter centuries, Obdorsk, on the Arctic Circle, had gradually emerged
from under the shadow of its southerly neighbor, Berezovo, 220 miles to the south,
and had become an independent administrative center, with a commandant, a collector
of excise tax, an inspector, a resident priest and a midwife. In addition to these
and their families, its permanent population consisted of 50 Cossacks, a group of
[: ] missionary priests of the St. Guriia Society and a half-dozen resident
merchants, as distinct from the itinerant traders who came and went.
The town consisted of some 30 Russian and Komi dwelling-houses and a brick church.
in front of which there stood a rusted ancient arquebus-cannon, while on the high bank

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of the Polui there still remained, in places, the remnants of the old turreted wooden
wall with its orifices for archers and musketeers.
The new commandant in 1839, Skorniakov by name, found himself at a loss in trying
to capture the elusive Piettomin, who at one moment was on the lower Nadym, east of
Obdorsk along the Ob Gulf, and at the next was on the slope of the Urals, west of the
Obdorsk. He turned for advice to a shrewd local trader, Nikolai Nechaevskii, who told
him that to use force was hopeless, but that trickery, the natives' taste for liquor,
and the hatred of the wealthy Nentsy for the rebels could bring about their downfall.
Wherever the wealthy strove to hide their animals, Piettomin found them out, for the
poor served as informers, since they were the beneficiaries of his raids. Nevertheless,
he remained naive and honorable, with the result that when the chief shaman invited
him to come for a visit, he did so, with just one companion, Mairi Khodakam, his closest
The shaman prepared a trap for him en route. Since human beings meet so rarely
in the tundra and are so dependent upon one another, tradition has it that one must
stop and exchange news with every traveller, giving him whatever he lacks, in the
knowledge that you will yourself be aided in the same manner when in need. Piettomin,
stopping to greet a man sent out by Vyvka, the shaman, found himself surrounded, and was
taken to the commandant. Evidently the Russians feared the effect upon the Nentsy
if Piettomin were executed, so, after beatings and torture, he was and Khodakam were sentenced to im–
prisonment in exile at the Surgut, stockade, in the marsh-forest country along the middle Ob, 600 miles to
the southeast. Had he been exiled to eastern Siberia, that might have been the end
of the matter, but 600 miles was not an insurmountable distance to a nomad, and the
fact that the natives here were Khante, speaking the same tongue as those in the
Obdorsk area, and that the means of transit was by reindeer-sledge, made escape seem
possible to Piettomin. After two
After two months of imprisonment, during which both men developed scurvy, they
were able to get away, thanks to the fact that a Khante was jailed whose kinsmen had
promised to wait for him each night for 30 nights with a sledge and team [: ] at a
given spot outside Surgut, should he escape. The Khante's Their home territory was half the way
down river to Obdorsk, and a third of the way home for Piettomin.

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With the patience of the hunter, the three prisoners awaited the best moment for
their break. One night, when the Cossack guards were asleep, they merely slipped away.
Returned to the Arctic, Piettomin reorganized his forces, but this time he knew [: ]
that so long as the Russians retained their permanent station at Obdorsk, his cause
was hopeless. Therefore, on January 14, 1841, he marched on Obdorsk with 400 Nenets
and Khante families behind him. As he declared later under questioning, his object
was to besiege and take the little town, destroy the church, seize all the property
of the Russians, execute the "Tsar's servants" and permit the rest to return to
The plan failed because, once again, Piettomin could not understand that others
were not as rigidly bound as he by a code of honor. The trader Nechaevskii, clearly
no coward, set forth to meet Piettomin, accompanied only by the Khante whom the Rus–
sians had set up as district chieftain. Presenting himself as a merchant type who
had no use for Tsar or priest, who were his organized competitors, he reminded Piettomin of
the hospitality the Nenets had extended to the Russian some years earlier when he
had come to the Vynder-yagan River country to trade. [: ] Hearing that Piettomin
was coming to Obdorsk, he now offered to return that hospitality. He said that no one
would not know that Piettomin had come to his house, and besides, who would dare to
attack a man's guest in his own house? To refuse hospitality was unheard-of. Piettomin,
be it remembered, was betrayed the first time not by Russians but by the shaman and
wealthy reindeer-owners of his own tribe. Nechaevskii apparently had kept out or the
way during the first arrest, so that, to Piettomin, he did not fall into the category
of the Tsar's servants. In any case, Piettomin accepted his hospitality and, with
four friends, set off for Nechaevskii's house. There they were trapped, and, after
the record of the hearings, Piettomin disappears from history. The Nentsy sing that
he and a brother were killed executed at a cape projecting into the river five miles
from Obdorsk, and to this day that cape is called after his first name, Vauli. Russian
documents in the Tobolsk archives, on the other hand, say that he was exiled to hard
labor in eastern Siberia, but offer no information as to his fate there.
A grateful government decreed that: "for the suppression of a rebellion of the
natives and for the capture of their chief, Vauli bestow the Order of

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St. Vladimir, 4th Class, upon Commandant Skorniakov, and, upon the merhcchant of
Berezovo, Nikolai Nechaevskii, a gold medal and shoulder sash...."
The next occurrence happening of note in the Yamal Nenets country did not occur until
another 20 years had passed. By this date, with the development of capitalism in
Russia, there emerged two or three Siberian entrepreneurs with the vision, energy
and money to press for the opening of a route that would enable

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them to multiply their wealth by exploiting the vast timber and other resources of
the Asiatic north. One of them, M.K. Sidorov, having had studied the history of naviga–
tion in these waters in earlier centuries earlier , as well as the ice conditions in the river
mouths during the summer, and the state of local resources and business. He set forth
in detail, in a paper dated 1859, the possibilities and advantages of reopening the
route. Whereas he met only hostility and disbelief in St. Petersburg, even to the
point of rejection of a 14,000 ruble prize he was willing to offer for the first
voyage, and the advice to go to England where he could find good seamen, there was
one Russian who was willing to make the effort. This was Lieut. P.P. Kruzenshtern, a
descendant of the famous seafarer of half a century earlier. In 1862 he set forth
from north European Russia, but was shipwrecked on the west coast of the Yamal
Peninsula, where he was saved by Nentsy who guided him to Obdorsk.
Sidorov now strove to convince Norwegian fishermen, sealers and scientists of
the advantages of the Kara Sea, and from 1868 on they plied its waters, although
only a few rounded Belyi Ostrov and the Yamal Peninsula. In 1874, when an English
sea captain of education and imagination, Joseph Wiggins, convinced of the profit–
ability of the northern route if it could be opened, wrote for confirmation to Dr. Petermann at Gotha.
He received the following reply:
"For ten years and more I have urged the importance of opening the Siberian
trade by the route you have in view - the Obi and the Yenisei; also in Russia there
is one who is quite alive to the importance of it, for the merchant Sidoroff, in
1862, offered a prize of £2,000 to the first vessel that reached and entered the
river Obi. The Norwegians, since 1869, have every year reached the Obi with their
frail sailing vessels of 30 tons, but never entered it, as their object was merely
Capt. Wiggins left Dundee on a 103-ton auxiliary steamer, June 3, 1874. He rounded North
Cape on the 22, and began to dodge ice floes on the 28, near Vaigach Island. and
entered the Kara Sea on that date. Two days later he was bucking pack ice, and his
log makes clear the tremendous advantage of a steam-driven vessel over the sailing
ships, such as Lutke's, which had failed to break into the Kara Sea in 1840, and led
to the conviction that it was an impenetrable ice-box. On July 10, he landed on the

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west coast of Yamal Peninsula, found the remnants of a Russian encampment, with old
boats and a sledge, and a cross. and a grave. He fought ice northward on the west coast
of the peninsula for another three weeks. On July 25 there were five Norwegian fishing
vessels moored in the his vicinity. Finally, on August 5 he rounded Belyi Island and made
[: ] southward into Ob Gulf. Because of the lateness of the season for a further voyage
to the Yenisei, and the unsuitability of his vessel, with its deep draft and pointed
cross-section, for the uncharted shallow waters of the Ob mouth, he did not enter
that river although he came within 60 miles of it. He and was thus unable to claim Sidorov's proferred prize. [: ]
[: ]
In 1875 and 1876 Nordenskiold crossed the Kara Sea to the Yenisei, being the first
to do so in more than 200 years. [: ] T t hereby he prov ed the suitability of the
route, but the Ob was by-passed. In 1876, too, Wiggins performed a most notable work
of charting the west coast of the Yamal Peninsula. He was convinced that the trade route
should be that followed by the ancient Russians 300 years earlier, and was desirous of
finding the river and portage they used. However, he then proceeded to and reached
the Yenisei, after finding a strong current and head winds against him in the Ob Gulf.
Thus, the the Ob River remained unvisited once again. This was particularly unfortunate,
as, without his knowing of it, the Russians had built a schooner that was coming down
the Ob in an effort to reach the sea and survey the Ob Gulf. However, she was manned by [: ]
river sailors who were unable to manage her when she entered the sea. After being driven
[: ]
upon sandbanks, she was taken back to Obdorsk in a damaged condition. The same year,
[: ]
the Bremen expedition, scientific in object, proceeded to Siberia overland, and after
penetrating the Yamal Peninsula, returned home by the overland route. Actually, its
guides saw Wiggins' vessel, and, had he known of the expedition, he could have carried
its members it back to Europe by sea.
In 1878 Captain Wiggins succeeded in convincing a British merchant in St. Petersburg,
[: ]
Mr. Oswald J. Cattley, to charter a 650-ton steamer - the largest vessel he had yet
[: ]
commanded in northern waters - for a commercial voyage to the Ob. It carried salt,
Sheffield goods, porcelain, glass and the the like, while some of the southern Ob merchants arranged
with Mr. Cattley to have a cargo of wheat and other produce ready at the mouth of the
river for conveyance to England. This Wiggins' vessel, the Warkworth , left Liverpool on August 1,
1878. Crossing the Kara Sea, she steamed up the Gulf of the Ob, having met with but

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very little ice. She had some difficulty in crossing the bar at the estuary, but, helped
by a strong north wind, she reached her distination in safety - a few miles beyond
the mouth of the Nadym River, on the Arctic Circle. A large barge, about 300 ft. long,
and laden with 300 tons of wheat, linseed, hemp, flax and similar produce, awaited her.
Having discharged her cargo, the Warkworth took on board the contents of the barge, and
sailed for home. The bar again stood in the way, and the ship had to be relieved of
some tons of her freight before it was possible to clear the obstruction. She arrived
in the Thames on October 2, after a successful voyage of just two months. Her cargo
was the first ever brought from Siberia through the Kara Sea to England. The experi–
ence of the voyage fully verified Wiggins' and Sidorov's calculations, and [: ] de–
monstrated the a solution to the problem of carrying on ocean commerce with the Ob.
While in the Ob Gulf, Wiggins met the Hamburg steamer, Neptune , which was bound
on the same errand as the Warkworth . By his aid the Neptune was carried over the shal–
lows. She was then loaded with wheat and taken back to Hamburg in safety. She was com–
manded by Capt. Rasmussen, and sent out by Herr Bartning, of Hamburg, cooperating
with Herr Funck, a merchant of the south Siberian town of Barnaul. The same summer a
Moscow merchant had had the Express built at Tiumen. She was of light draught, and only
roughly finished in hull, spars and rigging. She left Tiumen with a cargo on August
2, 1878, and was towed down the Ob river some distance. After grounding, but without injury,
at the mouth of the river, she reached Belyi Ostrov on September 30, cleared the Kara
Sea on October 12, and then had a splendid run to the Thames, where she arrived on
November 5 with a cargo similar to Wiggins'.
The following year the trade suffered a serious set-back when five large sea-going
steamers of excessively deep draught for the Ob Gulf, and having lacking any special
strengthening to deal with ice, set forth from England a month too early in the sea–
son. Neither their cargoes, nor the 5,000 tons of Siberian produce sent down the Ob
to meet them, ever reached their destination. The English ships, disheartened by the
fog and ice which were to be expected in the Kara Straits so early in the year, turned about and made for home without even entering the Kara Sea.
In 1880 some Russian ships, belonging to a wealthy firm in Moscow, met with disast–
er. The steamer Louise and two schooners were lost in the Ob Gulf, and a third schooner
sank in Baidarat Bay before even rounding the Yamal Peninsula. Another steamer, the

