World Reidneer Herders visit to the Yamal Polar Agroeconomic Technicum

November 29, 2018 • Alena Gerasimova
2nd year student Pavel Vanuito and WRH general secretary Anders Oskal after the EALLU seminar

On November 27,  the Arctic Council EALLU international seminar on “Food Culture, Innovation and Traditional Knowledge” was held at the Yamal Polar Agroeconomic Technical School (YAPAT). This was not the first time that the Association of  World Reindeer Herders (WRH) has been here. Mikhail Pogodaev, Anders Oskal, Sergey Kharyuchi, Inger Anita Smuk and Nechey Serotetto gave presentations to YAPAT students about world reindeer husbandry, the projects implemented by WRH together with the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry, about the upcoming project on the Northern sea ​​route and access to the market.

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Yamal Governor and President of Association of World Reindeer Herders discussed work perspectives

September 29, 2018 • Alena Gerasimova

Yamal governor, Dmitry Artyukhov, and president of the Association of World Reindeer Herders, Sergey Kharyuchi, discussed promising areas of reindeer herding development in the Yamal Peninsula.

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More and bigger sinkholes on Yamal tundra

September 2, 2018 • Alena Gerasimova

The biggest hole is now more than 60 meters wide and 200 meter deep.

Photo: A Khomutova, ikz.ru

The formations believed to be created by eruption of natural gas from the ground are of growing concern both to researchers and the oil and gas industry in the far Arctic peninsulas of Yamal and Gydan.

Read more…


Mass Reindeer Deaths Linked to Extreme Climate Events on Yamal

November 16, 2016 • Philip Burgess
Dead Reindeer, death due to extreme climate event. Photo: Roma Serotetto

Dead Reindeer, death due to extreme climate event. Photo: Roma Serotetto

From the press release announcing a new paper entitled ‘Sea ice, rain-on-snow and tundra reindeer nomadism in Arctic Russia’ published today in the journal, Biology Letters. You can read the article in full here.

Scientists have interviewed nomadic reindeer herders in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug of West Siberia, the world’s most productive reindeer herding region, to look at how global warming is affecting their way of life. While rain-on-snow generally does not cause problems in spring, it can be catastrophic for reindeer in the autumn when rain turns to an ice crust as normal freezing temperatures return. This crust, often several centimetres thick,
prevents the reindeer from feeding on fodder beneath the snow throughout the winter
months. Two extreme weather events in 2006 and 2013 caused mass starvation among the
reindeer herds, and researchers for the first time have linked these extreme weather events
on the coastal mainland in northwest Russia with sea ice loss in the adjoining Barents and
Kara seas.

The most recent rain-on-snow event of November 2013 resulted in 61 000 reindeer deaths,
about 22% out of 275 000 reindeer on the Yamal Peninsula, says the paper, which warns
that these events seem to be increasing in severity.

Read more…


Yamal government decided on decreasing the number of reindeer

October 12, 2016 • Alena Gerasimova
ITAR-TASS 74: KAMCHATKA, RUSSIA. NOVEMBER 27. Reindeer heads with the velvet covering ripped off the antlers, Esso Village, Kamchatka, Russia. (Photo ITAR-TASS / Igor Buimistrov) 74. Россия. Камчатка. 27 ноября. Заготовка оленьего мяса в селе Эссо. Фото ИТАР-ТАСС/ Игорь Буймистров

(Photo ITAR-TASS / Igor Buimistrov)

Yamal government has decided to reduce the number of reindeer and decrease the reindeer livestock by approximately 100,000. Reindeer herders and owners of the reindeer were not asked the permission to slaughter their reindeer, and now herers themselves think that the government is in sympathy with  gas-producing companies. 

With the petition on the website Change.org, addressed to the president of Russia, Yamal reindeer herders protest against the mass slaughter of reindeer on the recent decision of the authorities: “We believe that this step is caused by the interests of the gas industry – reindeer and herders are getting in the way of the gas workers. We want to preserve our culture and our traditional way of life. If you force us to reduce the number of animals, it will dramatically and irrevocably worsen the socio-economic situation in the region. Actually authorities understand that, they are now deciding on what to do with those of us who will be left without work and without reindeer. ”

Read more…


Nenets Student Learns Sami, Completes Groundbreaking Work on Sami / Nenets Slaughter terminologies

July 1, 2016 • Philip Burgess

nechei serotettoNechei A. Serotetto, a young Nenets student who took the remarkable step of travelling to Kautokeino in the heart of the Sami reindeer herding area, living there for a year, learning Sami language and applying her acquired knowledge on Nenets and Sami reindeer herding slaughtering techniques and terminology has received top marks for her completed final year paper.  Serotetto’s work was for her final paper in teacher education at the Institute of the North, Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia. This is a valuable contribution as Nenets slaughtering terminology is highly specific and sometimes ‘secret’ her work is a valuable addition to the broader knowledge and awareness of traditional knowledge of herding peoples. It is worth noting that no-one has ever studied the traditional Nenets way of slaughtering reindeer, making her work groundbreaking, particularly when compared to the more studied Sami practices of slaughter, which she studied and participated in, during her stay in Kautokeino.

Serotetto grew up in a nomadic reindeer herding family in the Yamal Nenets Autonomous Okrug, the largest single area of reindeer herding in the world where she was immersed in the nomadic herding life of her family and to where she is returning.

Read more…


New Phd: State Management & Traditional Knowledge in Reindeer Husbandry Management

May 19, 2016 • Philip Burgess

Ellen Inga TuriSámi scholar Ellen Inga Turi is defending her Phd on Friday, May 20 in Umeå, Sweden. Her work is groundbreaking and touches on the field of management, reindeer husbandry and traditional ecological knowledge.

