BETWEEN INDIGENEITY AND NATIONALITY: THE POLITICS OF CULTURE AND NATURE IN RUSSIA’S DIAMOND PROVINCE by Susan M. Hicks M.A., University of Pittsburgh, 2005 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Anthropology) THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver) September 2011 © Susan M. Hicks, 2011 Abstract Despite a half century of rapid, state-sponsored industrialization in the region, only with its more recent, abrupt exposure to global capitalism has Siberia become a hotly contested site of debates over both indigenous rights and natural resource extraction. The Sakha Republic (Yakutia), a Northeastern Siberian region twice the size of Alaska, is now a particularly crucial site of contestation, boasting diamond reserves that produce about 25% of the world‘s diamonds. The region is also home to a sizeable, highly educated indigenous population, the Sakha, who comprise over 45% of the Republic‘s residents. Sakha activists have been engaged in a sustained project of cultural revival that has drawn upon globally circulating representations of indigeneity to contest environmental destruction, assert political control over their lands and resources, and to challenge socio-economic marginalization. However, in post-Soviet Siberia, like elsewhere in Asia, distinctions between indigenous and non-indigenous are not straightforward, and articulations of indigenous identity are fraught with complications. With a population over 400,000, the Sakha are in fact considered too numerous to fit within the official Russian category for indigenous peoples—the ―small-numbered peoples of the North,‖ and many Sakha are themselves ambivalent about the label ―indigenous,‖ seeing their own culture as more advanced than that of their neighboring indigenes. This dissertation examines the social processes that link globally circulating images and practices of indigeneity with Sakha cultural politics, and argues that articulations of indigenous identity are not only contingent and heterogeneous, but are also partial and uneven. In this context, indigeneity coexists alongside other kinds of identity, especially ethnonationalism. Analysis builds on eighteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in the Sakha Republic, including participant observation in 2 cities, semi-structured interviews and life history interviews with Sakha and non-Sakha residents, and regional newspaper analysis. ii Preface This research was approved by the UBC Behavioural Research Ethics Board: Certificate Number H07-02909 and H07-00790; Principal Investigator: Dr. Patrick Moore. iii Table of Contents Abstract .................................................................................................................................... ii Preface..................................................................................................................................... iii Table of Contents ................................................................................................................... iv List of Figures ........................................................................................................................ vii Note on Transliteration ......................................................................................................... ix Glossary ................................................................................................................................... x Acknowledgements ............................................................................................................... xii Dedication ............................................................................................................................. xiv Chapter 1: Introduction ......................................................................................................... 1 Sakha Indigeneity: Global Discourses, Local articulations .............................................................. 5 Indigeneity in Practice.................................................................................................................... 15 A Siberian Frontier Town .............................................................................................................. 19 The Chapters .................................................................................................................................. 28 Chapter 2: Tradition and Tractors—Cultural Revitalization and Indigenous Marginality in the Sakha Countryside ................................................................................ 32 2.1 ―Demodernization‖ .................................................................................................................. 36 2.1.1 The Vigorous Development of Nyurba ............................................................................. 42 2.2 ―People are More Valuable than Diamonds‖ ........................................................................... 46 2.3 New System of Labor Payments ............................................................................................. 50 2.4 Cultural Rights and Neoliberalism .......................................................................................... 53 2.4.1 Bichik: the Olonkho Pre-School ....................................................................................... 56 2.4.2 Center for Children‘s Art .................................................................................................. 60 2.4.3 Healthy Lifestyles and Cultural Revival ........................................................................... 63 Chapter 3: Cultural Revival and the Politics of Sovereignty ............................................ 66 3.1 Sovereignty, Ethnonationalism, Indigeneity ............................................................................ 71 3.2 Cultural Revival and the Politics of Sovereignty ..................................................................... 78 3.4 Federal Challenges to Sovereignty .......................................................................................... 86 3.5 Cultural Revival Decoupled from Ethnic Politics.................................................................... 90 iv Chapter 4: Remembering Stalin—Ethnic Oppression and Collective Sacrifice ............. 95 4.1 The Sovietization of Yakutia ................................................................................................... 99 4.1.2 1920s: New Economic Policy and the ―Golden Age‖ of Sakha Culture ........................... 99 4.1.3 Cultural Revolution in Yakutia ...................................................................................... 101 4.1.4 The Great Patriotic War ................................................................................................. 105 4.2 Stalinism and National Revival .............................................................................................. 109 4.3 ―We Were Hardworking People…‖ ....................................................................................... 114 4.3.1 The Great Leader ........................................................................................................... 115 4.3.2 Defending Stalin ............................................................................................................ 118 4.3.3 The Value of Work ........................................................................................................ 120 4.4 Memory and Trauma in Nyurba ............................................................................................ 124 4.4.1 Remembering the War ................................................................................................... 125 4.4.2 Victory Day: Memorializing the War............................................................................. 127 4.5 Stalin and the Dilemmas of Democracy ................................................................................ 131 4.6 Conclusion ............................................................................................................................. 133 Chapter 5: Friendship of Peoples—Cosmopolitanism, Multiculturalism and Indigenous Rights ................................................................................................................................... 135 5.1 Early Bolshevik Views on Colonization and Interethnic relations ........................................ 139 5.2 Indestructible Friendship and Voluntary Annexation ............................................................ 144 5.3 Soviet Multiculturalism in Practice ....................................................................................... 147 5.4 ―Friendship of Peoples‖ in a Sovereign Sakha Republic ....................................................... 154 5.5 Friendship of Peoples: Ethnonationalism and Rossiiskii Identity .......................................... 158 5.6 ―Inciting Interethnic Tensions‖ ............................................................................................. 161 Chapter 6: “The Only Weapon that Doesn’t Misfire”—Feminine Beauty, Gender Roles, and the Politics of National Identity .................................................................................. 169 6.1 Embracing the Feminine in Post-Soviet Beauty Contests ...................................................... 172 6.1.1 Demographic Politics, National Preservation and Women as Mothers .......................... 175 6.1.2 Beauty Contests as Promoting Feminine Virtue ............................................................. 181 6.2 Undressing for Cameras: Sexuality and Commodification in Virtual Pageants ..................... 184 6.3 The Ethno-politics of Beauty Contests: Miss Yakutia and National Identity........................ 191 Chapter 7: “Children Of Nature”: Environmental Imaginaries and Indigenous Identity ............................................................................................................................................... 198 v 7.1 Sakha Harmony with Nature .................................................................................................. 202 7.2 The Politics of Nature I: The Viliui Committee .................................................................... 214 7.3 The Politics of Nature II: Ethnonationalism .......................................................................... 219 7.4 Conclusion ............................................................................................................................ 226 Conclusion ........................................................................................................................... 229 References ............................................................................................................................ 233 Appendices ........................................................................................................................... 250 Appendix A: The Influence of Globalization on the National Consciousness of the Sakha People: Culture and Nature (by Arkadii Spridonovich Maiakunov) ......................................................... 250 Appendix B: Declaration of State Sovereignty of the Yakut-Sakha Soviet Socialist Republic ... 255 vi List of Figures Figure 1: Map of the Russian Federation, showing the Sakha Republic (Yakutia).................. 2 Figure 2: Nyurba‘s Lenin Square, decorated with flags in preparation for May 1 st (Labor Day) celebrations .................................................................................................................... 19 Figure 3: Navigating the muddy streets of Nyurba ................................................................. 21 Figure 4: Map of the Sakha Republic and Nyurba Ulus (modified from Ivanov 2006) ......... 22 Figure 5: Research sites .......................................................................................................... 26 Figure 6: Timeline of research ................................................................................................ 26 Figure 7: Akhmed surveys his hay stacks ............................................................................... 32 Figure 8: Abandoned barns in the village of Kyundyade ....................................................... 40 Figure 9: White Shaman performs the blessing at the 2007 Yhyakh ..................................... 66 Figure 10: Family time at the 2008 Nyurba Yhyakh .............................................................. 93 Figure 11: Monument to Stalin in Mirnii. ............................................................................... 95 Figure 12: The honored Veterans of Nyurba sit below the local political leadership on Victory Day 2008. ................................................................................................................. 127 Figure 13: Nyurba WWII memorial. Inscription (in Sakha): ―From here, I left for the war.‖ ............................................................................................................................................... 128 Figure 14: Female actors playing young women, whose men left for the war ..................... 129 Figure 15: Elderly Attendees dance Ohuokai at the Victory Day celebrations .................... 129 Figure 16: Taanda Museum in former Orthodox Church with Sakha Serge out front ......... 135 Figure 17: Miss Yakutia beauty contest (source: http://www.missyakutia.ru/gallery.html, accessed 7/82011 ) ................................................................................................................ 169 Figure 18: Ksenia Safronovna and her students show off the landscape .............................. 198 Figure 19: A page from a promotional book about the Sakha Republic shows Sakha and Evenki children—marked as such by their dress—posing in nature (M Nikolaev 2004, 125) ............................................................................................................................................... 204 Figure 20: The Markha museum displays traditional Sakha hunting and fishing implements surrounding a photograph of an alaas ................................................................................... 204 Figure 21: Maria Alekseevna serves me an array of "natural" foods, including horse milk, hand-picked berries, home-grown cucumbers, and a special kind of Sakha sausage ........... 209 vii Figure 22: Maria Aleseevna poses for a photo with me in her "office" where she attends to patients. ................................................................................................................................. 209 Figure 23: A protest placard made by Arkadii Spiridonovich reads—―Nyurba Diamonds, don‘t be greedy.‖ The caption below reads in Sakha language: ―Don‘t be greedy, be measured. They‘re not yours, they‘re ours! They belong to the future generations!‖ ........ 216 viii Note on Transliteration Transliteration of Russian words follows a modified Library of Congress system. Modifications include Й=I, Ц=Ts, Я=Ia, Ю=Iu, and Ё=E. Soft signs and hard signs are transliterated with one and two apostrophes, respectively. In addition, commonly held Western spellings of proper nouns are used, such as Yakutia rather than Iakutia, or Yeltsin rather than El’tsyn. Russian words are placed in italics when they appear in the text. Transliteration of Sakha words also follows the Library of Congress system for Russian. Additional letters not found in the Russian alphabet are transcribed as follows: Ҕ=Gh, Ҥ=Ng, Ө=O, Һ=H, Ү=Yu. Sakha words are placed in italics and underlined. Sakha words, which have no English translation and are used repeatedly throughout the text (e.g. Yhyakh, and Olonkho) are placed in italics and underlined the first time they appear, but are in normal text thereafter. These are also defined in the glossary below. ix Glossary Note: I have included Sakha terms used throughout the dissertation here. Russian words are defined in text. Abaahy: Evil spirits. Aiyy: Literally, ―creation.‖ It is used variously in relation to the Sakha traditional religion in reference to the ―good‖ deities, who reside in the sky in contrast to the abaahy spirits of the lower world. The entire polytheistic belief system of is often referred to as the aiyy teachings, and those who follow this belief system, the aiyy people. Alaad’i: Sakha fried bread or pancakes. Alaas: A forest clearing, often with a lake in the center, where pre-Soviet homesteads were typically located. Algys: A sung blessing or prayer in the Sakha traditional religion. Algyschit: A person who performs the algys. Archy: Cleansing. Contemporary practitioners of Sakha religion perform a rite of cleansing prior to entering important and/or holy places. Badraan: Mud. Balaghan: Traditional Sakha dwelling made from wooden poles in a trapezoidal shape and covered with sod. In the present, these are used as barns for cattle. Bypakh: A slightly alcoholic drink made from fermented cow‘s milk drunk in the present as a cheaper alternative to kymys. Choron: 3-legged wooden chalice, used especially in Yhyakh and other ritual ceremonies for serving kymys. Iteghel: Belief or religion. Khomus: The Sakha jaw harp, considered the Sakha ―national instrument.‖ Khoton: Barn for cows. Kyuorchek: Whipped cream, made without sugar and hand whipped with a special wooden utensil. Kymys: Fermented mare‘s milk. x Nasleg (nehilieg): A subdivision of an ulus. Nyurguhuun: Snow drops; white, yellow or purple flowers that poke out of the ground in early spring. Ohuokai: Sakha circle dance, in which a lead singer improvises a rhythmical cadence (toiuk) and the other participants repeat each line. Olonkho: Sakha epic poetry. Oiuun: Shaman. Serge: An elaborately carved post for hitching-horses with deep cultural and ritual significance. Toion: Sakha nobility. Often used in the present in relation to Sakha elite, both as a term of respect and as a term of critique. Toiuk: A rhythmical cadence sung especially during ohuokai, often during olonkho as well. Tuhulghe: Round festival area at Yhyakh, marked out by birch saplings, which are strung together by a string decorated with small, multi-colored bits of cloth. Tyuolbe: Hay meadow; distant/remote place; or settlement. Ulus: Territorial division of the Sakha Republic, like a county. Yhyakh: Sakha summer festival. xi Acknowledgements This dissertation could not have been completed without the support of innumerable friends and colleagues in Canada, the United States and in Russia. The research for this dissertation was made possible by grants from the US National Science Foundation, and from the US State Department Title VIII Combined Research and Language Training Program, administered by American Councils for International Education. The University of British Columbia, Yakutsk State University and the American Museum of Natural History in New York all provided institutional support for my research. I would first like to thank the faculty, staff, and students of the anthropology department at UBC for providing support and intellectual stimulation throughout my PhD studies. I am particularly grateful to the members of my supervisory committee for their unremitting encouragement, assistance, and insight. My co-supervisors, Alexia Bloch and Patrick Moore were both invaluable as mentors and critics and deserve substantial credit for their assistance in the development of my research questions and design, and in the process of data analysis and synthesis. Gaston Gordillo also provided crucial inspiration, support and insight at all stages of my doctoral studies. Stepan Kolodesnikov supervised my on-site research, taught me Sakha language, and introduced me to numerous colleagues in the Sakha Republic. This dissertation owes much to each of these scholars, whose ideas and insights have helped to shape much of this final text. I would also like to extend my sincere appreciation to the numerous friends and colleagues who read drafts of chapters and/or provided both intellectual stimulation and emotional support, including Ana Vivaldi, Rachel Donkersloot, Robin O‘Day, Rafael Wainer, and Oralia Gomez-Ramirez, among many others. Special thanks go to Marie-eve Carrier-Moisan, who has been both a close friend and one of my most insightful critics. I am also deeply grateful to Sardana Nikolaeva, who has also been a dear friend and colleague. She deserves credit for my initial interest in the Sakha Republic, which was inspired by our friendship, and for providing both personal and scholarly insight into my analysis. I would also like to thank the many people in the Sakha Republic, who were crucial to the success of my research. In particular, the staff of the Office of International Programs at Yakut State University, now the University of the Far East, was endlessly patient and xii helpful in all aspects of my research, helping me to navigate the Russian bureaucracy and to adjust culturally to living in the region. I also want to thank the faculty and students of the department of Sakha philology, where I took courses in both Sakha language and ethnography, for their generous welcome and support of my research. I also offer my sincere gratitude to L‘yubov‘ Kolodesnikova for her patience, encouragement, and extensive insights into Sakha culture, language, and history garnered through numerous, lengthy conversations over meals and tea. I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to everyone in the town of Nyurba, especially the employees of the Nyurba Museum, the Nyurba administration of culture, and the Nyurba office of youth politics, who all went far beyond the demands of hospitality to ensure that my research was successful. In particular, Viktor and Boris Borisov, Rosalia Nikolaeva, and Stepan Stepanovich all provided extensive insight into local and regional history, culture, and politics. In addition, Tat‘ana Sergeeva was a dear friend and guide, and Arkadii Maiakunov was a fantastic mentor and teacher. I also benefitted from the research assistance of Lilia Losotova and Evdokia Nikolaeva. My deepest gratitude goes to the entire Nikolaev family for their generosity, love, and friendship, which has been constant not only during my stay in the region, but also since then. Thanks also go to countless others in the town of Nyurba and in the villages, who invited me into their homes and shared their time, memories, and thoughts with me. I would also like to thank my family, especially my parents, Stephen and Julie Hicks, whose faith in me has been an invaluable source of strength, and whose intellectual curiosity and commitment to education inspired my own love of learning that motivated me to pursue graduate studies. I would also like to thank my three brothers, Brian, Michael, and David, each of whom has been a source of joy and inspiration in my life. Finally, finishing this dissertation would not have been possible without the endless love and patience of Aaron Fellows, who has been an emotional and intellectual pillar in my life. I cannot express deeply enough my gratitude to all of the people who helped me at every stage of the writing process, without whom, I never could have produced this dissertation. As the author of these pages, however, I am solely responsible for their final form and content, and I take sole responsibility for any mistakes or shortcomings. xiii Dedication For Viktoria and Nikita, may your lives always be filled with light and joy. xiv Chapter 1: Introduction Despite a half-century of rapid, state-sponsored industrialization in the region, Siberia has only recently emerged in the post-Soviet period as a crucial site of contestation over both indigenous rights and natural resource extraction. The Sakha Republic (Yakutia), an Eastern Siberian1 region twice the size of Alaska (Figure 1), has been a particularly crucial site of contestation, boasting diamond reserves that produce almost 25% of the world‘s diamonds, in addition to significant reserves of timber, gold, oil, natural gas, and a range of other valuable minerals (see Tichotsky 2000, Kempton 1996). It is also home to a sizeable, highly educated indigenous population, the Sakha, who comprise over 45% of the total residents in the region.2 However, in post-Soviet Siberia, like elsewhere in Asia (Barnes, et. al. 1995, T Li 2000), distinctions between indigenous and non-indigenous are not straightforward and articulations of indigenous identities are neither natural nor inevitable, being contingent upon a variety of intersecting global and local processes and power configurations (For example, see Koester 2005). Indeed, with a population of over 400,000, the Sakha are considered too numerous to fit within the official Russian category of ―indigenous,‖ confined to groups numbering less than 50,000—the ―small numbered peoples of the north‖ (cf. Donahoe et al. 2008). And yet, like other indigenous groups, Sakha have largely been excluded from the profits of the state-controlled diamond industry and they have also suffered disproportionately from ecological destruction due to resource extraction (Crate 2006, Balzer 2006). Furthermore, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Sakha activists have been engaged in a sustained project of cultural revival that, like indigenous cultural movements elsewhere, has drawn upon positive images and associations of global indigeneity to challenge Soviet and Russian state assimilationism. 1 Administratively speaking, the Sakha Republic is currently part of the Russian Far East Federal District, and therefore could be seen to belong to the Russian Far East rather than Siberia, which has its own Federal District. However, “Siberia” as a general term has long been used to refer to all of Eastern Russia and people in the Sakha Republic regularly spoke of themselves as living in Siberia. Furthermore, the other areas of the Far East (Chukotka, Kamchatka, etc.) have a distinct set of climatic and geopolitical characteristics associated with their location on Russia‟s eastern borders. As such, in this dissertation, I refer to the Sakha Republic as part of Siberia. 2 Population statistics are from the 2002 Russian census (Sakha (Yakutia) Stat 2005). 1 SAKHA REPUBLIC (YAKUTIA) Moscow Yakutsk Figure 1: Map of the Russian Federation, showing the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) This dissertation examines the relationship between post-Soviet Sakha cultural politics, and a global politics of indigeneity. A burgeoning anthropological literature on indigeneity has highlighted the increasing salience of indigenous identities in international political arenas and in various local struggles all over the world (see especially, De la Cadena and Starn 2007a; Niezen 2003). Transnational links between indigenous groups provide opportunities for collaborative organizing to address common concerns, including cultural and economic marginalization, environmental destruction, loss of control over lands and resources, and self-determination/sovereignty struggles (Niezen 2003; Tsing 2007). At the same time, a set of images associated with indigenous peoples has circulated globally, inviting generalizations about indigenous cultures, especially in relation to ecological wisdom, timeless cultures, and spirituality (Yeh 2007). Indigenous activists have often embraced such essentializing images, articulating them as positive identity markers that challenge older stereotypes of savagery, naiveté, and primitivity (Warren and Jackson 2002a). Despite the pitfalls of reproducing essentialized identities (Conklin 1997), these images have successfully engendered broad sympathy from dominant national and international populations for particular indigenous struggles (Warren and Jackson 2002b; Ramos 1998; T Li 2003; Turner 1994). Supporters have also argued that these images help to 2 reverse disillusion and apathy within indigenous communities themselves through assertions of ethnic pride (Warren and Jackson 2002b; Graburn 1998). At the same time, theorists of indigeneity have argued against seeing articulations of indigenous identity solely in terms of political strategy. They point to the fluid and ―transactional‖ nature of all forms of identity, arguing that particular indigeneities must be understood within particular contexts even as they stand in conversation with globally circulating discourses (Clifford 2001; De la Cadena and Starn 2007b). De la Cadena and Starn (2007a), in particular, have emphasized the heterogeneity of indigenous experience, following Stuart Hall in arguing that indigeneity is ―without guarantees.‖ While comparisons can be drawn between groups identifying as indigenous, there are no necessary conditions for the articulation of indigenous identity, nor inevitable outcomes of indigenous politics. One particular example concerns the relationship between indigeneity and nationalism. An extensive body of literature on nations and nationalism has described the nation-state as one of the fundamental organizing principles of the contemporary world (Anderson 1983, Eriksen 1993, Malkki 1995, among others). This world order is reinforced by historically constituted beliefs about the cultural and ethnic homogeneity of nations, which allow the members of nations to imagine primordial bonds rooted in both culture and kinship—Benedict Anderson‘s (1983) ―deep, horizontal comradeship.‖ A number of theorists of indigeneity, however, have suggested that indigenous movements and the emerging transnational identity politics associated with global indigeneity represent a radical challenge to the nation-state as the primary locus of political identity and belonging (Niezen 2003, Eriksen 1993). They point to the transnational linkages formed among sub-state indigenous groups as themselves a kind of extra-national organizing, and to the lack of aspirations for independent statehood on the part of most indigenous groups as indicative of an alternative kind of identity politics. At the same time, as Biolsi (1994) argues, the language of national sovereignty has been central to indigenous movements all over the world, and especially in North America where Indian tribes and tribal unions consider themselves to be sovereign nations and retain the trappings of statehood, even if existing power relations subordinate them to the US government. As he points out, the hegemony of the nation as an organizing principle of social life remains relatively intact. Gupta (1992) suggests that nationalism coexists with ―other forms of imagining community, other mechanisms for positioning 3 subjects, other bases of identity‖ (74). Similarly, indigeneity as a form of transnational identity can challenge particular nationalisms, but it does not necessarily disrupt ―the national order of things‖ (cf. Malkki 1995). In post-Soviet Siberia, the ethnographic focus of this dissertation, I argue that emerging articulations of indigeneity associated in part with natural resource politics can be seen in conjunction with historically constituted ideas about national-territorial belonging. Rather than replacing or challenging national identity, indigenous identity coexists with national identity and can even be seen to supplement it. That is to say that transnationally circulating discourses of indigeneity resonate in Siberia, especially in relation to struggles over natural resources, cultural stewardship, and sovereignty, but they are not necessarily mobilized in opposition to the idea of the nation-state. Indeed, the idea of the nation-state persists as a guiding ideal for Sakha cultural activists in ways that echo American Indian aspirations for sovereignty but also differ in significant ways, specifically in activists‘ rejection of statehood defined solely in terms of ethnic identity. Ultimately, indigeneity like nationalism can been seen as partial and heterogeneous. It engages with globally circulating discourses, and yet is also deeply conditioned by local politics and relations of difference. In the chapters that follow, I examine the social processes that link globally circulating images and practices of indigenousness with Sakha cultural politics, and consider the ways in which articulations of indigenous identity are not only contingent and heterogeneous, but are also partial and uneven. I argue that indigeneity can be seen as an aspiring universal that, like other universals, operates in specific encounters and interactions, what Anna Tsing calls frictions: ―the awkward, unequal, unstable, and creative qualities of interconnections across difference‖ (Tsing 2005, 4). That is to say that indigeneity is not simply a mantle to be taken on, or thrown off; rather it is a complex process of recognition and negotiation as diverse individuals and groups encounter one another and find common, yet always unstable ground for communication and collaboration. Indigeneity is a kind of global model and an idea that travels through transnational links and associations and encompasses diverse peoples and places. In examining it, however, we must look at the specific locations and worldly encounters in which it emerges and where it stumbles. As Anna Tsing (2005) reminds us, friction both impedes and facilitates motion. This dissertation looks at the 4 frictions of indigeneity in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia), examining the uptake of images and discourses of indigeneity and also its contradictions and incongruities. Sakha Indigeneity: Global Discourses, Local articulations In the English language literature on the Sakha, they are often described as ―indigenous‖ Siberians by virtue of the fact that they are one of the many ethnic groups living in Siberia prior to Russian colonial expansion in the 16 th and 17th centuries. In the Russian language literature and in everyday discourses within the Sakha Republic, however, Sakha ―indigeneity‖ is not as clear-cut. As I point out above, the Sakha are not part of Russia‘s relatively vocal ―indigenous peoples‘ movement,‖ and the Russian term most often used in translations of indigenous, ―small-numbered peoples of the North,‖ (malochislennyie narody) does not apply to the Sakha. On the surface, there appears to be simple reasons for this: they are a much larger group than those involved in Russia‘s indigenous peoples‘ movement, they have ―their own‖ territory, and they have historically aspired to a kind of territorially-based statehood. In short, they could just as easily be seen as an ―ethnic minority‖ as an indigenous group. And yet, the similarity of Sakha to other indigenous groups and many of the ways in which Sakha identity is articulated in the present suggest a closer relationship with global discourses of indigeneity. Like other indigenous groups, the Sakha have ―territorial precedence‖ on their current territory, strong attachment to their homeland, and suffer from cultural and economic marginalization in relation to a dominant national population (Merlan 2009; De la Cadena and Starn 2007b). Furthermore, media images regularly depict Sakha as children of nature and highlight their ―exotic‖ and colorful folkloric traditions in contrast to dominant state-led processes of ―modernization.