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Oscar Dickson , belonging to Sibiriakov , (qv) the most famed of the Siberian merchant spon–
sors of the northern route in this period, failed to enter the Yenisei Gulf, and had
to winter in the Bay of Gyda, of the northeastern tip of the present YamalO-Nenets
Okrug. Sibiriakov, who was on board, left the ship in December, with some of the
crew, and contrived to reach Obdorsk, thence traveling to St. Petersburg overland.
The failure of these vessels arose mainly from lack of skill and experience, and had
the same effect on Russian commercial circles as the failure of the English fleet,
in the previous year, had upon merchants at home.
Thus, whereas the navigability of the waters had been proven, it remained for
a more energetic Russian government regime to come into power in Russia before the Ob country
could be developed. [: ]
Likewise, an effort on Sidorov's part to engage Wiggins to make a thorough survey
of the Yamal and Taz Peninsulas, with a view to constructing canals to connect the
Ob and Yenisei, fell through because of lack of support from St. Petersburg and
active opposition from the partisans of the overland Siberian route, now that the
railroad was nearing realization. A previous survey of the east coast of the Yamal Peninsula had been made in 1736 by Seli–
fontov, as part of the Great Northern Expedition. He had travelled on a reindeer–
drawn sledge. Almost a century later, in 1827 and 1828, Ivanov, [: ] using the same
means of travel, had made a second survey. The inland area was known only from the
descriptions dating from the times of Mangazeia.
Because the bold ventures we have been describing had such negligible results,
a description s of Obdorsk and the Yamalo-Nenets area published in 1884 offers a pic–
ture valid for the preceeding 250 years and for almost 50 thereafter. The popula–
tion then consisted of 710 Russians, 5,380 Khante and 6,000 Nentsy. This total of
12,090 may be compared to a total of 12,753 in 1926, 42 years later, when there were
886 Russians, 7,462 Nentsy and 1,595 Khante, 2,708 Komi and 102 others. The compari–
son, showing virtually no change, would indicate that the 1884 figure for Nentsy
was a guess in round figures, while that for Khante was exagerrated, including Komi
and others. It is also possible that the boundary extended farther south into Khant [: ]
territory at the earlier date. At that time, with which we are now concerned, Obdorsk,
with a permanent population of 485 in 67 houses, was the northernmost town in Siberia,

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and perhaps in all Russia. The town, or village, more appropriately, apparently had
suffered a decline from its bustling state in the early 17th century, for by 1771 , we
are told, it had only five houses in addition to the church and several [: ] warehouses . However the population and had
risen again during the following century. Thus, the 1884 report says that it had no
less than 150 stores and warehouses - most of them used only during the annual fair –
in addition to a hospital of sorts and a school offering two years of education to
the children of the Russians and a handful of the wealthier natives. The permanent
population engaged in hunting, fishing and trading, and the Russians also kept a few 140 milk cows, about
10 pigs, 110 horses , and fowl. about 20 sheep and some fowl.
The town came to life each year between from December 15 to January 25, when the an–
nual fair took place, and it was thronged with nomad natives coming to pay their [: ]
[: ] taxes, and by Russian merchants and traders come to do business. Several
thousand people then packed its streets and set up tents in the surrounding tundra.
The actual fair took place north of the town, in an open flat place that became jamed with sledges.
The t T rade took place was conducted both from the sledges and from door to door in the town or among the
tents. The monetary units were the fur and paws of polar fox. The commodities traded
were furs, fish,, fish-paste, feathers, walrus tusks, and blubber, mammoth ivory, flour, bread, cloth, tobacco,
iron and copper ware, rings, earrings, beads, mirrors and other trinkets.
In addition to the natives and up-river Russians come to town, Komi crossed the
Urals bringing a type of salmon , which is not found in the Ob, woodenware, cast and forged iron
ware, knives, belts of reindeer and walrus leather, edible nuts, etc. The turnover
reached as much as 100,000 rubles, which is tremendous, in view of the fact that the
skin of a polar fox was valued at only 70 kopeks [: ] (0.7 rubles). In addition,
fish worth 200 300,000 rubles was taken upstream each year, although only about half
of it was reported to the government and taxed. However, it was granted that this was
only a fraction of the potential catch of the area if better equipment were available,
payment were more honest, methods of salting and processing more rational. Nikolai
Latkin, reporting in 1884, wrote:
"The fishing industry is so unprofitable and the fisherman is so exploited and
pressured by the buyer that one wonders how he hangs on at all...The commodities offered
by the trader in exchange for the fish are rarely of good quality, and are offered to

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the native fishermen at inflated prices [: ] ....
[: ]
[: ]
sturgeon [: ]
[: ] Therefore the native
is always in debt, and is in perpetual dependence upon the fish buyer. In addition there
is the encouragement of drunkenness with bad vodka, perpetual cheating and trickery of
every kind. The native has himself now learned to cheat and even steal, but that isn't
his fault. His oppressed condition and the behavior of the Russians toward him were
the reasons for this, but the native is by nature an honest and just man.
"....A sturgeon weighing about 40 lbs. is taken by them (the buyers) at a ruble,
and one weighing 80 to 120 lbs. at two rubles....No comment on this is necessary. In
Tobolsk sturgeon now sells at four to five rubles per 40 lbs., and in Tiumen at five
to six rubles. Thus, the merchant makes 250 to 300% on sturgeon in Tobolsk, and 400 to
500% in Tiumen."
Describing the crude and wasteful methods of salting, which ruined the taste and
value of the fish, Latkin adds that persons suffering from skin diseases and even
syphilis were permitted to participate in this food-processing work. [: ] without
question. Himself no sentimentalist, but a successful gold-mine operator, he [: ]
"Here it is 300 years that this country belongs to Russia, and nothing has been
done to improve the local fisheries. There is the same old slothfulness, the same
complete ignorance, the same reckless exploitation of the natives, the same wasteful
means of fishing as before!"
I.S. Poliakov, a distinguished zoologist, [: ] anthropologist and ethno–
grapher, provides us with additional eye-witness information dating from this period,
for he studied this area in 1876. Each November and December, prior to the Obdorsk
fair, the Russians of Berezovo, the next town to the south, today part of the Khante–
Mansy, and not the Yamalo-Nenets Okrug, would stock up with vodka in such quantities
that the monthly excise tax alone came to % $5, 000 - $6, 000. A bottle costing 15¢ in
Berezovo was worth, even by honest accepted price, 50¢ at Obdorsk, just 200 220 miles
to the north. However, it was usually watered, and the price offered in exchange for

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furs brought the investor in vodka a 400% profit by the time he returned to Berezovo.
However, t T he customary use of vodka was such that a trader man setting forth from Berezovo
with 16 to [: ] 17 gallons would return from Obdorsk with enough commodities and money to live on the
entire year until fair time rolled around again. Poliakov reports one Tobolsk
fish buyer as saying:
"I took 65 gallons of vodka down the river with me for my own use. I was drunk
as a lord all summer, liquored up my workers as much as they could take, and still
made a profit of 500 rubles on that vodka, which had cost me 100 in Tobolsk. It's
simple enough. First you treat the native to a glass of pure vodka, free. You sell
him the next bottle at a ruble; the next two, [: ] each half mixed with water, at
1 1/2 rubles each; the next three, pure water, at two rubles each, and the native
goes home completely drunk; if not, you give him a few cuffs on the head."
Poliakov estimated that, on the vodka trade alone, the natives at the Obdorsk
[: ] fair were robbed of a very minimum of $30 ,000 annually , at the official exchange rate
of that day, leaving aside the fact that the ruble could purchase a great deal more
than its equivalent in dollars.
Whereas the Nentsy west of the Urals were exploited by Russians and Komi, those
to the cast suffered at the hands of Russians and Khante. Poliakov tells the story
of one Khante who had learned the tricks of the trade from a Russian fish buyer for
whom he had worked. The Khante, to save the additional weight of processed liquor,
betook himself to Berezovo, bought 26 gallons of plain alcohol, and returned to set
up a tent among the Nentsy, hanging a bottle outside in token of his commedity. to advertise his wares.
The going price was one reindeer for somewhat less than a gallon of what passed for
vodka, but at times the reindeer were considerably cheaper. This particular Khante
acquired 70 reindeer for his 26 gallons of alcohol, well-diluted upon sale, making a seven-fold profit.
Poliakov also offers a vivid description of the preparations in Obdorsk for
the annual fair. In October, Early in the autumn, when the four or five river steamers had
hauled the annual fish catch upstream, the housewives hurriedly set to the [: ]
baking of some 80,000 loaves of bread of exceedingly poor quality, which were then
[: ] stacked like firewood in poorly-built warehouses, where they froze and became
snow-drifted by the time of the fair. The bread was designed for sale to the Khante

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and Nentsy, who would purchase an entire year's supply Erman reported exactly the same procedure 50 years earlier. When questioned about their
bread, the Obdorsk housewives told Poliakov: "They'll eat it. They're no different
than dogs, anyhow." They were treated accordingly. Reindeer-stealing had become as
developed an art as horse-stealing in the south of Russia. While one man plied a
Nenets with drink until he dropped in his tracks, another slid out to the outskirts
of town and stole his herd. As a result of the combined effects of impoverishment
and starvation resulting from it, the trade turnover at the fair had dropped by a
half to two-thirds in recent years, [: ] according to Poliakov.
The natives were perfectly aware of the oppression they suffered at the hands of their own wealthy as well as on the port of the Russians. A Khante who
was with him in the Ob Gulf district told Poliakov: "The whole government - the
(native) elders, the (native) chieftain and the townspeople's representative - is
only for the rich. A poor man dies, and no one knows what happened to him: everyone
covers up so everything looks good. Aren't we, Ostiaks, people? We pay tax of 3 rubles
or 3 rubles and 50 kopeks, and we also know our business. Now look: we left Vorkuta
(in his boat), couldn't see a thing, lost the shore, found our way past shallows,
and came out where we were supposed to. For that one also needs a head. And what
about the Russian? One knows how to read and write, but another doesn't."
Poliakov found natives serving Russians along the Ob for the debts of their
fathers, but whether those debts really existed or not, no one could say, for no docu–
ments existed, and the matter depended upon the conscience of the Russian, something
which he found to be a very rare commodity.
The result of all the foregoing was an absolute decline in native population.
Yadrintsev reports that the Berezovo Okrug, which corresponds closely to the Yamalo–
Nenets National Okrug of today, had a native population of 21,001 in 1816, and
19,652 in 1828, a loss of 1,349 in 12 years. Latkin's figures for approximately 1884 Patkanov in 1911 showed a further reduction
show 11,380, or a further loss of over 8,000 in 56 years. STET of nine per cent to 1897. Dr. M. Sokolov, writing on
sicknesses in [: ] Berozovo Okrug in the Archive of Legal Medicine , 1867 said that
smallpox, typhus and syphilis threatened the complete extermination of the population.
Syphilis, introduced into this area apparently at the beginning of the 18th century,
seems to have spread from it so widely and virulently as to have acquired a special
local name - Berezovo leprosy. In 1830, Dr. Beliavskii, visiting the area for a special