The PhD is entitled “State Steering and Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Reindeer Herding Governance: Cases from western Finnmark, Norway and Yamal, Russia”. Her Faculty Opponent is Professor Dietrich Soyez from the Department of Geography at University of Cologne, Germany. The thesis is part of the research project IPY EALÁT which has been coordinated by the Sami University of Applied Sciences and UArctic Ealát Institute within the International Reindeer Centre Husbandry in Kautokeino / Guovdageaidnu.

The area of investigation were in the Sami reindeer grazing area of West Finnmark in Norway and the Nenets reindeer grazing area in Yamal, Western Siberia, which are the largest reindeer herding areas in the world, both in terms of number of people and reindeer. In these areas there are certain similarities, but also major differences in terms such as political organization and management systems.

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Planned Railway to Complete the Bisection of Yamal Peninsula

December 2, 2015 • Philip Burgess

Bovanenkovo-Sabetta railwaysNews from Yamal – according to a news report, the extension of the Bovanenkovo railway to the newly constructed seaport at Sabetta has been given official approval. The railway is already the most northerly railway in the world and this will extend it further northwards be several hundred kilometres, bringing the railway to the east coast of the Yamal Peninsula for the first time. The peninsula is the largest single area of reindeer husbandry in the world where primarily Nenets herders undertake long seasonal migrations with their reindeer. This railway will bisect migration routes and result in a sizeable footprint in the construction and operation zone.

On November 25, 2015, Legislative Assembly of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District approved the Law on participation in the strategic project “Construction and Operation of the New Non-Common Use Railway Line Bovanenkovo-Sabetta”. The railway is to be built and operated under the principles of private-public partnership with the conclusion of an agreement with the District’s Government.

Bovanenkovo-Sabetta railways

The new line will be a continuation of the Obskaya-Bovanenkovo line in compliance with the strategy for social and economic development of Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District through 2020. It is particularly focused on ensuring the construction of railway infrastructure at Sabetta seaport and transportation of cargoes by the Northern Sea Route. Source.

You can see imagery of the railway on the Gazprom website.



Knowledge Co-Production between NASA and Reindeer Herders across the Arctic

May 23, 2015 • Philip Burgess

ANancy Maynard, Mikhail Pogodaev few years ago, UNU (United Nations University) filmed a short interview with the Executive Chair of the Association of World Reindeer Herders Mikhail Pogodaev and Nancy Maynard of NASA, after they presented a joint paper entitled “Sami Indigenous Traditional Knowledge and NASA Remote Sensing Technologies Working Together for Adaptation Strategies” at an international workshop on Indigenous Peoples, Marginalized Populations and Climate Change: Vulnerability, Adaptation and Traditional Knowledge convened in Mexico City, Mexico. You can now watch the interview online (see below) and you can download the presentation here.

Read more…


More ‘Mystery Craters’ in Yamal

February 26, 2015 • Philip Burgess

The Daily Mail in the UK has run a story on the holes that have been appearing suddenly on the Yamal tundra, which is home to Russia’s largest sources of natural gas, most of which is shipped to Europe by pipeline and also the world’s largest single area of reindeer husbandry. There are many theories about why these holes are appearing now, and climate change would appear to be playing a role.

Scientists have found four new craters have been spotted in the region. Worryingly, one crater was found about 10 km from the extensive Bovanenkovo gas field.

Read the full story, with some great photos here.

Methane Holes in Yamal


Reindeer Herders’ Child Death Investigation in Yamal

February 6, 2015 • Alena Gerasimova
nenets chumSource: Vesti-Yamal
Circumstances around the death of a 9 month old baby is under investigation. The child in reindeer herders family got sick in the beginning of January 2015.

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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.

Read more…


Those Big Holes in Yamal

September 3, 2014 • Philip Burgess

Herder in front of Yamal Methane HoleOne of the stories of the summer was the sudden appearance of large holes in the Yamal Peninsula, the largest single area of reindeer husbandry and also the site of mega gas extraction, making the region critically important for the Russian state. The fact that Yamal translates as ‘the end of the land’, was fodder for conspiracy theorists and alien believers.

Some alarming articles appeared suggesting that this may well be a sign of the end of days. However, more serious articles (e.g. a Nature piece you can read here and a piece on the Alaska Dispatch News here) attributed the holes to a build up of methane from thawing permafrost  according to a Russian team investigating the sites, offering the abnormally warm summers of  2012 and 2013 on Yamal as a possible explanation. Of course this is of interest to the Reindeer Portal as some of the holes were discovered by reindeer herders, some of whom took pictures of themselves by these other worldly looking holes.

Either way, the appearance of these holes are a concern for us all and will be watched closely by herders and scientists alike in the future. A great series of photos from the sites are on the Siberian Times here and a video which you can see below.

Read more…


Yamal Reindeer Herders Fight Against Poachers

July 16, 2014 • Alena Gerasimova

Nenets reindeer herderIndigenous peoples of Yamal complain about numerous death of reindeer this winter. The reason of this death loss is not only very severe winter but also poaching. 

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Reindeer die offs continue in Yamal region (Russia)

March 19, 2014 • Alena Gerasimova

Yamal reindeer loss 2014Wednesday, 19th of March. Reindeer continue dying. Yamal region needs help to get out of this catastrophic situation. Because of the ice crust unfortunate animals simply cannot get to the lichen. As a result dozens of reindeer corpses spread all over the tundra. On the way to the ‘Yarsalinskoe’ enterprise: shocking scenes are practically on every hundred meters. Reindeer which exhausted from hunger just lie down in the snow and fall asleep and been a very easy capture for predators. The director of Yarsalinskoe enterprise Liliya Yakubova said that currently enterprise has lost about 5-6 thousand of reindeer, but no one can give the real number for now.  

