Russian Military Using Reindeer

February 2, 2016 • Philip Burgess

You can see more photos from these exercises here on the Russian Military of Defence Facebook Page


EALLIN Final Report Delivered at Arctic Council Today

April 24, 2015 • Philip Burgess

April 24, 2015: Iqaluit, Canada


Reindeer Herding Youth Take Action on Arctic Change

Young Reindeer Herders Deliver Strong Message to Arctic Foreign Ministers at the 9th Arctic Council Ministerial in Canada

“For us, the reindeer is everything. If we lose the reindeer we lose our language, our culture, our traditions and the knowledge to move in the nature.”

[Participant at the EALLIN workshop in Jokkmokk, 2013]
A unique project called EALLIN involving reindeer herding youth from Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway has delivered a 120-page report, executive summary and recommendations to the Artic Council Ministerial meeting in Canada today. More than 160 indigenous youth from multiple regions in Russia, Mongolia, Finland, Sweden and Norway participated in 12 community based workskops over four years. “EALLIN” means ‘life’ in the Sami language and the project was backed by Norway, the Russian Federation and the Saami Council. EALLIN calls attention to the serious challenges faced by young reindeer herders, such as mental health, a lack of appropriate education and a lack of participation in local community development.

Reindeer herding youth are the future of reindeer herding, and the strong message from engaged youth was that they wanted to continue herding reindeer, as it ‘a good life’. However, there are many issues and challenges that are making life ‘not so good’ everywhere where reindeer are herded. EALLIN brought young reindeer herders of the taiga and tundra together to bring their voices to the Arctic Council. Reindeer herdings youth in the Circumpolar North are on the frontlines of monitoring the rapid ongoing changes in the Arctic, therefore, their knowledge and skills are key for their future existence in their home pastures and territories.

“Our peoples are undergoing dramatic and historical changes in our homelands, changes that we have never seen in the millenia-old histories of the reindeer herding peoples of the north” states Arctic Council EALLIN Project Lead Dr Mikhail Pogodaev, the Executive Chair of Association of World Reindeer Herders (WRH).

“We know enough about the changes to act”, concludes Anders Oskal, Project Co-Lead and Co-Author of the IPCC 5th Report. “We don’t need more assessments to understand, basically, we have to do things differently now if these societies and cultures are to survive and thrive under the Arctic boom – and bust”. And doing things differently is exactly what the EALLIN report calls for.

Delivered to Arctic Council: “Youth – The Future of Reindeer Herding Peoples – Executive Summary” and “Youth – The Future of Reindeer Herding Peoples”, Full Project Report 120 pages,

Downloads available at

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Reindeer Police – Coming to Yamal?

November 18, 2014 • Philip Burgess

олениRT and Isvestia were reporting yesterday that the police authorities in the Yamal Nenets Autonomous Okrug were considering using reindeer for assisting them in their police work. Trying to keep a straight face here in the Reindeer Portal, we read,

The idea of purchasing livestock reindeer is currently being discussed within the Ministry of Internal Affairs as a potentially effective measure to curb the crime rate, a source told Izvestia newspaper.

“At the meetings it was noted that the criminals often hide in the tundra and other hard to reach places using reindeer sleds, where the police do not always have a chance to pursue them. The same problem arises with the delivery of the suspects to police stations,” the source told the publication.

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A Troubling Decline in the Caribou Herds of the Arctic (E360)

September 28, 2010 • Philip Burgess

Across the Far North, populations of caribou — an indispensable source of food and clothing for indigenous people — are in steep decline. Scientists point to rising temperatures and a resource-development boom as the prime culprits.

by Ed Struzik, from Environment 360

In late July, a group of Inuit hunters set off by boat along the west coast of Banks Island to search for Peary caribou, which inhabit the Arctic archipelago of Canada. Roger Kuptana, a 62-year-old Inuit who had grown up on the island, didn’t give his fellow hunters much chance of success in their hunt for the animals, the smallest caribou sub-species in North America.

“I think it’s a waste of gas,” Kuptana told me when I visited his modest home in Sachs Harbour, a traditional community of roughly 100 people on the island, not far from the Yukon-Alaska border. “There used to be a lot of caribou around here when I grew up. But now you have to travel pretty far north to find them on the island. It’s not just here. It seems like this happening everywhere.”

As it turned out, Kuptana was right; the Inuit hunters found no Peary caribou, despite three days of searching. The hunters’ predicament is familiar to the Eskimos of Alaska, other Inuit of Canada and Greenland, and the Nenets, Komi, Evenks, Chukotkans, and indigenous groups of northern Russia and Scandinavia. Throughout the Arctic, many of the great caribou and reindeer herds that once roamed the treeless tundra, providing an indispensible source of meat and clothing for aboriginal groups, are in free-fall.

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GAZPROM Postpones Bovanenkovo Development on Yamal

June 16, 2009 • Philip Burgess
(Source: BarentsObserver) Russian energy major Gazprom will postpone the launch of the Bovanenkovo field in Yamal until 2012, a high-ranking company representative confirmed today.

Aleksandr Ananenkov, Deputy Chairman of the company’s Management Committee today said that the launch of the field will be postponed from 2011 as originally planned to 2012. The reason is the company’s need to save costs, RIA Novosti reports.

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President Medvedev Given a Reindeer

January 16, 2009 • Philip Burgess

(Source: Russia Today) A large Evenki family, recently awarded with the ‘Parents’ Glory’ award on Tuesday in the Kremlin, decided to present Dmitry Medvedev with one of their reindeer. The Maksimov family’s decision was announced by the representative of the committee on family and childhood affairs for the President of Yakutia.