Yamalo-Nenets National Okrug

study of this disease, [: ] reported that hardly a single native could be
found who was not suffering from it. Complications were common. Syphilis, rheumatism
and scurvy were often found in the same patient. A Health [: ] Survey of Western
Siberia , published in the 1880s , described the natives of Berezovo Okrug as suffer–
ing particularly from eye disease (trachoma in particular) worms, skin rashes and syphilis in various forms.
Dr. Sokolov reported an absolute famine in the area in 1862, with the natives eating
moles and mice. →insert 33a+b←
Against this general background of local conditions it is easy to see why there was no local initiative in
opening communications between the Ob mouth country and the Europe by sea, and why
efforts of this kind, originating outside the district, found no encouragement within
it or, for that matter, within the [: ] central government responsible in general
for this state of things. In 1894, it is true, the Ministry of Marine sent forth a
hydrographic expedition under Vilkitskii and then under Varnek and Drizhenko to map the
mouths of the Ob and Yenisei and the Kara Sea. But the government's tariff policy
hindered entrepreneurs who desired to pioneer this route. Only the emergency of the
war with Japan in 1904-05, requiring greater shipments eastward than the Trans-Siberian
railroad could take, compelled it to ease these restrictions, and in 1905 two vessels
successfully made the trip from the west into the Ob. Their cargoes were delivered
to Tomsk up the riverway. But in 1906 the list of commodities permitted to be im–
ported was sharply reduced, approval of voyages had to be [: ] secured anew each
year, and finally these applications were rejected in toto, thus preventing a resump–
tion of the trade. [: ]
However, the interest of the Russian Geographic Society had been
stimulated, and in [: ] 1908 it dispatched an expedition under Professor Zhitkov

[: ]
to explore the Yamal Peninsula., which resulted in the publication of an excellent map.
[: ]
In 1918 there was a repetition of the fiasco of [: ] 1879. This time 10,000
tons of grain were sent down the Ob to Nakhodka Bay to await trans-shipment to sea-
going vessels from Arkhangelsk. [: ] The western forces of
intervention holding Arkhangelsk caused the expedition to be cancelled, but one vessel,
the Solombala , did make the voyage and pick up some of the grain. [: ]
[: ] . [: ] In 1919, the anti-Soviet forces holding Arkhangelsk conti–
nued to be isolated from those in Siberia. Therefore, in order to provision those

along the White Sea coast, steps were taken to use the Northern Sea Route.

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Education [: ]
was virtually non-existent. The first school, an outgrowth of the mission–
ary movement in Russia which began in 1763,

[: ]
[: ] was founded in 1846 in the home of the parish
priest, Petr Popov, and sessions were held at irregular hours, whenever he was free.
It had no equipment or specific curriculum.
There were rarely more than ten students, and most of them were Russian. From 1852 it
was limited to Russians only. In 1886 there was again one native student, in 1887,
two and in 1888, three, but thereafter again there were none. Another school taking
Nenets children was at Abalak, but five of the seven children sent there died, with the
result that the natives strongly opposed education for some time thereafter, entirely
aide from opposition on grounds of tradition, of not understanding its value, and of
objection to the Russification which was a prime purpose of such schools as there were.
To meet this problem, a missionary named Irinarkh gave much thought to the idea
of a school which would migrate with the reindeer people, but a computation of the
costs involved showed that one such school for only ten children would need an appriop–
riation of $2, 100 the first year and $35 0 each year thereafter. Ten schools for 100
children - this was his goal - would therefore require an initial investment of $21 ,000
and $3, 500 per annum. As funds on this scale, however modest they may seem, were far
beyond his reach, the idea had to be [: ] abandoned.
By 1900 the situation improved somewhat. A primer in the Nenets language, using a
Russian [: ] script, was prepared by the missionaries, and in 1902-03 the mission–
ary school in Obdorsk had some 20 Nenets and Khante children in attendance, of whom
one-quarter were girls. One Nenets and one Khante were employed as assistants to the
teacher. However, even they preferred to use the Russian-language primers, because those
published in the native languages distorted those [: ] tongues so badly as to be virtu–
ally unintelligible to the children. Moreover, the Russia-wide revolutionary upheaval
of 1905, accompanied by rebellions among many of the conquered peoples, caused the
Tsarist authorities to make Russian the sole language of instruction throughout the
country, so as to suppress national consciousness among the oppressed.
While the increase in number of native students, however small the total, and the
involvement of a Nenets assistant teacher, would indicate progress, the fact is that the
curriculum and teaching methods made this one school virtually valueless. The chief sub–

Yamalo-Nenets National Okrug

jects of instruction were reading in Old Church Slavonic ( [: ] ) and in Russian, the
four rules of arithmetic, and religious choral singing. In point of fact, the child–
ren learnt by rote, and, if questioned on the meaning of what they had read, were
unable to answer. Discipline was strict to the point of suppression. Absolute silence
was required, and whispering forbidden entirely. Upon the entrance of the teacher,
the class was required to stand and sing "Our Father", after which they bowed to him
and, if he were in orders, kissed his hand. Corposal punishment was imposed for the
slightest infraction of the rules, [: ] often with a square-edged ruler or with a belt–
buckle. Black-and-blue marks were not uncommon.
Instead of beds, the children slept on common continuous [: ] plank benches built
a long both walls, as in European jails. Sleeping all together, and with little ef–
fort on the part of the teachers to observe the rules of hygiene, it was inevitable
that the children would suffer from diseases of contagion and dirt such as scabs and
rashes. Religious holidays and ceremonies, however, were observed as strictly as
the requirements of health were not.
Return to p. 33

Yamalo-Nenets National Okrug

[: ]
of the entire peninsula, plus a detailed map of the watershed lakes, Nei-to and Yambu–
[: ]
to, which the Russians of 300 years earlier had used to portage across Yamal on their
trade route. Apparently, this was an outgrowth of Wiggins' belief that that old route
should be dredged, deepened and used. It was, undoubtedly, also related to the feared
onset of World War I, which would result in the blocking of the Baltic to Russia by
Germany. and This Fear had therefore revived interest in the Northern Sea Route. [: ] There were many
who believed that the failure to develop the route sufficiently earlier in time to enable the
transfer of the Baltic fleet to the Pacific via the Arctic in 1905 was responsible for
the catastrophe which overtook it at Tsushima at the hands of the Japanese.
In any case, it was undoubtedly fear of German naval action in the Far North that
spurred the Russians, in 1913, to build the first four long-range radio stations on
their Arctic coast, including one at Mare-Sale on the west coast of the Yamal Peninsula.
And it was probably with an eye to the use of the route in war time to supplement the
limited carrying capacity of the Trans-Siberian railroad that a Norwegian-British firm,
the Siberian Company, Jonas Lied of Norway as prime mover, was given permission to
develop the route in 1913 and thereafter. That year's voyage, with Nansen, aboard the
Correct , interests us little here, because it by-passed the Ob and made directly for
the Yenisei. But, as soon as it was completed, and on the strength of its success,
Lied moved to purchase a controlling interest in the Ob Steamship Company, which, since
the opening of the [: ] Trans-Siberian Railroad 17 years earlier, had established
a large fleet of 49 river steamers and 140 barges. Ten of them were the most modern
type of passenger vessel of the day, and the barges included up-to-the-minute giants
of 3,000-ton capacity. Most of the traffic was south of the area with which we are
concerned, but contact was also maintained with Obdorsk.
In 1914 Lied sailed successfully with a fleet of eight vessels, including two
cargo steamers of over 3,000 tons each, two steel barges bearing the components of two
new river steamers, and four modern river vessels under their own power. They were pro–
mised the cooperation of an air plane for ice reconnaissance, but the outbreak of war
compelled it to be diverted to other purposes. This would have been the pioneering
flight for that purpose. Of Lied's fleet, one of the river vessels, with a barge carry–

Yamalo-Nenets National Okrug

ing another, dismantled, made the voyage up the Ob. The rest proceeded to the Yenisei.
<formula> 1600 12 ﹍ 19200 </formula> In 1915, Lied again sent one vessel to the Ob. At Nakhodka Bay on the Ob Gulf, 200
miles from Obdorsk, this ship, the Haugastoel , contacted a powerful river steamer
hauling two 3,000 -ton barges, loaded with Siberian butter. The 1916 trip by-passed
the Ob, going only to the Yenisei. The 1917 vessel was delayed by a general strike
at Arkhangelsk, and found dangerous late-season ice conditions at the entrance to the Kara Sea.
Therefore it turned around, and the voyage was not completed. This marked the end
of the activity of Jonas Lied and the Siberian Company.
In 1918 there was a repetition of the fiasco of 1879. This time 10,000 tons of
grain were sent down the Ob to Nakhodka Bay to await trans-shipment to sea-going ves–
sels from Arkhangelsk. The western forces of intervention holding Arkhangelsk caused
the expedition to be cancelled, but one vessel, the Solombala , did make the voyage
and pick up some of the grain.
In 1919 the anti-Soviet forces holding Arkhangelsk continued to be isolated from
those in Siberia. Therefore, in order to provision those along the White Sea Coast,
steps were taken to use the Northern Sea Route.