Read more…


Association of World Reindeer Herders participated in the celebration of Reindeer Herders Day in Nadym, Russia

March 6, 2014 • Alena Gerasimova

reindeer race in nadymFebruary 28 – March 2, 2014. Every year at the end of February, in March and at the beginning of April many reindeer herding regions in Russia traditionally start to celebrate Reindeer Herders Day. It is a very special event for local people, and especially for reindeer herders and their families, and they all are looking forward to celebrate it. This year the Association of World Reindeer Herders participated in 19th Traditional Reindeer Herders Competitions which took place in Yamal-Nenets autonomous okrug in the city of Nadym from February 28 till March 2. To take part in these competitions reindeer herders from all the regions of the Yamal-Nenets autonomous  okrug gathered in Nadym.

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Association of World Reindeer Herders participated in the celebration of Reindeer Herders Day in Nadym, Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District, Russia

• Alena Gerasimova

reindeer race in nadymFebruary 28 – March 2, 2014. Every year at the end of February, in March and at the beginning of April many reindeer herding regions in Russia traditionally start to celebrate Reindeer Herders Day. It is a very special event for local people, and especially for reindeer herders and their families, and they all are looking forward to celebrate it. This year the Association of World Reindeer Herders participated in 19th Traditional Reindeer Herders Competitions which took place in Yamal-Nenets autonomous okrug in the city of Nadym from February 28 till March 2. To take part in these competitions reindeer herders from all the regions of the Yamal-Nenets autonomous  okrug gathered in Nadym.

Read more…


Yamal plans to allocate more than 30 million rubles to eliminate critical emergency around reindeer loss

February 26, 2014 • Alena Gerasimova

Yamal reindeer loss 2014District Department of Agriculture, Trade and Food prepared and submitted for approval to the governor’s office draft decree “On the allocation of the emergency reserve fund of the Yamal autonomous district’s government”.  The project prioritized events for elimination of critical emergency, related to the loss of reindeer, and sum of expenses. According to operative data, the number of dead reindeer is now about 15 thousand.

On the basis of the represented needs of municipalities for the elimination of critical emergency  from the reserve fund there will be allocated 31,590 million rubles.

Reindeer herders also will be supported with financial support. There also will be providing with carbohydrate-vitamin-mineral supplements, feed concentrates, as well as fuel, purchase of veterinary medicines and firewood for reindeer herders in remote areas.

Read more…


Novatek plans second LNG plant in Arctic

February 10, 2014 • Alena Gerasimova

According to BarentsObserver, the new plant will be based on the resources of the Salmanovskoye and Geofizicheskoye fields, both located on the eastern bank of the Ob Bay in the peninsula of Gydan. The total resources of the fields amount to about 380 billion cubic meters, the company informs.

The federal government has approved the plans and project development is due to start in 2018, Itar-Tass reports.

Read more…


In Yamal region reindeer lose weight, there are some cases of animals death

January 23, 2014 • Svetlana Avelova

First Deputy Director of the Department for the indigenous peoples of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug Eduard Yaungad commented difficult situation in Yamal and Priuralsky districts.

He explained that kind of situation occurres periodically on the Yamal Peninsula, for example, similar situation was observed fifteen years ago and it was in general connected with weather conditions.

Read more…


WRH & ICR on Russian Geographical Society Website

September 24, 2013 • Philip Burgess

Arctic Forum 2013The Association of World Reindeer Herders and the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry were noted in an article posted on the Russian Geographical Society website. The article is about the III International Arctic Forum being held in Salekhard September 24-25 . This year’s forum is dedicated to environmental safety and special attention will be paid to the problems of the indigenous peoples of the North.

Many indigenous peoples of the North are in Salekhard including experts from Russian and international organizations. Among them, Michael Pogodaev  the Chair of the Association of World Reindeer Herders and Anders Oskal  the Director of the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry. Others include Rodion Sulyandziga , the first vice -president of the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of Russia (founded in 1990) , Aqqaluk Lynge , the head of the Inuit Circumpolar Council  and Eric Gant , the Executive Secretary of the of the Indigenous Peoples Secretariat of the Arctic Council.

The Forum will also be attended by Alexander Mazharov, the Deputy Governor  and Director of the Yamal Department of International and External Economic Relations. On the eve of the opening , he said:

The Government of Yamal is commited to the preservation of traditional ways of life of indigenous peoples. In this direction the government is constantly working to improve legislation and operate the program of grants for small nations produced products, programs to provide free housing , education and health care.

Read the full story here


Yamal Railway Officially Open, More Planned. Will Bisect Reindeer Migration Routes.

March 15, 2011 • Philip Burgess

The new railway line connecting the Yamal Peninsula with the rest of the Russian railway grid has been declared open to regular traffic.

Regular operation of the 572 km long railroad to its terminal point – the Karskaya station – was launched in February 15. The line connects major regional installations like the Bovanenkovo gas field with national key infrastructure.

The Obskaya-Bovanenkovo railway line will enable Gazprom to easily ship huge quantities of goods and construction materials to its field development sites in Yamal.

“The opening of this railway will facilitate all-year-round, quick, cost efficient and not-weather-dependent transport of goods and personnel to the fields in Yamal under the harsh Arctic conditions, a press release from Gazprom reads.

Unline other Russian railway lines, the Obskaya-Bovanenkovo line is owned by Gazprom. As previously reported, the Russian Railways have been invited to take over the line, but has shown little interest.

In addition to railway and field development in Yamal, Gazprom is also investing in the laying of the Bovanenkovo-Ukhta gas pipeline.


Map of Bovanenko

Source: Gazprom


Yamal Herders and Gas – Photos and Article

December 22, 2010 • Philip Burgess

Interesting article and superb photography displaying Nenets herders coping with oil and gas installations on their migration routes in the ‘Russian Photo Blog‘. The photographer spent quite some time with herders that migrat through the Bovanekovo filed and was also allowed access to the contstruction site itself.
View all the photos here and the article in which they were used here in the magazine ‘Fast Company’.


