The Chukchi I Cover Image

Tšuktšid I
The Chukchi I

Author(s): Ülo Siimets
Subject(s): Customs / Folklore
Published by: Eesti Kirjandusmuuseum

Summary/Abstract: In 1969, returning from a ski trip to the Hibines in the Kola Peninsula we made a stop at St. Petersburg, then known as Leningrad. In Leningrad author happened to make an acquaintance with a couple of Chukchi girls who studied at the Institute of Nordic People at the time, and after having successfully graduated from the institute they returned to their homeland and asked me to visit them. At the time I was a student of forest management at the Estonian Agricultural University. Since it was a border zone and therefore a restricted area, we (me and my course mate) decided to travel to Chukotka. So we took an academic intermission, and in January 1971 left for Vaeg. We stayed in the Chukchi Native District for 10 months. We started by working at the construction of log houses at the centre of «Put k kommunismu» [The Way to Communism] collective farm, later we worked as sailors on a merchant ship carrying cargo up and down the Anadyr river. Next summer we managed to find work as reindeer herders, and went on a long hike along the Chukchi Peninsula, although in different squads. My squad was considered the worst among the locals. I was not paid much, but the squad followed the ancient traditional ways of living more than others, and this enabled me to participate in several ritual events. During the tsarist period Russia failed to subdue the Chukchi, who put up a strong resistance against their attackers. The area west from the rivers Chauna and Anadyr was called «the land of the Chukchi». According to an article in the Russian Code of Laws, the region was officially considered as «a territory not totally subdued by Russia». The population of this region, as all simple Chukchi people, had certain privileges to settle their matters (killing people, among other things) according to their own ancient tradition. Presuming it took place within the area. The Chukchi people were subdued conclusively in 1949. Up to that time, the reindeer herders lead their habitual lives. In my opinion too little attention has been paid to the religion of the Chukchi heretofore. The Chukchi are one of the few peoples on the former tsarist Russian and Soviet territory, who were not Christianised. According to their religion everything, every plant, tree and animal, has a soul. In this sense their religion resembles the revived Taara faith, that we tend to regard as the religion of ancient Estonians, as much as we are able to conclude of the bits and pieces. For we do know very little of the Estonians before they were forced to accept Christianity. Most of the information about this ancient faith has reached us through the Chronicles of Latvian Hendrik. And very little is known from the period before that. While I was living in Chukchi I kept a diary where I recorded the more important myths and legends. The current article contains two chapters of my adventures.

  • Issue Year: 1999
  • Issue No: 11
  • Page Range: 132-152
  • Page Count: 21
  • Language: Estonian