‖ One might argue, as Emily Yeh (2007) does for Tibetans, that Sakha identity can be seen in terms of an ―indigenous formation‖ despite complications in relation to the specific terminology of indigeneity. By an indigenous formation, Yeh refers to a set of self-representations that echo those of indigenous groups worldwide, specifically those related to ecological wisdom, spirituality and ancient cultural tradition. These kinds of associations resonate strongly with Sakha and are reinforced in regional media images, through international recognition of 5 Sakha ―cultural heritage,‖ and through local efforts to assert a positive value for Sakha cultural identity. In addition, Sakha political aspirations have variously echoed those of other indigenous groups regarding respect for collective rights to land and resources, recognition of cultural difference, and the acknowledgement of rights to self-determination. In this way, global discourses of indigeneity invite the Sakha to be ―interpellated‖ by them even as local politics and relational identities present complications (Castree 2004, 153; cf. Yeh 2007, 70). This dissertation attempts to sort through the complicated relationship of post-Soviet Sakha to the discourses of global indigeneity. Can the Sakha be considered indigenous? Should the Sakha be considered indigenous? If so, in what contexts? What are the implications of indigenous identity for longer term political aspirations? And what does this tell us about the politics of indigeneity globally? How do indigenous and ethnic identities intersect with other social identities like gender and class? While I ask these questions, I do so with the recognition that no straightforward answers are possible, and that being (and becoming) indigenous is always only a possibility (Li 2000). Furthermore, indigenous identity is necessarily partial as a range of competing constructions and representations produce awkward and uneven identity articulations in specific contexts. That is to say that no group‘s identity fully aligns with a global or universal model of indigenousness, because indigenousness as global discourse and force only operates in specific encounters. As Anna Tsing writes, ―generalization to the universal [is] an aspiration, an always unfinished achievement, rather than the confirmation of a pre-formed law…universal aspirations must travel across distances and differences‖ (2005, 7). Questions surrounding Sakha indigeneity are important in light of the recent visibility of the international indigenous peoples‘ movement, both in scholarly literature and in the realm of international legal convention. In the past few decades, a transnational alliance of groups identifying as indigenous has mobilized to assert a set of universal rights for indigenous peoples, now codified in the recently ratified UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The signatories to this document recognize the rights of the world‘s indigenous peoples to land and resources (article 26), cultural difference (article 4), and selfdetermination (article 3), among other things, while preserving the territorial integrity and national unity of the encompassing nation-states (United Nations 2007a). There are 143 signatories to the declaration; notably, four countries (the US, Canada, Australia and New 6 Zealand) initially voted against it, and eleven countries, including the Russian Federation abstained. In explaining its abstention, the Russian delegate upheld Russia‘s commitment to the notion of ―indigenous rights,‖ but cited concerns about rights to land and resources as presently articulated by the document (United Nations 2007b), reflecting Russia‘s reluctance to accede rights to resource extraction on the part of sub-state groups. One of the problems facing the indigenous peoples‘ movement, however, is defining just who is and who is not indigenous, and therefore possessive of these rights. As Niezen (2003) points out, an acceptable legal definition of indigenousness has not been forthcoming, and anyways would be problematic in light of diverse histories of colonization and the multiple and fluid, ―transactional‖ nature of indigenous identity (Clifford 1988; B Miller 2003). For this reason, the UN Working Group on Indigenous Affairs officially accepts groups‘ self-definitions as indigenous. Even so, indigenous identity is not a simple matter of choice on the part of individual ethnic groups, or their leaders. To be effective, this identity must be recognized and legitimated by some audience, whether it is other indigenous groups, international environmental, other advocacy organizations, or, most crucially, the states in which groups are incorporated (Tsing 2007). This brings us into the realm of representation and discourse, raising questions about how indigenous identities come to be claimed and how they are legitimated, processes that involve both indigenous actors and their audiences. As De la Cadena and Starn point out, indigeneity is ―a relational field of governance, subjectivities and knowledge that involves us all—indigenous and non-indigenous—in the making/remaking of its structures of power and imagination‖ (2007a, 3). In conjunction with the visibility of indigenous activism, the politics surrounding claims to indigenous identity have been the focus of considerable scholarly attention over the past two decades. Anthropologists, sociologists, and others have attempted to sort out how and when the label of ―indigenous‖ comes to adhere to certain groups. They have examined instances in which groups deploy claims to indigenous identity in relation to political goals, and the ways in which this identity ―sticks‖ through outside recognition (Castree 2004; Hathaway 2010; Li 2000). Generally speaking, these studies have highlighted a set of characteristics commonly shared by indigenous groups, although they caution that these are neither exclusive, nor necessary conditions for identification and recognition as indigenous. Niezen, for example, 7 points to: original/prior occupancy, maintenance of cultural difference, and cultural/ethnic marginalization in relation to a dominant national population (2003, 19). He also points to a set of shared attachments claimed by indigenous activists to ―some form of subsistence economy, to a territory or homeland that predates the arrival of settlers and surveyors, to a spiritual system that predates the arrival of missionaries, and to a language that expresses everything that is important and distinct about their place in the universe‖ (2003, 23). Other scholars have described a set of related associations that do not define, but often accompany indigenousness in popular imaginations worldwide. Indigenous peoples, for example, are supposed to embody ideals of environmental stewardship, connectedness with nature, spirituality, egalitarianism, and ancient culture (cf. Yeh 2007). As a host of literature on ―strategic essentialism‖ has pointed out, indigenous groups have successfully taken longstanding negative stereotypes of primitiveness, naïveté, and savagery and turned them into positive attributes, and have thus attracted the support of a variety of international advocacy organizations, including environmental organizations and human rights agencies (Warren and Jackson 2002b; Conklin 1997; Turner 1991). The 2007 ratification of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can be seen as the culmination of this activism, in which indigenous groups have garnered worldwide recognition of and sympathy for their grievances and aspirations as distinct from those of other ethnic minorities. Even so, defining indigenous identity is far from straightforward. This set of ideas is not an overarching definition, and controversy over the idea of indigenousness continues. Even as tribal groups in Asia and Africa are actively articulating an indigenous identity and gaining international recognition as indigenous, state governments in countries like China and Indonesia refuse to recognize them as such based on official assertions that all citizens of their countries are equally indigenous (e.g. Hathaway 2010; Li 2003). A handful of prominent anthropologists have also criticized the indigenous peoples‘ movement for its reliance on essentialized notions of identity and belonging. Adam Kuper (2003), for example, argues that what is theoretically a relative term, has become an absolute term charged with moral zeal that essentializes and reduces complexity and that the category ―indigenous‖ recreates problematic dichotomies that reinforce stereotypical notions of heredity and blood (see also, Beteille 1998). Defenders of indigenous rights have responded with vehement rebuttals of their own. Ramos (2003b) and Warren and Jackson (2002a) among others have 8 argued that Kuper‘s position reflects the colonial standpoint of anthropologists and other academics reluctant to accede to self-definitions of marginal peoples. They have pointed to indigeneity as a flexible and contingent identity that has arisen in response to a very particular set of conditions that severely restrict possibilities for political action in other veins. Indigenous identity, they have suggested, reflects less the conscious choice of marginalized groups and more the identity categories imposed upon them by colonial states. These debates point to the multiplicity of meanings of ―indigenous.‖ As Bruce Miller (2003) argues, indigeneity is both a global phenomenon connected to world-issues, and a localized one, taking on distinctive characteristics dependent on particular state histories of colonization and incorporation. It is not one thing but a shifting set of practices unfolding within particular social contexts. Following Li (2000), I see the articulation of indigenous identity as only partially the result of local agency: the identities available to communities are necessarily conditioned by fields of power and categories imposed from the outside, and furthermore, the images and symbols employed are typically drawn from historically sedimented ―repertoires of meaning‖ (Li 2000, 151). This dissertation seeks to understand the relationship between local articulations of an indigenous identity and the global processes they intersect, asking how a Sakha indigeneity is constituted in relation to international indigenous organizing and in relation to globally circulating discourses of indigeneity. Furthermore, what is particular about Sakha engagement with these processes? How has their historical and structural position vis-à-vis the diamond industry and the Soviet and PostSoviet state shaped the Sakha experience of and engagement with indigeneity? Tania Li (2000) uses Stuart Hall‘s (1996) notion of ―articulation‖ as both enunciation and contingent joining together in order to explain why one group of Indonesian farmers articulated an indigenous identity, while a similar group did not, despite sharing common self-representations that might lend themselves to an indigenous identity. She argues that both had a discourse of indigeneity available to them, what she calls the ―tribal slot,‖ but only one was involved in a struggle over natural resources. Due to the widespread association of indigeneity and resource struggles, this group of farmers was able to mobilize international support for their cause through the articulation of an explicitly indigenous identity. For this reason, she argues that indigeneity and resource politics go together. Tsing (2007) also echoes this in pointing out that ―groups who have organized under the indigenous banner 9 have done so in part because they have been left out of the benefits of national development‖ (2007, 53). In a similar way, one might argue that Sakha involvement in struggles over natural resources vis-à-vis the Russian diamond industry might make for fertile ground for the assertion of an indigenous identity, and for the establishment of transnational links with other indigenous groups. As I explore in more detail in chapter 8, resource development has provided the backdrop to much of Sakha political activity over the last two decades. However, the ―tribal slot‖ is not always available in unambiguous ways, and the Sakha case does not easily map onto either of Li‘s cases. Indeed, the Sakha field of ―slots‖ has been additionally shaped by Soviet ideologies of ethnic and national development and by a postSoviet Sakha ethno-nationalist politics that was not exclusively ―indigenous‖ but rather negotiated a range of discursive options for legitimating claims to local and regional territorial sovereignty. Over the past few decades, a kind of indigenous identity can be said to have emerged among Sakha. Certainly, the English-language literature on the Sakha freely uses the term ―indigenous‖ in relation to them. Two of the most prominent anthropologists working in the Sakha Republic, Susan Crate and Marjorie Balzer, regularly use the term indigenous, although they also recognize the local complexities of Sakha articulations of indigeneity (Balzer 2003; Crate 2006). In addition, many of my interlocutors in the Sakha Republic would often draw comparisons between their own predicament and that of other indigenous peoples, and activists have even established cultural exchanges with native groups in North America and elsewhere. The discursive links are facilitated by descriptions of Sakha in UNESCO documents and in other international and domestic forums that clearly resonate as ―indigenous formations,‖ in that they highlight Sakha ecological wisdom, spirituality, and ancient cultural traditions. Nevertheless, in Russian and in Sakha vernaculars, the idea of indigenousness does not translate easily in relation to the Sakha, and does not do precisely the same work that it does for indigenous groups elsewhere in the world. First, the direct Russian translation of ―indigenous‖ ―korennoi‖ has a much less specific meaning than does the English term, and can be applied equally to all the native peoples of Russia, including Russians themselves (Sokolovskiy 2007). Secondly, the category of ―small-numbered peoples,‖ ―malochislennyie narody‖ operates in Russia in ways similar to the term ―indigenous‖ in international contexts, 10 but it excludes the Sakha. Russia‘s indigenous peoples‘ organization, for example, is called in English the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia, and the Far East (RAIPON), but the direct translation from the Russian would be: ―Association of the Indigenous Small-numbered Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation.‖ Just as the vernacular concept of ―masyarakat adat‖ has served as the Indonesian translation of indigenous (Tsing 2007; Li 2003) and ―adivasi‖ has for groups in India (Baviskar 2007), ―malochislennyie narody‖ serves as the most precise translation for ―indigenous peoples‖ in the Russian context. As I point out above, this category officially excludes the Sakha from recognition as one of Russia‘s indigenous people due to their population of almost 400,000 people, which far exceeds the 50,000 person cut-off for recognition as one of the small-numbered peoples (Donahoe et al. 2008; Sokolovskiy 2007). As such, as in the case of the Tibetans (Yeh 2007), there is no vernacular term for the Sakha that does the work of indigenousness in international contexts. This is not merely a semantic issue either: the Sakha are not recognized under Russian legal statutes dealing with indigenous peoples, and their exclusion from RAIPON has meant that the Sakha activists have not been directly involved in transnational organizing with other indigenous groups, either within Russia or beyond its borders. As I begin to discuss above, Sakha collective identity has long been articulated almost exclusively in terms of ethnonational belonging. Sakha ethnonational identity both echoes international frameworks of national-territorial rootedness, and has its own particular contours shaped by Soviet nationalities‘ policies. Since at least the early 20 th century, cultural difference in Russia has been framed through a discourse of Soviet ―nationalities.‖ Stalin, for example, famously defined a nation as ―a historically constituted, stable community of people formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture‖ (1994, 20). Soviet administrators not only assumed an inherent link between nationalities and territory, but sought explicitly to draw political and administrative boundaries around nations in order to bring about complete coincidence between nations and their territories. Therefore, in theory, ―national‖ territories like the Sakha Republic (then, the Yakut ASSR), provided the framework for ethnic (national) self-determination. Over the course of the 1920s and 30s, a discrete set of officially sanctioned nationalities was cemented through a Central Party-led process of definition in 11 which ethnographers and ethnographic knowledge played a significant role (Hirsch 2005). By the end of the 1930s, nationality came to be a permanent identity, stamped into passports and passed onto children. While Soviet ideas of nationality owed much to internationally circulating beliefs about nationhood, early Soviet administrators went much farther than most states in seeking to bring about relatively homogenous national territories. Official understandings of nationhood and ethnicity evolved over time and later Soviet administrators came to be far more hostile to ethnic identity articulations, but the notion of the USSR as a Union of distinct nations with their own territories persisted up to and after the collapse. Indeed, a number of scholars have argued that official Soviet ―ethnic particularism‖ resulted in the break-up of the Soviet Union along national-territorial lines (Slezkine 1994a). In conjunction with this official policy of ethnoterritorial federalism, the Soviet government, beginning in the 1930s, declared ―the national question‖ resolved. That is to say, that because all ethnic groups were supposedly granted ―their own‖ territories and self governance, there could be no more interethnic tensions. As I explore in more detail in chapter 5, an official narrative of ―friendship of peoples‖ emerged as a means to continue to acknowledge ethnic diversity, but to restrict expressions of national identity to those that supported Soviet unity. The Mongolian scholar Uradyn Bulag points to a similar narrative of ―amity between peoples‖ that has governed interethnic relations in the People‘s Republic of China. He argues that this narrative serves as a ―hegemonic management device to maneuver in the context of China‘s diversity‖ (Bulag 2002, 12; cf. Yeh 2007, 71). Likewise, official Soviet narratives celebrated ethnic difference through colorful folkloric displays in order to emphasize the always-already existing unity and friendship of the peoples of the USSR, but rejected any forms of cultural difference that would threaten or cast doubt upon this unity. The only acceptable expressions of cultural difference were articulated through an idiom of Soviet nationalities and served to uphold a narrative of peoples happily united in brotherly friendship. It is important to note as well that despite this ideology of national unity, all nationalities were not equal or at least not equivalent under Soviet law. The category of nationality encompassed a range of ethnic formations that were defined on a continuum of backward to advanced, consistent with Marxist-Leninist evolutionary timelines. For early Bolsheviks, the more advanced a group, the more capable they were of self-government, and 12 those groups perceived as more advanced were accordingly granted a greater degree of autonomy. This resulted in a hierarchy of ethnically-based territories with the Union Republics (e.g. Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Georgia, and Russia itself) granted the greatest degree of autonomy, and the small-numbered peoples, like the reindeer-herding Yukagir and Even granted the least degree of autonomy in the form of much smaller autonomous districts. These autonomous districts were often subordinated to autonomous republics, which were in turn subordinated to the Union Republics in a system of nesting hierarchies. This meant that the Yakut ASSR, as an autonomous republic, had no representation at the level of the USSR, but was represented in the government of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR). At the same time, the system was highly centralized and the so-called ―autonomous‖ regions had little control over regional policy. Ethnic hierarchies followed territorial hierarchies. Russians were seen unequivocally as the most advanced group, and considered the ―elder brother‖ to all other nations. As the dominant nationality, they were also the only nationality without ―their own‖ territory; the entire Soviet Union came to operate discursively as their homeland (Slezkine 1994a). Pastoral groups like the Sakha occupied a kind of middle ground—perceived as less advanced than the national populations of the Ukraine, Belarus, and Uzbekistan, but less backward than the small numbered peoples of the North. Their relative position of privilege in relation to the small-numbered peoples in Soviet development hierarchies has partially conditioned their exclusion from Russia‘s indigenous peoples‘ movement in the Post-Soviet period (Köhler and Wessendorf 2002). As the Soviet Union was unraveling from 1990-91, the Union Republics (e.g. Uzbekistan, Estonia, Ukraine, and, significantly, Russia, among others) declared sovereignty, establishing independent nation-states. Within the Russian Federation, the ethnically-based autonomous republics, including the Yakut ASSR, quickly followed suit with their own declarations of sovereignty. Unlike the Union Republics, however, their leaders by-and-large envisioned a continuing federal relationship with Moscow rather than complete secession. In the Sakha Republic, sovereignty was legitimated through a discourse of cultural selfdetermination, but it was officially articulated in terms of the ―multinational people‖ of the Republic. That is to say that Sakha ethnicity was symbolically powerful in legitimating sovereignty, but official discourse emphasized a civic-territorial identity that encompassed all residents. At the time of the declaration, the Sakha were far from the majority ethnic group, 13 constituting only around one-third of the population in 1989, and so any overt claims to ethnic sovereignty would have been intensely contested by the majority Russian population. As I explore in chapter 5, this population was already uncomfortable by what they perceived as a rising Sakha nationalism. In the long run, Sakha claims to sovereignty have been entirely defeated as the central government has reasserted control, and the word ―sovereignty‖ has been stricken from the Constitution. Rumors also circulate that the federal government intends to dissolve the ethnic republics altogether. This would leave larger federal districts (okrugy), created in 2000, as the primary sub-federal administrative entities. As I explore in chapter 3, Sakha claims to sovereignty were both like and unlike the sovereignty claims of indigenous groups elsewhere in the world. They were similar in the sense that they were legitimated through a discourse of cultural self-determination and did not claim complete secession from the encompassing state. They were unlike other indigenous claims in that sovereignty was articulated in terms of a civic-territorial, rather than rooted solely in terms of ethnic/cultural self-determination. This calls attention to the tensions between notions of state sovereignty and cultural sovereignty at stake in indigenous claims. As Brown (2007) argues, one of the problems with indigenous articulations of sovereignty rights lies in the reliance on bounded communities tied to territory, and often ignores the realities of everyday life, in which indigenous and non-indigenous are not clearly distinguishable. Likewise, Lambert (2007) also points to the practical challenges for Choctaw sovereignty that rests on a citizenry defined by bloodlines. Sakha claims to sovereignty have used the language of cultural ―self-determination,‖ but have actively avoided the sticky complications associated with ethnically-based sovereignty claims. Sakha activists have at times sought to articulate an explicitly indigenous identity and to be recognized as such by indigenous political organizations. For example, in the early 1990s, Sakha representatives sought to attend initial meetings of RAIPON and to articulate their concerns with those of the small-numbered peoples (Murashko 2002). While their bid for inclusion in RAIPON was ultimately rebuffed, it suggests a recognition of the strategic importance of indigenous identity on the part of Sakha activists. Furthermore, as I explore in more detail in chapter 8, a fledgling environmental movement in the 1990s mobilized the language of global indigeneity in relation to struggles with the diamond industry. Finally, even where they have not invoked indigenous rights explicitly, throughout the 1990s, Sakha 14 activists relied on self-representations as indigenous (―indigenous formations‖) to mobilize claims about sovereignty, human rights, national inclusion, environmental stewardship and recognition of cultural difference, all of which have been central to the international indigenous peoples‘ movement. This dissertation explores the various ways in which Sakha have and have not embraced an identity as indigenous since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the process, I seek to shed light on the heterogeneity of indigenous identity and to disrupt binary assumptions about the dichotomy between indigenous and non-indigenous. I follow the work of Li (2000) and De la Cadena and Starn (2007), who recognize that articulations of indigenous identity are neither natural nor inevitable. I add to this observation that articulations of indigenous and other identities are also often partial, emerging among some segments of a group at certain times and in certain contexts, while absent and/or rejected among others. De la Cadena and Starn point out that indigeneity has multiple meanings, refers to heterogeneous ideologies, and produces varied demands. Indigeneity also presents numerous stumbling blocks as groups wrestle with the possibilities and constraints of assuming an indigenous identity. Individuals pick and choose from its vast repertoire of meaning, and are also ―hailed‖ by indigeneity in partial and heterogeneous ways. Indigeneity in Practice The above discussion highlights the ways that indigenous and other kinds of identity emerge in large fields of difference and sameness (de la Cadena and Starn 2007). Mary Louise Pratt points out that becoming indigenous requires ―the recognition that someone else arrived in a place and found them or their ancestors ‗already‘ there‖ (2007, 398), and in this sense is dependent upon a primary distinction between settler and native. Nevertheless, as Pratt also observes, ―indigenous‖ is only one among a range of identities claimed by indigenous groups and individuals that differentiate them from settler and other indigenous groups alike. In the Americas, New Zealand and Australia, the distinction between native and settler is a long standing, deeply sedimented relation. Elsewhere in the world, it is not so simple. As Nyamnjoh (2007) points out for Botswana, indigeneity is claimed not only by 15 ―first peoples,‖ but by a range of other ethnic communities as well. Likewise, indigeneity in Russia is complicated by distinctions among indigenous communities that challenge a simple dichotomy between settler and native. The small-numbered peoples living in the Sakha Republic, for example, have argued that Sakha themselves represent a colonial population, arriving before the Russians but yet taking land that previously belonged to them. As the above discussion might suggest, the Soviet state rejected the notion of indigenousness altogether, and instead privileged conceptions of nationhood and also a supranational Soviet identity, which some Soviet scholars came to articulate in terms of an emerging ethnonation, or ―superethnos.‖ The emergence of this superethnos was facilitated by the supposed ―friendship of peoples‖ that bound the different groups together. In this framework, Russian and other ―settlers‖ were not colonizers, but rather ―brotherly‖ peoples, facilitating local development or the expansion of collective Soviet power. Nevertheless, a distinction between Russians as ―incomers‖ (priezhie) and all other groups as ―locals‖ (mestnyie) has persisted in everyday imaginations, and has shaped understandings of interethnic relations as predicated primarily upon colonization of the East by Russians. In his work on Russian settler communities in Chukhotka, Niobe Thompson (2009) describes settler senses of belonging in place and seeks to disrupt assumed dichotomies between settlers and natives. His discussion, however, points to the deep sedimentation of this dichotomy in local imaginations as settlers came to be seen as emissaries of Soviet modernity, bringing civilization to the wild East. The dichotomy between settler and native was reinforced in practice by Soviet policies that privileged settlers working in extractive industry through a system of incentives designed to attract immigrants to work in the harsh conditions of the North. This system of incentives also included extensive travel benefits that allowed settlers to travel back and forth from the ―mainland‖ of Western Russia, and thereby maintain their ties to Western Russia. While the collapse of the Soviet Union destroyed this incentive system and in some ways allowed for the development of indigenous forms of belonging among settler communities, the distinction between settler and native has persisted as one of the most salient lines of difference throughout the North. De la Cadena and Starn (2007) also note that there are tensions of difference and sameness in colonizer frameworks of indigeneity in relation to colonized peoples. Colonial governments throughout the world have used a kind of ―evolutionary yardstick‖ to classify 16 native populations, and this became both imaginative and material practice. De La Cadena and Starn point to the example of Togo, in which the urban Ewe in the South appeared more civilized than the Northern Kabre, and so received missionary and educational attention, where the Kabre were conscripted for forced labor. This material and imaginative practice resulted in internal tensions that continue to shape Togo politics today. In a similar way, preSoviet, Russian colonial practice distinguished between ―wandering,‖ ―nomadic‖ and ―settled‖ groups as representing distinct evolutionary stages (Slezkine 1994b). The ―nomadic‖ Sakha appeared as relatively more civilized than the ―wandering‖ Even or Yukagir, and, like the Ewe received greater missionary and educational attention than their reindeer-herding counterparts. Almost the same evolutionary yardstick was used by Soviet administrators, who reinterpreted it through a Marxist framework of historical development from tribal to feudal to capitalist societies. These distinctions continue to frame perceptions of ethnic difference in Russia. Across the world, different ideological systems have recreated dichotomies between indigenous and colonizer along similar lines of primitive vs. civilized and have therefore shaped the emergence of a global indigeneity despite vast differences in historical experience. Parallel assimilation projects in Latin American, the US, and French colonies have all been predicated upon a distinction between indigenous peoples as ―backward, rural and illiterate‖ versus modernity, urbanization and literacy as endpoints of development and progress (de la Cadena and Starn 2007, 8). Likewise in Muslim and Hindu contexts, indigenous ―animists‖ were seen as backward others without a world religion. In various contexts, Marxists have also branded indigenous practices as ―archaic‖ forms of false conscious that obstructed class unity and revolution. Because of these parallel projects, indigenous peoples have found common cause in contesting assimilationism in all its guises, resulting in an assertion of the right to cultural difference. Diversity is recast as a positive goal rather than as an impediment to progress. Further, the possibility of multiple modernities and goals for development has been posed. This movement has been complicated by the simultaneous emergence of multiculturalism as a strategy of management, containment and capitalist expansion without real change to racial hierarchy and economic inequality (Hale 2006). Hale points to this as a product of the end of the Cold War and the triumph of Neoliberalism, but Soviet narratives of 17 ethnic diversity suggest ways that multiculturalism as a management devise has not only served Neoliberalism, but also socialist state control. Partly because of the extensive use of multiculturalism (―friendship of peoples‖) as official discourse during the Soviet Union, indigenous Siberians were poised to adopt neoliberal discourses of multiculturalism with the Soviet Union‘s collapse. Although these were interpreted through a framework of Soviet multiculturalism, not simply taken at face value, but rather vernacularized. I return to issues of multiculturalism in chapter 5. With the collapse of the USSR, native Siberian groups came to recognize themselves in the discourses of the international indigenous peoples‘ movement. While an explicitly ―indigenous‖ identity had not been articulated previously, the discursive frameworks of Soviet multiculturalism and assimilationism provided effective parallels with Euroamerican frameworks. Intellectuals belonging to the ―small numbered peoples of the North,‖ wasted little time in making connections and establishing alliances with international indigenous organizations. David Koester (2005), for example, tells the story of a group of Itelmen, who sought UN assistance in the 1990s, predicated on notions of indigenous rights. He argues that in this case, the adoption of an explicitly indigenous identity was made possible by the ethnoterritorial policies of the Soviet Union that created institutional forms and supported public means of expressing native identity. Itelmen indigeneity, he suggests, was a process of recognition rather than invention, and in subsequent interactions, global concepts were ―vernacularized‖ and not simply adopted. Patty Gray (2005) depicts a similar process by which native groups in Chukhotka mobilized networks established in conjunction with the Soviet state to articulate a kind of indigenous identity. She also emphasizes the incomplete nature of this articulation even among members of the small-numbered peoples of the North, in that a politicized indigenous identity seems to have taken hold only amongst a small group of urban intellectuals, rather than broadly among rural-dwelling indigenes, and even then has been relatively ineffective in challenging the Russian state. Sakha indigenous identity is similarly complicated, and made even more challenging by their relatively privileged position in relation to the small-numbered peoples, and their position as ―titular‖ nationality of an autonomous region. Nevertheless, there has been a similar process of ―recognition‖ and vernacularization of the concept of indigenousness among Sakha intellectuals and among Sakha more broadly. As the Russian Federation 18 dissolves Republic sovereignty and threatens to dissolve ethno-territorial administrative units altogether, we could see a strengthening of this recognition and a stronger articulation of indigeneity among Sakha. At the same time, increasing taboos on overt expressions of ethnic solidarity vis-à-vis the state for potentially separatist groups like the Sakha may constrain the possibilities for indigenous identity even further. In the chapters that follow, I discuss different aspects of Sakha indigeneity, the possibilities and constraints that shape these articulations. First, I introduce the study and my primary field site, Nyurba, a small, predominantly Sakha town in Russia‘s diamond province. A Siberian Frontier Town Figure 2: Nyurba’s Lenin Square, decorated with flags in preparation for May 1st (Labor Day) celebrations The town of Nyurba sits quietly on the left bank of the Viliui River. No bridges stretch across the kilometer-wide river, preventing the town from expanding easily into the birch forests and marshes on the right bank. Along the river bank, the most important buildings in town—the town hall, the courthouse, and the headquarters of the diamond industry, ALROSA-Nyurba—look across Lenin Street on either side of Lenin Square. Lenin Square is a typical small-town Soviet relic, a dusty expanse watched over by the requisite statue of Lenin (Figure 2). The rest of the town lies to the north, a collection of predominantly wooden houses, lining streets with names like Soviet, October and Komsomol, representative of the still marked legacy of the region‘s Soviet past. The streets 19 themselves are rough, unpaved, and covered in potholes that force the increasing number of fragile, yet stylish ―inomarky‖ (foreign cars), to slow down to almost walking pace in places. These streets and their potholes (Figure 3) were a kind of obsession for residents in their conversations with me, emblematic of the town‘s remoteness and wildness—people seemed both shamed and yet somehow proud as they asked me repeatedly, ―Do you have such roads in America?