Halal Reindeer Meat? Russia and Qatar Talk Turkey..

December 21, 2010 • Philip Burgess

MOSCOW (Reuters Life!) – When rival energy producers Russia and Qatar talk business, it’s no longer only about natural gas — they’re talking reindeer meat, which Russia has promised to export and butcher according to Muslim dietary law.

The prospect of Russia exporting halal reindeer meat products to the desert kingdom first came up last month when the governor of Russia’s Arctic Yamal Nenets region, where most of Russia’s gas is produced, was in Qatar for investment talks.

“We told the Qatari leadership that we don’t only have oil and gas. We also have reindeer. And then a Sheikh asked, ‘Is reindeer halal? Can Muslims eat it?’ It turns out they can,” Yamal’s governor Dmitry Kobylkin told Reuters in an interview.

“They were so surprised to learn there exists another kind of meat that they haven’t tried and that it can be halal. Gold mining is interesting for them, gas, infrastructure, and now investment in halal reindeer meat processing,” Kobylkin said.

Read more…


Reindeer Herding Documentary From Yamal Wins Award

November 30, 2010 • Philip Burgess

A Russian film has picked up the top honors at an international film festival in Bulgaria highlighting the best work on extreme sports, adventure and mountains.

The award-winning documentary about reindeer herders in the Polar Urals beat 80 films from 27 other countries.

“Nyarma” by Edgar Bartenev focuses on the Nenets people, their customs, family relations, lifestyle, as well as the unique tradition of reindeer herding.

The main character in the documentary is a young Nenets guy who, following the tragic death of his father, becomes the owner of a large herd of 3000 reindeer.

Gosha has to take responsibility not only for his family but for the entire neighborhood – the Polar Ural, according to tradition.

Capturing the spellbound beauty of the landscape, the documentary gives a deep insight into the nature of the indigenous people of the North, moving herds of reindeer.

The St Petersburg-based filmmaker, whose famous teacher was maverick director Alexey German, was quoted as saying that his first trip to the North was when he worked as a doctor in an intensive care unit. He was blown away by the Nenets’ permanent state of enthusiasm and their attitude towards each other, their deer and dogs.

“Relations between the people are amazing. I’ve never seen a husband screaming at his wife or offending his children. The Nenets never beat animals,” Bartenev was quoted as saying.

Source: RT.com

Watch a trailer here:


Reindeer Herding ‘Chum’ for Moscow’s Sheremetyevo

November 23, 2010 • Philip Burgess

Nenets 'chum' from Yamal, Pic: Francis Latreille

A ‘chum’, the traditional though still in use every day dwelling of the reindeer herding Nenets on the Yamal Peninsula,  will be making a guest appearance at one Russia’s busiest airport: Moscow’s Sheremetyevo.

This marks the kick off of a series of events in the nations capital celebrating the life and culture of the worlds greatestest region of reindeer husbandry, the Yamal Nenets Autonomous Okrug. The exhibit will present items of everyday life, patterns of national art, art-works of local painters, video displays and the work of renowned arctic photographer Brian Alexander.

Other events include a literature soiree “Yamal and literature” on the 26th of November in the museum of Lev Tolstoy. Poets and novelists from Yamal and living in Moscow, whose theme of creative work is the North, will gather here. This will be followed by an International festival of documentary films entitled “The Arctic” on the 27th of November. It was organized by the government of Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug with the financial support of “Gazprom-bank”. 60 films from 6 countries from around the world will participate in it.

An exhibition and presentation of humanitarian and scientific-industrial potential of Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug will take place on the 2nd-3rd of December in the Public Chamber of Russian Federation.


Video and Photos from Yamal – Arctic Centre Finland Research

August 26, 2010 • Philip Burgess

Researchers at the Arctic Centre have been carrying out research on the Yamal Peninsula with Nenets reindeer herders for many years primarily under the theme of Global Change and Land use change. Videos and photos from this years field work on Yamal, led by Dr. Bruce Forbes can be see here.


Yamal Reindeer Meat to Finland..

June 22, 2010 • Philip Burgess

Finland’s largest processor of reindeer meat, Lapin Liha, is to begin to import reindeer meat from the Yamal Peninsula.

This will signal the first time that Yamal reindeer meat is imported to a country that already has a domestic reindeer meat industry.

Lapin Liha stated to the media that this was necessary as there was simply not enough reindeer meat supply in the market in Finland to meet their production goals of 40,000 reindeer per year. Currently they are processing around 24000 per year, 3000 of which come from Sweden.

Lapin Liha plan to import 200-250,000 kilos per year, all of which will come from the EU certified slaughterhouse in Yar-Sale, which was constructed by the Finnish company Kometos Oy.

Read the news release here on the Lapin Liha site.


Yamal Reindeer Blood to China?

May 8, 2010 • Philip Burgess

The preserved blood of reindeer could become a promising area of cooperation between Russia’s Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area and China, a deputy governor of the region in Russia’s Far North said Sunday.

The Yamal-Nenets area, “Russia’s outpost in the Arctic,” became the first of Russian regions to present itself at the international exhibition World Expo 2010 that opened in Shanghai on Saturday.

The deputy governor, Andrei Kugayevsky, responsible for his area’s agroindustrial sector, told RIA Novosti that China showed interest in receiving preserved reindeer blood.

“China is likely to be the main consumer of preserved reindeer blood as they actively use biostimulants it contains,” he also said.

Kugayevsky said blood preservation makes it possible to produce various substances used in pharmacology.

The 2010 World Expo fair is to run from May 1 to October 31. Some 70 million visitors are expected to attend the event.