The Maksimovs, who live in the reindeer-breeding village of Iengra in the south of Yakutia, have handed to the President presents from the craftswomen of the village, and a symbol of power – a type of board with carved symbols.

However the most important gift waits for Medvedev in Maksimovs’s native village. It’s a reindeer, a symbol of happiness and prosperity of the Evenki people. The animal will live in the Yakutian village until its owner arrives personally to take it away.

There are 15 people in the Maksimov family. The head of the family, hunter Vladimir, his wife Olga, their five children, three grandsons, two nephews and three daughters-in-law.

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Reindeer Herding is in my Blood – Vitaly Kazamkin, Khanty Mansisk

January 2, 2009 • Philip Burgess

Russia Today have a short video that features a reindeer herding family in the village of Varyogan, Khanty Mansisk, Russia. Khanty and Mansi peoples are ancient reindeer herding peoples, but their traditional livelohoods have come under a great deal of pressure from development, most particularly the oil and gas industry, which has been active for several decades in this region. Khanty-Mansisk is an area of northwestern Siberia nearly the size of France. It is home to about 18,000 native Siberians from three different cultures-Khanty, Mansi and Forest Nenets.

While Kamzakin speaks of snowmobiles received from oil companies in return for access to pastures, he also alludes to the damage that is being done to the ecology of the region as a result of their activities. Watch the clip here.


Life Expectancy of Northern Peoples in Russia Down to 50

December 3, 2008 • Philip Burgess

Health and living conditions for the numerically small peoples of the Russian North of Russia has deteriorated so much that life expectancy among many has fallen below 50. A primary reason cited in an article in is the lack of medical care. In Chukotka for example, it can take up to 28 hours for medical attention to be received. In Evenkia, it takes 25 hours before help arrives after being called.

Suicide rates among northern peoples are also higher that the national average, and higher than comparable rates for indigenous peoples in other countries. The WHO rates 20 suicide cases per 100,000 and above as being ‘critical’. In Russia, it is approximately 38 cases per 100,000 while the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region and Koryak have some of the highest rates in the world: 133.6 cases per 100 thousand population.

Source:, WindowonEurasia, MariUver


“The World Will Depend On Yamal”

October 15, 2008 • Philip Burgess

Just in case you were in any doubt that Gazprom, its affiliates and other Russian oil and gas folks are prioritising the Yamal Peninsula, home to the largest area of nomadic reindeer husbandry in the world, the Head of the Union of Russian Oil and Gas Industrialists, Gennady Shmal, said recently that the Yamal Peninsula will be a vital key for the development of the world’s gas industry over the next 50 years.

Rosbalt Nord, Barents Observer

“I do not see any alternatives to the Yamal-Nenets Autononous Okrug, which gives 87 percent of Russia’s gas and 20 percent of the world’s gas”

According to regional predictions, by 2012, a total of 638,6 billion cubic meters of gas will be produced in the region, much of which will be from the mighty Bovanenkovo field. Gazprom is about to install the first three rigs at its huge Bovanenkovo field in the Yamal Peninsula, with a total of nine rigs ready when production starts in late 2011. However, it is not all full steam ahead – the Yuzhno-Tambeyskoe gas field  in the Yamal Peninsula will not now be started until 2024, Gazprom says, likely a disappointment to Shell and ENI, which both seek stakes in the project.


Medvedev Visits Reindeer Herders in Chukotka

September 27, 2008 • Philip Burgess

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.

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Yamal Oil and Gas Comforts Reindeer

July 30, 2008 • Philip Burgess
Is Oil and Gas Development Good for Reindeer Husbandry?

The story from Tyumenskaya News posted in the Reindeer Blog yesterday reflects an earlier “oil and gas and reindeer and good news” story that appeared in Rosbalt Nord a few weeks ago entitled “Ямальские газовики подарят оленям комфорт / Yamal gas industry gives comfort to reindeer”. The article quoted Sergei Khudi (who attended the EALAT workshop in Yar Sale and the ENSINOR workshop in Rovaniemi). Khudi works for Yamaltranstroy as an advisor on environment and indigenous issues.

According to Khudi pipeline passages for reindeer are being built on the traditional nomadic routes of reindeer herds and these are arranged with the brigadiers of the reindeer herding households. To date, 15 such passages that are 100 metres in width have been built. Khudi also said that reindeer are even allowed migrate on roads and fishing areas in the area of Bovanenkovo.


Tundra Fires – Now Online

July 7, 2008 • Philip Burgess

Smoke from intense fires in southeastern Russia poured over the Sea of Okhotsk on June 30, 2008. This natural-color image of the fires (marked in red) is made from data collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensors on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites on June 30. The fires are affecting Amur, Khabarovsk, and southern Sakha Provinces in Russia’s Far East.

NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team. Caption by Rebecca Lindsey.

Fire data is now avaialble on the web, continuously updated, in a beta web tool developed in the University of Maryland, in cooperation with NASA.

During the EALAT Information workshops in Sakha and Chukotka, loss of reindeer pastures as a result of fires was highlighted by reindeer herders as a threat to reindeer husbandry. During Soviet times, considerable resources were expended on fire control and fighting from the air. With the economic crisis of the 1990’s, these efforts were halted and have yet to be resumed. The New Scientist recently carried an article that suggests that tundra fires will increase in size and intensity with climate change.


‘Final countdown for reindeer on Russian Tundra’ (Helsingin Sanomat)

January 30, 2008 • Philip Burgess

The english edition of the national Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat carried an article by Kirsikka Moring on the impact of the oil and gas industry on reindeer husbandry. The journalist attended the ENSINOR seminar in Rovaniemi, December 2007. You can read a more nuanced summary of that seminar on the Reindeer Portal.

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