Yamalo-Nenets National Okrug

For the first time, the mouths of the Ob and Yenisei were marked beforehand by
beacons and lights, and inward-bound vessels were met by pilots supplied with the
latest survey charts of fairways. 1,500 tons of cargo and 150 passengers were brought
from to Siberia, and 2,500 tons of grain, 6,000 tons of butter, felt boots and winter
clothing for 35,000 troops, as well as some flax, hemp, horse hair, furs and linseed
were taken from Siberia to Arkhangelsk. Of this total, 1,300 tons were exported
westward out of Russia.
The Soviet Period
The very first year of control of the northwest Siberian coast by the present
regime, 1920, saw a bold, well-planned and successfully executed use of the Ob River
and Kara Sea route on a scale to make all the tentative efforts of the previous 60
years pale into insignifance. This was accomplished despite the departure of many
ships and experienced northern crews from Arkhangelsk westward, commandeered by the opposing forces for their evacu–
ation, and despite such catastrophes as the sinking of some vessels during the fight–
ing and the enforced drift of the icebreaker Solovei Budimirovich in the Kara Sea,
because of the officers' unwillingness to return it to Soviet-controlled Arkhangelsk.
[: ] An expeditionary convoy of 11 steamers towing three steel barges
and a 3,600-ton dismantled sailing vessel set forth from Arkhangelsk on August 22 in two groups,
preceded by the icebreaker Taimyr doing ice reconaissance. They were, as experience
had indicated they should be, small vessels of shallow draft, so as to enable them
to penetrate the Ob Gulf without danger. There they picked up 11,000 tons of grain
and over 1,000 tons of furs, horse hair and bristle from the valley of the Ob. In
spite of the rough seas met on the way through the Arctic Ocean, the towing of a
clumsy sailing vessel and barges was successfully carried out, and met with no serious
difficulties. The ships arrived back at Arkhangelsk between Sept. 17 and Sept. 28th.
In 1921 the Soviet commercial authorities in England dispatched five 3,000-ton
vessels to the mouths of the Siberian rivers under convoy of an icebreaker. Four of
these vessels went to the Ob. Six more ships made the trip from Arkhangelsk, also
convoyed by an icebreaker, towing two river tugs, while the other vessels towed two
barges. 8,942 tons of cargo from abroad and 1,600 tons of tar from Arkhangelsk were
brought to Siberia, and 13,000 tons of grain plus 5,000 tons of other cargoes were


brought back.
Whereas Through these operations, the changes brought about by the revolution reached
the people of Obdorsk and the river fisheries - Russians and Khante, for the most part.
But the Nentsy, wandering with their reindeer over the vast tundra, became aware of the
new regime and its meaning to them only over a period of many years. One reason for this
was the [: ] isolation and ignorance of the nomads. But another was the
conscious effort of the shamans to keep them physically out of reach of the Soviets, and
to prejudice them against the new government, for the very sound reason - from the shaman's
point of view, that the new authorities favored just such a redistribution of the rein–
deer as P Vauli Piettomin had fought for and partially effected a century earlier. The
shamans were believed the more readily, at first, because the first [: ]
[: ] wave of Russians to reach the tundra during the Civil War
of 1918-20 were the defeated monarchist and other anti-Soviet forces striving to escape
capture by the Red Army. The Whites, as the conservative troops were called, retained the typified
traditional ist attitudes toward the natives. They demanded, for transportation, large
numbers of reindeer, and, if they were refused, out the Nentsy down on the spot. The
natives had had no reason in their history to distinguish between one Russian and another
(when they had, as in Piettomin's case, they had only been betrayed), and therefore,
when, with this experience with the Whites, the shamans urged that they migrate north–
ward as far as possible, the people willingly agreed. It is true that other Russians soon
came who shot those who had [: ] killed Nentsy, but, as far as they the natives were
concerned, this was a squabble from which they drew no conclusions.
[: ] The fact that the new Russians referred to their form of public order
as "red law" was turned to account by the shamans, who reminded the Nentsy that red
tundra is the tundra of death, because lichen of that color are inedible by reindeer.
However, in the course of time the Nentsy found differences between the old Russian way
of life and the new. The fish they caught were not taken from them. When they needed money,
it was loaned to them readily, and at low rates of interest. If they could not repay,
their reindeer or other property was not taken away, but the loan was extended or, in
many cases, simply written off the books. Large quantities of commodities - by Nenets
standards - were brought to Obdorsk for sale to them or trade for their produce.


Tea, sugar, fats and tobacco made their appearance in the tents of the poorest Nentsy
for the first time. The Soviet traders, titled at first the traveling peace store,
brought no spirits to the tundra. They computed the price of the furs they bought
fairly, and paid for them promptly. They also propagandized among the poor Nentsy
against the rich one-eighth of their fellow-tribesmen the natives who owned three-fifths of the reindeer
while half the people had only one-twelfth of the reindeer and were compelled to work
as laborers part or all of the time for the former. The Soviet traders also frankly
discriminated against the wealthy in the sale of store goods, giving first choice and
the best terms to the poor. Finally, they urged the [: ] Nenets poor to band their
small herds together into cooperatives. This, of course, was not until the 1930s.
Meanwhile, the position of the laborer-herdsmen improved both through higher wages in
the form of larger numbers of reindeer as pay for a year's work, and through the
abolition of corporal punishment, which had been used by the large owners, particularly
against young herdsmen, when wolves or other factors caused a loss in livestock. The
herdsmen learned that the new regime would fine or jail a rich man who struck a poor
one, and would more readily believe the word of a poor witness than a rich one, which
was exactly the opposite of the situation under the previous authorities.
[: ] The ancient mis–
trust and hatred of the Russians, and the Russians' lack of knowledge of the Nenets
tongue (aside from a handful of scholars, the only Russians with a knowledge of the
language were the old traders who had robbed the natives) made it [: ] im–
possible for any Russians to convince Nentsy to form cooperative reindeer farms.
This proselytizing work had its first success when individual natives, usually youth,
attracted to and educated by the new regime, joined the Communist Party and fared
forth into the tundra.
The shamans launched counter-propaganda. They asked why there were now so many
Russians - prospecting parties, botanists, ichthyologists, hydrographers - in the
tundra and in Obdorsk, where there had been so few before, and answered their own
question by saying that the Reds were preparing to drive the Nentsy away completely.
They said that the people were being gathered together into collective farms cooperatives , and
their reindeer into large herds, the better later to take them away. The shamans and


the large reindeer-owners were barred from joining the cooperatives, on the grounds that their
animals represented the fruits of exploitation of generations of herdsmen, and should be confis–
cated. [: ] tTheir traditional influence and domination over the poor would
enable them to turn the activities of the cooperatives to their own personal profit., In
it was
believed, if they were permitted to join. In

point of fact, this [: ] happened, at first, more often than not, because the Russians were too
few and did not know enough to distinguish between one Nenets and another, the Nenets organizers
themselves were inexperienced, and the poor members of the cooperatives stood in fear
of the shamans and the rich and did not prevent them from joining. [: ]
[: ] In many cases, they saw no reason to do so, [: ] for
their clan loyalties still outweighed whatever primitive class consciousness had developed.
It became clear that, since income in collective farms was paid out in accordance with the
amount of work performed by each member, and not in accordance with his contribution in
reindeer at the outset, the shamans and lay wealthy did would do their best to destroy what they
could not compete with, as the collectives were depriving them of their labor supply.
This [: ] effort took subtle but effective forms. The former wealthy, when in collectives, simply
would take poor care of the reindeer entrusted to them. They permitted wolves to pull
them down, or pastured them in cropped-over sections of the tundra or places where [: ]
anthrax or hoof-and-mouth disease were known to prevail. Since each farm herdsman neces–
sarily worked at some distance from the others, it took some time for this to be discovered.
Eventually, however, such men were weeded out.
[: ]
As everywhere in the U.S.S.R., collectivization resulted in a temporary reduction in
[: ]
total head of livestock, as the wealthiest owners slaughtered most or all of their rein–
deer for sale at whatever the market would bring, either to bring their herds down to a
size that would free them of the threat of discriminatory levies, or out of real or imag–
ined fear of confiscation in favor of the collectives or the state breeding farms providing calves
to the collectives. In the Yamalo-Nenets territory there was a 30% 42.2% reduction in total head
from 1926 to 1933. This may be compared to the fact that 5.8% of the families owned 46% of
the reindeer prior to collectivization. Apparently they slaughtered two-thirds most of their
holdings. On the other hand, 19 families out of twenty (94.2%) would seem to have taken
[: ] little part in the slaughter. Local authorities were very severely taken to task when they
levied punitive fines so large as to require the slaughter of herds to pay them. upon the
Nentsy of medium wealth, who were neither exploiters nor exploited, by Marxist definition.

In 1933 a policy of progressive income taxation, in place of confiscatory fines upon the


wealthy, went into effect, and the slaughter of reindeer stopped. From that point on, the
organization of collective farms pasturing cooperatives was slowed down to accord with the actual potentialities
of the new scheme to demonstrate its superiority to the people. Therefore, it was another
five years before, in 1938, a solid majority (three out of five) of the Yamal Nentsy [: ]
had joined, and still another decade elapsed before collectivization had become virtually
universal. in 1949. Those years were used to carry out a number of measures essential to
the success of the new way of life.
[: ]
One of the first, and at the same time one of the most difficult [: ] and persis–
tent problems, was that of surveying the actual reindeer-moss and water resources of the
tundra so as to determine the maximum head which could be supported by existing systems of
pasturing, the proper allocation of areas to each collective and state farm for grazing,
and to recommend improved usages which would increase the potential. In the effort to get
this survey under way as rapidly as possible, and in the face of a shortage of trained
Arctic personnel, young graduates in the [: ] sciences were recruited into exploration
parties without proper regard for the specific skills needed. Although the chief purpose
of these topographical efforts was to [: ] increase the head and improve the breed of rein–
deer, there was at least one case in which no veterinary or even zoological technician
participated in the survey. Work requiring geobotanical qualifications was performed, in
this instance, by an ethnographer and an individual with one year of college training in
the physical and mathematical field. The reindeer census was taken by an [: ] icthyologist.
Whether out of fear of getting lost or other reasons, members of this party did not conduct
their work at all very far inland, but gathered their data from questioning natives, rather
than from eye-witness observation and measurement. Secondly, the general poverty of the
USSR at the time, the vast scope of this Arctic survey, and the desire to complete it with
all possible speed, led to the dispatch of parties insufficiently equipped with the necessary
special instruments. One result of some of these early efforts was that a [: ]
state farm with 1,500 head of reindeer was assigned moss pasture-lands simply insufficient
to maintain that number of animals. [: ] The farm therefore faced the alternatives of
reducing its stock, [: ] or of trespassing upon areas allocated
to collective farms or individual reindeer-owners, which would antagonize the population.


In the course of time, as shall be seen, these shortcomings were overcome, and the tundra
resources survey and land allocation proved of immeasurable benefit to the population. It is
of interest to note that the foregoing data on inefficiency and bungling in this respect, as
well our information on confiscatory fines and progressive taxation, is drawn from decisions
of the semi-autonomous government of the Yamalo-Nenets National Okrug. [: ]
The Okrug, and its system of administration, had been established in 1930 1931 . The administration
did not spare itself, in its findings, for having failed to become aware of the improper
composition and unsatisfactory work of the expedition in question until a year after it had
taken place.
Another early difficulty evident from the published reports of the Nenets administration
is that the Far North was, for a period, a catch-basin for ne'er-do-wells who could not for
long hold posts of responsibility elsewhere. But, in view of the general illiteracy of the
population, the authorities were willing enough, at first, to accept anyone who would under–
take to further the projects at hand and who offered as qualification the necessary education
in the field. Thus, for several years up to 1934, when he was dismissed, one Mstislavskii had
served as director of the agricultural experiment station on the basis of having graduated
in 1911 from the agricultural high school at Tobolsk, although he had not engaged in agri–
culture during the score of years which elapsed between his graduation and his appointment.
The very establishment of state-owned reindeer farms was, upon occasion, accompanied
by the grossest type of [: ] miscalculation. Whether or not this was due to the complete novelty
of this form, the result was almost to discredit the entire idea for some time. Thus, the
central base of the Nadym River farm was built 90 miles from the center of the moss pastures
of its reindeer herd. This, in its turn, stemmed from what was later frankly termed "gigant–
omania", and, in this instance, the desire to establish a single farm with a herd of 100,000
head, whereas the total number of reindeer in the Yamal Nenets Okrug had numbered 310,000 365,000 in 1931
before the beginning of collectivization. The project was had been justified on the grounds
that the Nentsy had used their moss resources very inefficiently, and the tundra could sup–
port vastly greater numbers of reindeer. Whatever truth there may have been in this conten–
tion theoretically, in practice such a vast increase was at least decades in the future,
while a herd of that size was unmanageable if for no other reason than that it had to be split
into innumerable smaller units for pasturing in areas of tundra separated by others unsuit–
able for reindeer.