New Film From Yamal on Themes of Loss and Identity

April 21, 2010 • Philip Burgess

A film based on the Yamal Peninsula (with a strong connection to reindeer husbandry) PUDANA – LAST OF LINE was recently released to acclaim at the directed by the husband-and-wife pairing of Markku Lehmuskallio and Anastasia Lapsui, has been awarded the Grand Jury Award for the best fiction feature film at the 32nd Festival International de Films de Femmes in Créteil in France. This is the second time that Lapsui and Lehmuskallio have carried off this award from Créteil – in 2000 their film Seitsemän laulua tundralta (“Seven Songs from the Tundra”) won the same prize. The film has just returned from a release tour of several villages on the Yamal Peninsula.

PUDANA – LAST OF THE LINE is a story of change, upbringing and deprivation of identity. The film takes place in the Yamal Peninsula during Soviet times and is based on a true story set in Director Anastasia Lapsui’s childhood surroundings. A little Nenets girl Neko is taken against her will from her home chum (teepee) to a boarding school in a remote Russian village. Forced to adapt to a foreign culture and new customs, Neko rebels against Sovietisation and gets bullied by her schoolmates and picked on by her teachers. After several conflicts Neko decides to flee together with her Nenets school mate hoping to get back to her reindeer herding family on the tundra. However, the children’s flight in  is short-lived and the return to the boarding school and their new Russian life is inevitable.

The story is told as old Neko’s, or now Nadja’s, memory. Now, after long and full life, she recalls the moment that ended her childhood and started her life as a part of the other society. But something important has changed for good; Neko, the last of her family, has grown away from her original roots and lost her skill to sustain the ancient traditions of her family.

Source: Helsingin Sanomat


Oil and Gas Not the Only Export from Yamal… Also Reindeer Meat

November 24, 2009 • Philip Burgess

There was an interesting interview in RusBusiness News recently with Aleksandr Mazharov, the Director of the Department for International and Interregional Relations of YaNAO (Yamal Nenets Autonomous Okrug). Obviously, the vast majority and indeed focus of the Yamal economy is its oil and gas reserves.  95.5% of the regions exported products were oil and gas in 2008. However, there has recently emerged a new export – reindeer meat and hides – and Mazharov proudly points out that the region is the only one in Russia exporting these products to the European Union.

Europe has not opened its borders to us straight away. For a number of years we drafted the necessary documents, underwent lengthy approval and control procedures, and only then the EU issued a certificate allowing the supplies of products of the northern reindeer herding to European countries. We have to take into account the fact that the only territory certified is the Yamal district where the main slaughter and meat processing enterprise – the Yamal Reindeer Company – is based.

Despite the fact that the exported products only take a rather narrow niche the competition we have to fight is very serious. There are Finnish producers working in the same segment, and, as strange as it may sound, companies in New Zealand.

Mazharov went on to highlight the quality of their reindeer products, the health benefits of reindeer meat, the plans to increase the sale of soft antlers for the Chinese market,  and the partnerships with the Finnish company Kometos Oy.

In a near future the first train of the Finnish deer slaughter line will be commissioned in the Yamal village Antipayuta (Tazovskiy district). Similar enterprises should appear in the village of Seyakha (Yamal district) and the trading post Yuribey (Tazovskiy district). In the future the trading post Payuta should acquire its own slaughter and freezer complex.

This would represent a significant increase in slaughterhouse capacity as currently there is only one slaughterhouse in the region capable of slaughtering reindeer meat to EU standards and packaging, based in Yar-Sale. You can read the full interview here, or read below

Read more…


Climate change in Russia’s Arctic tundra: ‘Our reindeer go hungry. There isn’t enough pasture’ (Guardian)

October 22, 2009 • Philip Burgess

(By Luke Harding, The Guardian) For 1,000 years the indigenous Nenets people have herded their reindeer along the Yamal peninsula. But their survival in this remote region of north-west Siberia is under serious threat from climate change as Russia’s ancient permafrost melts.

t is one of the world’s last great wildernesses, a 435-mile long peninsula of lakes and squelching tundra stretching deep into the Arctic Ocean. For 1,000 years the indigenous Nenets people have migrated along the Yamal peninsula. In summer they wander northwards, taking their reindeer with them, across a landscape of boggy ponds, rhododendron-like shrubs and wind-blasted birch trees. In winter they return southwards.

Read more…


Russian Arctic tribe at risk from Yamal gas projects (REUTERS)

October 7, 2009 • Philip Burgess

By Amie Ferris-Rotman,  67 N LATITUDE, 71 E LONGITUDE, Russia, Oct 6 (Reuters) – The Nenets tribespeople of Russia’s frozen Yamal peninsula have survived the age of the Tsars, the Bolshevik revolution and the chaotic 1990s, but now confront their biggest challenge — under their fur-bundled feet is enough gas to heat the world for five years.

“For them it is fortune, for us terror,” said 20-year-old herder Andrei Yezgini, dressed from head to toe in reindeer skin, referring to ambitious plans by state gas giant Gazprom (GAZP.MM) to drill the region Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has described as “the world’s storehouse” of gas and oil.

Read more…


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.

Read more…


Gazprom pipeline project harming tundra (Regnum)

May 28, 2009 • Philip Burgess


(Source: BarentsObserver) Gazprom’s construction of the 1100 km long pipeline between the Bovanenkovo field in Yamal to Ukhta in the Komi Republic is violating environmental legislation, local environmentalists say.

The critics are joined by several company employees, who say that the pipeline construction is harming the Arctic nature in the area, Regnum reports.

Garbage is dumped in the construction areas and heavy machinery is transported outside the construction zone, the critics say. In addition, environmental monitoring of the area is not properly observed, they maintain.

