Medvedev Visits Reindeer Herders in Chukotka

September 27, 2008 • Philip BurgessReindeer Herders

President Medvedev with Chukchi Herders outside their Yaranga. Photo: Anatoly Zhdanov

This week, President Dmitry Medvedev became the first Russian President in history to visit Chukotka. Accompanied by current Governor Kopin and former Governor Roman Abramovich, Medvedev also visited Kanchalan (site of EALAT Information workshop earlier this year) and a brigade on the tundra.

Komsomolskaya Pravda had an article about the visit by Yelena Kriyakina – reproduced below.

Yesterday was an unusual day for President Dmitriy Medvedev. He became the first president in Russia’s history to visit Chukotka. Medvedev headed to the northern corner of the Far East to attend a regional development conference. Early on in his trip, Medvedev visited the Kanchalan village 70 kilometers outside Chukotka’s capital, Anadyr. Kanchalan was a pleasant sight for the Moscow delegation with its various brightly colored homes and clean air and streets.

Present and past Chukotka governors Roman Kopin and Roman Abramovich accompanied President Medvedev during his visit. The president was observant and attentive, standing an arm’s length from the two regional politicians with his hands in his jeans pockets. Medvedev came away from the visit convinced Chukotka residents don’t live that badly after all. One family he visited, the Bukashkeevs, even had two computers. Both belonged to the children. Medvedev reminded the kids not to get too caught up in games and to continue studying astutely. He then boarded a helicopter and headed to the Tundra to get a look at how Russia’s indigenous nomads live today. The aboriginal peoples met Medvedev beating shaman drums.

“Hello!” Medvedev said.

“Hello! We’re glad you’ve come to visit us,” they replied.

At that moment, a small child resting in his mother’s arms reached out to Medvedev. The president touched his nose lovingly. A local resident shouted: “He‘s saluting you!” Medvedev then entered the hut nearby. A pile of smoke rose from within.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Reindeer intestines,” the owners answered. “They‘re frying.”

When he left , a thermos of hot tea and reindeer meat awaited him. Medvedev tried the local cuisine and asked about meat: “I hope this is reindeer?” The local residents said it was, after which he replied: “I also have presents for you all! Candy from Moscow.”

Medvedev’s assistants began unloading heavy brown trunks of candy. The children grabbed as much as they could.

Later, the president decided to take a peek at the herd of reindeer nearby.

“So, maybe we should go over to the reindeer?” Medvedev asked Arkadiy Makushkin, director of the Kanchalanskiy farm. But the latter didn’t want the president to have to drudge through the wet mud and said: “Ah, they’ll come over themselves!” After a few moments, though, he saw the president was short for time and the reindeer weren’t rushing over to meet the delegation.

“Well, if it’s not too complicated, let’s go over ourselves?!” he asked.

“Of course!” Medvedev said and walked over.

The security service began worrying slightly. “Who knows what these reindeers might be up to?” they thought.

Abramovich calmed the agents down immediately. “They won’t do anything,” he said. “They’re afraid themselves.”

Medvedev had already walked close enough to the herd to take in the impressive view: 3,400 reindeer walked attentively in circles in front of him. But as the president still had to attend the Chukotka development conference, he bid the local residents farewell and headed to the helicopter. They wished Medvedev good health and success, asked him to visit again and shouted: “Russia! Medvedev! Chukotka!”

The conference began at 20:30, Chukotka time — only 11:30 in the morning in Moscow.

“A Chukotka good evening and a Moscow good morning to you!” Medvedev said, greeting the participants of the conference. He quickly got to the point. “The government’s main aim is to provide local residents with normal conditions for subsistence.”

Medvedev said the quality of life had drastically improved in the region in recent years. However, he said, the infant death rate still exceeds the national average. Residents are continuing to leave the region and problems with energy and transport persist. He added that Chukotka has the potential to become a tourist center and play a role in effectively assimilating the Artic.

The president told ministers and department heads to get busy with the Far East and spend more time in the region to avoid a strategic conference later.

“You need to get going!” Medvedev told the officials. The Chukotka conference was the first in a series of regional conferences in the Far East. Today, the president will visit Magadan. On Thursday, he will arrive to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy.

Regional Development  Minister Dmitriy Kozak said a plan to advance Russia’s smaller native peoples, and a strategy for developing the Far East and Baykal region will be ready by the year’s end.


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