A third factor handicapping the state farm during the first two years of its exist–
ence was that it [: ] three managers in that brief period, one of whom
had never once visited the herds in the field during his 18-month administration.
Against this background, it is remarkable to note the solid achievements in all fields
that could be recorded in the Okrug. [: ] . The fundamental requirement for the development
of the territory was human beings. [: ] The decade from 1926 to 1936 saw a trebling of popula–
tion from 12,753 to 35,900. chiefly as a result of an influx of Russians. Of approximately
22,000 21,000 23,000 newcomers, only 8,000 7,000 were to be found in the capital city of Salekhard, formerly
Obdorsk. Thus, unlike the pre-revolutionary Russian population, which was centered there,
two-thirds of the newcomers were scattered throughout the territory, even though chiefly
along the Ob River and Gulf. Moreover, they were engaged in constructive activity, economic,
educational, scientific and otherwise, rather than in trade alone.
The improved economic position of the Nentsy was reflected in a reversal of the pre–
vious tendency to die out. From 1926 to 1936 there was an average annual natural increase
in native population of 1.53%, amounting to about 2,000 persons in the decade. Whereas In
the 1935-36 school year, despite the difficulty of establishing schools in the tundra, 25%
of the children of school age were at school, by comparison to the maximum of 20-odd native
children 35 years earlier. Further, some Nentsy were now getting intermediate and advanced
education. There were 49 Nentsy and Khante among the 148 students in the fisheries [: ]
[: ] and reindeer trade schools, and the normal school for teachers functioning in
Salekhard. 30 of the 62 students in the government-and-party school of administration were
natives. The language had been reduced to writing, and primers and other brief works had
been published (qv Nenets National Okrug, History). On the other hand, many of the existing
schools were still poorly equipped, and the buildings in use were not often suited to their
purpose. There were still large areas with no local educational facilities at all. Thus,
only three Nentsy of the Pur River valley were receiving education, [: ] , in a population of 870. There was
as yet no school there or on the west coast of the Yamal Peninsula.
The number of hospitals in the Yamal-Nenets and the sub-Arctic Khante-Mansi region just to the
south, taken together (separate figures are not available), had been three in 1913, reached 11 in 1931, and then
multiplied two-and-a-half times to number 27 in 1936. but the number of beds multiplied 33
times from 21 in 1931 to 695 in 1936. Doctor's offices rose from 6 to 20; trained nurses and

Yamal Nenets

midwives were stationed at 80 spots instead of 24. In 1931 there had been one day nursery,
with place for 20 children, a complete innovation. By 1936 there were 30, caring for 753
youngsters. The total number of medical personnel - doctors, nurses, midwives - had risen
from 126 in 1931 to 316 five years later. There [: ] were three doctorsin the entire Ob Valley
country in 1913, , in serving a population of 36,615 scattered over an area measuring extending more than 1,000
miles in each direction. [: ]
[: ] By 1936 there were 44 doctors for a population increased
to 113,255 (the Yamalo-Nenets and Khante-Mansi Okrugs combined). There was no one doctor for less than 3,000 population. The number of nurses and
midwives had risen from 15 in 1913 to 272 in 1936.
The rise in population had [: ] created a critical housing situation in Salekhard. Where–
as new construction had doubled housing facilities in 19 less than five years, population
had risen so rapidly that the average space per person was sufficient l only for a cot and
enough room to squeeze past the next cot.
Industry had come into being, and more was on its way. Asbestos had been discovered
north of Salekhard, beyond the Shchuchi River. The Yamal-Nenets Okrug's lumber timber resources
had been found to be not less than 4,200,000 cubic meters of saw logs, 18,500,000 of build–
ing lumber, and 9,800,000 of other usable types, despite the fact that most of the terri–
tory lay [: ] in the scrub-tree or tundra zones. A one-frame sawmill had been built at
Salekhard, capable of making some 25,000 fish-barrels and 35,000 crates per year. The fish
catch had increased from 6,700 6,730 tons in 1931 to 8,520 in 1935. 79% of the catch was secured
or purchased by the government's buyers on the Ob and its gulf, 18.5% by native cooperatives,
and 2.5% by the Northern Sea Route Administration coastal personnel or vessels in these waters.
The largest industrial enterprise was the new fish cannery at Salekhard, and there was a
floating cannery off Novyi Port. Canning had increased from 1,106,000 lbs. in 1931 to
3,660,800 lbs. in 1935.
These improvements [: ] - availability of employment, education, health
facilities - helped to provide the material and moral prerequisites for a turn toward the
better in reindeer farming. The bitter class struggle at the beginning of the collective
farm movement, accompanied on the one hand by excessively stringent measures on the part of
the authorities, and on the other by vengeful sabotage and subtle sabotage by the wealthy


and the shamans. One group of 11 labor-employing families that had had 33,000 reindeer on
Jan. 1, 1931, had reduced their herds, chiefly by [: ] slaughter and sale of meat, to 6,720
three years later. The collective farms, which had not yet worked out payment systems to
instill a sense of responsibility that was no longer one's own personally, suffered a decline
from 12,795 head at the beginning of 1932 to 6,389 two years later. The state farm herds
dropped from 40,400 head during the summer season of 1932 to 15,343 on Jan. 1, 1934.
This critical situation caused the Communist Party and the [: ] Soviet government to re–
assign their most efficient and effective organizers in this area, who had hitherto been
engaged in [: ] founding the new lumber and fishing industries, to the native [: ] collective
farms and the state farms. 1935 saw a decisive change for the better. The herds of the state reindeer
farms 19 of the Northern Sea Route Administration increased by 16.4%, those of the joint
pasturing cooperatives rose by 10%, while even the privately-owned herds increased by 9%.
Three of the collective farms had apparently found a fundamental solution to their difficul–
ties, for their herds gained by 24% in two cases, and 30% in the third. By January 1, 1936,
the total head in all state farms had risen about 50% over two years earlier, reaching 22,600.
The collective farm and cooperative pasturing associations now had 25,500 reindeer, a four–
fold increase in two years, showing that the Nentsy, impressed by the recent successes,
were again joining up. But the vast majority of the reindeer at this time, 201,400 head,
were still in private possession. One major reason for the increase in cooperative herds
is that the government had temporarily given up the effort to get the Nentsy to merge their
herds to the point of surrendering individual ownership, but instead favored merely joint
pasturing associations as the first step toward collectivism.
The benefits sought, and ultimately obtained, through collectivization, were the trans–
formation of the Nentsy from primitive nomads to a settled people through a [: ]
the planned pasturage reducing the area of migration; and in an increase in income from hunt–
ing and fishing through a specialized division of labor in the collective; an increase in
reindeer herds through a more rational use of the pasturage resources (the Ural area was
saturated with reindeer, the Yamal Peninsula nearly so, but the Taz River country supported
only 15% as many animals as it could have, and the Pur River district only 10%); better pro–
tection of the herds against wolves and other predatory animals; better care for them during
the calving period; simultaneous slaughter of all animals to be killed for meat, making pos–


A third factor handicapping the state farm during the first two years of its existence
was that it had three managers in that brief period, one of whom had never visited the herds
in the field during his 18-month administration.


sible utilization of all by-products; through the establishment of small, simple cold storage plants; more rational and economical distribution of veterinary
and inoculation stations; erection of corrals to speed such operations as separation of sick
and weak animals, selection of animals for slaughter, inoculation, measures against the
bot-fly; establishment of subsidiary trading posts [: ] on the planned routes of migration and trap–
ping so as to avoid time-wasting trips to the widely-scattered [: ]
[: ] main depots, etc.
Whereas, under the old regime, there had been no single fixed veterinary post anywhere
in the Ob north, there were, by 1936, in the Yamal Okrug, three veterinaries, 13 veterinary
technicians and 21 zoological technicians operating from [] six offices. Further, a veterinary
bacteriological station had been organized in Salekhard to study the diseases of reindeer
and the best means of combatting them, and, at Numga in the Nadym River district a zonal
reindeer station had been set up to study problems of feed, pasturage and the like.
The effectuation of these measures led to a fundamental change in the next two years.
By January 1, 1938, there were 106 [: ] reindeer cooperatives in the Okrug, embracing 2,680 of the
3,917 native households, or 59.5%. The total head of reindeer in the Okrug rose from 211,000 in
1933, the rock-bottom year, to 226,100 in 1934, 250,200 in 1935, and 344,100 in 1937, sur–
passing the pre-collectivization census year of 1926. and showing an increase of more than
one-third in a single year. Specific figures for reindeer farming in the Yamalo-Nenets
Okrug alone are not available beyond 1937, but, throughout the Soviet Arctic, the [: ]
[: ] herds increased until 1941. When the Germans attacked the USSR that year, overrunning
territories with one-third of its livestock, every source of meat was pressed into service.
The government requisitioned a portion of the reindeer which the individual, under the rules
of the collective farms, retains for his own personal use. It also increased the meat delivery
quotas of the collective and state farms. Finally, natural loss increased due to the draft–
ing of experienced and mature herdsmen into the armed forces. (Tsarist Russia had never dared
to draft the Asiatic peoples, fearing that they would be unreliable.). All in all, the USSR–
wide reindeer herd dropped 12% from 1941 to 1943, a far smaller decline than during the period
of social struggle a decade earlier, so that the 1943 figure was 18% over that of 1933. In
1944 and 1945 there was a slight upturn, and in 1946, with the end of the war and the demob–
ilization of the troops, a 9% rise, so that the total head reached a figure lower only than
in the years 1939, 1940 and 1941. There is every reason to believe that an even more rapid an–


nual rise has been the rule since then.
Earlier we described the catastrophic situation in an early state farm. By contrast
it is proper to cite the situation in a state farm after the early difficulties had been
overcome. This one, at Muzhi on the Ob, south of Salekhard, had still suffered a decline of
8.8% in its reindeer [: ] herds in 1935. The neighboring kulaks had bribed the state farm herds–
men, had raided and dispersed outlying herds, and had engaged in considerable outright steal–
ing. The farm management replied to this by dismissing all herdsmen who had family or other
ties with the wealthy, by improving living conditions as far as possible, and by instituting
a system of piece-work payment and premiums based on computing the percentage of adult ani–
mals surviving the year other than those scheduled for slaughter, and other factors. As a
result, in 1947 1937 this farm recorded [: ] a net increase of 21.8%. increase of 21.8%. One of the factors in this in–
crease was the stimulation of competition among the herdsmen for the best records, rewarded
both in glory and in premium pay. This farm was now so well on its feet that it was able
to offer assistance of various types to the neighboring cooperatives, in accordance with
the purposes for which state farms had been set up. In 1937 alone, its personnel inoculated
5,896 head of reindeer belonging to adjoining nearby cooperatives, against anthrax. It also conducted
a two-month training course for 20 cooperative-farm herdsmen. However, by this date it had
not yet completed a proper survey and re-allocation of its moss lands, so that, part of the
time, its reindeer had to graze on the lands of neighboring cooperatives.
In its first years, in order to break the influence of the shamans and the wealthy
natives, this farm had had to import reindeer-men of other nationalities. [: ]
presumably Nentsy, as the people of this neighborhood are Komi and Khante. However, by 1938
its employees were exclusively members of the latter tribes, recruited from the neighborhood,
trained and working satisfactorily.
[: ]
The measures outlined previously for the improvement of the cooperative farms had ef–
[: ]
fects readily measurable in increased income. Thus, the money value of an average man-day
payment for an average man-day in one cooperative increased from 5.24 rubles in 1933 to
14.50 in 1935, and in another from 2.97 in 1934 to 11.57 the next year. In at least three of
the 40 Yamalo-Nenets collective farms, the beginnings of permanent settlements had been es–
tablished. The increased incomes could now be spent at a larger number of posts and stores, <formula> 4,000,000 40,000 </formula> <formula> 100 [: ll] </formula>