According to Regnum, skeptics already in 2005 expressed distrust with the environmental line of Gazprom’s project contractors.

Local authorities have on several occasions complained about the conduct of the construction companies. Among them is member of the village council in Malaya Pera, Aleksey Prokhorov, who complained to the prosecutors office about the pipeline constructors’ use of the village land without compensation. He also filmed environmental violations, and handed the documentation over to the local environmental organization Committee Save Pechora and the State Consumer Control Authority. The construction company was subsequently fined, but only with a minor sum.

The Bovanekovo-Ukhta pipeline will be the main gas transport route for the huge resources of the Yamal Peninsula. Gazprom is currently in the process of developing the Bovanenkovo field, which has estimated reserves of 4,9 trillion cubic meters of gas. About 70 km of the 1100 long pipeline will run across the Baydarata Bay. Also a railway line is under construction to the field areas.


Nenets Herders on National Geographic After Mammoth Find

April 28, 2009 • Philip Burgess

Yuri Khudi, and Kirill Seretetto during microsurgery on Lyuba, a baby mammoth discovered on the bank of a remote Siberian river in May 2007. Pic© Pierre Stine. 

Over a year ago, the discovery of a baby mammoth, that has since been named Lyuba (after the wife of the herder that first found the remains), in the permafrost of the Yamal Peninsula was worldwide news. Most reports stated that the mammoth corpse, preserved almost perfectly in the ice, was found by a reindeer herder. Now these herders have names and faces.

The National Geographic is releasing a documentary called ‘Waking the Baby Mammoth’ and Nenets herders Yuri Khudi and Kirill Serotetto and their families critical role in this historic archeological find is acknowleged. View the short clip below for some scenes from Yamal.


National Public Radio also covered the story this week.


Yamal Railway Track Speeds On Through Reindeer Migration Route

January 21, 2009 • Philip Burgess


The construction of the Obskaya-Bovanenkovo railway line to the Bovanenkovo gas field in the Yamal Peninsula is proceeding rapidly. The railway will facilitate the construction of the field, the biggest in the Yamal peninsula, which is also the home of the worlds largest area of reindeer husbandry. The railway is to be completed and connected with the main Russian railway network by early 2010, is proceeding rapidly despite the complicated climatic and geological conditions, as reported by Rosbalt.ru reports with reference to Ruskompress.ru. A total of 4,7 km of bridges were constructed in 2008 and 24,5 meters of new bridges are now built every day, the news sites write. A total of 1300 workers are involved in the operations. For the past two summer migration season, EALAT Phd student Anna Degteva has been migrating with different brigades whose migration routes are crossed by this railway, the impacts of which will be part of her study.
The Bovanenkovo gas field alone , the biggest of the fields in the area, has gas reserves estimated at 4,9 trillion cubic meters.
Source: Barents Observer, Rosbalt. Nord

Reindeer Portal Interview with Sergei Haruchi, President, RAIPON

October 31, 2008 • Philip Burgess

Sergei HaruchiDuring the recent EALAT Information workshop (September 2007) and seminar on the Yamal Peninsula, a series of interviews were made with key people related to reindeer husbandry in the world’s largest reindeer husbandry region, including Sergei Haruchi, Dmitri Khorolia and Leonid Khudi.  In this feature, we are reproducing the interview with Sergei Haruchi, who is Nenets, is the State Speaker of the YNAO Duma and is the President of RAIPON, the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North.


Thank you for very unique days on the Yamal Peninsula. It was most impressive to see how you use money to build local societies in Yamal. We have been in the tundra and we have been at the Yar-Sale seminar of the EALAT project. Please say some words about co-operation between indigenous peoples in the Arctic and the importance of having seminars like this one.


First of all I would like to stress that the main reason for our meetings and our co-operation is the fact that our reindeer herders face mutual problems. That’s why we appreciate these meetings. We look forward to having contacts in any field. We are always happy to co-operate. You have noticed huge changes here. Our position is that whenever there is a problem we are going to solve it. If one really wants one can overcome all hindrances. The main thing is to unite the forces of local self-government, indigenous peoples’ organizations, state authorities and chief of the enterprises. The reindeer herders themselves should also participate. This way one gets the results you can see here for yourself today.

Read more…


Reindeer Portal Interview with Leonid Khudi, Yamal Union of Reindeer Herders

• Philip Burgess

leonid-khudiDuring the recent EALAT Information workshop (September 2007) and seminar on the Yamal Peninsula, a series of interviews were made with key people related to reindeer husbandry in the world’s largest reindeer husbandry region, including Sergei Haruchi, Dmitri Khorolia and Leonid Khudi.  In this feature, we are reproducing the interview with Leonid Khudi, who is Nenets, from a reindeer herding bankground, is the EALAT project coordinator for Yamal, is the Chair of the Reindeer Herders Union of Yamal and works for the regional administration.

Let us have a short talk about the work shop, about climate change, about the future perspectives of reindeer herding, oil and gas and what you would like to mention. These last days we had some very unique experiences in the tundra and celebrated the 80-years anniversary of Yar-Sale. What do you think about the importance of our co-operation and the organizing of work shops like we have done with EALAT. You are responsible for EALAT in Yamal.

Read more…


Reindeer Portal Interview with Dmitry Khorolia, President of Assn. of World Reindeer Herders

October 20, 2008 • Philip Burgess

Dmitry KhoroliaDuring the EALAT Information workshop (September 2007) and seminar on the Yamal Peninsula, a series of interviews were made with key people related to reindeer husbandry in the world’s largest region of reindeer husbandry, including Sergei Haruchi, Dmitri Khorolia and Leonid Khudi.  In this feature, we are reproducing the interview with Dmitri Khorolia, who is Nenets, and is the President of the Association of World Reindeer Herders.

What is the importance of information exchange and what will be the results of such seminars in the tundra?