‖ They were justifiably incredulous when I tried to convince them that there are remote places in America with bad roads. I am not sure the rocky, rural roads of my native Virginia compare. I arrived in Nyurba for my third and longest visit in April 2008, when the snows had melted but the river was still frozen. In preparation for the Nyurba springtime, the Sakha woman sitting next to me on the plane taught me the Sakha word for mud—badraan, which fast became part of my permanent vocabulary. This was the worst time of year in Nyurba, she explained, when the river was still frozen but the snows had melted, and everyone had to walk around in rubber galoshes. My host mother bought me a pair of galoshes soon after my arrival and I learned to imitate the locals by carrying my normal shoes in my shoulder bag. Despite the muddy roads (Figure 3 below), my friend Evdokia* insisted upon my arrival that we seek out the first signs of summer, and I enthusiastically joined her on long rambling walks to the far edges of town. Outside of town, the badraan was hardly noticeable under the layers of fallen leaves and plant matter that carpeted the forest floor. Evdokia excitedly pointed out the first flowers of spring, snowdrops (podsnezhniki) or n’urguhun in Sakha language, which peek out from the cold ground before any other signs of spring. The weather changed rapidly in the coming weeks, and each new day brought additional signs of summer. Evdokia diligently pointed out each and encouraged me to record them in my ever-present notepad—the first spring bird, sylgy chyychaakh, the first visible buds on the birch trees, and the gusts of wind that presaged the momentous ledokhod, when the ice would break up on the river and be carried away by the currents in a matter of days. 20 Figure 3: Navigating the muddy streets of Nyurba I spent the following six months living in the town of Nyurba, one of the few predominantly Sakha ―cities‖ in the Sakha Republic. The town is technically called a city (gorod) according to official categories, but whenever I would use the term, residents would laugh, pointing out the cows that wander the streets, the lack of paved roads and indoor plumbing. They suggested that it was really just a large village, rather than a true city. At the same time, as I explore in more detail in chapter 2, Nyurba has been at the center of industrial development in Russia‘s diamond province, having hosted the Amakinskaia geologic survey, which led the search for diamonds in the Viliui basin until the early 1990s. As a result of Amakinskaia, Nyurba grew rapidly along with the diamond industry, reaching a peak population of almost 13,000 in 1989 (Sakha (Yakutia) Stat 2004). After the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, the geologic survey disbanded and the town has shrunk steadily since then. More recently, a Nyurba branch of the state-owned diamond mining conglomerate, ALROSA (Almazii-Rossii-Sakha—diamond of Russia and Sakha) was established after the mid-1990s discovery of two new mines in the north of the Nyurba ulus. While the mines are located on the Nakyn river (see Figure 4 below), which is quite far from the town (at least a 2 hour journey by car), the administration of the new branch, ALROSA-Nyurba, is housed in the town of Nyurba. The diamond company has already begun changing the face of the town, providing funds for a new school building and medical clinic, arguably bringing in much needed economic development. However, this has benefitted the population in uneven ways, 21 as reflected in a separate region of houses create for the specialists and other workers brought in to work the mines, engendering a new ethnicized spatial layout for the town. Residents have reacted in mixed ways, some arguing that diamonds bring money and jobs to the region and others, already feeling the unevenness of development, arguing that the majority of indigenous residents suffer the environmental impacts but remain excluded from the gains. Nakyn Nyurba Mirnii Chiliai Yakutsk Khorlo Khatyy Malikai r. Markha Markha Kangalaas Nyurbachaan Nyurba r. Viliui Kyundyade Figure 4: Map of the Sakha Republic and Nyurba Ulus (modified from Ivanov 2006) This dissertation explores the ways that global discourses of indigeneity intersect with Sakha cultural politics, both in the Nyurba ulus and in the Sakha Republic more generally. Methodologically speaking, I situate my research within the ―interpretive approach‖ to social scientific research which has questioned the assumptions of scientific positivism, especially with regard to human social behavior (e.g. Rabinow and Sullivan 1979). Rabinow and Sullivan write, ―Culture, the shared meanings, practices, and symbols that constitute the 22 human world, does not present itself neutrally or with one voice. It is always multivocal and overdetermined, and both the observer and the observed are always enmeshed in it‖ (1979, 6). That is to say that there is no privileged position for the researcher outside of what he/she studies. They point to the hermeneutic circle in which inquiry itself is embedded within a particular set of meanings: ―We are always in a cultural world, amidst a ‗web of signification we ourselves have spun‖ (1979, 6). As such, an interpretive approach rejects the idea that linear or other models of behavior or practice are locatable, but rather looks for meaning and to situate behavior within both historical and political context. As an interpretive study, this dissertation has not sought a model for indigeneity, but rather to understand the multiple ways that discourses and practices of indigeneity circulate in the Sakha Republic. I began my research with a broad set of questions about the links between the global indigenous movement and Sakha cultural politics, but these evolved quickly as I spent more time in the region. I began by looking for emergent forms of indigeneity, and for ways in which Sakha cultural activists saw themselves in conversation with the global indigenous movement. I learned quickly, however, that while many Sakha cultural leaders saw their own history as similar to that of other indigenous groups, they were largely disconnected from and, indeed unaware of the transnational alliances and networks forged between other indigenous groups. In addition, the question of global indigenous identity was far removed from the daily experience of life in Nyurba. There was ample interest and discussion, however, about the impacts of contemporary process of ―globalization‖ on Sakha culture. People actively debated the degree to which Sakha ought to embrace global cultural forms, and my very presence there as an American also helped to spark these debates. For many, I was a harbinger of globalization, especially as I was the first American or even foreigner that many had ever seen in person. In conversations with Nyurba residents, I came to frame my research questions in terms of ―globalization‖ and its impacts on Sakha culture. It is this process that Cerwonka and Malkki (2007) refer to as a kind tacking back and forth between theory and observation that characterizes ethnographic fieldwork. As a research practice, ethnography cannot be rigidly planned, but rather involves constant improvisation and revision of research frameworks. Furthermore, the pace of research is uneven, characterized by moments of intense activity and long periods of waiting and passive 23 observation. When I arrived in Nyurba for long term fieldwork, I initially struggled to fit myself into the daily life of the town, and most people I met had little understanding of what it was that I was doing there. I spent much of the first weeks reading about the town history at the library and at home, and also just helping around the house with the family who hosted me in Nyurba. I would occasionally take long walks with Evdokia, who I had gotten to know in earlier trips. I began to make connections with a broader circle of people by visiting the town museum, where I would sit in the one room library perusing the old manuscripts and books about Sakha culture and Nyurba history, and also chatting with the museum employees. The museum director, Boris Borisov,* and his brother, Victor Borisov* (real names), were passionate advocates of Sakha cultural revival and were virtual encyclopedias of information about everything related to Nyurba and Sakha history more generally. Through the museum, I was able to meet a wide range of people involved in Sakha cultural revival and other aspects of public life in Nyurba, who would regularly pass through the museum. With the arrival of summer in late June, many Nyurba residents took vacation leave in order to work in their gardens, take trips to the forest for mushrooms and berries, and to cut hay. The family I lived with did not own cattle but they did have a large garden and were avid mushroom and berry gatherers. As such, I often accompanied the women of the household to the forest, learning about the different kinds of mushrooms and berries that grew near Nyurba, and in the garden, helping to plant seeds and turn soil for potatoes. In June, I accepted an invitation from a group of English teachers to help run the English camp at the school near where I was living. Each morning, for three weeks, I taught fourth-ninth grade children English, especially through songs and games. In the process, the children also helped to teach me Sakha language, and also about the lives of adolescents in Nyurba as we compared them with those in America. After the camp was over, I was invited to a more distant village, Malikai (Figure 4) to help with their English camp. This provided me with the opportunity to tour another area of Nyurba, and also to visit the remote village of Khatyy (Figure 4), where there was a widely renowned ethnographic museum. In late summer, I also started working more closely with the regional ―administration of culture,‖ the government agency that oversees cultural programming in the town of Nyurba and the surrounding villages, including museums, libraries, theaters, the music 24 school, and cultural performances at the ―house of culture.‖ In an effort to help me with my research, the administration provided me with the use of their car in order to visit nearby villages. In these visits, I was often accompanied by Svetlana Gerasimovna, a Sakha woman in her fifties who was writing a book about ―ethno-pedagogy,‖ i.e. traditional child-rearing practices, and wanted to interview elderly women from the villages. She accompanied me to conduct her own research and also aided extensively with introductions and in translating interviews conducted in Sakha language. Prior to my 2008 trip to Nyurba, I had spent six months in Yakutsk, the capital city of the Sakha Republic, during which time I had studied Sakha language. One of the goals I set for myself in coming to Nyurba was to speak Sakha language as much as possible, a decision which had fairly profound consequences for my interactions with residents, most of whom were bilingual Sakha and Russian speakers. Choosing to speak Sakha, despite a lack of fluency, meant that I was significantly hampered in many of my interactions; I was much slower in establishing rapport with many people and was often prevented from probing deeply into many of the issues that interested me in conversations. In addition, it was often exhausting and days that otherwise might have been even more productive ended up being cut short due to fatigue. Nevertheless, the fact that I chose to struggle with the language rather than revert to Russian, a language I know well, opened many doors for me. Sakha residents were honored that I chose to learn the language, and especially in villages, where Russian is rarely spoken, they were more comfortable to speak their native language in interviews. In a number of cases, people sought me out because I was a foreigner who could speak their language. Furthermore, as I developed greater fluency, I was able to understand more and more of the conversations that surrounded me and also those that took place in the public sphere, which were usually in Sakha language. Although many of my interviews did take place in Sakha language, a significant number were also carried out in Russian with those who were equally comfortable in both languages. This allowed me to probe further into complex questions about identity, culture, and history. Ultimately, this dissertation draws on 18 months of ethnographic research conducted in the Sakha Republic from 2005 to 2008 (see Figure 6 below). During this time, I spent ten months in the capital city of Yakutsk and eight months in the Nyurba ulus. I also traveled to the city of Mirnii for short trips, once in 2005 and once in 2008 (Figure 5 and Figure 6 25 below). In both Yakutsk and Nyurba, I kept daily field-notes of conversations and observations as residents enthusiastically led me around, proudly showing off their rich cultural heritage. In Yakutsk, I met with various governmental officials, university professors, leading cultural figures, and activists involved in the cultural revival movement. I also took classes in Sakha language and Sakha ethnography at Yakutsk State University, and met with students in the department of Sakha language and culture. Research Sites Yakutsk: Capital city of the Republic, population: approx. 400,000. It is also the educational and cultural center of the Republic. Nyurba ulus: One of 18 administrative subdivisions of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia). It is located in the Viliui River basin in the Western Sakha Republic, where almost all of the Republic‘s diamond deposits have been found. It is primarily an agricultural region populated by Sakha. Nyurba (town): Administrative center of the Nyurba ulus, population: approx. 10,000. Predominately Sakha population with a significant incomer presence due to the history of diamond-related industry in the region. Mirnii: The diamond mining center of the Republic, population: approx. 50,000. Figure 5: Research sites Timeline of Research February-May, 2005: Three months of MA research in the Sakha Republic o February-March, 2005: Yakutsk o March-May, 2005: Nyurba + 2 week trip Mirnii in April May-August, 2007: Three months of Pre-dissertation research in Yakutsk + 1 week trip to Nyurba January-Dec, 2008: 12 months of dissertation research in the Sakha Republic o January-April: Yakutsk o April-November: Nyurba o November-December: Yakutsk Figure 6: Timeline of research 26 In Nyurba, I lived in town with a Sakha family and participated in everyday activities, working in gardens, accompanying friends to the forest, taking care of cows, cutting hay, cooking dinner and watching television. I also worked closely with the town‘s administration of culture,3 observing and aiding in the organization of cultural events and discussing strategies to cope with coming administrative changes. I visited various local institutions, including grade schools, preschools and the local technical college, factories and farms, the Nyurba medical clinic, and village ―houses of culture‖ where various cultural events were held. I attended town meetings and conferences, festivals, parades, and other public events. I spoke with local politicians and government representatives from various agencies, employees of the administration of culture, locally recognized ―experts‖ on Sakha history and culture, residents celebrated as the ―bearers of culture,‖ and young ―specialists‖ working in the town and involved in activities of the administration of ―youth politics.‖ My analysis specifically grows out of 14 months‘ worth of daily field-notes, and a set of 35 formal interviews with Nyurba residents involved in the sphere of ―culture‖ (teachers, artists, librarians, museum curators, employees of the administration of culture, and others), as well as many informal conversations with a range of Nyurba residents. I also draw on an analysis of regional newspapers published over the past ten years, and secondary historical and literary sources written in Sakha and Russia languages. Using this data, I analyze the significance of contemporary Sakha cultural revival efforts in the context of intensified resource extraction, state centralization, and globalization, discussing the ways that new discourses of indigeneity interact with historical modes that both facilitate and subvert Sakha marginalization. One challenge that I encountered in writing this dissertation was in deciding whether or not to use pseudonyms in referring to interviewees and other acquaintances. In designing the study, I had planned to use pseudonyms in all cases, with the exception of public figures, whose particular identity was necessary in order contextualize their commentary. However, when I explained that I would use pseudonyms to refer to them in my work, many of my collaborators, interviewees, acquaintances, and colleagues insisted that I use their real names. This was especially the case for those who considered themselves and were considered by 3 The administration of culture is the governmental agency that coordinates cultural activity, programming and events in the ulus. Included under its jurisdiction are: libraries, museums, theaters, the music and art school, and all public festivals. 27 others to be local ―experts‖ on history and culture. As I made inquiries in Nyurba, I found myself consistently directed to a handful of people, mostly middle-aged and elderly men, who were particularly respected for their knowledge about local history and culture. While some of them, like the historian Gerasim Vasiliev*, had received scholarly degrees (in his case a correspondence ―candidate‘s‖ degree in history) and regularly published in scholarly venues, most had no formal degrees. Some, like Ivan Tankarov,* the director of the Khatyy village museum, had little formal education at all and did not speak Russian. My relationships with many of these individuals were not framed as between an anthropologist and her ―informants,‖ but as between a student and a teacher, or as I learned more about Sakha culture and language, as between colleagues. As such, my interviews with them, were each unique, ―expert interviews,‖ distinct from the life history interviews and semi-structured interviews I conducted with others. As such, I have used their real names. I also use the real names of most of my interviewees who asked to be named. I use pseudonyms for a handful of interviewees, who did not specifically request to be named and to refer to informal observations and conversations. Throughout the text, I mark real names with an asterisk (e.g. Gerasim Vasiliev*) on their first mention. The Chapters In this dissertation, I attempt to chart the shifting meanings and emphases of specifically Sakha senses of national and ethnic identity, especially in relation to international discourses of indigeneity. In doing so, I examine civic rituals, religious movements, political discourses and beauty pageants. I highlight the workings of ethnicity, race, gender and religion and their construction through historical process in the production of contemporary, post-Soviet Sakha identities. The second chapter looks at the concrete experience of indigeneity in the Sakha countryside, and considers the ways that Sakha living in Nyurba interpret their present day marginality through a past dominated by Soviet led industrialization. For rural Sakha, the withdrawal of the state in the post-Soviet period appears as a process of de-modernization, as once vibrant industries have declined and neoliberal economic policies make industrial agricultural almost impossible. In this context, Sakha have come to rely on traditional 28 subsistence practices in order to survive. For many, this process has appeared to reinforce the links between Sakha identity and marginality, especially as the settler population of the region declines. In this context, however, a number of Sakha have sought to assign new value to these practices. Through conscious projects of cultural preservation and vitalization, local activists have asserted claims to ―ethnic worth‖ as a means of coping with and even combating economic and social marginalization. At the same time, new frameworks of Neoliberalism are presenting new challenges, and state socialism is being reimagined in terms of the possibilities for indigenous modernity and cultural worth that it offered. The third chapter examines the links between indigenous discourses of sovereignty and the post-Soviet movement for sovereignty in the Sakha Republic, especially during the 1990s. In some ways, Sakha claims to ethnoterritorial sovereignty more closely resembled ethnonational movements in places like Quebec, Canada. At the same time, Sakha sovereignty advocates embraced images of indigeneity in asserting their rights to sovereignty, in part through active folkloric and spiritual revival. I argue that the Sakha case points to the overlapping discourses of ethnonational and indigenous identity articulations, suggesting ways that Sakha cultural politics are embedded within international discourses of nationhood and indigeneity. I also highlight the tension between the official declarations of civic-territorial identity and discourses of cultural self-determination. In the long-run, the Russian state has exploited this tension in reasserting centralized control. In recent years, any articulation of ethnic self-determination is cast as a pernicious nationalism and a request for special rights that threatens Russian national unity. If the second and third chapters look at indigenous challenges to hegemonic state discourses, the fourth chapter highlights the variation within indigenous voices, turning to elderly Sakha embrace of Soviet discourses, and especially Stalinism. In examining elderly memories of Stalin, I argue that colonization is not simply a matter of colonial domination and indigenous resistance. Indeed, discourses of colonizers come to be actively embraced by the colonized. As the vast literature on subjectification has demonstrated, power works not through direct application, but through framing a system of incentives and the conditions for action (Foucault 2000). It is not a constraining force, but rather a productive force that produces certain kinds of subjects and actions. We can see this at work in the ways that elderly Sakha embrace the figure of Stalin and with him, their identity as Soviet subjects. At 29 the same time, as Li (1999) points out, the rationalities of rule do not have uniform results, nor are they always coherent and consistent, resulting in a variety of strategies, identities, etc. Stalinism was effective in producing a generation of loyal subjects, but in the long-run, subsequent generations of Sakha have questioned the differential ways that ethnic groups were incorporated by these discourses. The fifth chapter examines tensions of indigeneity and ethnicity in light of multiculturalist discourses of national unity that are increasingly dominant in Russia. I show the ways that Russian state discourses of multiculturalism draw on both Soviet discourses and neoliberal discourses of multiculturalism. I draw on the work of Elizabeth Povinelli (1998) and Charles Hale (2006) to argue that both Marxist and neoliberal versions of multiculturalism ostensibly embrace diversity, but ultimately function as a hegemonic strategy of management that allows the state to contain and control that diversity. At the same time, as de la Cadena (2000) suggests, subaltern actors often work within these categories, but insert liveable meanings through dialogic struggle. Like indigenous intellectuals in Peru, Sakha intellectuals use the terms defined by the state, in this case cosmopolitanism, internationalism and friendship of peoples, but seek to insert alternative political meanings. Nevertheless, these meanings are increasingly restrictive as the state asserts more power, and it is difficult to distinguish Sakha political goals from those of the Russian state. Chapter six broaches the complex terrain of gender and also race in a discussion of Sakha beauty pageants. In a context of increasing hegemony of state multiculturalist discourses, beauty pageants help to index ethnic diversity through a display of women of different phenotypes. At the same time, they also reveal fragmentation in the national imagination. They seem to insist that women of different ethnic backgrounds can compete on one stage according to trans-ethnic standards of beauty. Nevertheless, one particular phenotype is chosen to represent the collectivity at both the Republic level and at the national level. In this way, the contests point to the nested hierarchies that participate and often compete in the definition of essential femininity and collective identity. Ultimately, the contests highlight the confluence of gender, race and nation as the bodies of young women come to represent the nation in terms of a particular racialized community in post-Soviet 30 beauty contests. Contests over national identity are played out on pageant stages as judges and spectators navigate post-Soviet discourses of ethno-territorial belonging. Finally, in chapter 7, I return to the theme of indigeneity in looking at the ways that discourses of indigenous harmony with the environment have circulated in the post-Soviet Sakha Republic. Once again, we can see indigeneity as a kind of positioning, in which a range of actors draw on different kinds of images and rhetorics in asserting collective identity vis-à-vis the diamond and other extractive industries. 31 Chapter 2: Tradition and Tractors—Cultural Revitalization and Indigenous Marginality in the Sakha Countryside Figure 7: Akhmed surveys his hay stacks On a sunny day in August 2008, I rode with Akhmed Dmitriev* and his ten-year old son out to their hayfields in their bright orange Soviet-era car. The trip took almost two hours, across unmaintained forest roads overgrown with grasses and shrubs. The car was an indispensable tool that allowed them to return home regularly during haying season. Even so, he and his sons would often stay at the pastures, where they have a small shelter and a hole dug into the ground for storing meat and milk nearer to the permafrost. When we arrived at the hay fields, his older sons were already out cutting hay. Three recently killed ducks hung on a tree outside the shelter. Akhmed and his younger son proudly showed me around the camp, including the rabbit traps they had set up around the fields and the rifles they kept handy in case a duck happened by. He explained that even his youngest son was an accomplished hunter. Akhmed also showed me a series of wooden haying tools, almost all of which he had made himself, and carefully repeated the Sakha terms for each so that I could jot them down. 32 As he showed me around the fields, Akhmed gave me a crash course in traditional hay harvesting, which takes place during the two month period from July to August. Cutting hay by hand, as Akhmed and his sons do, involves swinging a heavy iron scythe at grass more than half as tall as a person, with a rhythmic circular swing. The grass initially is left to lie where it falls. Once it dries—typically after two non-rainy days—the hay is gathered into small half-spherical piles, shaped as such so that any rain will run off the sides rather than soaking the dried grasses. These piles are then brought together into one large pile, which is fenced off to keep roaming cows and horses from prematurely eating the winter reserves (Figure 7). Akhmed explained that each full-sized cow eats around two-three tons of hay a winter. This means that a family like the Dmitrievs must gather more than twelve tons of hay to feed their six cows. As such, each day of the two-month hay season is crucial, especially since unexpected rain can delay gathering. Sakha villages often appear empty in the summertime as almost all the able-bodied men are gone to the fields, which are usually located many miles from the villages. In one village nearer to the diamond mines, people explained that some fields are so far that some villagers hitch rides in helicopters headed to the mines. There, the men construct temporary villages, called sayalyk, and stay there all summer in an echo of the semi-nomadic (―transhumant‖) lifestyle of their ancestors. Akhmed was clearly proud of his family and their adherence to traditional subsistence practices. He and others attributed his family‘s success in large part to their adherence to a traditional lifestyle. Not only were he and his wife able to feed their large family through subsistence farming, but their children were self-confident and successful in school. Even as they went on to college in the city, for example, their knowledge of Sakha tradition provided a strong sense of identity and self-worth. Akhmed, like other Sakha cultural revival advocates, insisted that cattle farming and hunting/gathering were quintessentially Sakha practices, fundamental to Sakha national identity, and that these practices provided a crucial foundation for the development of Sakha youth in the present. In this way, Sakha cultural tradition emerges as an importance source of both economic self-sufficiency, and psychological well-being, especially in relation to the current poverty and social problems afflicting the Sakha countryside. At the same time, Akhmed also impressed upon me the difficulty of ―traditional‖ cattle farming as we walked around the hay fields. "If I had the money,‖ he said, ―I'd buy a tractor;" or, even more telling, "During the Soviet period, this 33 was all done with machines."4 Similar sentiments are expressed by many rural Sakha, especially young people, who often dream of moving to the city and escaping the difficulties of contemporary rural life. These sentiments offer a glimpse of some of the tensions surrounding attempts to assign new value to traditional subsistence practices, in which pride in cultural tradition and indigenous identity is often confounded by desire for ―modern‖ comforts and conveniences. That is to say that quintessentially Sakha practices are a source of economic survival and cultural pride, but they are also inextricably linked with contemporary forms of marginality, more often the result of necessity than conscious choice. Comprising the so-called ―fourth-world,‖ indigenous peoples occupy a structural position at multiple margins of the global economy. As I explore in the introduction to this dissertation, indigeneity as a transnational identity and subject position is conditioned by a set of material and imaginative practices that posit Euroamerican modernity as the end point of development and progress and indigeneity as its opposite (de la Cadena and Starn 2007a). As Johannes Fabian (2002) has famously argued, indigenous cultural difference has long been assumed to represent a previous stage of historical time, a condition of pre-modernity, and this assumption has conditioned their uneven structural incorporation into the global economy. Despite centuries of interactions with settler communities and states, indigenous peoples are still imagined as occupying a space external to, and, in fact, prior to Euroamerican modernity. As a result, present-day forms of indigenous marginality appear as problems of achronicity, and are often construed as a result of their exclusion from processes of development and ―modernization‖ associated with state expansion, not as an integral part of these processes. Cowlishaw (2003), for example, points to the ways that contemporary violence in Australian aboriginal communities is often equated with historical forms of aboriginal violence; as a result, the links between ongoing forms of state oppression and contemporary violence are elided. Similar claims circulate amongst Russians in the Sakha Republic to explain contemporary forms of violence in Sakha communities, despite the fact that the violence that plagues rural communities is only a very recent phenomenon. Indigenous activists in Australia, the Sakha Republic, and elsewhere in the world, have sought to counter these discourses by asserting the positive value of indigenous cultural 4 These are not direct quotes, but paraphrases from the notes I took during our conversation. 34 tradition, both as rich and beautiful culture and as a potential source of economic and social independence. This also allows them to externalize their ―problems‖ as deriving from outside sources. Like Akhmed in the above vignette, activists in various local contexts throughout the world point to the ways that traditional subsistence practices help to provide economic security in contrast to the volatility of the labor market (Nadasdy 2003; O‘Neil and Elias 1997), and they also highlight a distinct indigenous culture that provides a sense of psychological self-worth in opposition to present-day forms of socioeconomic marginalization (Rogers 1999; Warren and Jackson 2002b). At the same time, contemporary reliance on traditional subsistence is also seen as the product of marginality, and is therefore bound up in emerging class distinctions. As Gordillo (2004) has suggested in the case of the Toba of Argentina, indigeneity is also a kind of ethnicized class identity; traditional subsistence is both the result of poverty, and represents collective strength and resilience. In the interplay of marginality and cultural revival, the opposition between ―primitive‖ and ―civilized‖ is reworked and reimagined (see also, de la Cadena 2000). In Nyurba and Siberia more broadly, the relationship between discourses of indigeneity and modernity is shaped in large part by the history of Soviet-led industrial development, in which the indigenous population took an active role. As we shall see, the encounter with global capitalism in Siberia was not experienced as a moment of development and modernization, but rather as a kind de-modernization, in which the state withdrew and left behind the ruins of a once vibrant industrial economy. In the present, Sakha marginality is seen in relation to a recent past in which Sakha were central participants in processes of Soviet-led ―modernization,‖ and Sakha subsistence practices themselves underwent a form of modernization through the introduction of industrial agricultural techniques. The contemporary ―return‖ to pre-industrial modes of subsistence turns the teleology of modern progress on its head as increased reliance on traditional practices are seen in terms of a temporal reversal, i.e. global capitalism as a period of post-development rather than predevelopment. Some Sakha cultural activists have turned this into a critique of modernity itself, arguing that present-day social problems represent the limits of modernization. In these discourses, cultural revival emerges as an aspiration for balance, a means to bring together tradition and modernity, difference and homogeneity, ecological health and industrial development. In the process, however, it also reproduces these oppositions. 35 In this chapter, I explore the relationship between indigenous marginality and cultural revitalization in the Nyurba ulus. First, I examine the specific forms of marginality that affect contemporary Sakha, and give rise to increased reliance on traditional subsistence strategies. Then, I look to the ways that cultural revival advocates seek to reframe Sakha tradition in terms of resiliency and sustainability against the inevitable limits of ―modernization.‖ Sakha cultural revival can be seen in conversation with the ―grammar of analogous contrasts‖ that opposes indigeneity and modernity—both proceeding from and contesting indigenous marginality. 