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The Arctic Nomads: Strategies of Mobility

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The research focuses on Chukotka, Yamal and Kola peninsulas––the three source areas of Arctic reindeer breeding nomadism. The method of movement recording, termed TMA (tracking–mapping–acting), reveals a multidimensional pattern of nomadic movement with peaks and pauses, personal and social trajectories. The comparison of tracks shows that in contrast to ordinary reindeer herders, the leaders perform more complex and extended maneuvers for surveying vicinities, evaluating the situation, and specifying next steps. Three “close-ups” demonstrate their dense activity patterns covering natural and social environment and ensuring control over territory, reindeer, the nomadic community, external contacts, and threat prevention. In terms of spatial control and movement, herders practice different styles such as “circular” (Chukotka), “migratory” (Yamal), and “fenced” (Kola). In all three tundras, key roles belong to infl uential leaders whose experience and energy, by local people’s belief, are the backbone of reindeer herding. In turn, the leaders argue that husbandry is ineffi cient without authoritarian control, although they widely use social (including kin) ties in their strategies. Nomads and their leaders rely upon traditions but are open to innovations. Reindeer symbolize the identity of Arctic nomadic cultures since herding provides autonomy in subsistence, movement, and communication. However, traditional technologies of life-in-motion can be seen as valuable resource for present-day Arctic strategies.

About the Author

A. V. Golovnev
Institute of History and Archaeology, Ural Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences
Russian Federation
S. Kovalevskoi 16, Yekaterinburg, 620990


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3. Golovnev A.V., Lezova S.V., Abramov I.V., Belorussova S.Y., Babenkova N.A. 2014 Etnoekspertiza na Yamale: Nenetskiye kochevya i gazovye mestorozhdeniya. Yekaterinburg: Izd. AMB.

4. Istomin K.V. 2015 Kochevaya mobilnost komi-izhemskikh olenevodov: Snegokhodnaya revolyutsiya i rynochnaya restavratsiya. Uralskiy istoricheskiy vestnik, No. 2 (47): 17–25.


For citations:

Golovnev A.V. The Arctic Nomads: Strategies of Mobility. Archaeology, Ethnology & Anthropology of Eurasia. 2016;44(4):131-140.

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ISSN 1563-0110 (Print)