they having increased from 31 in 1931 to 143 four years later, while the value of goods
they offered for sale multiplied 7 1/2 times.
The elements of civilization were now reaching the most outlying areas, such as the
Yamal Peninsula proper, and the extreme northwestern corner of the Okrug, at Kara Bay on
the Kara Sea. There, at 69°N., 65°E., a settlement of some 16 buildings, including a radio
station, a school, five dwelling houses and a trading post, was established in the late
′30s. It served both the nomad natives and Russians who came by sea to hunt sea mammals
and trap polar fox. The radioman was a Nenets. The doctor, here on the shore of the
Arctic, was a woman. Her husband was the meteorologist.
The Yamal Peninsula outpost had been built on the just inland from the Gulf of the
Ob, at Yar-Sale, 67°N., 71° E. This was originally established as a cultural base - an educational,
medical, veterinary and trading center. It drew its power from a 100-kilowatt windmill
generator, which provided heat as well as light for all the buildings and avoided the
necessity of bringing 3,000 cubic meters of firewood in by barge each year. [: ]
The generator also served as an excellent landmark for the natives. A hothouse,
built in 1935, grew cucumbers and scallions successfully from the outset, and other
vegetables later.
By 1937 the faith of the Nentsy was such that one man drove his, and neighbors',
reindeer 48 hours without stopping save to change teams, in order to reach the hospital
at Yar-Sale, 210 miles from his starting place, and drive back with a nurse - the doctor
could not be spared - and medicines. The veterinary doctor at the Yar-Sale cultural base,
who happened to be a Jewish woman, had won the respect of the natives by migrating with
them for six months. As a result of her inoculations and treatments, the reindeer herd,
which had declined in 1935, increased by 18% in this area in 1936. While on her travels,
she taught the women the habit of bathing, and, to convince one 60-year-old man to do
so, washed his head, which had never been cleaned in his lifetime, herself. She taught
another herdsman to read and write.
Little incidents such as the foregoing, or the willingness of the staff of the
base to teach a Nenets' wife how to use a sewing machine they had bought (five years
earlier they had been clothed in furs alone), won the confidence of the natives of even
the most outlying tundra. Nentsy near the base acquired mechanical and other skills.
One became "captain" of one of the base three motor boat s , a girl was trained as a nurse, another man,


who had been trained for several years at the Institute of the Peoples of the North in
Leningrad, returned, in the opinion of his Russian chief, a "highly-cultured intellectual",
and was in charge of organizing cooperatives of reindeer farmers [: ] on the peninsula. Yet
another Nenets, formerly a farm-hand, was head of the county government for the peninula,
with a population of several hundred people. Another was assistant [: ] to the Russian head–
ing the Communist Party. A [: ] Nenets woman was the teacher in the class for adult illit–
To assist the development of fishing hunting, the base had an expert who taught an
off-season class of the [: ] chiefs of the trapping teams of the nearby cooperative
farms. They were so pleased with what they had learnt that they asked him to accompany them
in the field the next season, so as to show them his better methods in practice.
In the summer of 1935, an event of major importance occurred at Yar-Sale when two
Nentsy came to the chief of the base and said: "We want to live in [: ] houses like yours.
Help us build them." Hundreds of natives visited them in their new houses, and many ex–
pressed a desire to live similarly. The Rather than permit the new settlement to develop
helter-skelter, it was planned out in conjunction with the perspectives of the cooperative
whose members had thus decided - and had found it economically possible and desirable - to
abandon the nomadic life. A village of 52 buildings, including a day nursery and an eating
place, was built in 1936-38, in addition to various structures along the fishery shore and
the trap lines.
Transportation has been a major obstacle to the further development of the Yamalo–
Nenets Okrug. Yar-Sale, for example, is 1,850 miles by water from the nearest station on
the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and slightly closer to Arkhangelsk. [: ] There are no roads
whatever for wheeled vehicles in the entire Okrug, which is as large as France. However,
the building of the railroad to Vorkuta in the European Arctic, completed in 1941, has
brought Salekhard to within 100 miles of rail, Kara - 120 miles, Yar-Sale - 180 miles,
and Novyi Port - 230 miles. In view of the large population at Salekhard, it is entirely
likely that a road will shortly be built to link it with the railroad, and with the coal
[: ] mines of Vorkuta. A railroad link will undoubtedly come some time in the future.
For either, the grades over the [] would not be difficult, for, at worst, they could follow the


[: ] ancient Sob River portage route.
River transport serving the lower Ob and the shallow head of Ob Gulf [: ]
(Yamalo-Nenets and Khante-Mansi Okrugs combined)
consisted in 1936 of 20 steam-powered vessels totalling 5,000 HP, and non-steam vessels
with 51,700 tons combined capacity, under the riverways system. The Northern Sea Route
Administration maintained 15 self-propelled vessels totalling 1,810 HP, and 12 other[]
inland waterways boats
with a capacity of 18,730 tons. Finally, the fisheries system, state and cooperative,
had about 100 powered boats averaging 30 HP each, and barges with a total capacity of
22,000 tons. Perhaps the clearest indication of the growth of the economy of the
Ob North, as these two Okrugs are termed jointly, is the fact that river shipping in 1936
was 15 times as great as in 1913, and the demands upon it had far outgrown the capacity of the
river fleet. With the building of the railroad to Vorkuta in 1941 and the increased
transport facilities provided thereby, the problem of building a very shallow-draft
fleet for the small rivers, and even for such large ones as the Pur, Taz, Nadym and
Polui became pressing. Nothing could be done about it during the war, but there is rea–
son to believe that beginnings have been made in the last few years.
An air line has connected the Trans-Siberian Railroad at Tiumen with all the Ob
River towns and the Gulf up to Novyi Port since 1932. Its chief freight is furs.
Communications improved greatly in the '30s. The number of post offices rose from
three in 1931 to 16 in 1936, and the number of radio stations from 2 in 1931 to 25 in
1935, of which 13 exclusively served the Northern Sea Route and the fisheries.
Fundamental to any considerable [: ] further increase in population by influx [: ]
from the south is the provision of a larger quantity and variety of home-grown food.
Two lines of development have been opened and investigated: the raising of milk and meat
producing livestock other than reindeer, and the growing of vegetables and grain crops.
From 1927 to 1932 (under the 1st 5-Year Plan) cattle livestock in the Yamalo-Nenets National Okrug increased in number
from 402 to 549 head, of or by 36.6%. From 1933 to 1937, the period of the 2nd 5-Year Plan,
the increase was 427.3%, as the total number rose to 2,346 head. Sheep, numbering 115
in 1932 1927 , rose to 495 in 1937, a more than four-fold increase. Pigs rose in number from
51 in 1927 to 476 in 1937, or 9.5 times. Horses, used as draft animals in Salekhard
and in the timberlands and fisheries, increased from 213 in 1927 to 2,337 ten years
later, or eleven-fold. As is to be expected, a A lmost half of the horses and the cows were

Yamalo-Nenets .

to be found in [: ] [] Shuryshkar county, which extends from the Arctic Circle
southward to 64° N., along the Ob River. [: ] The second largest
number is to be found in the county immediately to the north, embracing the mouth of the
Ob and including Salekhard. However, it is important to note that, by 1936, there were
horses, cows and pigs in every county, including the northernmost. Thus, on the Yamal
Peninsula, [: ] which is entirely north of the Arctic Circle, there were, in 1937,
202 horses, 81 cows and 50 pigs at such places as Yar-Sale and Novyi Port. The Nadym
River country, accessible only by boat via the Ob Gulf, had 115 cows ,and 86 horses. The
Taz River country, accessible in the same manner only, but even more distant, had 52 cows,
33 horses and 96 pigs. The poorest and least-developed area of all, including reindeer
economy, was the marsh and scrub forest county along the Pur River. Even here, however,
there were, by 1937, 11 cows, 16 horses and 44 pigs.
Milk yield was exceedingly low, but began to show increase, while yield in the
state farms reached a much higher figure, and pointed the way to improvement in [: ]
cattle owned by collective farms and individuals through blooded stock and better care.
In 1935 the average yield per grazing cow in the Okrug was only 700 liters for the year,
but it rose 14% the next year, 1936. In 1937, he furthermore and 1938, furthermore, the
average yield on the Salekhard state farm was 1,660 liters, while one milkmaid secured
2,677 liters [: ] from each cow in her care.
Pigs multiplied quite satisfactorily. In 1937 and 1938 the 25 sows at the Salekhard
state farm gave an average litter of 14. [: ]
An economic study of agriculture and its potentialities in the Soviet Far North,
made for the Northern Sea Route Administration in 1940, shows vast possibilities for the
expansion of stock farming in the Okrug. Existing river valley and lakeland meadows were
being used to only 0.06% of their haying and grazing potential in the Pur River country,
4.2% in the Nadym River area, and 0.7% in the Okrug as a whole. On this basis, the exist–
ing head of cattle could be multiplied 128 times to 300,000 head. This, in conjunction
with associated activities, would sustain a human population almost as large, judging by
the situation in Yakutia (qv), an area whose rural economy has traditionally been based
on livestock-raising based on haying natural meadows. This would represent a maximum uti–


lization of all grasslands. However, an absolute minimum figure, based on use only of
clear meadows in [: ] localities easily accessible from present settlements, would
make possible an increase to 3.8 times the head existing in 1937. In view of the rate
of increase actually attained in the five years up to that date, it is entirely probable
that that goal was sought during the 4th 5-Year Plan, 1946-50. This would mean [: ] 9,000
head of cattle in the Okrug in 1950, and corresponding numbers of horses, sheep and goats.
Such a level would adequately meet the needs of the existing population for milk and the
types of meat to which the [: ] Russians, now constituting a majority, are
To attain [: ] a further increase in livestock, the government en–
couraged the settled collective farms to establish special stock-farms as an independent
aspect of their economy. The first of these in the Yamal Okrug was established in 1937,
with 93 head. In general, the breed in the Okrug has been improved since then by introduction
of the high-yield Kholmogory milkers from sub-Arctic North European Russia.
The development of growing of vegetables and crops obviously presents much greater
difficulties. Nevertheless, the very fact of the appearance of seasonal greenery suitable
for hay provides the [: ] direction in which the solution had to be sought:
the development of food-plant varieties maturing in an equally short growing season, and
equally resistant to frost, and suitable to the same peaty, boggy and sandy soils.
The Yamalo-Nenets area provides no records of efforts to introduce agriculture, on
however small or experimental a scale, from the time of the first failure about 1600 to
the Soviet Revolution. The first plantings for purposes of consumption, as distinct from
experimentation, date from 1929, yet a decade later there were 405 acres under crop. in the
open air.
This is in line with the situation in the Soviet Arctic as a whole, where there were 35
acres under crop north of 65° in 1926, which increased to 23,100 acres in 1937, and
30,500 acres in 1945, or by 871 times in twenty years. By 1946, the two Ob River counties
of the Yamalo-Nenets Okrug, which contained virtually the entire urban population, were
meeting their own needs for potatoes, a staple in the Russian diet.
Plantings under glass began in 1931, when the Salekhard cooperative laid out 80
frames. The next year there were 170, and the following year 726. In 1936 the figure had
risen to 1,292, and then, in successive years, to 1,350 and 1,600. The first hothouse was
built by the government's agricultural facility at Salekhard in 1933, and had an area of