2.1 “Demodernization” A host of post-Soviet ethnographic studies have sufficiently unseated widespread assumptions of ―liberation‖ that was supposed to have followed the collapse of the Soviet Union (Berdahl 1999; Hann 2002; Humphrey 2002; Verdery 1996, among others). Drawing on material collected during the particularly turbulent 1990s, ethnographers have pointed to the profound experiences of trauma, dislocation and disruption that followed the collapse of state socialism both in the center (Shevchenko 2009; Ries 2002; Rivkin-Fish 2005) and on the periphery (D Anderson 2000; Bloch and Kendall 2004; Rethmann 2001). While liberal economists celebrated the triumph of capitalist modernity, the so-called ―transition‖ to a market economy was experienced by many across Russia not as a moment of progress, but rather as a kind of ―de-modernization‖ due to the withdrawal of state structures and supports and subsequent industrial collapse (see also, Humphrey 1998). This was felt with particular intensity throughout the Russian North, where the system of northern subsidies that sustained a network of industrial towns and their surrounding villages collapsed. Many of the communities that had come to depend on these subsidies found themselves newly isolated (see also, Thompson 2009). Simultaneously, the extensive system of state and collective farms that had organized agriculture and other kinds of food production throughout the North also unraveled, unable to remain profitable without state supports. Much of the settler population returned to western Russia, but those who remained behind, including a 36 substantial native population, struggled with the aftereffects of economic collapse, including crumbling infrastructure, high unemployment, and exorbitant inflation. Throughout the Russian North, dependence on traditional modes of subsistence, including reindeer herding, cattle/horse husbandry, and hunting/gathering increased as local populations found themselves cut off from systems of industrialized food production (see also, Pika and Grant 1999). In the Nyurba ulus, the biggest blow to the regional economy was the departure of the Amakinskaia Expedition, the geologic survey that had operated out of the town of Nyurba since the 1950s. As the starting point for all diamond exploration in the Viliui River basin, Nyurba had emerged in the latter half of the twentieth century as a bustling cosmopolitan town with a growing, ethnically-mixed population of native Sakha and settlers, or ―incomers‖ (priezhie), who worked for Amakinskaia and related industries, including transportation, shipping, and construction. The town was connected by air, land, and water to the industrial centers of Siberia. Residents, both incomer and native, regularly traveled to other parts of the USSR for vacation and for study. The Amakinskaia expedition transferred out of Nyurba in 1992, and took with it a significant portion of the non-Sakha ―incomer‖ population. The departure was also followed by the collapse of transportation, construction, shipping, and agricultural industries. Almost overnight, it seemed, Nyurba was transformed from a frontier of Soviet industrialization into a remote, provincial town with crumbling infrastructure and high unemployment. Production plummeted, factories closed, and airlines and buses cut services to the region and within it. One of the most vivid indicators of the contrast between the Soviet and post-Soviet eras is the decline in mobility both within the Nyurba ulus, and from Nyurba to other regions of Russia and the former USSR. There are now far fewer flights into and out of Nyurba than there were during the Soviet era, when regular flights ferried Nyurba residents to the villages, and also to other Siberian centers like Irkutsk and Khabarovsk. In the present, rising transportation costs make flying even to Yakutsk (not to mention Moscow) prohibitively expensive. In 2008, for example, a round trip plane ticket from Nyurba to Yakutsk cost almost as much as a round-trip ticket from Moscow to New York City. For people from the villages, who must reach Nyurba first, it becomes even more difficult, especially in the spring and fall when the rivers are not navigable and the muddy roads often impassable by 37 car. I was told the story of an elderly man, for example, who walked all day to reach the Nyurba medical clinic in town from one of the more distant villages as the river was not navigable and the roads un-passable. Today‘s transportation options stand in stark contrast to the mobility possible during the Soviet Union, when cheap flights allowed Nyurba residents to take regular vacations on the Black Sea or in central Russia. Increasingly, the high costs of transportation mean that despite the two months of vacation-leave most Nyurba residents receive, few are able to travel outside of the ulus.5 This underscores the ways that the expansion of global capitalism not only integrates places and peoples, compressing space and time (Harvey 1989), but it also creates distance and new forms of provinciality as once connected places fall away from the corridors of high-speed travel. An additional ramification of post-Soviet ―demodernization‖ has been a noticeable demographic shift as the town of Nyurba comes to appear more firmly ―Sakha.‖ Statistically, the Russian population dropped from around 14% of the population in 1989 to around 10% in 2002, while the Sakha population rose from approximately 80% to almost 90% (Sakha (Yakutia) Stat 2005). This shift was further enhanced by the increased usage of Sakha language in public events, such that many festivals, concerts, and other events are now carried out entirely in Sakha language, where Russian was the primary language of public space in the past. For this reason, the shift was experienced as even more pronounced than the statistics suggest. For example, Vasilii Mikhailovich,* a Sakha man in his seventies, insisted that the incomer population was more than half the population of Nyurba during the Soviet era, while there are almost none now. His wife, Luanna Vasilievna* also confirmed this impression: ―Before, if you went anywhere, to the cafeteria, to the port…everywhere, only Russian women sat there, and now it‘s all local women there. All the salespeople were incomers, now they are all our girls.‖ At this same time, this shift has also been accompanied by the increasing segregation of incomer and local residents as most incomers are housed in new, ALROSA-built housing on the edge of town. Previously, Russians had lived interspersed throughout the town. One Sakha family that I came to know well often described the Russian families that used to live on their street. They explained that their children would 5 In a rare exception, one young mother, Lena, and her family won a contest for successful young families and was able to travel with her husband and pre-teen son to the Black Sea. Such contests are a common way for the local government to promote family life and reward exemplary young couples. 38 play together, and the Russian children would learn Sakha language this way. Now, however, there are only Sakha living on their street, and it appears that fewer of the Russian residents of Nyurba understand Sakha language—a fact that is cause for considerable resentment among local Sakha. Like elsewhere in the Russian North, the broader industrial collapse was accompanied by agricultural decline as state and collective farms had been tasked with providing food to the expanding industrial population. With neither state subsidies nor a significant consumer base, large state farms struggled to remain viable. Many dissolved altogether, distributing their assets amongst former employees; others, like the state farm Nyurba, reorganized into non-state cooperatives and continue operations in a much reduced form. Neither former state farms, nor the newly privatized individual farms have been particularly successful, especially due to increasing competition from cheaper, imported meat and dairy products. American chicken legs (thigh and drumstick),6 for example, were a famously cheap source of meat in 2008 and farmers I spoke with complained that people would buy these instead of the more expensive locally-raised beef. As elsewhere in Russia, in the villages of Nyurba, visitors can still see the crumbling barns and empty greenhouses that stand like skeletons, bearing witness to the former importance of collective farming in the region (Figure 8). For many, like Akhmed in the opening vignette, farming has become more of a subsistence strategy than a significant source of income (cf. Crate 2003). This is additionally enhanced by difficulties in obtaining access to tractors and other mechanized equipment. As such, farmers, who previously operated tractors and other mechanized equipment as employees on state farms, now often cut hay by hand, using home-made tools modeled on those hanging in museums. Susan Crate (2006) describes this new economy as the ―cows and kin‖ model of subsistence, where Sakha in both urban and rural areas rely on subsistence activities, either their own or those of relatives, in order to provide their basic food needs. As I begin to suggest above, this new economy is a kind of mixed blessing, simultaneously providing a modicum of economic security and also representative of contemporary Sakha 6 Called “Bush‟s legs” after the first President Bush, American chicken legs (thigh and drumstick) first appeared in Russia in 1992-3 as part of US charity efforts following the Soviet Union‟s collapse. For this reason, they have long been a symbol of American imperialism (see also, Bloch 2004, 8) and have been the object of periodic trade disputes between Russia and the US (see, for example, Schwirtz 2010). In 2010, Russia temporarily banned American chicken altogether. 39 Figure 8: Abandoned barns in the village of Kyundyade marginalization. Partly because of the difficulties associated with rural life, urban migration has accelerated as young people seek both education and wage labor opportunities in cities like Mirnii and Yakutsk. These urban migrants, however, often retain close links with relatives in the countryside, who provide food and other forms of assistance, like childcare (young parents often send small children to stay with their parents and grandparents in the villages). And yet, despite these forms of reciprocity, there is a growing tension between rural and urban Sakha as rural Sakha (and new urban migrants) are increasingly stigmatized as uncouth and backward by longer-term urbanites (see also, Argounova-Low 2007a). These new forms of class distinction complicate attempts on the part of cultural leaders to reframe traditional subsistence practices as a source of cultural pride by reinforcing the binaries that link rurality and backwardness vis-à-vis urbanity and modernity. The contemporary forms of marginality experienced by rural Sakha and other indigenous Siberian communities have come to resemble those of indigenous groups in other places. Anthropologists working with indigenous communities in all continents have documented similar forms of poverty, instability, and exclusion from the gains of capitalist development and they have argued that this marginality partially constitutes their subject position as indigenous.7 That is to say that indigenous communities have been incorporated into the global economy as the ―fourth world,‖ imagined as the final preserve of pre- 7 See Cattelino (2009) on the complications that arise from indigenous wealth. She argues that contemporary frameworks of indigenous rights as rooted in their poverty and marginality present a catch-22: indigenous rights to land and resources are posed as a solution to endemic forms of poverty, but once poverty is eliminated, these rights are called into question. 40 modernity; their marginality both proceeds from and helps to justify ongoing processes of exclusion and discrimination. Time and again, the expansion of global capitalism increases the flow of consumer goods into a region and produces novel forms of integration through dependency on these goods and the wage labor needed to obtain them. On the frontiers of global capitalism, however, stable employment opportunities are few and far between. New forms of consumption are confounded by new forms of inequality. In Nyurba, traditional modes of subsistence, like hunting and gathering, and also subsistence cattle rearing provide a significant source of food security that has helped rural communities to survive in the face of marginality. At the same time, indigenous poverty comes to be naturalized as settlers and industry simultaneously abandon the region and the newly de-modernized countryside appears increasingly ―Sakha.‖ Sedimented binaries between indigeneity and modernity are reinforced. The post-Soviet decline seems to frustrate the dominant logic of modernity, progress, and globalization, which prophesies increasing connections between places and the increasing integration of remote places into the folds of the global economy (Harvey 1989). While television and the internet bring a constant stream of images and news from far-away places, and stores are stocked with goods from around the globe, many Nyurba residents feel more disconnected from the world than they did in the past. The presence of these images and goods only seems to reinforce this sense of distance as many residents can only dream about owning the new commodities. A common post-Soviet quip I heard went something like this: ―during the Soviet period, we had plenty of money, but nothing to buy; now, there is plenty of stuff to buy, but no money.‖ For this reason, Sakha philosopher (and Nyurba native), Ksenofont Utkin, argues that the world is not facing a ―crisis of civilization, but rather its historical dead-end‖ (2004, 200), emphasizing the apparent emptiness of the promises of ―modern progress.‖ This idea resonates with many Nyurba residents, who have watched their once growing, cosmopolitan town turn into a kind of rural backwater. For longtime residents this has been a difficult process, especially when they contrast their present difficulties with memories of past progress. Elderly Sakha, in particular, look back to the Soviet period with nostalgia and are effusive in their descriptions of the region‘s former industrial glory and of the achievements of collective farms. In the following subsection, I 41 examine some of the specific memories of Soviet-led development in Nyurba in contrast with the present-day marginality. 2.1.1 The Vigorous Development of Nyurba As I point out in the introduction, the town of Nyurba is today officially designated as a ―city‖ (gorod), a designation that is met with irony by residents. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the town‘s population has continued to decline, decreasing almost 20% since 1989, largely due to the outmigration of settlers.8 For long time residents, the town seems to have shrunk drastically. Many contrasted the current tranquility of the town with the noise and activity of the past. Vasilii Mikhailovich, introduced above, for example, was a former driver for the geologic survey and vividly described the difference between Nyurba in the Soviet period and now: SH: Could you tell me about some of the changes in Nyurba since your childhood? VM: This was [the time of] the vigorous [burnoe] development of Nyurba. This was closely connected with diamond exploration. There was a mass influx of specialists from the west, geologists. Nyurba was the center of the diamond industry. […] The very center of the geological prospecting expedition was here during Soviet rule. The most intensive study anywhere of diamond deposits and the robust [sil’noe] development of geologic prospecting were connected with this. This was also connected with aviation, which was very welldeveloped here. There was a helicopter base, which provisioned all of Siberia. And the gas industry, everything was serviced by these helicopters [...] and not only helicopters, but also airplanes flew out of that base. There were a lot of workers in the aviation industry too. The expedition had a huge workforce—service personnel. Therefore, all kinds of people came here, more than the native people. More than half the population was incomers here, Russians. 8 According to the most recent statistics published on the website of the government of the Sakha Republic, the population of Nyurba was approximately 9,600 in 2010 (http://sakha.gov.ru/node/12057, accessed 4/20/11). This is down from 12,024 in 1989, and 10,309 in 2002 (Sakha (Yakutia) Stat 2004). 42 SH: This was before…? VM: This was during the Soviet Union. As soon as the Soviet Union collapsed, the search teams immediately ceased their work. And in connection with this, aviation also stopped. You see? Now already it‘s quiet. Before, there would be three or four helicopters at a time. Voom, noise. They fly there, and there. Take off, arrive. […] It was like that before. Simply noise. Noise. Now you see how it‘s just quiet. Before, people didn‘t even pay attention to the airplanes. Now you see one fly and [everyone says] oh it‘s probably going to Nakyn, or maybe to Mirnii. SH: But before it was constant noise… VM: During the Soviet Union. That was an interesting place to live. You see? As we talked, Vasilii Mikhailovich periodically stopped as if to listen, pointing out the utter quiet of the town. For him, the lack of noise symbolized economic decline. Like many Nyurba residents, Vasilii Mikhailovich remembered the noise and activity of the past as exciting, indicative of the growth and progress engendered by the Soviet state. He enjoyed meeting people from different places; he pointed out multiple times that he was the only Yakut on his prospecting team. Other Sakha are happier with the quiet and tranquility of the present and also with the more ―Sakha‖ face of the town, but almost everyone who remembered the town before Perestroika expressed similar regret for the town‘s decline as an industrial center. Vasilii Mikhailovich was born in 1939, the son of poor Sakha peasants (kholkhozniki), who struggled to feed him after the difficult years of World War II. As a child, he lived primarily in a residential school, or internat, where he was fed and clothed, and where he was able to get a basic education. Because of this experience, Vasilii Mikhailovich was deeply grateful to the Soviet state. As he put it, ―Fortunately, it was the Stalin era…I am deeply grateful to the leaders of that time that there was an internat.‖ Where residential schools in North America have been the object of considerable criticism by indigenous leaders for their role in projects of forced assimilation and for their mistreatment of indigenous youth (Nadasdy 2003, 41-48), Siberian residential schools are often 43 remembered nostalgically, as an example of the care extended by the Soviet state to its most vulnerable citizens (Bloch 2004). Indeed, as Bloch (2005) emphasizes, this care contrasts sharply with the lack of state support for rural communities in the present. Like the elderly Evenki women Bloch interviewed, Vasilii Mikhailovich remembered his experience in the internat fondly; for him, the residential school was not significant as a means of forced assimilation, but rather as relief from the hardship of rural life. Furthermore, the experience allowed Vasilii Mikhailovich to learn Russian far better than some of his contemporaries who went to school in the village. He was proud enough of this fact that he insisted upon conducting our interview in Russian, and repeatedly highlighted his ability to speak Russian fluently in our conversation. At the same time, unlike North American native children who often lost the ability to speak their native language through attending residential schools, Vasilii Mikhailovich still speaks Sakha language as his primary language. For him, learning Russian and attending the internat opened new possibilities, but did not cut him off from his roots. This is not to deny the fact that many Sakha do feel that Soviet-led Russification and subsequent processes of industrialization did cut them off from their roots, but many, especially those who passed their childhoods in the Stalin era (pre-1953) maintain a strong allegiance to the Soviet state and insist that Soviet and Sakha identity were not at odds. After attending school for five years, Vasilii Mikhailovich took a driving course in Nyurba and went to work for the Amakinskaia expedition. For him, the arrival of Amakinskaia was a fantastic moment of progress, and it marked the beginning of ―vigorous development‖ in Nyurba. Other elderly Nyurba residents echoed similar sentiments in relation to Amakinskaia. Galina Petrovna, a retired English teacher in her late sixties, recalled the ―arrival of the Russians‖ in Nyurba as a kind of enlightenment. She described how sophisticated the new settlers seemed, and how all the Sakha youth looked up to them and emulated them. She herself only wanted to speak Russian as a teenager. After being involved in education and experiencing the declining use of Sakha language, Galina Petrovna is now an outspoken advocate of Sakha language education. She is also critical of the impact of Soviet-led industrialization on Sakha culture. Nevertheless, she credits the arrival of Amakinskaia with inspiring her to study Russian and then English, and to leave Nyurba in order to attend college in central Russia. In this way, Amakinskaia broadened her horizons, and helped to shape her own process of growth and education. 44 A great many Nyurba residents, especially those born in the Stalin era, like Vasilii Mikhailovich, remain committed communists and are intensely nostalgic for the Soviet period, which they remember as an exciting time of growth and optimism (I return to this idea in chapter 4). They remember the post-World War II era as a time of constantly increasing living standards as electricity, cars, aviation, radio and television made their way to the most remote villages. Even those who are now more critical of the Soviet system like Galina Petrovna, find themselves looking back to the late Soviet period with nostalgia in relation to the post-Soviet realities of economic and social marginalization. Despite the myriad inequalities that characterized relations between the settler and indigenous populations, the diamond industry brought extensive state investment in the region‘s infrastructure. In addition, the socialist state ensured that everyone could have a job, that orphans, the elderly, and the disabled would be cared for, and that basic needs like housing, clothing, and food would be met. On top of this, the town of Nyurba was growing exponentially from the 1950s until the late 1980s with constantly expanding industry and transportation links with other industrial centers of the USSR. For many local residents, the decades from the 1950s to the 1980s appeared as a rapid process of modernization, fulfilling the promises of the Soviet state regarding increasing living standards, geographical and cultural integration, and technological advancement. The collapse of the USSR and the subsequent economic decline were therefore experienced as a kind of de-modernization, as if development suddenly halted and the whole region took a step backward. At the same time, there is much ambivalence about the progressiveness of Soviet industrialization, even amongst those who celebrated it. For example, I was told on a number of occasions the story of Ivan Telen‘kov,* the former head of the Nyurba state farm head, who was widely celebrated as a leader and visionary. In the 1950s, he led a project that drained the nearby Kochai Lake to create more hay pastures, an accomplishment that was celebrated as a fantastic feat of engineering. Later in life, however, Telen‘kov lost his memory and went mad. Many people with whom I spoke in Nyurba attributed his madness to his interference with nature, hinting that the spirit of the lake took its revenge on him. As Vasilii Mikhailovich explained, ―Yakuts say this: To drain a big lake is a huge sin, because a lake also has its own soul. For this reason, it took vengeance on him. In old age he lost his mind, this Telen‘kov. Very great person, very talented individual.‖ Telen‘kov was celebrated 45 for his role in promoting industrialization (and ―modernization‖) through the irrigation project, but his story often serves as a kind of warning about the potentially dangerous consequences of interfering with nature. Like Vasilii Mikhailovich, the same individuals would tell both sides of this story, pointing to the complicated relationship of contemporary Nyurba residents to Soviet-led industrialization. Furthermore, as I explore in the following section, the unraveling of censorship restrictions in the post-Soviet period led to series of revelations in the early 1990s about the disastrous ecological consequences of diamondrelated development in the region. This has led to a widespread wariness on the part of many Sakha regarding industrial development, and has also facilitated attempts to revalue traditional subsistence practices. In the present, Sakha tradition is both seen as an unfortunate consequence of ―de-modernization,‖ and as sustainable practice and ecological wisdom visà-vis the destructiveness of Russian-led development. 2.2 “People are More Valuable than Diamonds” In the early 1990s, new diamond deposits with jewelry-grade stones were discovered in the north of the Nyurba ulus. This led to the creation of a Nyurba branch of the diamond industry, ALROSA-Nyurba in 1997. As many explained to me, residents were hopeful that ALROSA-Nyurba would bring a new wave of diamond-related development and give new life to the region as a diamond mining center. Reports suggested that the new pipes would be some of the most lucrative in Yakutia, and agreements signed with the ulus administration promised that ten percent of the revenues would go directly to the ulus (NN Alekseev 2006). In the long run, the pipes have proved to be some of the most lucrative in the world (Kurnev and Neustroev 2009). However, the expected economic development has not been forthcoming. The population of Nyurba appears to have stabilized—the official population remained approximately the same from 2008 to 2010,9 and the economic volatility of the 1990s has given way to a kind of stability as residents grow accustomed to the realities of low wages and high unemployment. Nevertheless, most of the jobs created through 9 http://sakha.gov.ru/node/12057, accessed 4/20/11. 46 ALROSA-Nyurba have gone to new immigrants, the majority of whom live in the growing settlement of Nakyn adjacent to the mines, which they can reach by helicopter from Mirnii (avoiding the town Nyurba altogether). Furthermore, according to local residents, the diamond industry does not purchase local beef, but rather imports American chicken legs, or beef and fish from other parts of Russia where it is cheaper to produce. Likewise, the promised investment in the region has not been realized at least in the minds of residents. Many insisted that every resident was personally supposed to have received money from the diamond industry, but that they have received nothing. Further, the Viliui regions‘ share in the company has dwindled from 10% in the 1990s to less than 2% in the present (Kisileva 2007). Nyurba residents are extraordinarily skeptical about the benefit of the diamond industry to the region. Stories circulate about the incredible profits produced at Nakyn, and this further cements the widespread sense of cynicism regarding the industry. For example, one Sakha man in his late fifties, Dmitrii, told me one day that the supply of diamonds at Nakyn is vast, but that none of the money trickles down to the people: There are not just small diamonds, but big, jewelry diamonds that bring the most amount of profit, but the region does not receive any of that. All that they write about it is nonsense. The ten percent is no longer even given to the government, or if it is, that money simply disappears. Sure, they have built some buildings…a hospital, a few schools, but what is that compared to destroying the ecology of the region and the health of the residents? Every person should have received some compensation, personally, for the harm it is doing, but no one receives anything. For many Nyurba residents, the repeated insistence by ALROSA that the company is ―socially responsible‖ (sotsial’naia otvestvennaia) is simply unbelievable. Representatives of ALROSA-Nyurba insist that the company invests a significant amount of money in social infrastructure. The former head of the company, for example, explained that ALROSA money has built at least one ―object‖ a year in the Nyurba region since 2000, including a number of schools and a new medical clinic. When ALROSA itself was created, a social investment fund, called SAPI, was also formed to channel funds toward social projects (Yakovleva and Alabaster 2003). Politicians still tout the success of these projects, yet 47 residents have responded cynically. Some, like Dmitrii, insist that very little of the money reportedly invested in social infrastructure actually ends up in these projects. Others insist that this money is almost nothing in relation to the huge profits reported by the company. As Grisha, a thirty-something Sakha man working in the sphere of culture, explained: Although we live in a very rich country, we are simultaneously very poor. I would like to note this. For example, they mine diamonds here, in the Nyurba ulus. And every day in offices of ALROSA-Nyurba, they count two million dollars. The income, err…percentage from this going to Nyurba is only 600 million rubles. I consider this a drop in the sea. And 10 roads are falling apart, the infrastructure is very poor. Generally speaking, it becomes difficult to evaluate the impact of the diamond industry. The daily experience of Nyurba residents is one of struggle. With no plumbing, no filtration system, poorly maintained roads and a host of social problems, like crime and alcoholism, that are seen as directly related to local poverty and unemployment, residents react to the diamond industry‘s insistence that ―people are more valuable than diamonds‖ with skepticism. Development in Nyurba appears to be elusive, something that occurs far away, and impossible to access. Many echo Grisha in pointing out that they live in a rich country, but are very poor. In addition to issues of economic inequality, the presence of the diamond industry raises concerns about environmental degradation. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, residents were shocked to learn for the first time about the disastrous impacts of diamondrelated development on the ecology of the Viliui region. Post-Soviet environmental assessments have documented a wide range of past environmental offenses connected with the development of the diamond industry that have had serious repercussions for the ecology and health of the region (Crate 2009; Pavlov and Afanas‘eva 1997; Yakovleva and Alabaster 2003). Grisha explained these to me in our interview, continuing on from his statement quoted above: 10 At 28 rubles to the dollar in 2008, that would mean that the percentage earned by the Nyurba ulus would be around 20 million dollars. In 2008, ALROSA-Nyurba reportedly produced $678 million worth of diamonds (Kurnev and Neustroev 2009). Kurnev and Neustrov claim that ALROSA-Nyurba contributes almost half of its annual income to the local budget in the form of taxes and dividends from its 10% stake in the company. 48 In relation to ecology, a lot of harm was done during the Soviet era. There were the atomic explosions […] in the headwaters of the Markha River. And a whole lot of poisonous substances were released into the Viliui River because of the flooding of an entire forest in order to build the hydroelectric station. They didn‘t cut the forest down, but simply flooded a whole section of it, a very large section with villages. They evacuated the people and flooded it. This substance…because of this, the river has been very polluted for a very long time, for thirty years. The rotting trees emit a poisonous substance, what is it called? Phenol, yes? As Grisha explains, the creation of water reservoirs for the Viliui hydroelectric station from 1969-1973 resulted in high levels of phenol contamination from decomposing trees. Furthermore, until 1986, the diamond industry disposed wastewater by pouring it directly into the watershed, releasing a number of contaminants, including thallium and heavy metals, like iron, copper and lead (Crate 2009). According to Petrova and Kolosova (2000), drinking water contamination has led to various health disorders, including immunological problems, and decreased liver function among residents of the Viliui region. In addition, a series of underground nuclear tests were conducted by the Soviet government in the 1960s and 70s, in part for the creation of diamond industry holding ponds (Crate 2009). At least two of these resulted in catastrophic levels of above-ground radiation contamination. According to Susan Crate (2009), this is one of the most serious nuclear accidents in history, and plutonium levels in the soil in 1990 approximated those in Belarus and the Ukraine after Chernobyl. Not surprisingly, these revelations produced significant public outcry, and also fueled doubts about the progressiveness of state-sponsored industrialization. The diamond industry along with the government of the Sakha Republic promised to address the environmental concerns in part through the creation of a non-governmental foundation, called Sakhaalmazproinvest, or SAPI, financed by ALROSA, which would address socio-economic and environmental problems in the areas affected by diamond mining (Yakovleva and Alabaster 2003). In the long-run, however, SAPI has been beset by various mismanagement problems and has been replaced by a fund directly under the control of the Republic government. Furthermore, Yakovleva and Alabaster (2003) point out that most of the funds have actually been spent in oil and gas development rather than in environmental rehabilitation or protection. Crate (2009) also underscores the long-standing plea for effective 49 water filtration system on the part of the region‘s residents, which has not been met. In my own fieldwork, Nyurba residents also repeatedly complained that there was no water filtration system in the Sakha dominated areas of Nyurba, including the town, while Russian settlements, including Nakyn and other diamond-mining towns, did have water-filtration systems or imported bottled water. In the present, ALROSA-Nyurba insists that the newest mines use no chemicals in processing the diamond ore and that the Nyurba mines are some of the cleanest in the world. Ecological reports released by the government indicate that fish stocks in the river are increasing and that the levels of cancer are no higher in the Viliui region than elsewhere. In an interview with me, the head of the Nyurba ulus, Vladimir Prokop‘ev, acknowledged that diamond development carried out during the Soviet Union was catastrophically harmful for the region, but insisted that the ecology of the region is quickly righting itself: ―I went fly fishing last weekend, for example, and there were so many fish…I can see [the return] with my own eyes.‖ When I asked Dmitrii later about this, he responded dismissively, ―What fish? I haven‘t seen them...‖ For many Nyurba residents, the reports in the media do not correspond to their daily perceptions. However, without access to independent ecological assessments, there is little they can do. An overwhelming sense of cynicism seems to pervade the issue of environmental protection, especially in relation to the diamond industry as local influence wanes and the federal government has taken control. I return to the issue of ecological activism and Sakha identity in chapter 8, but here I emphasize the multiple ways in which diamond-related development has led to additional forms of socio-economic marginalization even as the industry proclaims its motto: ―people are more valuable than diamonds.‖ 2.3 New System of Labor Payments While I was living in Nyurba in 2008, the town‘s administration was preparing to implement the New System of Labor Payments (NSOT), a federal law intended to introduce market-based principles into the administration of social sectors of government, especially educational and cultural affairs. Compensation for teachers, librarians, health care workers, 50 and artists employed by the government would now be based on educational levels and performance levels rather than on tenure of service. Performance levels would be defined quantitatively and, in some cases, by the number of people served. The Russian government drew inspiration for the new system from European and North American models of accountability in government administration (professors and students at Yakutsk State University, for example, spoke of the impending shift to the ―European‖ university system). Indeed, we can see parallels with the current emphasis in US public discourse on ―accountability‖ in education, especially following the introduction of No Child Left Behind, where professional qualifications and quantitative ―performance‖ indicators (i.e. student test scores) are coming to be emphasized over tenure and more qualitative measures of performance. The following excerpt from my fieldnotes is indicative of the general sense of despondency with which many residents have responded to these new reforms: As I was reading today, Valya came in. After chatting for a few minutes like always, she threw me 2 pieces of paper and commented, nonchalantly, ―Beginning July 1 st I‘ve been fired.