It is very good and fine that this international seminar in the framework of the EALAT-project was held here in Yar-Sale in the Yamal district, the centre of Russian reindeer husbandry. It is really so that this is a district where the traditional ways of reindeer herders existence are preserved. And this is very important.


We have also talked about the establishment of a reindeer institute at the Yamal Peninsula. Could you comment this?


Of course it is very important for today’s Russia to have an educational establishment on reindeer husbandry for the youth. It is needed. That’s why today there exist proposals to establish such an institute for reindeer herders. For both Russia and for reindeer herders from around the world.


Do you think that such an institute can help to document traditional knowledge about  reindeer husbandry in Yamal for the coming period so that we also in the future can have a strong reindeer husbandry at Yamal?


Of course this institute for reindeer husbandry which we must establish, shall reflect and generalize reindeer herders’ traditional experience and knowledge. There exists no science which uses the experience of reindeer herders. This knowledge is only used by the reindeer herders themselves. Both in Yamal and in Scandinavia, in Norway, Finland and Sweden their experience is not available to the general public. That’s why such an institute is needed. Let us call it the international institute for reindeer husbandry.


Dmitry Khorolia on the Yamal tundra

Dmitry Khorolia on the Yamal tundra

There are challenges in the reindeer husbandry. One of them is global warming. Do you, as a leader in the Yamal region,  see some challenges?


Especially now, when we talk about global warming it is very important [with traditional knowledge]. Reindeer herders have always used observations and signs handed on by tradition. Still now they can predict what type of summer or winter is coming, prepare themselves for this in the right way and choose which pastures can be used under the given conditions and which can’t.


We have just left Yar-Sale. Several reindeer herders who participated in the seminar will have negotiations with Gazprom. They have begun to exploit oil and gas in the Sami regions too. Can you as President give some advice to the Saami reindeer herders as to how they should relate themselves to development that is coming to the Sami  region?


Of course there are today several regions in the Arctic (in Alaska, in Canada, in Norway) where oil and gas exploitation takes place. Norway, Canada and Russia must use the experiences of these other countries in order to reduce the possible negative impacts on the traditional nomadic ways of living of reindeer herders. This is very important. My advice is to use the best experience from those countries which are ahead of us. I was in Canada. There they build roads, communications and exploit oil and gas. The Russian company Gazprom tries to do as good as possible. This is important. We don’t have to invent something new. We must use the positive experiences which already exists in this world. This is very important.


Please say some words about the lessons learned from this development.


Today Yamal is not only an oil and gas region, but also a region where the reindeer husbandry is kept and will be developed. How do the parties come to terms with each others? Relationships are not built overnight. Co-operation and information exchange have existed for quite a time now. Reindeer herders are asked where to build a road, a railroad or a sand-pit in order that the nature is not destroyed more than necessary. I often get questions about how it is possible for this busy oil and gas sector to be present here at all. One would expect that the reindeer husbandry would have died out here for a long time ago.  But here in Yamal oil and gas companies and the reindeer husbandry do exist together in a perfect way and as a result the whole region prospers. This is fantastic.


We have hade nice days here. We have seen how skilfully you use money locally. We have seen an  impressive slaughter house in Salekhard. Sami regions should be able to learn from this how State funds can be used locally for building up  infrastructure.


Many of the good things which are done at Yamal have been borrowed by us from the Scandinavian countries. At the same time we have also things to tell to our reindeer husbandry colleagues in Scandinavia. First of all they can adapt traditional ways of living from us.


The International Polar Year was initiated by Arthur Chilingarov. You are the President of the World Reindeer Herders Association. Would you like to say some words on behalf of the   world reindeer herders?


I would like to address myself to all Arctic states and especially to Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia. These are the super powers of the reindeer herding regions. This was my first point. My second point is that one in these countries exploits oil, gas and other natural resources. And wherever I am, I always give examples: Once there was a Norwegian reindeer herder who took reindeer to Canada and Alaska from Norway. He wrote in his diary that both gold, coal, oil and gas are good but that reindeer are God’s creatures. Reindeer were created for the Arctic peoples. All these natural resources will finally get depleted. Soon there will be no gas and oil left and new sources for light and heating will have to be invented. But the reindeer are here to stay there forever. Reindeer husbandry has a long history which stretches over many centuries. That is why this is so important. There exists an international organization for reindeer herders. It heralds that reindeer husbandry is its own civilization, a civilization which is connected with nature. This is very important too.


On behalf of the IPY EALAT project we would like to thank you as the local host for our very unique and impressive days on the Yamal peninsula.

Thanks to you from all of us


“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.


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.


“Finno Ugric Peoples Yet to Taste Freedom”

July 3, 2008 • Philip Burgess

So said Toomas Ilves, the President of Estonia, as he marched his delegation out of last weeks Finno Ugric Congress in Khanty Mansisk. Ilves even called for the European Union to become engaged in protecting Finno Ugric languages. These remarks were designed to irritate Russia, no doubt, as more than 2 million Finno Ugrian people live in Russia (and many are reindeer herders) Nenets, Sami, Khanty, Mansy, and Komi. However, and this point was made in the Moscow Times in yesterdays editorial, many of Russia’s indigenous peoples are not benefiting from the recent rise in Russia’s wealth and this is all the more evident in areas that are rich in oil and gas such as Khanty Mansisk, Yamal Nenets Autonomous Okrug and the Nenets Automous Okrug).

Read more…


Where Home Cooking Gets the Cold Shoulder.. (Washington Post)

June 2, 2008 • Philip Burgess

The following article appareared in the Washington Post and was by Andreas Viestand. He was accompanied on his trip by International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry Director Anders Oskal and World Reindeer Herders Association President Dmitry Khorolia arranged the visit to the tundra. SCHUCH’YE, Western Siberia — Of all the cowboy towns in this part of Siberia, this must be one of the roughest. When we ride our tractor into town, the first thing I see is a man with a gun next to a dead wolf. On a nearby field a group of men are showing off their lasso-throwing skills.

