17 jun. 2010

The Nenets of Siberia

Name: Nenets (ненэця)
Living Area: Northern Siberia, Russia
Population: 41.302 (2002)
Language: Nenets
Due to a false etymology, the name Samoyed entered the Russian language as a corruption of the self-reference Saamod, Saamid (the Samoyedic suffix "-d" denotes plurality). In Russian ethnographic literature of the 19th century, they were also called "Самоядь", "Самодь", (samoyad', samod', samodijtsy, samodijskie narody) which was often transliterated into English as Samodi.
The literal morphs samo and yed in Russian convey the meaning "self-eater", which appears as derogatory. Therefore the name Samoyed quickly went out of usage in the 20th century, and the people bear the name of Nenets, which means "man".
When reading old Russian documents, it is necessary to keep in mind that the term Samoyed' was often applied indiscriminately to different peoples of Northern Siberia who speak related Uralic languages: Nenets, Nganasans, Enets, Selkups (speakers of Samoyedic languages). Currently, the term "Samoyedic peoples" applies to the whole group of different peoples. It is the general term which includes the Nenets, Enets, Selkup, and Nganasan peoples.
Nenets are just a part of the Samoyedic peoples. Sometimes their name is spelled as Nenet because of the erroneous assumption that the terminal 's' is for the plural number.
There are two distinct groups based on their economy: the Tundra Nenets (living far to the north) and the Khandeyar or Forest Nenets. The third group Kominized Nenets (Yaran people) has emerged as a result of intermarriages between Nenets and the Izhma tribe of the Komi peoples.
The Samoyedic languages form a branch of the Uralic language family, the other branch being the Finno-Ugric languages. It is of major importance for the basic comparison between the Uralic and Finno-Ugric languages. They moved (from farther south in Siberia) to the northernmost part of what later became Russia before the 12th century.
They ended up between the Kanin and Taymyr peninsulas, around the Ob and Yenisey rivers, with only a few of them settling into small communities like Kolva. Their main subsistence comes from hunting and reindeer herding. Using reindeer as a draft animal throughout the year enables to cover great distances. Large-scale reindeer herding emerged in the 18th century. Tundra wolves can be a source of considerable economic loss, as they prey on the reindeer herds which are the livelihood of some Nenets families. Alongside with reindeer meat, fish is a major component in the Nenets' diet.
They have a shamanistic and animistic belief system which stresses respect for the land and its resources. They had a clan-based social structure. The Nenets shaman is called a Tadibya.
After the Russian Revolution, their culture suffered due to Soviet collectivisation policy. The government of the Soviet Union tried to force the nomadic Samoyeds to become sedentary. They were forced to settle in villages and their children were educated in state boarding schools, which resulted in erosion of their cultural identity. Many, especially in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug lost their mother tongue and became assimilated. Since the 1930s, a few Nenets have come to express themselves through professionalized cultural media. For instance, Tyko Vylka and Konstantin Pankov became well-known painters. Anna Nerkagi is one of the most celebrated Nenets writers. Yuri Vella, though living as a reindeer herder, has become the first writer in the Forest.
Environmental damage is significant due to the industrialisation of their land. Because of the expansive gas and oil industry, the reindeer pastures are shrinking and overgrazing of certain areas in some regions (Yamal Peninsula) have further endangered the Nenets way of life.
Well-known by:
They bred the Samoyed dog to help herd their reindeer and pull their sleds, and European explorers later used those dogs for polar expeditions, because they have adapted so well to the arctic conditions.
Some words in Nenets language:   
hello: andorovo
thank you: nyarya bada
yes: nyeya
no: ya'ngo
au revoir: lakamboi
how are you?: khanzer" ilen

© Text and images: Wikipedia
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