‖ She spoke so matter-of-factly, that I didn‘t immediately understand the import of what she was saying. But it soon became clear that this was a totally unexpected, potentially catastrophic problem. Apparently, they have a new director at the medical center where she works who has decided to lay off everyone without medical education. Valya, who has no formal medical training, falls into this category despite having worked at the clinic for 21 years. Furthermore, as she argued, her duties don‘t involve anything that requires medical training—she sits at the reception desk, provides soap and toilet paper, and that‘s just about it. Her opinion is that the director simply wants to be able to hire her relatives in their place. Despite the news, Valya‘s mood was surprisingly calm, and she seemed to take everything in stride. I asked, ―Aren‘t you in shock?‖ She laughed bitterly, ―Yes, I‘m in shock, but what can I do?‖ and shrugged her shoulders. Valya was one of the early victims of economic restructuring attendant with the introduction of NSOT. When I asked her later what she would do, she answered simply, ―look for another job, I guess.‖ She took a paid vacation during June and July and was then re-hired by the clinic, but now worked in the coat check with a significantly diminished salary that was far 51 from a living wage. Fortunately, her husband worked as an electrician at the airport and, with the help of produce from their gardens and buckets of berries and mushrooms gathered that summer, they were able to make ends meet. Valya‘s story was typical as state institutions were restructured in the name of accountability. Throughout Russia, this program of neoliberal reform replaced measures like tenure of service with quantitative measures of supposed ―quality.‖ However, as Marilyn Strathern (2000) argues, these measures undermine trust in the experiential and implicit knowledge of experts; tacit knowledge and skills that cannot be conveyed through concise reports and centrally-defined performance indicators are disregarded. In the post-Soviet context, this ends up reinforcing a widespread and overwhelming sense of irrelevancy attendant with neoliberal reforms, represented by the common lament, ―we are not necessary‖ (nam ne nuzhny). This stands in stark contrast to the Soviet economy, in which labor was in short supply and managers angled to get more workers (cf. Verdery 1996, 2223). Involuntary unemployment was non-existent as everyone who wanted to work was guaranteed a job. The most recent wave of reforms has increased the sense of irrelevancy that has been fundamental to the experience of post-socialism as people struggle to cope with the realities of unemployment. In Nyurba villages, where few salaried jobs exist outside of government positions, many feared that the new system would bring about a reduction in the number of government jobs and hasten the decline of villages. The fate of village schools was of particular concern as teachers would be compensated based on the number of pupils they taught. In many villages, teacher-student ratio was already small. Teachers that I spoke with in villages and in Nyurba prophesied that the new system of compensation would mean that teacher salaries in villages would plummet and that schools in the smallest villages would not be viable at all and would close. Grisha explained it to me this way: when schools close, young families with children will not stay. Villages with no children have no future. For many of my interlocutors, the New System of Labor Payments portended a new period of rural decline. This also threatened efforts to revitalize and revalue traditional subsistence practices as the basis for a renewed Sakha cultural autonomy. 52 2.4 Cultural Rights and Neoliberalism The apparent weakening of the state, of course, is not unique to post-Soviet Russia, but is one of the central features of the current neoliberal era of global capitalism. From South America to Southeast Asia, states are decentralizing governmental functions and dismantling state-run social safety nets in the name of promoting competition and efficiency. At the same time, as Charles Hale (2005) has pointed out, Neoliberalism is not only about economic reform, but also encompasses a broader political doctrine that promotes individual liberties and basic human rights. In some ways, the devolution of control by state governments has produced political opportunities for indigenous groups, who have taken advantage of new multiculturalist discourses to assert rights to cultural difference (e.g. LT Smith 2007). International organs of Neoliberalism, including the World Bank, the IMF and the InterAmerican Human Rights Court have upheld these rights, often in opposition to reluctant state governments. Nevertheless, as Hale further argues, neoliberal multiculturalism has had deeply ambivalent results for indigenous groups, effectively ―driving a wedge between cultural rights and the assertion of the control over resources necessary for those rights to be realized‖ (Hale 2005, 13). That is to say that indigenous groups have had some success in opposing particular assimilationist projects and in land claims, but these successes have had the paradoxical effect of further entangling indigenous groups in socioeconomic relations with nation-states and undermining economic independence (see also, Nadasdy 2003). In many cases, as Hale argues, these successes have served to reinforce racial and ethnic hierarchies and to naturalize indigenous poverty in terms of cultural difference. In post-Soviet Russia, market liberalization was also accompanied by the assertion of cultural rights as the Soviet narrative of gradual ―merging‖ (slianie) of ethnic groups was effectively contradicted by the seemingly sudden proliferation of ethno-national movements after perestroika. In Russia, autonomous regions like the Sakha Republic declared sovereignty using the language of multiculturalism and cultural rights. As I explore in more detail in the following chapter, Sakha cultural activists were initially optimistic about new opportunities for ―independent cultural development‖ following the declaration of sovereignty. As we have seen, however, the simultaneous introduction of market reforms, including the abolition of price controls and the liberalization of markets, seriously 53 undermined much of the regional economy, especially in rural areas where the bulk of the Sakha population was concentrated. As such, the expected period of Sakha ―cultural flourishing‖ did not come to pass, despite important symbolic victories like the declaration of Sakha language as a state language equal to Russian and the revival of the summer solstice festival Yhyakh. In 2008, many residents of Nyurba insisted that participation in Sakha cultural traditions in fact declined in the 1990s, even as political freedoms for the expression of identity expanded. In the long run, regional sovereignty has also been gradually eroded as the Russian Federal government reasserts control over resources; these political freedoms have also been increasingly circumscribed despite continued lip-service to the idea of multiculturalism on the part of federal politicians. I return to this last point chapter 5. In theory, post-Soviet political liberalization expanded opportunities for the expression of Sakha cultural identity. At the same time, as I argue above, economic liberalization led to new forms of socioeconomic marginalization that have disproportionately affected Sakha communities. As a result, like Hale argues for indigenous groups in Latin America, Sakha lack the economic resources necessary to exercise new cultural rights. Increased marginalization appears to go hand in hand with the exercise of Sakha cultural rights, and this has the effect of reinforcing stereotypes of Sakha backwardness. That is to say, Sakha marginality is naturalized, appearing to stem from inherent cultural deficits as opposed to being the result of particular economic and political relations. Neoliberal ideologies of equal opportunity and meritocracy further help to efface the political roots of Sakha marginality by insisting upon the achievement of a level economic playing field. Sakha cultural leaders, however, have sought to contest the naturalization of Sakha marginality by insisting upon the viability of Sakha cultural practices in the present. They have argued that Sakha marginality is not the result of inherent cultural deficits, but rather stems in part from the disintegration of cultural tradition. While the source of this disintegration is contested—some insist that it began with the assimilationist agenda of the Soviet Union, others with the advent of perestroika and market reforms—advocates of cultural revival generally agree that contemporary marginality can be ameliorated through the revival of ―ethnic consciousness‖ (natsional’noe samosoznanie) and the revitalization of cultural tradition. 54 In this way, they echo the struggles of indigenous groups across the circumpolar North to combat the effects of socioeconomic marginalization through a revaluation of tradition and identity. A recent collaborative project on the part of anthropologists and Danezaa people in British Columbia, for example, created a virtual museum of Dane-zaa cultural practices and language.11 As Patrick Moore explains, ―The project reflects the priorities of the Doig River First Nation, including their desire to assert their cultural practices and rights in response to extensive oil and gas development in the region‖ (2008). Similarly Nelson Graburn describes the ways in which Inuit museums have reimagined their distant past in terms of a ―golden age‖ of Inuit culture vis-à-vis the recent past, characterized by ―loss of autonomy, loss of traditional culture, introduction of white diseases, alcohol drugs, and an inherently unfair monetary economy‖ (1998, 28). In this way, they seek to disentangle the effects of marginality from indigenous identity, and reassert senses of self-worth. Marginality and its attendant social problems appear to result from cultural loss, rather than being integral to identity. In the following subsections, I describe contemporary cultural revival efforts in Nyurba. In a context of despondency and cynicism, a segment of active Nyurba residents in conjunction with the Nyurba administration of culture, strive to revive and celebrate local tradition as a means of asserting the value of Sakha identity. Like Akhmed in the opening vignette, they are intensely proud of their cultural heritage, and see Sakha cultural tradition as a potential way to combat the pervasive despondency and cynicism that leads to high rates of alcoholism and violent crime. The employees of the Nyurba museum work on their exhibits, and also write articles and collect oral histories from the region‘s residents. Nyurba folklorist Rosalia Nikolaevna heads a folklore ensemble that performs traditional ceremonies, songs, and dances. The Nyurba theater troupe regularly performs adaptations of Sakha legends and folktales, as do amateur groups in the town and outlying villages. Professional and amateur organizations all work together to organize various festivals throughout the year, culminating in the summer festival of Yhyakh, which is always begun with an elaborate opening ceremony that includes a reproduction of a shamanic ritual and various national dances. All of this is painstakingly documented by the administration‘s seemingly ubiquitous archivist, a 11 http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/Exhibitions/Danewajich/english/index.html 55 small man in his mid-70s, who discreetly slips in and out of folkloric performances with his ever-present video camera, recording all of the festivities for posterity. 12 In the following subsections, I briefly describe two such efforts: the preschool Bichik, which orients its curriculum around the Sakha epic poetry tradition, the Olonkho; and the Center for Children‘s Arts led by a tireless pedagogue who insists upon the relevance and necessity of locally-rooted knowledge and tradition. 2.4.1 Bichik: the Olonkho Pre-School From early on in my fieldwork, Sakha acquaintances in Nyurba encouraged me to visit a pre-school in a village immediately adjacent to the town of Nyurba. The pre-school, Bichik (―design‖ or ―painting‖ in Sakha language) was well-known in the Nyurba ulus and had a long waiting list of parents hoping to send their children there, largely because of its innovative curriculum centered around the Olonkho, the Sakha epic poetry tradition that is now recognized by UNESCO as a masterpiece of world intangible heritage. The Olonkho itself traditionally was performed as a kind of improvised story-telling. Like other epic poetry traditions—the Finnish Kalavala, or Kyrgyz Manas—the action takes places in mythological time, and revolves around the exploits of warrior-heroes, called in Sakha language Botuur. In pre-Soviet times, a traveling bard, or ―olonkhosut,‖ would be invited by individual families to entertain them during the long winter nights. Many people told me that such bards would often perform for days at a time, stopping only briefly to sleep and eat. In return, they would be provided with food and shelter. When performing, the olonkhosut sits cross-legged with hands clasped on his/her13 knees. The story is narrated in a fast-paced, chant-like cadence, while the dialogue between characters is sung in unique singing style called toiuk that originates deep in the diaphragm. Both the narration and singing styles require considerable strength and many years of practice in order to master. The language of the 12 All of his recordings are housed in a small office in the administration of culture. He played for me a number of old videos and recordings of Yhyakh and other cultural events from the Soviet era and the early 1990s. As far as I could tell, few people use these in the present with the possible exception of the archivist himself, who has written a handful of books about the history of folklore in the Nyurba ulus. 13 In the past, olonkhosuts were almost always male. In the present, however, it is performed equally by men and women. 56 Olonkho is also unique, involving a particular kind of poetic syntax and vocabulary. In the present, there are only a handful of ―true‖ olonkhosuts remaining, i.e. those who compose their own Olonkho.14 Most Olonkho performances today are memorized versions of the epic recorded by folklorists in the early twentieth century. I visited the pre-school one day in early June and was met by the school‘s director, Tamara Leonidovna,* an energetic woman in her forties or fifties, who (to my surprise) had light brown, wavy hair and light-colored eyes; I had spoken to her on the phone in Sakha language and expected her to look quintessentially Sakha with straight black hair and almond eyes. I learned later, however, that while her father was Russian, she was primarily raised by her Sakha mother and as such, she spoke Sakha language as her native language and fully identified as Sakha. This was a relatively common phenomenon in Nyurba, and underscores the fluidity of identity. The day I was visiting the school was a holiday and so most of the 120 children who attended the pre-school had stayed at home. Nevertheless, at Tamara Leonidovna‘s request, a few curious parents sent their children so that they could meet the American guest, and perform a short Olonkho skit for me. A few of the other teachers, or ―care-givers‖ (vospitateli) were also there to help show me around and explain the goals of the program. Bichik has operated since 1989, when political liberalization allowed for the establishment of programs that focused exclusively on national identity, without a strong socialist counterpart. Tamara Leonidovna explained that Bichik‘s program was centered on the Olonkho as the axle around which the rest of Sakha culture and worldview revolved. She described their goal as ―the assimilation by the children of their ancestors‘ highest values, their worldview, perception, and their attitude toward life.‖ Through teaching the Olonkho at this age, the school hoped the children would come to ―acknowledge their national identity.‖ Tamara Leonidovna told me the story of one girl who had studied at their school, but had gone on to lose interest in Sakha culture. She was mostly interested in Russian music or American culture, and she went to England in the 10th or 11th grade to study. When she was 14 The reasons for this are varied. Many people told me that the Olonkho was outlawed during the late Soviet era, although I was never able to confirm this for certain. There were certainly state-sanctioned Olonkho performers at various points during the Soviet period and many people told me about seeing performances of the Olonkho as children. It seems likely that the epic tradition was variously evaluated by different administrations in different places and times, and that without the traditional economy/social milieu in which it emerged, there was little incentive to invest resources in learning it. 57 there, however, she began to remember all that she had learned in preschool and even performed parts of her traditional culture for her friends there. Her mother then came to Tamara Leonidovna and thanked her for the experience that she had provided for her daughter so that she was able to return to her culture, so to speak. In this way, the school hopes to provide a foundation for children rooted in their ―native culture‖ (rodnaia kul’tura), such that even as they encounter other cultural influences, they will retain a strong sense of rootedness and identity. Children attend the school from age two-and-a-half to age seven, the age at which children begin elementary school. In the classroom, the Bichik teachers use various materials to both teach the children plots of recorded Olonkho and to encourage them to create their own. For instance, they showed me a series of illustrations that they would present to the children, who would then create story lines associated with them. The children would also draw their own pictures as they imagined the characters they heard about. As Tamara Leonidovna explained, this also helped to develop their language skills, enrich their vocabulary, and develop their creative faculties. She also explained that the teachers have no explicit ―curriculum,‖ but rather teach through improvisation. The children are given complete freedom to do whatever they want, she said, and so they wander through the various rooms, playing with the dolls and working with the teachers as they like. Tamara Leonidovna also explained that through the children, they help to teach parents as well, many of whom know little about their native culture. The language of the Olonkho is especially valuable for them as it contains a rich vocabulary that has been largely lost in day-to-day conversation, especially due to the influence of Russian. Her commitment to this program is rooted in her own experience of culture loss. She remembers, for example, her mother singing bits and pieces of Olonkho in her childhood. However, at that time, she explained, there was Russification in the schools: all the textbooks and materials after fifth grade were only in Russian and national culture was not taught at all. As such, she and the others in her generation lost much of their connection with their ancestors. What was left, however, they remember and now they have the opportunity to develop it. The teachers all teach from their own experience, she explained. They don‘t want to academicize the subject matter, but rather to allow the ideas and values to develop in the subconscious realm, so that ―it is right in the blood of their heart.‖ She and the other teachers hope to transfer the bits and 58 pieces of culture that they remember from their own childhoods in an organic way, not as facts and information, but as a way of being in the world. In this way, Tamara Leonidovna and the other teachers at Bichik hope to instill a variety of moral values associated with Sakha traditional worldview. One room was dedicated to nature. Tamara Leonidovna explained that Piotr Martynov, a locally famous ecologist who died some years before, used to come and work with the children. She pointed out that the children did not simply learn the different biomes, what kinds of plants and animals are found where, but the values associated with nature and one‘s native surroundings. They learn various rituals and customs for interacting with the environment so that respect for nature would be in their subconscious. She emphasized that they were not teaching the children a ―religion‖ (religiia), but rather a ―belief system‖ (verovanie). In this way, she echoed the assertions of many spiritual revival advocates who distinguished Sakha polytheistic spiritual traditions from ―religions‖ like Christianity, Judaism or Islam, suggesting that Sakha spirituality was less about specific dogmas and more about a way of being in the world, something that was in the blood and which connected them to their ancestors and their surroundings. For this reason, she also emphasized the importance of traditional foods, which she contrasted with the unhealthy diets of the present. In this, she echoed a widespread belief in the healing power and healthiness of Sakha foods described above. Finally, Tamara Leonidovna highlighted their efforts to fight ―xenophobia and closed mindedness,‖ and to teach the children to learn early to accept and respect difference. She showed me one room, where they had a giant map of the world, which they used to teach the children about other places and other peoples. They first learn about their culture and then go outward from there, learning about America (especially Native Americans—―because they are like us‖), and a few countries in Africa, England—because that is the center of world culture and home to the world language—and some other places. They also had a room with a scale model of the galaxy, showing all the planets, to begin to teach the children about outer space. Ultimately, Tamara Leonidovna was trying to instill in the children a sense of identity and belonging to the local landscape. She brought together ecological aspects as well as the cultural philosophy of the Olonkho in order to emphasize this connection with the ancestors. 59 At the same time, she also wanted to preempt the possibility of any kind of xenophobia. As I explore in the following chapter, Sakha cultural revival has been accompanied by accusations on the part of Russians of tending toward chauvinism. That is to say that local Russians often feel that Sakha cultural pride is not simply an affirmation of identity but is aggressive and denigrating of others, especially Russians. By contrast, Tamara Leonidovna emphasized that cultural revival instills a kind of global perspective in which Sakha children imagine themselves as one nation among many. In this way, she sought to preempt accusations of chauvinism, and to emphasize that cultural revival should not be seen as potentially dangerous to any group (and by extension, to the existing power relations). She also emphasizes the ways that Native Americans are similar to them, referring both to widespread beliefs about actual cultural and genetic links, but also to their shared indigeneity. 2.4.2 Center for Children’s Art Arkadii Spiridonovich* is a self-described teacher, philosopher, hunter, historian, father, poet, and political activist. He takes each of these roles seriously as part of his dedication to his people, his town, and his family. His wife jokes that he gives so much to everyone else that he has nothing left for himself. Indeed, he was always working on some project, and when I would show up at his door, he put everything aside to give me his full attention. When I explained that I was interested in the relationship between globalization and Sakha culture, he even typed up a five-page essay with his thoughts on the subject, a translation of which I include in Appendix A. Arkadii Spiridonovich is passionately committed to Sakha linguistic and cultural revival. He himself is a relative newcomer to the town of Nyurba; he came here only as an adult, moving from the town of Lensk, an industrial ―Russian‖ town to the south where he grew up. He apparently learned to speak Sakha language fluently only after his arrival in Nyurba. His wife, a Nyurba native, told me that now he speaks Sakha language better than most native speakers. His primary role is as the director of the Nyurba Center for Children‘s Art, a supplementary education center dedicated to teaching technical arts and practical skills. These include skills like metallurgy, wood-working, hunting, and also wilderness survival 60 skills. Importantly, the center‘s pedagogy is fundamentally rooted in Sakha culture, and is aimed toward providing children with locally relevant skills that are not emphasized in normal schools. What is most interesting about his school is the ways in which it integrates Sakha tradition with modern technology. That is to say that the school does not only teach ―traditional‖ skills, in the sense of pre-industrial modes of subsistence, but rather is fundamentally geared toward preparing children for economic self-sufficiency in the modern world. Children learn to work with motors and build simple engines, in addition to learning traditional Sakha woodcarving techniques, and how to build rabbit traps. The curriculum strongly reflects Arkadii Spiridonovich‘s own views on child-rearing and pedagogy, which are in turn rooted in his evaluation of the source of contemporary social problems. As he explained to me over the course of many conversations in the summer of 2008, the fundamental problem, for him, is that people have forgotten and/or disregarded cultural knowledge, i.e. the wisdom of their ancestors, accumulated over many generations of interaction with the local environment. He explained: To be educated, that means to know well the native language and the traditions and customs of one‘s people, and also to be in harmony with nature. The Sakha people have this parable: If a person doesn‘t know his ancestors, then they call him ileen, lost spirit, and they do not recognize him as a person. If a person does not know his native language, then they call him mungnaakh, they take him as a full-fledged orphan. And if a person does not know the customs and traditions of his people, then they call him n’yuken, such a person they call an uneducated and dim person, even if he has a higher education diploma. For Arkadii Spiridonovich, education must be rooted in the accumulated knowledge of one‘s people. This knowledge, unlike that taught in schools, is tied to the local environment and to the specific natural and social world each person and each child inhabits: And for the Nyurba center of children‘s scientific-technical arts, the first-order task is the development of the technical creativity, abilities, and skills of the Yakut child, taking into account their national-regional particularities. In this way, in teaching a child of Yakut nationality, an approach is necessary that corresponds with his particular way of thinking and that considers his world-view. 61 For this reason, like Tamara Leonidovna, Arkadii Spiridonovich argues that Sakha survival in the present-day requires an upbringing that links children with their ancestors and with their local landscape. If they pay attention to this knowledge, they will learn important survival skills, and they will also learn to be self-confident and proud of their identity as Sakha. I quote at length from the text he wrote for me: The Sakha people considered the laws of nature sacred. Therefore, for them the first thing in raising the next generation was the question of learning to work hard [trudovoe vospitanie], then professional preparation and introduction to society [vykhod k lyudiam], and only after this, independent life. We see such an approach even among wild animals. For example, for wolves the first thing in raising their young is to be obedient and to unquestioningly follow the orders of their leader. Then they taught hunting technique and how to behave oneself in the pack. Only after that, did the beasts release their young to independent life. All of this is called the school of survival. And our present-day system of education has not tried to follow this path. As a result we have uneducatedness. Young people even after having studied so many years in school still have not been able to receive the proper vocational training. They have never been in a labor collective, they haven‘t seen how people work in a collective. They don‘t know what work is. After school, they have gone to institutions of higher education and have received professions of various specialties. But in real life, even though they have higher education and a specialty they are entirely unprepared, illiterate people. Without practical education, there is no real education. Escaping the laws of nature, violating the customs and traditions of the people, interfering with the development of one‘s native language, you don‘t give a person a real education. Arkadii Spiridonovich‘s efforts at the Center for Children‘s arts highlight the attempt to revalue traditional knowledge by contrasting it with the supposed superficiality of scientific knowledge. Sakha ancestors, he argues, knew things that scientists have only recently discovered. In this way, he echoes arguments made by other indigenous communities regarding local knowledge that contradicts that of science. Nadasdy (2003) for example, argues that what is called ―traditional ecological knowledge‖ on the part of Yukon native people is fundamentally incompatible with scientific approaches to knowledge, because it is not simply a collection of facts, but ―one aspect of broad cultural processes embedded in 62 networks of social relations, values and practices‖ (121). Similarly, Tim Ingold (2000) points to specificity of local knowledge, suggesting that humans learn skills through interactions with their environments, which are in turn shaped by human activity. These authors call attention to the multiple forms of implicit knowledge gained from years of living in and interacting with the local landscape that are particularly important for those who depend upon their immediate environs for subsistence. 2.4.3 Healthy Lifestyles and Cultural Revival The efforts of Tamara Leonidovna and Arkadii Spiridonovich are representative of broader efforts on the part of Sakha cultural revival advocates to rekindle continuity with the past and to revitalize Sakha cultural tradition. In these efforts, they hope to lift peoples‘ spirits and make them proud of their identity as Sakha people. For them, the important thing is to make links with the ancestors. They locate processes of ―modernization‖ as artificial breaks in the development of the ethnic group, brought in by Soviets (Russians) and westerners, and look to pre-Soviet traditions as a source of wisdom and collective identity that will allow them to live more harmoniously with their environments. In this way, they do not seek to wrest political control over resources from the Russian government, etc. but rather to distinguish ―their own‖ practices from those of the Russian state. For this reason, discourses of indigeneity that emphasize ecological wisdom and a rich cultural heritage are important as a means to revalue local identities and practices. This is similar to processes in Nunavut, for example, described by Graburn (1998), whereby indigenous intellectuals have sought to cleanse indigenous identity of its negative stereotypes. A the same time, it is also similar to process described by Marisol de la Cadena (2000) in Peru in which ―culture‖ is celebrated as a kind of sanitized realm distinct from the economic conditions of poverty and rurality. This culture is compatible, then, with middle-class Russian values and can be assimilated into contemporary multiculturalist discourses. I describe these in more detail in chapter 5, but I emphasize here the contradictions of Sakha cultural revival as it simultaneously contests and embraces hierarchical frameworks of ethnicity, class and culture. 63 Ultimately, cultural revival advocates position their efforts as a solution to various social problems imagined as resulting from the break in tradition caused by Soviet-led modernization, and in this way distinguish an essential Sakha identity from these manifestations of ―culture loss.‖ As Viktor Borisov,* a guide at the Nyurba museum, explained: Yakuts are experiencing a kind of break. Young people don‘t listen to their elders, children don‘t listen to their parents. Everything is very mixed-up (koloblenno ochen’ sil’no). There is a large number of deaths, homicides and suicides, 90% connected with alcohol. Very early births among girls, teenagers even. All of this would not be this way if Yakuts had their former traditions. Like in the tsarist time, before the revolution. He argues that crime, alcoholism, and other moral failures are the result of a lack of continuity with the past. By rekindling continuity with pre-Soviet tradition and with the wisdom garnered through traditional subsistence practices, they seek to make people proud of their identity and also capable of survival regardless of the availability of wage labor. Cultural tradition would provide a focus and a kind of moral code to those who struggle with alcoholism and the psychological effects of unemployment and poverty. For example, in a 2010 grant submitted to the European Union for cultural program development, the Nyurba administration of culture justified the work of their folklore ensemble by presenting it as a solution to contemporary social problems: The loss of spiritual orientation during the time of social-economic transition of the 1990s has seriously impacted the current generation of young people. An ideological vacuum has forced people to reexamine their traditional roots in order to formulate an idea of national revival as one of the paths to survival. In the ranks of the Nyurba folklore collective ―Constellation of Talents,‖ there are talented people, who have problems due to the social instability and suffer from alcoholism. Artistic interaction with people of the older generation in the folklore collective opens their virtuous core, allows them to express positive spiritual-moral qualities, and construct a path of spiritual cleansing, empowerment, and positive self-esteem. 64 In this grant, the employees of the cultural administration frame their work expressly in terms of promoting physical and moral well-being of the Nyurba population. This particular grant was linked with the current focus of the Russian government on healthy lifestyles (ZOZh— zdorovyi obraz zhizni). For this reason, they felt the need to specifically mention alcoholism in the grant. At the same time, they also see their mission as intimately tied up in the spiritual health of the region, and from this also follows the physical health of the region. For the Nyurba administration of culture, national culture is not necessary just because it is national, not simply for the preservation of diverse cultural traditions. For them, Sakha culture as local culture and as environmentally relevant practice is necessary for the very survival of the region‘s people. Ultimately, we can see the efforts of cultural revival advocates in Nyurba as situated within a context of industrial decline. They have embraced depictions of a rich, indigenous cultural heritage as a means to combat the negative stereotypes that adhere to rural identities. Farmers, like Akhmed Dmitriev in the opening vignette, insist that Sakha tradition is key to their success in the current era of demodernization. Simultaneously, other like Arkadii Spiridonovich and Tamara Leonidovna seek to instill a strong sense of ethnic belonging into the next generation as means to cultivate ethnic pride as well as to provide them with skills for survival. 