Yamalo-Nenets Okrug

132 square meters. By 1938 hothouse area had multiplied more than tenfold to 1,360 square
meters. Hothouse yields the first year were 10.6 lbs. of radish and 16 lbs. of lettuce
per square meter.
Away from the Ob River, plantings prior to World War II were still on a very small
scale, experimental basis. The Yamal Peninsula, and and the Pur, [: ] Taz and
Nadym River areas each had no more than two to three acres of gardens. Plantings in the
Ob River counties were, as indicated, chiefly of potatoes and vegetables. In 1936 barley
was sown on 2 1/2 acres at Salekhard, and a crop was harvested. The attainment of inde–
pendence in potatoes by 1946 represents tremendous progress, and undoubtedly a much
greater area under crop than the 405 acres in 1939, for at that time only five per cent
of the need for potatoes was met within the Okrug. It is probable that the increase is
largely attributable to improved yields per acre, as well as greater acreage, for in
1940 it was estimated that 2,250 acres would be needed. to meet the area's requirements in full. This represents a less than six–
fold increase over 1939, while the harvest apparently had to be multiplied 20-fold.
The reserves of cold in the underlying permafrost presented a major problem to be
overcome. It was met, in this area, but by raising vegetables in box-like frames above
the general ground level. Even turnips, which demand so little warmth, gave a 65% higher
yield under these circumstances.
[: ]
[: ]
[: ]
[: ]
[: ]
[: ]
[: ]
[: ]
[: ]
The fact that livestock-raising and agriculture and are still concentrated over–
whelmingly in the Ob valley does not mean that the [: ] outlying portions of the Okrug
have experienced no progress. The most inaccessible area of all, the 700-mile long Pur
River and its valley, is traditionally the most backward in the Okrug. The population of
this marshy forest country averages is less than one person in five square miles. To reach this territory

Yamalo-Nenets Okrug

from the south, [: ] other than by air, requires either a thousand-mile detour
down the Ob and Ob Gulf, and up the Taz Gulf, into which the Pur empties, or a trip up
the [: ] Agan, an upper tributary of the Ob, and then over the watershed to the headwaters
of the Pur. In 1936, a 13-man topographical survey party of the Economics Institute of
the Northern Sea Route Administration, needed five days to make just thirty miles up the
Agan, in the face of summer shallows and rapids, and morning-long pea-soup fogs. The 94 sum–
mer trip was necessary in order to map meadows and study flora. The first 94
miles [: ] up the Agan and its tributary, the Vambuta, to the watershed, re–
quired 11 days. After crossing the watershed and entering the Pur River area, the ground
underfoot was found to be covered with reindeer moss, very loosely rooted in the sandy
soil. of the dense pine forest through which the expedition was traveling. The reindeer-hauled sledges to which the party had transferred from boats hardly
made five miles per day. The reindeer, smaller than those of the tundra, and worn out by
mosquitoes, could barely [: ] move the sledges loaded down with motors for boats
to carry the party down the Pur, and the men of the expedition had to harness themselves
in [: ] with the animals.
After four days of this tortuous experience, the Russians proposed to place wheels
under the sledges. The natives ,to whom the reindeer and sledges belonged, objected strongly, on traditional grounds, and by way of
compromise only one sledge was so equipped. This doubled the distance travelled per day,
and so, that night, the [: ] Khante yielded and [: ] wheels were shaped for
most of the rest of the sledges. However, the third on the third day the party reached
[: ] the huge marsh area where and the territory of the Yamal Nenets Okrug begins. Hummocks as tall as a man al–
ternated with water waist deep. Here wheels were useless. They were carried on the men's
backs while they heaved the sledges from hummock to hummock. The marsh was traversed in
a single day, and the party resumed its use of wheeled sledges.
On the eighth day the expedition lost the trail, but a scouting party of three found
a tributary of the Pur after 25 miles a search which took them 25 miles. When they reached
this stream, here still too small and shallow to take boats, the Khante refused to go
further, fearing for their worn-out reindeer. But guides pressed on for another day to
find an encamoment of forest Nentsy, who agreed to haul the group. They came on the third
day, and their strong reindeer easily hauled the sledges over hummocks, sands and marshes
without [: ] wheels. Thus, on the 26 21 August, after six weeks en
route, the party was able to set forth down the Pur River.


In view of the degree of isolation indicate at so recent a date indicated by the
experience of the expedition in question, it is the progress made in the by the people
of the area in the preceding half-dozen years is quite notable. Of 1,130 forest Nentsy
in the USSR [: ] in 1926, 870 lived in this area. By 1934 their num–
bers had increased by 100, or more than 10%. A major reason for this was the elimination
of small-pox by vaccination. Not one case was recorded in 1936. Under the old regime, this disease, in epidemic form, had
swept them away by the hundred. They had had to pay 100 squirrels or two first-grade
polar fox for a sack of flour, 30 squirrels, a red fox or an otter for a pound of tea,
[: ] and a silver fox for a gallon of [: ] diluted vodka. Thus, as with their
fellow-tribesmen of the tundra, and the poverty and hunger joined with disease in reduc–
ing their numbers. There had been no choice in the matter, for the Russians demanded
tribute in furs, and the increased time devoted to trapping reduced the attention that
could be given to reindeer farming, with the result that the Nentsy, formerly self-suf–
ficient in food, had had [: ] to purchase it from the Russians. But the fall in the number
of reindeer, because the Nentsy had not the time to protect them against wolves and
bears, bogs and anthrax-contaminated pastures, reduced the people's ability to follow
the migrations of the fur-bearing animals. Therefore their poverty had become greater
in a vicious circle, and the tendency to die out had resulted.
The Pur county had been organized within the Yamalo-Nenets National Okrug in 1934,
and, in the same year, the building of the county seat, Tarko-Sale, had been undertaken.
Within two years it had a well-laid-out store, a hospital, school, bakery and radio
station. The first few motor-boats were plying the river. In addition, three trading posts
had been established up and down the river. A government-owned station for renting
motor boats and other equipment for fishing and hunting was set up in 1936, while a
traveling Red Wigwam, with library, teacher, nurse and veterinary, toured the county
with the natives. Fishing and hunting had become the major occupations, and this had
brought with it a tendency toward permanent settlement. Although they continued to live
in wigwams, many now had iron stoves in place of the smoky open fires of the past.
The first forest Nenets to attend the Institute of the Peoples of the North in
Leningrad graduated in 1936, and it was expected that upon his return, the people could
be won to cooperatives and a more civilized way of life, thanks to his influence.


World War II and Since .
For the first time in the 350 years since Russians penetrated their territory, the
Nentsy were deemed sufficiently loyal, during World War II, to be called into the armed
forces. Whereas that resulted, as we have already noted, in some decline in the reindeer
herds, it had two positive effects. One was that a larger number of Nentsy had contact with
the outside world than ever before, and their mechanical and cultural horizons were broad–
ened accordingly. Another was that women were brought to the fore as never before, due to
the [: ] absence of the men at the front. In view of the very subordinate position of women in
the traditional Nenets family, this was a very positive phenomenon. Thirdly, due to the
relative shortage of manpower in wartime, there was greater stimulus to the Nentsy to join
Despite the war, many of the positive activities of the previous years continued. Thus,
in 1944 a cartographical and geobotanical expedition was sent into the Yamal tundra for a
survey of reindeer pastures to extend over a four-year period. When it returned, in 1948,
19 reindeer-breeding collective farms were assigned permanent pasture and hunting grounds.
In 1946 the celebration of the 15th anniversary of the Okrug showed very considerable
strides forward over the preceding decade. This fish catch of 8,520 tons in 1935 had risen
to 15,000 tons in 1945, almost doubling in a decade. There were now twelve fisheries, seven
government motor boat and fishing equipment stations for rental service to the cooperatives.
Sixty [: ] two-way radio installations provided greatly facilitated communications. The
repair shipyard at Salekhard had been rebuilt and expanded into a shipbuilding yard for
river and fisheries vessels. The fur trappers' income had risen through the release and
multiplication of muskrats in this area. In addition to the laborious and dangerous work
of trapping, silver foxes were now being raised behind wire, on farms. The reindeer herds
were again increasing, while agriculture had made long strides forward. The 405 acres under
crop in 1939 had risen to 875, more than doubling, by 1946. It is to be remembered that
the figure was zero less than twenty years earlier. The largest single farm was the State–
owned enterprise just outside Salekhard, whose 150 acres provided potatoes and some vege–
tables to the townspeople. The yield of potatoes and cabbage were in the neighborhood of
15 tons to the acre. Experiments with over 500 varieties of barley and oats had provided


three of the former and two of the latter that were cultivable in the climatic conditions
of the Okrug, and now grain was being grown, [: ] by some of the native collect–
ive farms, although as yet on very small acreages. Plans called for the Okrug to become
self-sufficient in vegetables by 1950.
Salekhard itself was being improved. Before the war, of its 2,500 buildings, only
the well-built reindeer-farming school, the two-story government house, the cannery, the
lumberyard, the grade schools, the library, the House of the Nenets, the Normal School for teacher and the church were differentiated in any way from the great mass of log
[: ] houses and dormitories. But the streets consisted merely of the spaces between the
houses. In 1946, with the return of ex-servicemen and the reduction of the working day
to the normal eight hours, civic Sundays were organized, and the townsfolk turned out
to lay plank sidewalks and , dig drainage ditches. In the Okrug as a whole, the one school of
the old regime, that had been multiplied sevenfold by 1931, had now increased almost
nine times again, for there were 61 schools including 15 high schools, plus the teachers'
training [: ] and [: ] reindeer-farming institutions. [: ] 31 of the 42 elementary schools
boarded the children of nomads. [: ] . Graduates now went
only to the special Institute of the Peoples of the North at Leningrad, for it now speci–
alized only in the training of ethnographers and linguists. Yamal Nentsy were studying
at the Timiriazev Agricultural Academy and at the Institute of Land Planning at Moscow,
in addition to the various Siberian universities. [: ]
[: ]
There were now at least ten permanent settlements, for that number were listed as
having electricity. 16 hospitals with doctors, and 48 trained nurses and midwives' offices
served the people's health requirements. There were native teachers, doctors, nurses, and
recognized poets and artists, although few in number. []
The trappers benefited from the existence of lodges along their routes, improved
paths and trails, and better traps. Game preserves for fox, beaver and sable had been est–
Government had become a matter of broad public interest. Dmitri Tesida, a Nenets
elected from this Okrug to the Soviet of Nationalities ("Senate") of the Supreme Soviet
("Congress") of the USSR in 1946, travelled 6,000 miles by airplane, car, horse, reindeer and dogsled to visit the settlements and nomad
encampments throughout the area.
Medical care took an important stride forward in 1947 with the establishment of an
air ambulance post in Salekhard to carry patients to hospitals, and doctors and nurses
to patience patients . This rendered unnecessary such epic sledge-treks for medical care as occurred


we described on the Yamal Peninsula. The wide network of radio posts meant that the plane
could be summoned in a minimum of time.
By the summer of 1949 the elementary pasturing cooperatives had been transformed into
full-fledged collective farms, with herds, buildings and equipment jointly owned. The num–
ber of collective farms had multiplied five times since 1941, and now embraced virtually
all the Nentsy. Apparently the early difficulties we have already described had been over–
come, for the gross revenues of these farms had doubled, and the personal income of the
farmers from them had more than doubled. One collective farm, at Muzhi village on the Ob,
south of Salekhard, had a bank balance of 1,109,000 rubles, not less than $55 ,000 at the
lowest estimate of the purchasing power of the ruble at that time. It had a herd of 12,000
reindeer. Beef and dairy cattle of the productive Yaroslavl and Kholmogory breeds had been
widely introduced from North Russia, and were doing well.
William Mandel