But of course it isn’t a cowboy town. It is a reindeer town. Outside the one-story administration building, the parking lot is nearly filled with parked reindeer waiting restlessly for a racing competition to begin. Inside the building, the women of the village are having a fashion show; almost all the clothes are made from reindeer skins. In a large tent, generous portions of reindeer stew are being ladled out. Even the wolf is connected to the reindeer: It was killed only after having preyed on a flock of them.

Read more…


Reindeer Carpaccio..

May 7, 2008 • Philip Burgess

(Photo: Mette Randem) International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry Director Anders Oskal accompanied Lars Kullerud (University of the Arctic) and Dagbladet journalist Andreas Viestad and photographer Mette Randem to Salekhard, the capital of the Yamal Nenets Autonomous Okrug. One outcome was the below article on Nenets, reindeer husbandry and food. See below for a Reindeer inspired carpaccio..

….Av alle cowboybyer i hele Vest-Sibir, må Schuch’ye være en av de røffeste. Det er i hvert fall det mest eksotiske stedet jeg har vært, på en ekte villvestmåte. Først våkne opp i Salekhard, den oljerike administrasjonsbyen ved utløpet av Ob-elva hvor skiltene henger skeivt på skeive hus, og smilene er så godt gjemt at det kan virke som om folk ikke helt har kommet seg etter Andropovs plutselige død. Så kjøre i en time på humpete veier over permafrosten, og deretter klyve over i en beltebil, som i tre lange og støyende timer arbeider seg utover på Yamal-halvøya.

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Russia’s Longest Bridge – on the Yamal Peninsula

May 6, 2008 • Philip Burgess

It is well known that the Yamal Peninsula is not only the source of much of Europe’s current and future energy resources (and as a result is of enormous strategic importance to Russia), but it is also the home of the world’s largest area of reindeer husbandry.   A major piece of puzzle is infrastructure development, which in the case of the Bovanenkovo field, is being reached by railway, a railway which crosses the migration routes of several reindeer herding brigades. And rivers: The longest railway bridge in Russia is due to be finished by 2009, across the Yuribey River as part of this giant project. You can watch a short video about the project here.


Russian reindeer conquer Western markets (Yamal Peninsula)

April 28, 2008 • Philip Burgess

(Picture / story Russia Today 21042008)Reindeer breeding accounts for 90% of the agriculture in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District in northern Russia. The industry’s export markets include Germany, Italy, Greece and Latvia. But producers are facing logistics problems trying to expand.Reindeer have been the main source of income for the Nenets people for centuries. There are 600,000 head of the animals in the region.

But Russia has yet to develop the domestic market for reindeer meat. Today, all the produce is exported. 

Read more…


Bovanenkovskoe on Yamal ‘on track’

March 11, 2008 • Philip Burgess

(Pic: BarentsObserver) On a recent trip to Yamal, the deputy CEO of Gazprom said that Bovanenkovskoe  is on track to start production in 2011. (Об итогах совещания ОАО «Газпром» и Администрации ЯНАО по вопросам взаимодействия при обустройстве Бованенковского месторождения и строительстве системы магистральных газопроводов «Бованенково – Ухта»)

Bovanenkovskoe will be connected by pipeline and more than 2400 km of new gas pipelines need to be built, including about 1000 km from the field to Ukhta in the Komi Republic. The Yamal field will also be connected by railway line. The construction of the line “Obskaya- Bovanenkovo” was started last early last year. A total of 197 km of the line and 40 bridges have already been built. The pipeline and railway pass through the world’s largest area of reindeer husbandry.

(From Gazprom) In January 2002, the Gazprom Management Committee identified the Yamal Peninsula as a region of the Company’s strategic interest. The commercial development of Yamal fields will increase local gas production to 250 bcmpa. Accessing the Yamal is of utter importance for the purpose of ensuring gas production growth. 11 gas fields and 15 oil and gas condensate fields have been discovered in the Yamal. The total recoverable gas, condensate, and oil reserves amount to 10.4 tcm, 228.3 mln t, and 291.8 mln t, respectively. The aggregate reserves of the largest Yamal fields, namely the Bovanenkovskoye, Kharasaveyskoye and Novoportovskoye operated by Gazprom dobycha Nadym (a wholly owned subsidiary of Gazprom) under the respective licenses, account for 5.9 tcm of gas, 100.2 mln t of condensate, and 227 mln t of oil.


ENSINOR Wrap Up Workshop – A Summary

February 20, 2008 • Philip Burgess

The ENSINOR workshop involving key stakeholders from indigenous peoples (including several reindeer herders), administration and oil and gas officials was held in Rovaniemi in December, organised by the Arctic Centre, Finland. Florian Stammler and Philip Burgess have coauthored this summary.. On 10-11 December 2007 the Arctic Centre, University of Lapland in Rovaniemi, Finland held a 2-day workshop involving key stakeholders from northern Russia, Finland and Norway. Among the participants were indigenous representatives, oil and gas industry personnel, NGO representatives, government personnel, and a mix of natural and social scientists. Several members of the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry were in attendance, including Anders Oskal, Svein Mathiesen, Philip Burgess and Ole Isak Eira. The workshop was the final activity of the 48-month project “Environmental and Social Impacts of Industrialization in Northern Russia (ENSINOR)”, which was funded by the Academy of Finland January 2004- December 2007. The project has made comparative case studies of oil and gas activities in two key federal districts – the Nenets Autonomous Okrug (NAO) and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (YNAO).

Read more…


‘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.

Read more…