65 Chapter 3: Cultural Revival and the Politics of Sovereignty Figure 9: White Shaman performs the blessing at the 2007 Yhyakh The 2007 Republic summer solstice festival of Yhyakh was supposed to be a great celebration, an ―anniversarial‖ (iubilennyi) festival organized in honor of the 375-th anniversary of the ―entry‖ (vkhozhdenie)15 of Yakutia into the Russian State. To be sure to find a seat for this well-attended event, I arrived an hour early to the open grass fields of Us Khating, where the festival was to be held. Nevertheless, by the time I made my way through the giant gates, past the rows of brightly adorned women waving horse-tails at arriving guests and past the bustling bazaar with Sakha handicrafts and food for sale, the bleachers were already full and I had to nestle in on the grass in front of them to watch the opening ceremonies. At noon, when the ceremony was supposed to begin, the mayor of Yakutsk, dressed in a deep green, Sakha-style coat and hat, trimmed in fur, strode through the special gates erected for honored guests. The crowds grew quiet, assuming that the events were beginning and we all eagerly craned our necks, ready for something to happen. But the Mayor himself simply sat like a statue on the small stage erected for the hosts of the 15 The word “entry” is often replaced with “joining” (prisoedinenie). See Zuev (2000a) for a more in-depth discussion of these terms in the present, and Zuev (2000b) for their roots in Soviet historiography. 66 ceremony. As I discovered later, we were awaiting the arrival of the Republic‘s President, Viacheslav Shtyrov and his contingent—statesmen in town for the concurrent meeting of the Assembly of the Peoples of Russia, a state organization dedicated to promoting ―interethnic friendship‖ in Russia. Next to me a group of young Sakha girls in braids and ballet-style costumes flitted about impatiently, ready to perform in the cultural program. The long-awaited guests arrived an hour after the festival was to begin according to traditional proscriptions. Dressed in business suits, they stood out clearly from the rest of the participants, who were all draped in the brightly colored Sakha ―national dress:‖ women in long, shimmering dresses with ruffled sleeves and necklines, men in elaborately embroidered, knee-length coats. The ceremonies began with 375 performers playing the Sakha jaw harp, or khomus, one for each year of Yakutia‘s union with Russia. This was followed by the dance of the white cranes, performed by young Sakha women dressed in white with wings attached to their arms in imitation of the crane, a sacred bird in Sakha tradition. Following the dance, the ritual cleansing, or algys began; a ―white shaman,‖ cloaked from head to toe in white fur and accompanied by a coterie of young men and maidens, fed a small fire with bread and pronounced the blessing (Figure 9). After the algys, the ―honored guests‖ each took their turn at the podium. First, the Mayor of Yakutsk greeted spectators in Sakha language. Then, in Russian, President Shtyrov said a few congratulatory words. German Gref, the Federal Minister of Economic Development and Trade, expressed his hopes for the increasing fertility of the region‘s people and that the people of Yakutia multiply, at least doubling by the year 2020. Ramazan Abdulatipov, the president of the Assembly of Peoples of Russia, delighted spectators by demonstrating his familiarity with Sakha language and customs by shouting the Sakha celebratory slogans ―Urui-Aikhal, Urui-Tusku, Urui-Michil!16‖ Finally, the first President of the Sakha Republic, Mikhail Nikolaev, stepped to the podium and was greeted with a thunderous standing ovation. The newspaper described it the following day as the ―most enthusiastic reception‖ and noted, ―Such an ovation was not received by anyone else‖ (Everest, Alieva, and Kisileva 2007), highlighting Nikolaev‘s immense popularity here. 16 These are not directly translatable. Roughly speaking, they are the equivalent of “Hallelujah” in that they are celebratory slogans with a spiritual connotation. At the same time, strung together in this way, they are also triumphal, proud, and even defiant, shouted in the context of Sakha celebrations of ethnic pride. 67 The Sakha historian Ekaterina Romanova explains the significance of Yhyakh in this way: ―It is and still remains the principal factor unifying the Yakut ethnos and for its selfexpression as a nation. Ysyakh 17 is a symbol of Yakut culture, a distinctive representation [miniat’ura] of the traditional Sakha picture of the world‖ (Romanova 2007, 1). In contemporary celebrations, almost all the major activities associated with Sakha traditional culture are performed in the course of Yhyakh: Olonkho (the Sakha folk-epic), khomus (the Sakha ―national instrument‖), Ohuokai (the circle dance), algys and kymys (fermented mare‘s milk) are central aspects of every Yhyakh. As part of this ―national festival‖ (natsional’nyi prazdnik), these elements embody the Sakha as a people and, more importantly, as a nation. When former President Nikolaev initiated the annual celebration of a Republic-wide Yhyakh in 1991, it was a powerful assertion of Republic identity as Sakha and intimately linked with the 1990s sovereignty movement (see also, Balzer and Vinokurova 1996e; Balzer 2005d). This vignette, however, begins to suggest some of the contradictions at stake in contemporary celebrations of Yhyakh. While the ovations given to Nikolaev suggest that many spectators still remember and value the festival‘s significance as a symbol of Sakha statehood, a number of factors underscore the shifting significance of the festival in service of discourses of Russian national unity. The dedication of the 2007 Yhyakh to the incorporation of Yakutia into Russia, for example, overtly emphasized the long history that links Yakutia to Russia. Furthermore, the festival was held up long past its prescribed starting time by the non-Sakha VIPs, who then arrived in business suits that clearly marked their outsider status and ties to the Russian state. A local newspaper reported afterwards that the opening ceremonies had only been delayed once before in the ten years that Yhyakh had been performed at Us Khating, and that was for 30 minutes in 2002 (Everest, Alieva, and Kisileva 2007). The article explained that this year‘s delay was the subject of disagreement between the chief director-producer of Yhyakh, Afanasii Fedorov, who argued that the ceremony proceed according to traditional Sakha law, precisely at noon, and the Minister of Culture and Spiritual Development, Andrei Borisov, who insisted upon waiting for the guests. The effect was to reinforce that the cultural event proceeded only via state sanction. 17 Ysyakh (with an „s‟) is the Russian spelling of the festival as the Russian Cyrillic alphabet does not use the letter „h‟; I use the normal Sakha spelling, Yhyakh (with an „h‟), everywhere except when I am directly quoting from Russian language sources. 68 The presence of Ramazan Abdulatipov was also not incidental—as the president of the Assembly of the Peoples of Russia, he has been one of the most outspoken opponents of ethnonationalism, promoting instead a Russian version of multiculturalism in which the peoples of Russia are harmoniously united in one state. As we shall see, this discourse helps to divorce ethnic identity from political identity and to undermine aspirations for ethnoterritorial sovereignty. If the previous chapter looked at present-day cultural revival in the countryside, this chapter examines post-Soviet cultural revival efforts as they unfolded in urban centers as a ―politically-salient conscious cultural vitalization‖ (Balzer 1996, 108). As a number of scholars working in the post-Soviet Sakha Republic have observed, Sakha cultural revival was intimately linked with political claims to sovereignty in the early 1990s (Balzer and Vinokurova 1996a; Cruikshank and Argounova 2000; VB Ignat‘eva 1999; Lynn and Fryer 1998). Many Sakha political and cultural leaders saw the 1990 Declaration of State Sovereignty to be an important chance to revive Sakha traditions and culture, perceived by many within the Sakha intelligentsia to have been denigrated and neglected during the Soviet Union. As I explore in the previous chapter, Sakha cultural leaders have sought to reverse the stigma and negative stereotypes of indigenous identity, by focusing on indigenous cultural tradition as vibrant and vital in the present. At the same time, cultural revival has also been important in terms of establishing collective identity and cohesion vis-à-vis the Russian state. From the early 1990s, Sakha folkloric traditions like the summer solstice festival Yhyakh, the epic poetry Olonkho, and the circle dance Ohuokai, among others as a central part of asserting Sakha political identity as a nation, and thereby legitimating aspirations for sovereignty. As Julie Cruikshank has argued in the context of the Yukon First Nations, cultural performance in the circumpolar North everywhere engages ―long-standing tensions between local initiatives to bolster cultural autonomy and pragmatic efforts by states to incorporate diversity‖ (1997, 56). A robust literature on nations as ―imagined communities‖ has documented the extensive work that goes into constructing and reproducing national communities (B. Anderson 1991). Nestor Garcia-Canclini (1995) calls attention to the importance of folkloric tradition in particular in the construction of national identities through reference to an idyllic past. While indigenous rights activists have, at times, taken pains to distinguish the kinds of 69 collective identities deployed by indigenous peoples from those of nation-states, there are many overlaps, especially in the ways that they both rely on deep historical roots of identity. As numerous observers have pointed out, folklore and cultural revival more generally have been an integral part of indigenous movements transnationally. For many, the choice to establish identity through the assertion of primordial roots has been conditioned by the identity categories of the dominant societies in which they are incorporated. As Kay Warren and Jean Jackson have argued, ―Clearly these are not unencumbered choices; rather they are contingent on wider political and economic pressures as well as on local history‖ (Warren and Jackson 2002a, 11). Warren and Jackson (2002a) also point to the particularity of indigenous selfrepresentation in this regard, which is continually confounded by dilemmas of an ephemeral authenticity. Indigenous activists must negotiate often conflicting expectations for authenticity coming from a range of non-indigenous and indigenous actors and the nationstates into which they are incorporated. This results in a kind of catch-22 of indigenous rights, whereby indigenous peoples must demonstrate sufficient cultural difference in order to claim rights, but true cultural difference is almost by definition not graspable by cultural others, and therefore not communicable (Povinelli 1998). In this context, cultural performance can be seen as a delicate balancing act in which indigenous actors carefully negotiate these competing claims, both consciously and implicitly. For this reason, Cruikshank argues (drawing on Fred Myers) that indigenous cultural performance should be understood as ―tangible forms of social action‖ and analyzed as processes by which meaning is translated, more or less successfully (1997, 56). I would add to this as well that meaning is not only translated, but is also created in the course of cultural performance. In the Sakha Republic, cultural revival emerged in the 1990s very much linked to a politics of sovereignty as performers, artists, scholars, and other cultural leaders sought to effect a cohesive national community with inherent rights to self-determination sanctioned by international discourses and legal convention. More recently, however, the meaning of these performances has shifted as the Russian Federal government asserts greater control and has undermined aspirations for sovereignty altogether. In this context, cultural revival becomes decoupled from overt political goals, while Sakha cultural leaders distance themselves from political positions that could be perceived as ethnonationalist. In the process, folkloric 70 practices that had been at the center of the cultural revival movement, like Yhyakh and Olonkho, cease to be symbols of ethno-territorial sovereignty. Instead, as chapter two highlights, they become important for signifying ethnic survival in the face of ongoing threats to ethnic and cultural identity posed by industrialization and globalization. For many involved in Sakha cultural revival, especially in rural areas, preservation of culture is not about ―politics,‖ (i.e. overtly oppositional and/or separatist politics), but rather about assertions of ethnic worth, the cultivation of the moral and psychological health of the people, and the continued vitality of indigenous ways of life. For others, their value need not even be articulated. They can be seen in terms of what Raymond Williams (1977) terms ―structures of feeling,‖ operating in practice rather than as consciously held beliefs. As Williams argues: It is that we are concerned with meanings and values as they are actively lived and felt…We are talking about characteristic elements of impulse, restraint, and tone; specifically affective elements of consciousness and relationships: not feeling against thought, but thought as felt and feeling as thought: practical consciousness of a present kind, in a living and inter-relating continuity (132). In thinking about culture and ethnicity as belonging to these ―structures of feeling,‖ I highlight the extra-strategic and affective ways in which they are experienced in practice. The imperative to preserve or to revive culture is often part of political strategy, but it is rarely identical to it; rather, it emerges as the result of historically constituted subjects negotiating contemporary relations of power and political possibilities (Li 2000; Hall 1996). 3.1 Sovereignty, Ethnonationalism, Indigeneity The post-Soviet movement for sovereignty in the Sakha Republic invites questions about the nature of sovereignty, self-determination, and ethnic and cultural rights. Thomas Biolsi (2005) provides an in-depth discussion of issues surrounding American Indian sovereignty in the US. He begins by pointing out that the division of the world into nationstates has resulted in a transnational political space which is imagined as a mosaic of discrete 71 territories, each with its own citizenry. In this dominant view, sovereignty is imagined as ―fully, flatly, and evenly operative over each square centimeter of legally demarcated territory‖ (B. Anderson 1991, 19), while citizens are imagined as atomized, interchangeable objects equally subject to state law (Biolsi 2005, 240). Biolsi argues, however, that the practical reality is that sovereignty is never fully flat or even, but is variegated and ―heteronymous.‖ He draws on Aihwa Ong‘s (1999) concept of ―graduated sovereignty‖ to call attention to the ways that different categories of citizens are always subject to different sets of civil, political, and economic rights. State citizenship, for example, did not extend to African American slaves in the US, nor does it protect undocumented immigrants or prison inmates in the present. Similarly, he argues, Native American assertions of sovereignty in all their varied manifestations also complicate the modular notion of nation-states as discrete sovereigns. Even so, the modular nation-state continues to provide an extremely powerful model for claims to tribal sovereignty. Both tribal governments and the US government regularly invoke the language of discrete national sovereignty in discussion of tribal governance. This is also the case in Canada where ―First Nations‖ is the preferred term, highlighting the explicitly national identity claimed by indigenous Canadians. In a similar way, the declarations of sovereignty that precipitated the USSR‘s collapse have also invoked the language of nation-state sovereignty (see Appendix B). Indeed, like American Indians, the Sakha aspired to recognition as independent state that voluntarily ceded some authority to the Russian Federation on the basis of bilateral, government-togovernment treaties. Initially, the federal government also recognized the legitimacy of these claims and signed the 1992 Federative Treaty, which affirmed the status of the signatories as sovereign nation-states. This built upon a long-standing recognition (in theory) on the part of the USSR of the right of nations to independent development, and was celebrated by early ethnic leaders as a chance to correct the hypocrisies of Soviet governance that had promised but failed to deliver real national autonomy (Alekseev 2007; VB Ignat‘eva 1999). As Sakha ethnosociologist Vanda Ignat‘eva argues, the most important factor leading to the dissolution of the USSR, was ―above all the fundamental contradiction between the federal structure and the centralized system of governance‖ (1999, 44). That is to say that the USSR was predicated on an image of voluntarily federated nations that each retained rights to selfdetermination, but the actual structure of governance was highly centralized and hierarchical. 72 Post-Soviet sovereignty advocates relied heavily on Marxist logic of national selfdetermination, hearkening back to the original pronouncements of Lenin and other Bolsheviks regarding the rights of nations (e.g. Lenin 1972). As we shall see, while the original Federative Treaty drew on Soviet rhetoric of national self-determination, the postSoviet Russian Federation has ultimately gone the other direction and rejected the idea of national autonomy, insisting that national identity is not a valid source of political identity (cf. Tishkov 2000). During the 1990s, Sakha political leaders continued to seek the modular sovereignty promised them by the Federative Treaty (Balzer 1995; Balzer and Vinokurova 1996a). Even before the Russian Federation ratified the 1993 Constitution, which nullified the Federative Treaty and asserted the supremacy of federal law, the Sakha Republic passed its own Constitution, which maintained the supremacy of its own laws over those of the Russian Federation. During the politically turbulent years of the 1990s, the Sakha government, led by President Mikhail Nikolaev, was able to preserve a modicum of political power vis-à-vis the federal government and negotiated a series of bilateral agreements regarding control over natural resources (Balzer and Vinokurova 1996a; Kempton 1996). However, beginning in 1997 when a new ―Forest Code‖ transferred all forest resources to the federal ownership, the federal government began to pass unilateral executive orders that contradicted the bilateral agreements (VB Ignat‘eva 1999). In this way, it demarcated Republic sovereignty as subordinate to Russian sovereignty in ways that resemble the ―quasi-sovereignty‖ of American Indian governments (Biolsi 2005). In the long-run, even the idea of sovereignty for sub-state subjects has been rejected altogether by the Russian Federation, such that any form of sovereignty is now an impossible dream for most Sakha and Sakha have far less sovereignty than do Native Americans. I return to this below. There is an important difference between American Indian tribal sovereignty and the sovereignty asserted by the ethnic republics of Russia in the 1990s. While they both used the language of modular nation-state sovereignty, they differ in terms of how they define their citizenry. Tribal citizenship in the US has long been established on the basis of blood quanta and other measures that define membership solely on the basis of ethnicity. This fact has led to complex contradictions and ambiguities in relations with the US government, which the 73 latter has exploited to limit the meaning of sovereignty for native groups. 18 This has also resulted in numerous critiques of native sovereignty claims for their incompatibility with liberal notions of citizenship (e.g. Brown 2007). By contrast, the Sakha Republic and other post-Soviet autonomous republics have claimed a civic territorial statehood in which the bearers of sovereignty are the ―multinational people‖ of the Republic, not only the national population. The 1992 Constitution of the Sakha Republic deliberately sought to be compatible with liberal statehood, and was created after a thorough study of constitutions all over the world. Ultimately, it included a range of measures for the protection and revival of the languages and cultures of all the peoples of Yakutia, and never explicitly singled out the Sakha. As such, like most internationally recognized nation-states, citizenship was defined broadly in terms of a civic, multicultural identity based on residence rather than ethnic belonging. At the same time, as I begin to suggest above, Sakha sovereignty was legitimated on the basis of (ethno) national self-determination. First of all, Sakha cultural and political leaders insisted that the USSR had privileged Russian ethnicity and suppressed Sakha and other ethnic groups. As Sakha historian E.E. Alekseev argues: The USSR proudly proclaimed itself a union of equal peoples, but was in reality a unitary, bureaucratically organized Russian state with its center in Moscow. The ―Great Power‖ [velikoderzhavyie] political forces sought power at any price: with the help of violence, legal finesse, ideological controls, and repression, it sought to keep the ―unified‖ peoples of the country as unequal, but obedient younger brothers. National self-determination, i.e. the inalienable rights of every nation to determine its own fate, decide how to live, which type of government to form, and with which peoples to establish friendly relations, was only in 19 words (Alekseev 2007, 362). The ultimate result was ―a rejection of national differences; adoption of the customs, traditions, and way of life of the Russian people; the gradual rejection of native languages 18 As Biolsi (2005) explains, US courts have ruled that tribal law does not cover non-natives on reservation land at all to the extent that non-natives cannot be taxed or be given a traffic citation. The logic of these rulings is predicated on the idea that non-natives cannot become citizens of Indian nations, while Indians can become citizens of states. 19 All of the translations are mine unless otherwise stated. 74 and transition to Russian language‖ (Alekseev 2007, 15). For Alekseev, as for other Sakha scholars and activists, the language of ―internationalism‖ and ―Soviet patriotism‖ simply led to the destruction and oppression of non-Russian peoples and cultures (I examine this in more detail in chapter 5). By contrast, regional sovereignty provided the opportunity for a holistic ―national revival‖ in which Sakha (and the other indigenous groups of Yakutia) could gain equal footing with Russians and achieve real cultural ―development‖—i.e. Sakha culture could emerge from the realm of quaint folkloric tradition and encompass a much broader spiritual and intangible experience. The logic of sovereignty, therefore, went something like this: territorial sovereignty would protect the rights of peoples of all nationalities, but was necessary (especially) for Sakha cultural development, long stunted by subordination to the ―unitary‖ state of Russia and the USSR. As one 2004 retrospective published by the Sakha Ministry of Culture argues: In summing up the development of culture and art in the last decade of the 20 th Century and the beginning of the 21st Century, it begs comment that in these years there was a neverbefore-seen qualitative leap in this development—a real historical chance appeared for the 20 intangible [dukhovnyi ] experience of the people of our republic to be incorporated into the world-wide cultural-informational space. Only under the conditions of sovereignty did all our achievements in the sphere of culture and art become possible, for it was sovereignty that gave a powerful impulse to the revelation of the spiritual and intellectual potential of society. (Chermyshentsev et al. 2004, 143). In this way, sovereignty was widely seen as a means to protect Sakha cultural rights. To this end, the fledgling government, led by the newly elected Sakha President, Mikhail Nikolaev, implemented a wide range of measures aimed at a multi-faceted ―national revival‖ that would help to improve the status of the Sakha (and other indigenous peoples of the Republic), both symbolically and materially. First, new symbols of statehood highlighted the central importance of Sakha culture and identity in the new Republic. The name of the Republic 20 The term “dukhovnyi” literally translates as spiritual, but unlike the English term, it is used in Russian to refer broadly all that is immaterial and intangible as opposed to economic and material. During the Soviet Union, for example, “spiritual culture” was often promoted by the State, wholly independently of religion, in reference to both folklore and art. Since the Soviet Union‟s collapse, however, “spiritual culture” also includes religious and spiritual elements in the English sense of the term, but still retains the broad meaning as well. See also, Luehrmann (2005). 75 itself revised the older ―Yakut ASSR‖ such that the self-name, Sakha, figured more prominently than the Russian ethnonym, Yakut. The parliament was renamed ―Il Tyumen,‖ after ancient Sakha tribal councils, and Sakha terms were revived for administrative regions, i.e. the Sakha ―ulus‖ replaced the Russian raion. Furthermore, Sakha was made a state language equal with Russian, while a Republic-wide program of Sakha language education was implemented with the goal of revitalizing Sakha language and cultural belonging (Zhirkov 1992; Hicks 2005). In this way, the Sakha movement for sovereignty resembles various ethnonational struggles, in which ethnic groups have sought independence on the basis of a distinct ethnonational identity. There are ample comparisons, for example, with the Quebec independence movement, which has sought to protect French-speaking Quebecois from assimilation with the dominant English-speaking Canadian population. Like the Sakha Republic, Quebec has sought a civic-territorial nationhood legitimated in terms of ethnonational self-determination. In both of these instances, we can see the slippage between the ―nation‖ as a multiethnic, territorially-defined entity and as a single ethnic group with its own language, culture, and naturally-delimited territory. They both call attention to the contradictions of the dominant idea of the modular nation-state and its assumptions regarding national homogeneity, and at the same time participate in its structures of meaning by aspiring to a supposedly more fair, equal or legitimate form of the nation-state. Biolsi‘s arguments cited above suggest that indigenous claims to sovereignty, like those of American Indians, are similarly rooted in a political imaginary that depicts a world divided into modular nation-states. Even the transnational indigenous movement does not imagine or produce an indigenous space beyond individual indigenous nations; rather, as he argues, ―the world indigenous movement is very much akin to an indigenous ‗united nations‘ in which the common colonial situations of each individual and autonomous indigenous nation is recognized but the mosaic of separate and autonomous Native sovereignties is never questioned‖ (2005, 250). Nevertheless, a number of scholars have sought to distinguish between indigenous claims to sovereignty and those of ethnonational groups. Niezen (2003), for example, argues that indigenous sovereignty is by its very nature not separatist, but rather pursues particular rights within existing states. For Niezen, this notion of sovereignty without secession represents a radical challenge to modern political organization and the institution of 76 the nation-state. And it is this version of sovereignty, however, that repels some groups, like Tibetans (Yeh 2007), or West Papuans (Tsing 2007), who consciously seek nation-state status from articulating their aspirations in terms of indigenous politics; they seek full independence and not dependent sovereignty. However, the example of American Indian Tribal sovereignty, and also examples like Nunavut in Canada suggest a closer link between nation-state ideologies and indigenous claims to sovereignty. Biolsi‘s arguments suggest that indigenous nationhood does not inherently challenge dominant ideas about the nation-state, but in fact relies heavily on them. This is not to deny the fact that some indigenous groups and individual indigenous intellectuals may indeed have articulated radical challenges to the nation-state system (cf. Hale 2005; de la Cadena 2010). However, a group need not radically challenge the dominant view of nation-states to be considered indigenous, or to speak with an ―indigenous voice‖ in Anna Tsing‘s (2007) terms. The difference between Quebec and Nunavut sovereignty claims lies in more in the specificity of indigenous identity—both in terms of self-representation and historical experience of colonization—than in regard to the nature of their aspirations.21 And, for North American indigenous groups, the distinction seems clear—those who occupied territory before the arrival of Europeans are indigenous and have rights to land on that basis. In the case of African and Asian peoples, however, the distinction between indigenous and nonindigenous (or ethnonational) is not so pronounced, as numerous observers have pointed out (Beteille 1998; Nyamnjoh 2007). Nevertheless, this has not stopped a range of groups from claiming indigenous identity and from staking claims to sovereignty or self-determination on the basis of this identity rather than highlighting ethnonational identity (A. Gray, Kingsbury, and Barnes 1996; Li 2000; Nyamnjoh 2007). Furthermore, as Yeh (2007) suggests in the case of Tibet, the difference between ethnonational and indigenous claims is often blurred; groups can rely upon the language and symbols of indigeneity, and at the same time, articulate claims to full, ethno-territorial sovereignty. And so, while the political framework of the Russian Federation may produce a political space in which the particular form of sovereignty claimed by Sakha invites comparisons with Quebec and other ethnonational articulations, 21 Nunavut, like the Sakha Republic and Quebec, is not officially based on indigeneity or Inuit ethnicity. However, roughly 85% of the population is Inuit and sovereignty is often articulated and legitimated in terms of Inuit identity. As such, international discussions indigenous rights were central in establishing sovereignty. (Dahl, et. al. 2000) 77 Sakha themselves readily draw comparisons with indigenous claims to sovereignty, insisting as Tamara Leonidovna (in the previous chapter) did that ―they are like us.‖ These arguments point to the fluid and heterogeneous nature of indigenous identity, emphasizing that like other forms of identity politics, indigeneity is ―without guarantees‖ (Hall 1996). In this spirit, Anna Tsing (2007) suggests that indigeneity can be seen as a ―set of emergent tactics‖ to which a variety of groups have recourse in articulating a variety of political claims. Rather than attempting to describe what unites and/or differentiates the varied groups that claim an indigenous identity, she focuses on what she calls the ―indigenous voice‖ as a genre of speech. As she writes: By voice, I am referring to the genre conventions with which public affirmations of identity are articulated. Because it is the genre convention, not the speaker him or herself, that has power, totally unknown people can speak with this kind of voice; but they must speak in a way an audience can hear (2007, 38). Following Tsing, I look at Sakha claims to sovereignty as a historically contingent political aspiration that was shaped by Soviet conceptions of ethnicity, nationhood, selfdetermination, and statehood, and also borrowed from broader liberal conceptions of both ethnonational and indigenous sovereignty. Indigeneity here emerges as a set of tactics that mix with other kinds of tactics, including those more reminiscent of ethnic separatists. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Sakha activists learned to articulate their own claims to territorial sovereignty with a kind of indigenous voice, invoking the language and logic of cultural rights and self-determination common to indigenous groups elsewhere. At the same time, this voice was neither the only voice through which sovereignty claims were articulated, nor was it always steady. As the political possibilities for sovereignty have waned in the last decade, Sakha have continued to speak (albeit haltingly and not uniformly) with an indigenous voice. However, its use in concrete political contexts has declined, highlighting the ways that indigeneity is not always linked to overt political strategy. In the following section, I examine in more detail the ways in which Sakha claims to sovereignty have been articulated with an ―indigenous voice.‖ 3.2 Cultural Revival and the Politics of Sovereignty 78 Even though the Sakha are not formally considered one of Russia‘s ―indigenous peoples‖ in that they are excluded from the category of ―small-numbered peoples,‖ Sakha widely assume a strong kinship between themselves and other indigenous peoples of the world and, in daily conversation, they often articulate their political aspirations in terms of indigenous rights. For example, people often asked me about the control native groups in Alaska and the Canadian North have over their lands and natural resources, and pointed to these forms of tribal ownership and control in arguing for Sakha regional sovereignty. Furthermore, transnational collaborations and exchanges have been carried out on the basis of assumed links between Sakha and other indigenous groups. A Sakha emigrant in Toronto, Aleksandra Grigorieva, for example, heads the organization, ―Yurt of Peace,‖ which has as its primary goal: ―to strengthen the connections of the small-numbered peoples of the North with the native peoples of other countries and of North America‖ (A Li 2005). In a newspaper article entitled ―Aboriginals of all countries, unite!