The Arctic – Inhabited Land
“The Arctic – Inhabited Land” catalog is not only an information resource, but also a kind of open digital platform, where invite all institutions concerned, in particular our partners museums of the Arctic, for exchange of experience and for cooperation. “The Arctic – Inhabited Land” online catalog was created as part of the project “Study, Preservation, and Promotion of the Historical and Cultural Heritage of the Arctic,” with financial support by Arctic Initiatives Center ANCO.
White bronze pendants shaped like beasts or birds are the most widespread type of decoration of the high middle ages epoch recorded in archeological complexes of Western Siberia. Ancient bronze has most often been found in land slips or on the sites of ancient settlements, and some artifacts were found as part of hoards.
Hunting sea and fur animals (squirrel, sable, glutton, ermine, fox, polar fox etc.) and fishery, along with deer farming, had and important place in Arctic traditional trade and life activities.
In the Mesolithic period, and according to some data even earlier, man came to the Arctic following herds of wild reindeer. When domesticated, the deer became a means of transport, exchange, accumulation, and a measure of social status and life values. Deer farming became the mode of existence for many Arctic peoples (Saami, Nenets, Dolgans, Evens, Chukchi), the basis of their life philosophy. The nomadic rhythm in the tundra is set by deer followed by people.
Shamanism, a striking phenomenon of archaic world outlook, is based on beliefs of multiple worlds populated by deities and ghosts, on whom human health and well-being depends. The word shaman taken from the Tungus-Manchurian languages became world-known thanks to explorers and travelers. It is related to the verb “sa,” “to know.
The traditional costume of each of the northern peoples had strongly pronounced ethnic specifics manifesting in cut features, decorations, and décor arrangement; it was an example of adaptation to harsh climate. The design of traditional garments took into account not only heat insulation, but also lightness, softness, elasticity, and ability to maintain a microclimate natural for the body.
Fire warming a dwelling place became the hearth of home, at the same time creating a special sacral space of the house. Since the earliest times, ancient aboriginals of the Arctic had a concept of fire as of a well-disposed being. Families tied with common fire were called “those having one fire,” or “people of one fire.” Such connection of family and family hearth was typical for all Arctic peoples.
The Yakut horses are the world’s only breed adapted to harsh Arctic conditions; the Yakuts, the northernmost horse-breeders, have been breeding them since ages ago. The Yakuts’ ancestors came to today’s Yakutia territory from the southern regions of Siberia. Gradually, their culture including horse breeding adapted to the extreme weather conditions. The husbandry and cold climate formed a special breed of Yakut horse, which can find forage in pastures even at 50 and 60 degrees C scraping snow with their hooves.
The Russian exploration of the Arctic rested on partnership rather than on enmity. Here, the pivotal role belonged to trading, which not only formed economic relations with the Arctic peoples, but also was a tool of diplomacy and politics. As early as in the Middle Ages, a sustainable network of trade routes emerged in the North, giving rise to active movement of people, goods, and ideas, cross-fertilizing near and far cultures.
Economic exploration of Arctic territories by the Russian state went along with propagation of Russian culture and the Orthodox faith. Settlement of peasants and service class men on new lands, continuous contacts and cross marriages promoted perception by aborigines of some ideas of Christian doctrine.
The Pomors are a local group of Russian population, descendants of the Novgorod natives who explored the North and the sea coasts from the 11th – 12th century. In 17th century documents, “Pomor Land” was the term for the entire territory of the Russian North, but the White and Barents Sea coasts are considered the core territory of Pomor settlement.