"Yamalskii (Nenetskii) Natsionalnyi Okrug", Bolshaia Sovetskaia Entsiklopediia , Vol. 65,
Moscow, 1931.

"Salekhard", ibid ., Vol. 50, 1944.

"Ob", ibid ., Vol. 42, 1939.

"Ob", "Obdorsk", Brockhaus and Efrom, Entsiklopedicheskii Slovar , Vol. 42, St. Petersburg, 1897.

"Samoedy", ibid ., Vol. 56, St. Petersburg, 1900.

"Arkheologicheskie Issledovaniia v RSFSR v 1946", A.P. Smirnov, Kratkie Soobshoheniia o
Dokladakh i Polevykh Issledovaniiakh Instituta Istorii Materialnoi Kultury , XXIII, 1948.

"Osnovnye etapy istorii Prioobia ot drevneishikh vremen do X vek nashei ery", V.N. Chernetsov,
ibid ., XIII, 1946.

Ocherki po Istorii Russkykh Geograficheskykh Otkrytii , L.S.Berg, Izd. Akademii Nauk SSR,
Moscow-Leningrad, 1946.

Otkrytie Kamchatki i Ekspeditsii Beringa , L.S.Berg, Izd. Akad. Nauk SSSR, Moscow-Leningrad, 1946.
Barents, William Gourdon, Richard Finch, Josias Logan, William Pursglove accounts in
Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas His Pilgrimes , by Samuel Purchas, [: ] Vol. XIII,
edition of James MacLehose and Sons, Glasgow, 1906.


Antonie Marsh account, and others, ibid ., Vol. XIV.

The Chronicle of Novgorod, 1016-1471 , Trans. by R. Michell and N. Forbes, Camden Third
Series, Vol. XXV, Offices of The Society, London, 1914.

Narody Severnogo Urala , Comp. by V1. A. Popov, Sverdlovskoe Oblastnoe Gosudarstvennoe
Izdatelstvo, Sverdlovsk, 1937.

"Arabische Händler in Nordrussland und am Nördlichen Eismeer", Terrae Incognitae , von
Dr. Richard Hennig, Band II, E.J.Brill, Leiden, 1937.

"Starinnoe i Sovremennoe Lukomore", I.S.Poliakov, Zhivopisnaia Rossiia , Tom XI, M.O. Volf,
St. Petersburg-Moscow, 1884.

"Karskoe More", Nikolai Latkin, ibid .

"Naselenie Aziatskoi Rossii", I.P. Poddubnyi, Aziatskaia Rossiia , v.l, Izdanie Pereselen–
Cheskago Upravleniia Glavnago Upravleniia Zemleustroistva i Zemledeliia, St. Petersburg,

"Severnyi morskoi put", S.V. Vostrotin, ibid ., v. 2.

Ocherk Istorii Sibiri do nachala XIX stoletiia , Chast I, Istoriia do-Russkoi Sibiri.
V. I. Ogorodnikov, Irkutsk, Tipografiia Shtaba Voennogo Okruga, 1920.

The Russian Fur Trade, 1550-1700 , by Raymond H. Fisher, University of California Press,
Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1943.

The Urge to the Sea , by Robert J. Kerner, U. of Cal. Press, Berkeley and L.A., 1942.

Kartiny iz deianii Petra Velikago na severe m , M. Sidorov, Yakov Trei, St. Petersburg, 1872.

Travels in Siberia , by Adolph Erman, Lea and Blanchard, Philadelphia, 1850.

Puteshestvie K Severo-vostoku Evropeiskoi [] Rossii chrez Tundry Samoedov k Severnym Uralskim
, Alexander Schrenk, Grigorii Trusov, St. Petersburg, 1855.

Sibir [: ] Kak Koloniia , N.M.Yadrintsev, I.M.Sibiriakov, St. Petersburg, 1892.

"O bolezniakh v Berezovskom okruge", Dr. M. Sokolov, Arkhiv Sudebnoi Meditsiny , 1867.

Ocherk sanitarnago sostoianiia Zapadnoi Sibiri , sostavlen pri Zapadno-Sibirskoi voenno–
meditsinskom upravlenii. Omsk, 1880.

Life and Voyages of Joseph Wiggins , by Henry Johnson, Murray, London, 1907.

Prospector in Siberia , by Jonas Lied, Oxford University Press, New York, 1945.

Shkola na Krainem Severe , A.G.Bazanov and N.G. Kazanskii, Gos. Uch.-Ped. Izd., Leningrad, 1939.


"The Northern Sea Route to Siberia", W.L.Bogdanovitch, The Russian Economist , Vol. II, No. 6 , London, 1922.

Selskoe Khoziaistvo Aziatskogo Severa , A.A.Khrapal, Izd. Glavsevmorputi, Moscow, 1940.

Karta Poluostrova Ya-mal, Russian Imperial Geographic Society, 1911.

"Karskaia Ekspeditsiia", Sibirskaia Sovetskaia Entsiklopediia , t.II, Zapadno-Sibirskoe
Otdelenie OGIZ, 1931.

"Obdorskaia missionerskaia shkola", P. khatanzeev, Taiga i Tundra , 1(4), Leningrad, 1932.

"Shkolnoe stroitelstvo v Tazovskoi tundra", G. Orlov, ibid ., 2(5), 1933.

Materialy po Etnografii Sibiri XVIII veka (1771-1772) , V.F. Zuev, Akademiia Nauk, Moscow, 1947.

Jadej wada (Nenets primer), G.N. Prokofev, Nauchno-Issledovatelskaia [: ] Assotsiatsiia
Instituta Narodov Severa TSIK SSSR, Uchpedgiz, Moscow-Leningrad, 1934.

Tm Wadambada Sowhoz Namge (In Nenets: What Is a State Reindeer Farm?), Ya. Koshelev,
Selkhozgiz, Moscow-Leningrad, 1933.

Sud Namge (In Nenets: What Is A Court?), I. [: ] Kulagin, Partizdat, Moscow-Leningrad, 1932.

Narjana Mah (In Nenets: The Red Wigwam), G. Verbov, Lenpartizdat, Leningrad, 1933.

Oktabr rewolucija nerm nana jilena tenzahah namgem tasa ?, [: ] (In Nenets: What The
October Revolution Gave to the Toiling People of the North), Ya. Alkor, Lenpartizdat,
Leningrad, 1933.

Severnoe Olenevodstvo , P.S. Zhigunov and Prof. F.A.Terentev, Ministerstvo [: ] Selskogo
[] Khoziaistva RSFSR, Upravlenie Raionov Krainego Severa, OGIZ-Selkhozgiz, Moscow, 1948.

"Rabota Yamalskoi Olenevodcheskoi Ekspeditsii Vsesoiuznogo Arkticheskogo Instituta",
V.B. Sochava, Biulleten Arkticheskogo Instituta , 9, Leningrad, 1935.

"Peresechenie Poluostrova Yamal", ibid ., 10-11, 1936.

Arctic Pilot , Vol. 1, Fifth Edition, 1947, Hydrographic Dept., Admiralty, London.

"V Yamalskom (Nenetskom) nationalnom okruge Ob-Irtyshkoi oblasti" (iz postanovleniia plenuma),
E.K., Sovetskii Sever , 5, 1934, Moscow.

"V Yamalskikh tundrakh" [: ] , Ya. Koshelev, ibid .

"Znachenie Novogo Porta dlia rybnoi promyshlennosti", N.A.Valikov, Sovetskaia Arktika , 4, 1938.

A Guide Book for Arctic Siberia , Part I, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, unpublished.

"Obskii Sever i ego ekonomika", G.N.Tarasenkov, , Sovetskaia Arktika , 5, 1937.

"Na Yamalskom poluostrove", M.M.Brodnev, ibid . [: ] .

"Na Obskoi avialinii", G.G.Alekseev, ibid .


"O promysle na Yamale", V. Vasilev, ibid ., 6, 1938.

"Gydanskie rybnye promysly", E. Burmakin, ibid .

"Muzhevskii olensovkhoz", G. Koren, ibid ., 9, 1938.

"Iz ustia Obi k ustiu Yeniseia", M. Derzhavin, ibid ., ibid ., 2, 1940.

"Selskokhoziaistvennaia nauka na Krainem Severe", F. Gulchak, Sotsialisticheskoe Selskoe
Khoziaistvo , 3, 1947.

Po Olenim Tropam , A. Shakhov, Molodaia Gvardiia, 1947.

"Po reke Pur", A.G. Podekrat, Nasha Strana , 3, 1937, Moscow.

"Visiting An Arctic Reindeer-Breeding Farm", Y. Ardi, Moscow News , April 17, 1941.

"Far-Northern People Celebrate 15th Anniversary of National Area", ibid ., Dec. 12, 1945.

"People of Soviet North Keep in Step With Country's Progress", L. Pavlov, [: ]
ibid ., April 3, 1946. [: ]

"Vegetable Growing Beyond the Arctic Circle", V. Golant, ibid ., March 5, 1947.

"Air Ambulance Service Expands This Year", ibid ., July 19, 1947.

"Uspekhi narodnostei Yamalo-Nenetskoi tundry", [: ] red. gaz. Niariana Ngerm,
Pravda , Feb. 16, 1948.

Yamal land survey completed, Pravda item, March 29, 1948.

"Collective Farms In the Soviet Far North", Soviet News , Embassy of the U.S.S.R., London,
Sept. 5, 1949.

RSFSR, Administrativno-Territorialnoe Delenie, 1942 . Informatsionno-Statisticheskii Otdel
Prezidiuma Verkhovnogo Soveta RSFSR, Izdatelstvo "Vedomostei Verkhovnogo Soveta
RSFSR", Moscow, 1942.

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