‖ Grigorieva implicitly includes the Sakha in the category of ―small-numbered peoples‖ despite the fact that they are not officially categorized as such in Russia. In this way, the Sakha are widely imagined and represented (by themselves and others) as an indigenous people. The intricate field of meanings, practice, and politics associated with global indigeneity remain deeply implicated in Sakha cultural politics and identity. Sakha activists are able to speak with an ―indigenous voice‖ in Anna Tsing‘s (2007) terms. Like other indigenous movements, cultural revival played an important role in the political movement for sovereignty. In the case of indigenous activists in Colombia, Gow and Rappaport argue that the idea of culture ―constitutes an effective subaltern political tool framed in ethnographic terms, through which the movement hopes to achieve autonomy in a pluralist—but also hegemonic—political and intellectual environment‖ (2002, 71). In this way, they call attention to the multiple idioms in which indigenous activists speak as they negotiate different publics. The ―indigenous public voice‖ as they term it, is far from uniform but is often represented and perceived as such. As the Sakha Republic established itself as a sovereign state in the early 1990s, there was a flurry of activity around Sakha cultural revival, in which a variety of independent cultural-political organizations, like Sakha Keskile (―Sakha Future‖) and Sakha Omuk (―the 79 Sakha people‖) emerged and brought together Sakha scholars, artists, politicians, and activists to promote what cultural revival. For these organizations, cultural revival was central to ―national revival,‖ which sought not only the revival of folkloric traditions but also economic, physical, moral, and spiritual development of the Sakha nation, seen to have suffered in all these areas during the Soviet Union. Sakha ―culture‖ was not only a matter of folkloric forms, but a sense of broader social health and vibrancy, an ethnically-specific form of culture-as-civilization. In a deliberate contrast with Soviet economic determinism, postSoviet Sakha leaders of the Republic insisted that, ―development rests not only on economic factors,‖ but also on the strength of human cultural and spiritual inspiration (Chermyshentsev et al. 2004, 118). At the governmental level, cultural policy focused on rehabilitating Sakha national culture. The popular theater director Andrei Borisov at the head of the newly renamed Ministry of Culture and Spiritual Development and sought an active relationship with UNESCO in order to procure funding and international support for national cultural projects. Borisov, in turn, inaugurated a program for cultural development based around four ―pillars‖ of Sakha national culture: Yhyakh, Olonkho, Khomus (the Sakha ―national‖ musical instrument), and Iteghel (belief) (Chermyshentsev et al. 2004). Much of this program was oriented around the rehabilitation of Sakha traditional religion and worldview, which were special targets for liquidation under Soviet ideology. Organizations like Sakha Keskile and Toion Sube promoted national ―self-consciousness,‖ especially through the teachings of Sakha traditional religion, ―Aiyy yorekh‖ or tengriism (Ignat‘eva 1999, 105). These organizations also emerged as the most outspoken defenders of Republic sovereignty, rooted firmly in the Sakha people (as opposed to the ―multinational people of the Republic‖) as the ―bearer of sovereignty and source of state power‖ (Ignat‘eva 1999, 104). For cultural revival advocates, the Sakha belief system has been a particular concern even as just what constitutes this belief is contested—some insist that it is a religion and should have churches and priests, whereas others believe it is a more diffuse cultural practice, equivalent to a Sakha worldview. Viktor, the Nyurba museum guide introduced in the previous chapter, explained the importance of this belief system: 80 Yakuts had and have a belief system (vera), where…tengrism, no? Aiyy yorekh, which encompasses all the ethnic characteristics of the people, all traditions, the whole worldview. Most peoples do not have this now. But this is in every Yakut person who goes to the forest and will hunt, he feeds the fire there, right? This is in their blood. They don‘t understand. It‘s simply in the blood and they do it. However, this is not very widespread now….This belief has faltered, or…I don‘t know. People aren‘t interested. Or, there aren‘t people who spread this belief. Russian Orthodoxy has priests, Muslims also have priests, Mullahs, but we, tengrianists, well, it‘s not even a religion. It is, how do I explain to you, it is the totality of ethnic, umm…ethnic worldview (mirovospriiatiia). For this reason, reviving tengrism was central to the cultural revival movement. Tamara Leonidovna in the previous chapter, for example, sought to cultivate just this unique worldview in Sakha children. For her, preschool age was an incredibly important period for development and the time when they would come to adopt these beliefs on a fundamental level, in the blood as Viktor puts it. This is also similar to the efforts that of indigenous activists in Colombia to revitalize a native cosmovisión, which ―philosophically reconfigures the relationship between past and present, between time and space‖ as a means to assert a distinctive interpretation of law and political governance as the basis for political autonomy (Gow and Rappaport 2002). For Sakha activists, there is something similar at play. As Marjorie Balzer (2005) emphasizes there has been a complex dialogue surrounding spiritual practice and cultural identity among Sakha intellectuals in the post-Soviet period, ―through which competing definitions of homeland and national pride are being shaped‖ (2005, 58). While she focuses on the many disagreements between various members of the Sakha intelligentsia regarding the significance of Sakha belief systems, she also demonstrates the importance that some form of spiritual philosophy has for both political and cultural goals. The 2002 construction of a new ―House of Purification,‖ (Archy D’iete) in Yakutsk, for example, marked an important moment for many Sakha intellectuals in establishing a space specifically marked out for the practice of Sakha culture. Balzer explains that the Archy D‘iete was imagined by some as a Sakha counterpart to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral and was initially intended to stand next to the recently reconstructed cathedral in the center of Yakutsk. However, after objections from the Russian priests, it was moved further away. In practice, the Archy D‘iete 81 has been used for a great range of cultural activities, leading some spiritual revival advocates to complain that it has become more of a club that a spiritual center. Defenders, however, insist that it ought to be a place where all Sakha feel comfortable, and where both Sakha and non-Sakha can learn about Sakha spiritual traditions (Balzer 2005, 61). In the present, it is used for a great variety of purposes connected with Sakha culture, including weddings, social-political meetings, cultural performances, and other kinds of ceremonies. In 2005, for example, I attended a celebration there for the birthday of a prominent artist. The celebration involved a banquet with Sakha traditional foods, many speeches by friends and other members of the urban Sakha intelligentsia, a handful of songs and dances, and also a purification ceremony carried out by a culturologist trained for the task. In this way, the celebration mixed secular and spiritual cultural practice, emphasizing the ways that Sakha spirituality is more than a ―religion,‖ but rather is indistinguishable from Sakha culture more broadly. It was in this context that the revival of the summer festival of Yhyakh has also become crucial cultural and spiritual practice in the post-Soviet period (Balzer 2005, Balzer 2006). It was officially recognized as a ―national festival of the Republic‖ in 1990 and celebrated at the Republic level (Chermyshentsev et al. 2004, 123). While it had continued to be practiced in Nyurba (among a handful of other uluses) as a ―state-calendrical‖ holiday throughout the Soviet Union, it was only celebrated on the Republic level after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Furthermore, it also came to be celebrated regularly throughout all the uluses of the Republic. Most importantly, however, the ―forgotten formerly unified structure of the celebratory ceremony‖ was re-established (Chermyshentsev et al. 2004, 123). This refers to the revival of the shamanic ceremony, which now begins every Yhyakh, asking the gods in heaven and the spirits of nature for blessings and good will. Through this ceremony and other additions like rituals of purification, the festival has become imbued with spiritual elements, connected with the revival of traditional Sakha religious practice. While the role of the shaman is now typically enacted by a respected male scholar or cultural figure rather than a recognized ―shaman,‖ the ceremony has been carefully crafted on the basis of archival descriptions of pre-Soviet and even pre-Christian Yhyakh festivals. Furthermore, the newly revitalized Yhyakh festival has included virtually all of the things associated with traditional Sakha culture, including Sakha national foods sold in a market-place designed to evoke pre- 82 Soviet trading posts, traditional Sakha sport competitions (horse racing, jumping, and stickpull, among others), spectators and participants draped in traditional dress, and performances/ competitions for virtually all Sakha folkloric forms. These last include, especially, the circle dance Ohuokai and Sakha epic poetry, the Olonkho. At the same time, the post-Soviet Yhyakh is not only dedicated to ―traditional‖ Sakha culture as such, but also provides a forum for Sakha performers of all stripes to show off their talents in modern dance, hip-hop, and other kinds of contemporary/global musical genres. One popular exhibit at the 2008 Nyurba Yhyakh, for example, proudly displayed a full set of traditional Sakha jewelry designs made from pieces of plastic mayonnaise containers. In combining ―traditional‖ and ―modern‖ cultural forms in a uniquely Sakha festival, postSoviet Yhyakh has asserted both the autonomy of Sakha culture and its continuing vitality in the contemporary and globalizing world. In this way, it challenges the way indigenous peoples have been imagined as victims of progress, always succumbing to modernity, never producing it. Post-Soviet celebrations of Yhyakh reflect the idea that tradition and modernity need not oppose one another and that cultural invention can itself be integral to the preservation of tradition (cf. Clifford 1988). At the same time, this flexible version of Yhyakh is also controversial as some spiritualists have insisted that it should adhere more closely to the ways in which it was celebrated in the past. In addition to reviving Yhyakh, governmental initiatives strove to develop ―national culture‖ more broadly. To this end, a ―Plan for the Revival of National Schools‖ increased support for native language education, including the publication of textbooks in Sakha and other native languages, and the founding of new, Sakha language schools in Yakutsk like the Republic Lyceum. The plan also included new ―national culture‖ classes, in which children could learn traditional folkloric practices and the basic principles of Sakha religious traditions (see also, Hicks 2005). Furthermore, various holidays like the ―Day of Yakut language and writing‖ were inaugurated to recognize the accomplishments of Sakha intellectuals. New museums were initiated and old ones revitalized. Finally, a great deal of effort has been put into the revival of the Olonkho, a style of partially improvised and partially memorized epic poetry sung in a rhythmic cadence that had almost died out by the 83 end of the Soviet Union.22 After a long process of application initiated by Nikolaev, the Olonkho was listed by UNESCO in 2005 as one of its endangered Masterpieces of Intangible World Heritage, and as such, received an extra boost of support. With this support, regular contests are held for young performers of Olonkho, translations of the major texts have been carried out into Russian, English and other foreign languages, and the ―House of the Olonkho‖ was founded in Suntar, a town on the Viliui River upstream of Nyurba. The House of the Olonkho is a center for Sakha culture more broadly, but its main mission is to encourage the revival of the Olonkho. Nestor Garcia-Canclini (1995) suggests that folklore, understood to be the ―essence of the identity and the cultural patrimony‖ of a country (152), can be a powerful resource for the assertion of national unity and distinctiveness. As he argues, ―That group of goods and traditional practices that identify us as a nation or as a people is valued as a gift, something we receive from the past that has such symbolic prestige that there is no room for discussing it‖ (108). Garcia-Canclini points to the powerful affective dimensions of folkloric practices in which their seemingly perennial character ―makes us imagine that their value is beyond question and turns them into a source of collective consensus‖ (108). For Post-Soviet Sakha intellectuals, folkloric traditions have been more than a matter of nostalgia for a golden past and the celebration of a particular aesthetic, but have served as the cultural patrimony of the nation and the essence of collective identity. As the Soviet Union collapsed, folklore achieved new affective and symbolic force in legitimating Sakha aspirations for sovereignty, centered on a distinctive cultural and ethnic identity. Indigenous identity, almost by definition, relies on demonstrations of cultural and/or biological descent from a pre-colonial population and the maintenance of cultural difference, what Beckett (1988) calls the ―past in the present.‖ Aboriginality, he argues, is predicated upon the ―existence of aboriginal people who live in ways regarded as in some sense the same as those followed before the arrival of Europeans‖ (1988, 6). Mobilized as such, it can 22 A handful of “real” olonkho performers, i.e. those who wrote and performed their own versions of Olonkho, still remained, although they were all quite elderly. Most Olonkho performance during the Soviet Union consisted of staged performances or enactments of previously recorded texts. These kinds of performances are still popular today and have been greatly expanded in efforts to revive the Olonkho. At the same time, resources have also been directed toward cultivating new writers of Olonkho amongst the younger generation. In one village of the Nyurba ulus, for example, a new olonkhosut was “discovered” recently and has received numerous grants and other kinds of support. The fact that he is a poor farmer, who does not speak Russian and only started to compose Olonkho after he turned 50, contributes to his mystique and popularity. 84 be an advantage, but it also presents problems for contemporary aboriginals as attempts to establish a single common identity and culture are doomed to fail as ―bits and pieces‖ of the past interact with a diversity of present voices, creating a medley of competing constructions. The realities of fluid identity, for example, rarely translate into the rigid formalism of state legal systems. Clifford‘s (1988a) essay on the failed Mashpee suit for recognition as an Indian tribe in the US provides a vivid demonstration of the contradictions inherent in rigid legalist definitions of identity. In this case, the court relied on ideas of whole, bounded, and persisting cultures, privileged written over oral knowledge, and denied the fluid and punctuated nature of identity. Mashpee history, however, was revealed in the course of the hearings as ―a series of cultural and political transactions, not all-or-nothing conversions of resistances‖ (342). Clifford argues that this is characteristic of all indigenous histories, which are far more fluid than the legal system allows. Nevertheless, like so many other unrecognized tribes, they were denied recognition because they were unable to effectively prove unbroken links with a pre-colonial population (cf. B Miller 2003). Post-Soviet Sakha intellectuals have also strived to assert the ―past in the present.‖ Sakha sociologist and cultural revival advocate, Uliana Vinokurova (1991), for example, has described their attempts in terms of revitalizing ―national memory.‖ As she explains: The particularity of national memory lies in its ability, on a personal and emotional level, to tie information about long-ago moments in the history of interethnic interaction and of a people‘s ethnic development together with modern moments, in a single actualized consciousness, worldview, and autonomous understanding of one‘s surroundings. In this way, cultural and spiritual revival serves to connect present-day Sakha with a preSoviet history and cultural development that is distinct from that of the encompassing state. Mayan activist, Victor Montejo (2002) echoes the idea of national memory when he argues that ―the agenda of Mayan scholars and activists is…to revitalize our Mayan identity and weave back in the sections worn away by centuries of neglect‖ (129). At the same time, the examples cited above also highlight the dilemmas of authenticity encountered by indigenous activists, in which the attempt to ―revive‖ past cultural forms often seems to fall short. For contemporary Sakha, the new forms of 85 celebrating Yhyakh often contradict their lived experiences of the meaning of the ceremony and are therefore seen as inauthentic, while for some cultural revival advocates, the ―new‖ forms of Yhyakh are actually more authentic because they are based on older forms. These meanings, however, are in constant flux as authenticity is contested and negotiated. At the other end of the spectrum are the non-indigenous audiences (and the Russian state), who have their own understandings of what constitutes authentic indigenous tradition (cf. Cruikshank 1997). Increasingly, tourists from all over the world attend Yhyakh in Yakutsk, expecting to see an exotic indigenous tradition. Event organizers and Sakha spectators alike are well-aware of this audience and take delight in the visual spectacle, including Sakha traditional dress and the elaborately staged ritual ceremony that highlight the distinctiveness of Sakha culture and worldview. As the opening vignette suggests, however, this works very well with Russian state appropriations of indigenous culture, which increasingly highlight the diversity of peoples within Russia, but deny any form of political rights deriving from cultural difference. 3.4 Federal Challenges to Sovereignty As the previous two sections have suggested, Sakha activists have drawn on the discourses of transnational indigenous movements to bring together cultural revival and the politics of sovereignty. As Anna Tsing (2007) suggests, these discourses represent a kind of ―indigenous voice.‖ This voice, however, is not steady. It often falters under challenges posed by Russian state discourses that exploit the contradiction between the language of cultural sovereignty and that of civic-territorial sovereignty. The Russian Federation does not recognize sub-state claims to sovereignty, and, drawing on post-Soviet criticism of ethnicnationhood, has rejected ethnicity altogether as a legitimate source of political identity. Anthropologist and former Russian Minister of Nationalities, Valerii Tishkov (2000), for example, has argued for discarding the concept of the ―nation‖ altogether, insisting that its implications for ethnic statehood make it inherently problematic and exclusionary. He suggests that all movements that rely on language of national self-determination are 86 intellectually bankrupt, misguided attempts by local elite to gain political power in the name of one group. In his words: They represent militant and exclusivist—but politically unrealized—projects for usurping the state (its power and resources) on behalf of ethno-nations. They are projects of selfdetermination on the part of elites or of armed sects trying to use exiting ―oppressed ethnic groups‖ to take a separate historic journey (631). Using similar logic, Vladimir Putin‘s United Russia party has spoken vehemently against ethnonationalism as a threat to Russia‘s essential unity. As I explore in more detail in chapter 5, they have embraced the language of multiculturalism, insisting upon the right to free exercise of culture, but have limited competing political claims on the part of sub-state groups to any form of shared sovereignty. In this way, the federal government has sought to streamline sovereignty and reduce the contradictions and ambiguities by simply eliminating competing forms of sovereignty altogether. In a complicated dialogue with neoliberal multiculturalism, Russia both embraces the rhetoric of cultural rights, but rejects the idea that this is fundamentally a ―political‖ question or connected to economic rights. This attitude is apparent in Russia‘s engagement with transnational conversations regarding ―indigenous rights.‖ As I point out in the introduction to this dissertation, unlike the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the Russian Federation did not outright reject the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but abstained. A UN report issued after the vote relates the response of the Russian delegate: Ilya Rogachev ( Russian Federation) said that his delegation had supported the rights of indigenous people and the development of international standards in that regard. Such an allencompassing document should be balanced and its elements carefully weighed. Unfortunately, the text being considered was not such a document. It was not a truly balanced document, in particular regarding land and natural resources or the procedures for compensation and redress. (United Nations 2007) Russia maintains that it supports indigenous rights in theory, but characterizes the issue of land and natural resources as a problem of ―compensation and redress‖ rather than one of 87 inherent rights to those resources based on use or prior occupation. In terms of domestic law, there are a number of federal laws designed to protect the rights of the ―small numbered peoples,‖ the only peoples recognized as indigenous by the Russian Federation. These laws have been invoked by activists in isolated cases for protecting small-numbered groups from environmental degradation (Fondahl and Sirina 2006), and in making room for more intensive resource exploitation (DG Anderson 2002). However, Russia has been reluctant to acknowledge any inherent right to resources or land that competes with the absolute sovereignty of the federal government. In relation to larger ethnic groups like the Sakha, the federal government has been even more unequivocal, rejecting any claims that might resemble indigenous rights to resources. This is illustrated poignantly by the following statement on the part of current Russian president Dmitri Medvedev made in the context of a question and answer session at the University of Pittsburgh during the 2009 G-20 summit in Pittsburgh. A Sakha student studying at the University of Pittsburgh asked him his opinion on the rights of the indigenous population to profits from the Sakha diamond industry. He responded as such: Yakutia is certainly a rich region, rich in mineral resources, including the diamonds you mentioned. However, my attitude toward this is rather different than yours. As long as we live in the framework of a single country–and I hope this will continue to be so as this is our shared wish—all underground resources on the territory of the Russian Federation, they are in essence, our shared property and it does not make sense to divide them into parts. It is another question, about whether or not a subject of the Russian Federation closely connected with the extraction of these resources should receive more in the way of revenue, say. That is a possible option. The question is about whether we relate to this soberly and take thoughtful action so that one region, where there are many enterprises, a significant amount of profitable industrial production, or many valuable underground resources doesn‘t live extravagantly, ―high on the hog,‖ (v shokolade) as they say, while another subject, where there are no resources ekes out a meager existence. For this reason the federal budget exists and redistributes income. 23 23 From a speech given on Sept. 25, 2009 at the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA. Transcript in Russian obtained from the Russian Federal government website: http://kremlin.ru/transcripts/5570, accessed 9/29/2009, my translation. 88 Here, Medvedev underscores the ways in which the current federal government of Russia has rejected the idea of preferential rights to resources on the part of one people or one territorial subject of Russia. He insists that the underground resources of Russia are the shared property of everyone in Russia by virtue of them living in a single state, and the profits should be collected and redistributed accordingly. This view of state sovereignty relies on a conception of an uninterrupted, contiguous political space in which the federal state monitors and ensures equality among an undifferentiated citizenry, eliding the essential heterogeneity of the population and differential relations of power (cf. B Anderson 1991; Biolsi 2005). Statements like this invoke a long history of state paternalism in Russia in which a supposedly impartial and all-seeing state manages and cares for its population. Further, he depicts these resources as common property in contesting potential claims on the part of subject territories, an argument seemingly contradicted by a concurrent process of increasing privatization of formerly state-owned resources that has reduced the collective ownership of these resources. Since achieving a controlling stake in ALROSA, 24 for example, the federal government has sought to convert the company from a primarily state-owned company (a ―closed joint-stock corporation‖) to a publicly-traded corporation (an ―open joint-stock corporation‖). For the moment, however, this has been held up by numerous legal challenges, especially on the part of Sakha political leaders, who have taken issue with the fact that a public offering would further reduce the Republic stake in the company. Anna Tsing (2007) points out that global indigeneity often emerges from exclusion from the gains produced by industry. Likewise Tania Li (2000) also points to resource politics as central in constituting claims to indigeneity. For the Sakha, the ongoing environmental and economic inequalities associated with resource extraction are the central things that help to condition their indigenous voice. As I explore in more detail in chapter 8, In the Sakha Republic, the diamond industry has been an ongoing site of struggle between the Republic and the Russian federal government (Balzer and Vinokurova 1996e; Kempton 1996; Lynn and Fryer 1998). The current diamond mining giant, ALROSA (“Almazy Rossii-Sakha” or “Diamonds of Russia-Sakha”), arose out of an agreement forged with the federal government in 1992, which created the company as closed joint-stock corporation with a monopoly on foreign trade of diamonds. Shares were held by the Russian Federation, the Sakha Republic, local governments (such as the Nyurba ulus), and the company‟s employees. While the exact ownership percentages were in flux through most of the 1990s, the Sakha Republic was able to negotiate significant control over the company and ultimately wrested around 20% of diamond industry profits (Kempton 1996). After a protracted legal battle, however, in 2007 the Russian Federation established a controlling share in the company, i.e. 50% + 1, a fact which led to the formation of various short-lived protest movements in the 2000s. 24 89 Sakha are able to depict themselves as children of nature, highlighting the ecological wisdom vis-à-vis the environmental destruction wrought by the diamond industry. At the same time, a number of structural factors make it difficult to succeed on the basis of indigenous rights, especially the fact that the Russian government refuses to see Sakha sovereignty and control over resources in terms of indigenous rights. 3.5 Cultural Revival Decoupled from Ethnic Politics The struggle over sovereignty has ultimately been resolved in favor of the federal government: the president of the republic is now appointed by Moscow, and, in 2009, the Sakha Republic removed the word sovereignty from its Constitution altogether. During the early 1990s, cultural revival was closely linked with the movement for territorial sovereignty, but has increasingly become decoupled from overt ethnic politics. This means that overt political action has taken on a different character, with ethnicity significantly minimized. Cultural-political organizations like Sakha Keskile and Sakha Omuk have largely disbanded. Those who are still active in oppositional politics, no longer focus on sovereignty as a major concern. A handful of outspoken activists have maintained a focus on particular issues, such as stemming the outflow of resources from the Republic, or stopping particular development projects. For example, Ivan Shamaev founded an organization called the ―Peoples‘ Front Yakutia-ALROSA‖ in order to protest the federalization of the diamond company, and in 2006 held a series of protests in an attempt to stop the process. Long haunted by the label of ―nationalist,‖ however, Shamaev struggled to prove that his movement is not about Republic separatism, nor does it privilege the interests of Sakha over other ethnic groups of the Republic (A Ivanova 2009). While no one outright accused the group of either separatism or nationalism, newspaper articles in both regional and federal newspapers raised the question repeatedly, seeming to imply that it remained an open question. Simultaneously, cultural and ethnic revival efforts have been, in some ways, depoliticized. By that, I do not mean to say that cultural revival has nothing to do with politics—as with all social practice, there are deeply political implications for folkloric revival in the sense that it is shaped by and engages with existing relations of power. 90 However, for those involved in the Sakha cultural revival movement, it has become increasingly important to demonstrate that they are not seeking large-scale political transformation, explicit changes in governmental (Republic or Federal) policies, or greater regional/local control over governmental policy. Rather, cultural revival has become in a sense privatized, a matter of individual and community initiative rather than state policy. Where Sakha folkloric forms, like Yhyakh, still receive state support, they take on new meanings divorced from ―political‖ issues of sovereignty and control over resources. Yhyakh no longer stands as a powerful symbol of state sovereignty and, increasingly, is losing its significance for ethnic solidarity and resistance, and for Sakha cultural autonomy—as the 2007 dedication of Yhyakh to the 375th anniversary of the incorporation of Yakutia into the Russian state highlights. That same summer, I also attended an Yhyakh organized for the tenth anniversary of ALROSA-Nyurba and the beginning of diamond mining in the Nyurba ulus. While the shamanic ritual was performed as always, it was a performance by the Russian pop star, Stas P‘ekha, who was flown in especially for the festival that received the most attention—the appearance of a hugely famous pop star in this small town overshadowing all else. At the same time as it has lost some of its political significance for Sakha nationhood, however, Yhyakh, like other folkloric forms has come to take on new meanings and to revive older meanings from the Soviet period. In Yakutsk, the festival is a grand affair and attracts more and more tourists every year. Continued state sponsorship has meant that it has remained free of the necessity to court private sponsors and so there are no Pepsi, Nike, or even local business advertisements, but the festival still resembles tourist spectacles in other parts of the world with carefully choreographed performances, handicraft displays and sales, and even the possibility to undergo a traditional Sakha purification ritual for a small fee. Despite the commercialization and occasional grumbling that the whole thing has become a ―show‖ (shou), Sakha residents of Yakutsk still attend diligently and use the opportunity to spend time with their families and to eat traditional Sakha foods that they rarely eat. At the 2007 Yhyakh, for example, I attended the opening ceremonies with a group of other foreigners, but my Yakutsk host family skipped the opening ceremonies and spent the afternoon together, laying in the open grass field next to the stadium area that had been erected for the main events. My host mother explained that the ceremony is just about the 91 same every year, and anyway it is so crowded that you can hardly see anything. For them, the festival is important not for its political meanings, but rather as any other holiday: a time to leave the city and spend time with the family. Similarly, for the 2008 Nyurba Yhyakh, I hurried ahead with my friend Evdokia in order to catch the opening ceremonies, and my Nyurba host family caught up with us only at the tail end of the ceremony, unexcited by the spectacle. Nevertheless, even my host father, who normally stayed home during other holidays (preferring the comfort of his band saw or the quiet of the forest to the public spectacles), attended the festival and donned a brand new button-down shirt. In preparation for Yhyakh, my host mother had bought everyone (including me) brand new clothes and the night before, we heated up the sauna in order to take our weekly bath a few days early. As such, we were all looking our finest as we wandered amongst the booths, looking at the handicrafts and artwork displayed by local residents. My host mother bought a photograph of a Sakha horse standing in the nearby forest at the behest of her 12-year old granddaughter, who was in the midst of her horsephase (apparently an international phenomenon). Afterwards, we found a grassy knoll to sit on, while my host father foraged for various Sakha delicacies at the market. He eventually returned with horse meat, various traditional bread products, and the kymys substitute, bypakh (fermented cow‘s milk rather than horse milk), which provided our lunch (Figure 10). Yhyakh, for my host family, as for many other Nyurba families, was not about the spectacle of the shamanic ceremony or the beautifully choreographed dances and reenactments that comprised the official aspects of the festival. Rather, it was about spending time with family, being outside during the short-lived northern summers, and feeling with friends, relatives, and the broader community. Collective identity as Sakha people played a role—everyone always ate ―national‖ foods, many came dressed in ―national‖ dress, and folkloric performances and competitions were always a part of the festival. But many, like my host family, found that wearing new clothing that could also be worn in other contexts was a sufficient way of observing the occasion. 92 Figure 10: Family time at the 2008 Nyurba Yhyakh In some ways, for Nyurba residents, Yhyakh was actually not substantially different than it had been during the Soviet Union. In buying new clothes, for example, my host mother was continuing a tradition that she remembered from her childhood, when every year her mother would buy them new clothing. Furthermore, some elderly residents of Nyurba suggested that Yhyakh now was the same as it had been in their youth. Others insisted that it was actually far better during the Soviet era when everyone would participate in the various events, like Ohuokai and sports competitions. Now, many elderly and young Nyurba residents alike complained that Yhyakh had become a show. What this points to is the way that indigenous traditions, like Yhyakh, can have powerful political significance for the assertion of a broad scale ethnic solidarity, but also be part of the lived experience of people. They are traditions in the sense that they are passed from one generation to another, but yet the shift and change in each new generation, acquiring new meanings and significances. As I point out above, the Post-Soviet Sakha cultural revival movement resembles the struggles of indigenous and other marginal peoples elsewhere, who seek to assert the viability of their cultural traditions in the face of economic globalization and domination by more powerful ethnic others (see especially, Warren and Jackson 2002). As Warren and Jackson highlight for other indigenous efforts to preserve folkloric traditions, Sakha cultural revival is not simply about tradition, but it is also bound up in politics of identity and difference, engaging questions of power, resistance, and domination. ―Culture‖ and ―Ethnicity‖ emerge as powerful essentialisms that can both be imposed coercively and embraced in the course of struggles for emancipation. At the same time, their embrace is not a simple matter of choice or strategy. The fact that culture and ethnicity are social constructs and shifting signifiers does not make them any less real in everyday experience. In 93 contemporary Russia, possibilities for ethnically-based political action are increasingly circumscribed and yet, culture and ethnicity persist as powerfully affective attachments. For many, their value need not even be articulated. In this way, they are part of what Raymond Williams (1977) terms ―structures of feeling,‖ operating in practice rather than as consciously held beliefs. 