International Scientific Conference "Archeology of the Arctic"
November 19-23, 2017

Russian Arctic: problems of study and cultural heritage preservation (on the materials from the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)).

Strogova E.A.

The institute for Humanities Research an Indigenous Studies of the North SB RAS, Yakutsk.




The words "cultural heritage of the Arctic" immediately bring to mind the heritage and the traditions of the indigenous peoples which is, of course, quite right. However this cultural heritage is much richer than many people believe, since it also embraces the Russian culture sites of the 17th-18th centuries. Once the Russian cultural tradition belt extended in a continuous line along the Polar Circle from Pomorje to Chukotka, today only some isolated islands of that belt remain, however this fact does not in any way diminish its importance against the general background of the cultural heritage of the Arctic.

Yakutia is a major Arctic region of the Russian Federation peopled by the representatives of 127 nations and ethnic groups, however, according to some researchers "it was the presence of the Russian ethnic group, that determined in the past and is still influencing the character of the inter-ethnic relations among all peoples living in the territory of Yakutia, including the indigenous peoples" [Ignatjeva, 1992, 90].

The most famous site of the time of the Russian colonization of Yakutia in the 17th century is, by all means, Zashiversk hillfort, studied by A.P. Okladnikov in 1960s. No large scale archaeological expeditions have ever been organized for the study of the "Northern Pompei"  [Окладников, 1977]. The first excavations of the Russian settlements on the Alazeya and the Kolyma have been performed in 1986 – 1990 by an expedition headed by A.N. Alexeev. [Alexeev, 1996]. Further study of the Lower Kolyma winter camp were performed by G.P. Vizgalov in 2009-2011 [Vizgalov, 2011]. The materials obtained in the course of the excavations allowed E.A. Strogova to draw the conclusions about the origins of the Russian population in the lower Kolyma region and some specifics of its ethno-cultural adaptation to the Arctic conditions [Strogova, 2014]. In  1999 and 2002 V.F. Starkov discovered and studied the Olenok winter camp, the author highly appreciated the importance and the potential of the site for the study of the history of the Russian colonization of the Arctic [Starkov, 2007]. Further important events were the 2002 study by the V.F. Starkov's team of the Second Kamchatka Expedition site - the graves of V. and T. Pronchishchevs in the delta of the  Olenok  river, as well as the search for the Lasinus camp. In 2016 E.A. Strogova discovered an archaeological site Staroje Russkoje Ustje - an industrialists settlement in the lower reaches of the Indigirka [Strogova, 2017]. Given the huge territory of Yakutia this was, of course, a negligible volume of research.

Good (by the archaeological standards) preservation of the remains of structures, household items and clothes in the sites related to the Russian colonization of the Arctic resulting from the specifics of the Arctic climate, allows to gain new knowledge about everyday life of the pioneers of Siberian exploration, as well as about the Russian culture of that time in general.

Most of the sites were located in the difficult to access and scarcely populated areas, which significantly complicated both their study, and the work on the preservation of the archaeological heritage sites associated with the Russian colonization of the Arctic. Quite often this may be done only by means of  archaeological excavations, since their existence is threatened by the rivers on the banks of which they were located, the freeze-and-thaw processes and the forest fires.




Ignatjeva V.B. Russian population of Yakutia (on the materials of the national census data) // (Inter-ethnic relations in the Russian regions: history and the present situation). National research conference, 27-28 June, 1991, Yakutsk. Papers. – Yakutsk: Yakutsk Research Center Press, SB RAS (YRC SB RAS), 1992. – P.1. – PP. 90-97.

Vizgalov G.P. New archaeological study of the Stadukhin settlement on the Lower Kolyma. Comprehensive studies results and potential // Russian culture in the archaeological studies: interdisciplinary methods and techniques. – Omsk: Omsk branch of RHTU Press, 2011. – PP. 40-47.

Alexeev A.N. Russian settlements of the 17th-18th centuries in the north-east of Yakutia. - Novosibirsk: IAEt, SB RAS Press, 1996. – 149 p.

Okladnikov A.P., Gogolev Z.V., Oshchepkov E.A. Ancient Zashiversk. – М.: Nauka, 1977. – 212 с.

Starkov V.F. Olenok winter camp. // Russian pioneers in the far East in the 17th-19th centuries: historical and archaeological study. Vol. 5. P.1. -  Vladivostok: Dalnauka, 2007. – PP. 195-208.

Strogova E.A. Sources of the Russian cultural tradition in the Lower Kolyma region - comprehensive study materials //  The Arctic and the North. Online magazine. 2014. – № 16. – PP. 144-152.

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