94 Chapter 4: Remembering Stalin—Ethnic Oppression and Collective Sacrifice Figure 11: Monument to Stalin in Mirnii. In the spring of 2005, the city of Mirnii, the diamond mining center of the Sakha Republic, announced its intention to erect a new statue of Stalin (Figure 11). This would be one of a handful of statues of Stalin built since 1991 and the event made headlines throughout Russia, prompting significant debate in the national media, including a roundtable discussion with various celebrities on the nationwide news program ―Vremena‖ (The Times). The statue‘s construction was sponsored financially by the Mirnii veterans of the ―Great Patriotic War‖—the Russian name for World War II—and approved by the Mirnii city administration. After months of anticipation, on May 9th, the sixtieth anniversary of the end of World War II, the statue was unveiled. The papers reported huge crowds at the unveiling ceremony that included residents of all ages and nationalities. Attendees brought flowers and carried signs with slogans like, ―History will judge us,‖ and ―We honor the history of our country‖ (S Nikolaev and Skliarov 2005). Politicians and businessmen from all over the Sakha Republic, including the then president of the Republic, Viacheslav Shtyrov 95 attended. The mayor of Mirnii, Anatolii Popov addressed the crowd with a strong defense of Stalin: We are erecting a monument to the great son of Russia, who gave his people all that he had: talent, organizational ability, ruthlessness and exaction, love and devotion, never taking anything in exchange. He died without a ruble in his pocket, without an account in the bank, without any belongings or property… I arrived in the Sakha Republic for the first time in late February of 2005. After staying in the nearby town of Nyurba a few weeks, I was invited to Mirnii in order to meet with English students at Mirnii Polytechnic University. I was surprised to find the city at the center of national media spotlight, and even more surprised that a new monument to Stalin would be erected shortly. As a young American student with little experience in Russia, this was deeply unsettling. I had grown-up understanding Stalin as a cruel dictator, who had reigned through violence and fear, a perception which was reinforced by my recent exposure to historical literature on the Sakha and other indigenous Siberians during the Soviet Union and the Stalinist era in particular. As such, I was confused when the students, including many Sakha students, patiently explained to me that elderly people, regardless of nationality, revere Stalin, and that building this statue was a form of honoring their sacrifices during the War. ―Don‘t they know that he killed millions of people?‖ I insisted. They explained that older people simply don‘t believe the accounts of state terror; for them, he is the Great Leader, who led them to victory during WWII. As I spent more time in rural areas of the Nyurba ulus over the course of 2008, I grew accustomed to the reverence with which Stalin was still held by elderly. Simultaneously, I also encountered a widespread ambivalence on the part of younger Sakha, like the students in Mirnii, who understood their grandparents‘ sentiments and yet were also aware of a counter discourse that labeled Stalin as the chief architect of Soviet ethnically-based oppression. Continued veneration of Stalin on the part of elderly Sakha raises crucial questions about indigenous-state relations, history, memory, and power. Recent scholarship in both anthropology and history has called attention to the ways that historical narratives are inevitably shaped by relations of domination as subaltern versions of events are eclipsed by stories told by the powerful (Chakrabarty 2000; Trouillot 2001). For this reason, Maori 96 scholar, Linda Tuhiwai Smith has argued that ―reclaiming history is a critical and essential aspect of decolonization‖ (2005, 30). She suggests that history is as much about the present as it is about the past: in conditions of ongoing colonization, ―to hold alternative histories is to hold alternative knowledges‖ (33) and the ―need to tell our stories remains a powerful imperative of a powerful form of resistance‖ (35). For indigenous activists, telling ―indigenous‖ versions of history that highlight state violence toward indigenous communities has been an important means to assert collective identity and to bolster claims to sovereignty. As the previous chapter begins to suggest, urban Sakha intellectuals in the aftermath of the Soviet Union‘s collapse saw themselves engaged in just such a process as they sought to recover ―national memory‖ and dismantle hegemonic Soviet narratives. The continuing veneration of Stalin on the part of elderly Sakha, however, points to a more complicated interweaving of dominant and subaltern histories. In examining elderly memories of Stalin, I argue that the intertwining of power and history is not simply a matter of authoritative History eclipsing indigenous memory. As Olick and Robbins (1998) have pointed out, history and memory feed into one another. State-authorized histories often shape collective memory of events, and dominant narratives come to be actively embraced by the colonized. As Bloch (2005) has argued, this is not a matter of ―false consciousness,‖ but rather reveals the complicated workings of power. The vast literature on subjectification has demonstrated that power works not through direct application, but through framing a system of incentives and the conditions for action (Foucault 2000). It is not a constraining force, but rather a productive force that produces certain kinds of subjects and actions. We can see this in the ways that elderly Sakha embrace the figure of Stalin and with him, their identity as Soviet subjects. Just as nostalgia for the USSR on the part of the elderly Evenk women interviewed by Bloch was informed by their experience of being at the center of historic social transformation, elderly Sakha saw themselves as having been centrally engaged in the building of socialism during the Stalin era. In the present, they see the suffering and hardship they experienced then in terms of willing sacrifice, rather than state-sponsored oppression. At the same time, this raises challenging questions about the nature of ―indigenous‖ histories vis-à-vis dominant state narratives. What happens to contemporary efforts to ―reclaim history‖ and assert alternative narratives if the majority of people who lived through these events and were supposed to have suffered from state oppression ardently resist these 97 efforts? For urban Sakha intellectuals, like those introduced in Chapter 3, Stalin is chiefly responsible for the persecution of Sakha during the Soviet era. As we shall see, narratives of Stalinist repression, mismanagement and even ―genocide‖ against ethnic minorities have been central to legitimating aspirations for sovereignty in the post-Soviet period. Simultaneously, the figure of Stalin has come to figure prominently in Russian nationalist discourses that oppose all forms of ethno-territorial sovereignty (Khrushcheva 2005; Oushakine 2007; Shlapentokh and Bondartsova 2009). Like the mayor of Mirnii quoted above, many contemporary Russian politicians (communist, nationalist, and centrist) and other public figures have embraced the image of Stalin as a powerful leader of Russia, and carefully ignored or even denied the violence and repression that accompanied his rule. In these visions, Stalin figures less for his role as a communist ideologue, and more for his role as a strong, unifying leader, bringing together disparate peoples and establishing the Soviet Union (and with it, Russia) as a major world power. In this way, the ―rehabilitation‖ of Stalin, nationally, coincides with the growing assertion of a supposedly non-ethnic Rossiiskii identity and the weakening of ethno-national movements in regions like the Sakha Republic. The opening vignette highlights the ways that local processes of remembering intersect with broader political debates as young Sakha students in Mirnii find themselves considering the Stalin statue in light of their grandparents‘ reverence for Stalin, while the national media considers the statue in light of broader trends of Russian nationalism and ethnic politics. In this chapter, I explore these tensions. I ask, first, why do elderly Sakha revere Stalin? And in the first section of the chapter, I examine the complex forms of subjectivity engendered by the early Soviet state that continue to shape perceptions of Stalin among elderly Sakha. Secondly, I ask: what are the implications of elderly reverence for Stalin for local attempts to revisit questions of political responsibility? How do rural towns like Nyurba reconcile the very different versions of Sakha history embraced by different segments of the population? Finally, I consider the implications of elderly reverence of Stalin for Sakha ―national revival‖ more broadly. Ultimately, I argue that as aspirations for sovereignty fade and ethnicity becomes ―de-politicized,‖ questions of political responsibility inherent in debates about Stalin are also elided, and history, like culture, becomes a matter of personal memory. As Oushakine (2009) argues, ―questions of political responsibility‖ are ―displaced by collective practices of grief and discourses of bereavement‖ (5). This has the 98 effect, therefore, of further undermining contemporary aspirations for ethno-territorial sovereignty, and reinforcing perceptions of cultural identity as an extra-political realm. 4.1 The Sovietization of Yakutia A significant post-socialist anthropological literature has sought to explain the contradictions of indigenous incorporation into the Soviet Union, whereby native Siberians simultaneously suffered from state oppression and came to enthusiastically participate in the building of Soviet socialism (Bloch 2004; Grant 1995; P Gray 2005). What these studies highlight are the complex workings of power that shaped native Siberians as Soviet subjects. They emphasize that native Siberians were not simply oppressed by the Soviet state, but rather were drawn into a complex relationship, in which they also negotiated their own possibilities for action. The Soviet state, here, appears not only as a totalitarian one, imposing arbitrary rules upon its subjects, but also as Foucault‘s ―modern state,‖ in which individuals were integrated according to specific patterns (Foucault 2000). That is to say indigenous Siberians, like other Soviet citizens, came to participate in state projects and governmental structures to a much greater degree than ever before and came to understand their own identities in terms of this participation. Despite the hardship and suffering of forced collectivization and mass-repression during the 1930s, by 1945 Sakha were celebrating Soviet victory in World War II as ―our‖ victory, referring to the collective efforts of all the peoples of the Soviet Union. In many ways, Sovietization can be seen as a process of ―subjectification‖ as Sakha came to be ―subject to‖ Soviet state control, but also to be selfaware as Soviet ―subjects‖ (Foucault 2000, 331), i.e. agentive participants in the Soviet project. 4.1.2 1920s: New Economic Policy and the “Golden Age” of Sakha Culture Historian Francine Hirsch (2005) has argued that ―Sovietization‖ was an ―interactive and participatory process‖ in which different groups and individuals often pursued competing 99 agendas under ostensibly similar frameworks of revolutionary Marxism. Furthermore, the way ideas actually worked out ―on the ground‖ varied extensively among different population groups. Certainly during the 1920s, the Soviet state was by no means a monolithic entity and, in the ―national‖ regions like Yakutia, state socialism did not immediately cause huge disruptions or bring about sweeping changes in the daily life of the predominantly rural Sakha population (A Gogolev 2005; EE Alekseev 2007). Interventions like the introduction of price-controls on grain, for example, had little effect on the cattle-herding Sakha, who continued to live in dispersed settlements and to practice cattle and horse husbandry in loosely knit kin groups. This is not to say that the new system went unnoticed—indeed, new schools, medical clinics, and ―culture bases‖ began appearing all over the countryside—but in most cases, these did not lead to major changes in daily routines, and in some places they were simply ignored, much to the frustration of early Soviet officials. For the urban Sakha intelligentsia, however, the 1920s were a time of exciting optimism. Under the newly created Yakut Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (Yakut ASSR), Sakha intellectuals were able to participate in regional government for the first time.25 While many had opposed the Bolsheviks during the Civil War, they embraced some of the new measures of the Bolshevik government, which sought to ―indigenize‖ local and regional power structures as much as possible (Martin 2001). A handful of young, Sakha Bolsheviks ended up in significant positions of leadership and worked collaboratively with the non-party intelligentsia.26 In this environment, cultural leaders ended up in positions of government, and politicians took part in a blossoming cultural renaissance. Leading Sakha Bolsheviks, like Platon Sleptsov-Oiunskii and A.I. Sofronov, for example, emerged as both important political and literary figures. Sakha scholars, like Gavril Ksenofontov, who wrote one of the first comprehensive studies of Sakha ethnogenesis, and the ethnographer-poet Aleksei Kulakovskii, both took active roles in the early government. Furthermore, new 25 In Tsarist Russia, Sakha were more or less excluded from participation in the governance of the oblast‟ (the Yakut ASSR was previously the Yakutsk Oblast‟)—the administration of which was appointed by Moscow. Sakha “toions” did exercise substantial control over local affairs, although these were always overseen by Cossak administrations (Tokarev, ZV Gogolev, and Gurvich 1957). Because of these restrictions, Sakha leaders had long sought regional self-government in the form of democratic bodies called zemstvo, which had been instituted in much of Western Russia after the end of serfdom in 1861 (e.g. Iakovlev 1999). 26 This collaboration was also enabled by the fact that prior to the 1917 Revolution, much of the Sakha intelligentsia (communist and non-communist) had been united in their opposition to the Tsarist policies—while they differed in terms of concrete political philosophy, they all equally embraced the February revolution and worked together to form a provisional government in Yakutia (see, EE Alekseev 2007). 100 individual and ethnic freedoms allowed Sakha cultural organizations to be formed for the first time, and the government supported the establishment of a variety of Sakha newspapers, journals, and literature. Contemporary Sakha intellectuals look back to the 1920s as a time of significant cultural development, or ―flourishing‖ (prosvetanie) and celebrate the artistic, literary, and political achievements of the Sakha intelligentsia at this time. In the present, individuals like Oiunskii, Kulakovskii, Ksenofontov, and Sofronov are celebrated as ―national heroes‖ and their literary and scholarly works read as essential classics of Sakha literature. This is not to say that the 1920s can be simply characterized as a time of prosperity and equality in Yakutsk or elsewhere in Yakutia. Despite the relative tolerance of these years, opposition to Soviet rule was met with often brutal retaliation and a developing secret service carried out extensive surveillance of potential opposition groups. The non-party national intelligentsia was always regarded with suspicion on the part of central Bolshevik leaders and their participation in government was tolerated largely due to the need for qualified specialists (EE Alekseev 2007). On the whole, however, the 1920s did witness a significant expansion of opportunities for Sakha to participate in their own governance over those which had existed during Tsarist Russia, and they also brought a relative degree of economic stability and prosperity to a region that had been badly torn by the long years of the Civil War. 4.1.3 Cultural Revolution in Yakutia This situation, however, drastically changed as Stalin consolidated power and sought to accelerate the process of socialist transformation. For indigenous Siberians, the collectivization and industrialization introduced by Stalin represented a new level of state intervention in daily life, which severely disrupted long-standing social relations and community ties (A Gogolev 2005). Furthermore, large-scale repressions resulted in almost all of the pre-Soviet and early Soviet Sakha intelligentsia arrested and/or killed, such that leadership was taken over by young Russian and occasionally, Sakha communists with little tolerance for the supposedly regressive practices of the ―backwards‖ rural population. The 101 repressions began on a mass-scale in 1927 and 1928, when the non-party Sakha intelligentsia began to be arrested for supposed plots against the Soviet government. In 1928, the Central Communist Party issued a proclamation, ―On the condition of Yakut organizations,‖ which identified the ―problem‖ of Sakha nationalism. This in turn led to the prohibition of most of the Sakha cultural organizations that had proliferated during the 1920s and many Sakha language printing presses were shut down. In addition, Sakha leaders of the Communist Party were removed from positions of power, and many were sent to other regions of the USSR, where it was imagined that any nationalist sentiments might be minimized. 27 During this first wave of mass repression, according to Sakha historian, E.E. Alekseev (2007), more than 500 Sakha were killed and thousands more relieved of their jobs (see also, EE Alekseev 1991; D‘yachkovskii 1992). According to Alekseev, this was the first of the mass repressions carried out against non-Russian ethnic groups, leading him to conclude that, ―The Yakut people were the first in the USSR to be subject to Stalin‘s genocide‖ (EE Alekseev 1998). I return to this below. During this same period, Stalin initiated the first five-year plan, intended to spark rapid industrialization in urban areas and collectivization of farms in rural areas. Both collectivization and industrialization were implemented in Yakutia (like elsewhere) with varying degrees of intensity during the early 1930s, and were accordingly met with varying degrees of opposition on the part of rural Sakha. On a basic level, the first five-year plan disrupted the liberal economic policies of NEP and concentrated resources in urban centers rather than the countryside. As forced collectivization accelerated, Sakha farmers often slaughtered their cattle rather than give them to collective farms. The problems of collectivization were exacerbated by drought in 1932 and 34, which led to serious famines across much of the Sakha countryside. Furthermore, the arrests and executions extended far beyond the urban intelligentsia to teachers and directors of rural institutions, supposed ―kulaks‖ or wealthier peasants, and also ordinary collective farm workers suspected of dissent. As a result of these repressions, qualified managers and directors of collective farms were often in drastically short supply and the fledgling farms were poorly managed. Livestock populations collapsed throughout the Republic: official statistics, for example, 27 Prominent Bolshevik and personal acquaintance of Lenin, M.K. Ammosov, for example, was sent to Kirghizstan for a number of years, before being arrested and killed in the late 1930s (EE Alekseev 1997). 102 estimate that the number of cattle in 1939 was 2/3 of 1929 levels, and the number of horses half (Alekseev 2007, 247). Contemporary Sakha historians point to the collapse of cattle and horse farming as crucial blow to the rural Sakha population, for whom cattle and horses were not only the primary source of subsistence, but also held deep symbolic significance (Maj 2009). As the 1930s progressed, repressions caused a massive turnover in leadership at all levels, throughout the USSR. Arrests and executions mounted, and almost the entire early Soviet leadership was destroyed, including much of the central committee of the Communist Party, the Red Army leadership, and local and regional administrations. In the Yakut ASSR, more than 1800 people have been estimated to have been killed during the great purges of 1937 and 38, including almost all of the prominent Sakha Bolsheviks who had led the Republic during the 1920s and the non-party Sakha intelligentsia—writers, actors, artists, and others. Even Sakha living outside the Republic (in Moscow, Leningrad, and other regions) were arrested and/or killed (Alekseev 2007, 230). In addition, Sakha working in supposedly sensitive industries, like the gold-mining industry, were fired from their jobs and many were arrested for suspected sabotage (Alekseev 2007, 246). Few Sakha were untouched by the repressions; during my fieldwork almost everyone I met recounted how teachers, friends, and relatives had disappeared during this time. However, it was the urban intelligentsia that was the most devastated segment of the Sakha population, and it is this fact that contemporary Sakha intellectuals point to as crucially destructive for subsequent Sakha ―cultural development.‖ I return to this below, but emphasize here that the elimination of the intelligentsia has been characterized as the destruction of the Sakha avant-garde, those who would help to ―develop‖ cultural traditions in the future. Nevertheless, because of the specific targeting of intellectuals, rural Sakha did not experience the same degree of upheaval as did urban Sakha communities. For this reason, perhaps, many rural Sakha continue to insist that those repressed were largely guilty, and if they were not, then it was the result of honest mistakes. Accompanying the horrors of mass repression and forced collectivization, however, historians have noted ―another truth‖ to Stalin‘s politics. Alekseev argues, for example: 103 Stalinist nationalities‘ policy was not simple, but rather contradictory and complicated. It relied on the chauvinism of the largest ethnic group—Russians…for the physical and spiritual subjugation of the non-Russian peoples. However, there was another truth. Nationalities‘ policy prior to the great repression [of 1937-38] was directed toward the development of the productive strength in the national regions and republics in the name of the powerful Soviet Union and the socialist-in-content…national-in-form…culture of the non-Russian peoples. And even such a nationalities‘ policy produced some positive results (244). For Alekseev, the ―positive results‖ include the expansion of industry, the expansion of education, and the improvement of infrastructure across the country. The processes of industrialization and collectivization introduced sweeping changes in the daily lives of both rural and urban Sakha, including advancements that brought increased mobility and educational and work opportunities for Sakha young people. Roads were built connecting the major urban centers, the first regular air flights connected the Republic with the Southern Siberian city of Irkustk, telephone and telegraph lines expanded to even the most remote regions, and a sea port on the Arctic Ocean was established connecting the Republic with other northern cities during the summer months (Gogolev 2005). In addition to these ―material‖ gains, contemporary historians also note supposedly significant gains in the sphere of ―culture.‖ Literacy rates rose from less than 1% through most of the Republic to almost 80% by the end of the 1930s, native-language primary schools were expanded to serve almost all of the population centers of the Republic, secondary-schooling was introduced in many regions, and opportunities for higher education expanded immensely. From the point of view of contemporary Sakha scholars, this was especially beneficial for Sakha, very few of whom had any formal schooling prior to the revolution. Furthermore, ―culture clubs‖ were established in all the villages of the region and introduced the rural population to theater, art, and film. Finally, ―indigenization‖ policies meant that the use of Sakha language in official venues had increased significantly. As these kinds of opportunities to engage with Russian cultural and political norms expanded with post-War industrialization, young Sakha in particular learned to embrace them, and also came to embrace Marxist philosophy and the notions of progress that were central to the Stalinist revolution. They came to internalize ideas of cleanliness and 104 civilization enforced at schools, and to celebrate the new opportunities for ―cultural development‖ offered by the culture bases. They watched films, acted in plays, and learned to read for the first time. And the whole time, they were told that as supposedly lessadvanced peoples, they were making a ―giant leap across time‖ (see also, Bloch 2004; Grant 1995). As Sakha participated in these new activities, they created a new social environment, new conditions for action and new expectations about what ought to be (cf. Oushakine 2004). In the process, they also created themselves as Soviet subjects. Despite the difficulties of these years, Stalin did instigate a ―cultural revolution‖ and effected a wholesale transformation of both economic and cultural norms that has been evaluated variously, and led some to question in retrospect whether or not the means, on some level, justified the ends. It also points to the complex forms of subjectification through which new Soviet selves were constructed. 4.1.4 The Great Patriotic War Whatever the evaluation of the preceding years, however, the advent of World War II (or the ―Great Patriotic War‖ as it was termed in Russian28), inaugurated new upheaval for the country as a whole, and this, in turn, provided a new lens through which to view the preceding years. As I discuss in more detail below, for many who lived through the War, the repressions and rapid industrialization of the 1930s came to be seen as necessary to the USSR‘s ultimate victory, and therefore as evidence of Stalin‘s foresight, rather than his brutality. That is to say that his supporters insist that he knew that war was coming and that rapid industrialization was necessary to ―catch up‖ with the Western capitalist countries. In this view, the repressions were a perhaps regrettable, yet understandable means of enforcing this strenuous pace. Nevertheless, for many contemporary historians, the history of the Great Patriotic War is one of spectacular mismanagement and neglect for individual life. From the Yakut ASSR, more than 62,000 people were drafted, and of these, almost 40,000 died in battle (Alekseev 2007, 262). This is from a 1939 population of around 413,000 (Sivtseva 28 Technically, “The Great Patriotic War” refers to the Soviet war against Germany, which began in 1941. 105 2005), which means that almost one-tenth of the total population of the Republic died on the front. Alekseev (2007) argues that draft exemptions, which were granted for other, smaller indigenous groups ought to have been extended to the Sakha as well, because most Sakha soldiers ended up as little more than warm bodies on the battle field. As he insists, the vast majority of Sakha draftees was called from the ―depths of the provinces‖ (iz glukhikh naslegov), did not even know a single word of Russian, and had no military experience. They were unable to orient themselves in Russian cities, much less in the battlefield and an army led by Russians. For them, the war was a tragedy and they would have been better off staying at home to help with the harvests (EE Alekseev 2007, 263). This insistence upon the naiveté of the Sakha soldiers was repeated by many Sakha, especially those who were critical of Stalin. It is true that Russian language was not widespread at the time and so many of the recruits likely struggled to simply understand what was going on for linguistic reasons. At the same time, broader histories of the War suggest that Russian and other soldiers were equally unfamiliar with modern warfare and all quickly scrambled to learn the basics of survival. I return to this below, but one of the things this emphasis on Sakha naïveté does is to underscore the distinction between pre- and post-War populations, in which before the war, Sakha were not integrated in the Soviet Union and lived in ―traditional‖ ways, whereas after the war, modernization and progress enveloped the Sakha and separated them from the practices of their ancestors. The situation on the home front was as catastrophic or even more so for the rural Sakha population, who suffered from years of famine, in which thousands of people literally starved to death. With all of the young and middle-aged men gone to the front, the newly collectivized farms were bereft of the most crucial segment of their workforce—women, children and the elderly eventually came to replace the men, but the sudden reorganization of the workforce took two-three years to become effective. Further, war time laws allowed the state to appropriate most of the produce from the collective farms and also made most forms of private food production illegal. In addition, state redistribution of food often neglected the rural areas, and as such the rural population was left with little to no food. This was compounded by the lack of experienced leaders and managers, many of whom had been killed. Alekseev writes that all who might have ―raised a brave voice in defense of their starving people‖ were replaced by opportunistic yes-men, who fulfilled every command from 106 the ―great leader‖ (Stalin) without concern for the actual circumstances of the people (Alekseev, 2007, 261). Indeed, any mention of starvation was prohibited (for, according to official rhetoric, ―In the Soviet Union, people did not die of starvation‖) and doctors were pressured to indicate almost any other cause of death. Even after Khrushchev‘s denunciation of Stalin, official histories avoided confronting the realities of widespread starvation during the war years. It has only been since the advent of perestroika that Soviet/post-Soviet scholars have begun to examine the extent of the loss of life on the home front (e.g. Isupov 2000; Sivtseva 2005). According to recent estimates, in Yakutia alone, more than 60,000 people died from hunger from 1941-45 (Alekseev 2007, 264).29 Despite, or perhaps because of the tragedy of the War, Sakha emerged from it very much aware of their identity as Soviet citizens. Victory Day on March 9, 1945, was a collective Soviet celebration and in every single village, town and city, residents poured out on the street to celebrate Soviet victory. In Nyurba, residents celebrated with a giant Ohuokai circle dance. In this way, the war and victory comprised a powerful symbolic moment for Soviet solidarity when all the peoples of the empire were united in a common struggle. It has been continually evoked since then in official rhetoric as means to anchor collective Soviet identity, i.e. successive Soviet administrations promoted the commemoration of Victory Day and the memory of those who lost their lives through elaborate state rituals in what has been termed the ―cult of World War II‖ (see also, Tumarkin 1994; Wanner 1998). As such, World War II provides a powerful anchor for collective Soviet (and now, pan-Russian) identity, signifying a collective experience of loss and victory (Oushakine 2009). Simultaneously, the war brought about a massive transformation in the material life of Soviet citizens, including in the Yakut ASSR. Sakha villagers, who had previously only heard of Moscow and, perhaps Leningrad as distant and faraway places, followed the progress of the Red Army and of their sons (and often daughters as well) throughout Western Russian and then into Berlin. Those who went to battle, found themselves in places that had previously been dots on a map, and they found themselves fighting alongside others from all 29 The precise numbers vary widely. Alekseev (2007) argues that 60,000 people died on the home front and 40,000 on the front lines, which would put the total deaths at around 100,000, although he never provides this number. Sivtseva (2005) indicates that 65,256 people in Yakutia died in a discussion about the impact of the war on the home front, but does not indicate whether this includes both soldiers and those on the home front. Either way, the losses in battle and on the home front were very large. According to Sivtseva (2005), the entire population of Yakutia decreased 15% from 1941-1945. 107 over the USSR, speaking in Russian as a lingua franca. Many of those who returned home stayed in contact with comrades-in-arms throughout the following decades; many stayed in Moscow or Leningrad. On the home front, the collective farms achieved new authority as they came to organize almost every aspect of the daily lives of rural Sakha. Even though collectivization had only just been completed by the start of the War, by the War‘s end, a return to older methods of farming and subsistence was unthinkable. With so much of the pre-war population killed (by some estimates as much as 1/3), older social relations and practices were thoroughly disrupted, such that even if the state had abandoned collectivization as a policy, it seems unlikely that Sakha communities would have been able to simply return to pre-collectivization lifestyles. The war inaugurated a sea change in people‘s daily life and in their conceptions of their position in the world. As Paxson (2005) writes, ―The very real German enemy that caused the very real deaths of an estimated 20 million Soviets was enough to form a circle around the imagined nation‖ (112). For Sakha, as for other Soviet citizens, it meant that they were very much participants in the larger Soviet project—no longer simply subject to state interventions, but fully implicated in the building of communism. As post-war reconstruction efforts unfolded, this sense of participation in the Soviet project expanded. For Nyurba residents, in particular, Russians and others from elsewhere in the USSR began to arrive in droves as part of the great search for diamonds in the Viliui, introducing children to a range of new potential professions, like ―geologist‖ or ―engineer.‖ Despite continued hardship, for many, life did appear to get better and provided a strong lens through which to justify the past. As I begin to emphasize in chapter 2, elderly Sakha often look back at this time with pride rather than with pain or anger. They resolutely insist that Stalin was a strong guide and leader, and that he could not be the source of so much suffering as post-Soviet revelations came to insist. 108 4.2 Stalinism and National Revival ―The Stalinist regime not only destroyed the flower of the Yakut nation, but also planted in the consciousness and minds of the people of the subsequent generations a paralyzing fear, disbelief in their own strength, and a feeling of inferiority.‖ (A Nikolaev 2002) As I begin to explore in the previous chapter, the post-Soviet Sakha ―national revival‖ movement challenged Soviet discourses that painted the USSR as a voluntary union of peacefully coexisting ethnic groups. Sakha scholars and cultural leaders insisted that state rhetoric of the ―friendship of the peoples‖ actually masked an unequal relationship between ethnic Russians and non-Russians that was maintained through force and coercion on the part of the Soviet state. Importantly, however, they did not see this as necessarily inherent to the Soviet state or to communist ideals (at least as they were initially conceived in the 1920s), but rather directly attributable to shifts introduced by Joseph Stalin. Alekseev (2007), for example, argues that the Soviet Union actually began with relatively noble goals, and early Bolshevik leaders, like Lenin, sought to ameliorate the inequality faced by non-Russian groups. According to Alekseev, however, Stalin corrupted Lenin‘s conception of the national question and inaugurated a ruthless campaign to root out manifestations of ―bourgeois nationalism‖ amongst non-Russians (Alekseev 2007, 27). And so, for many Sakha intellectuals, Stalin figures chiefly as a genocidal dictator, who was personally responsible for both the pre-War repressions of Sakha and for the devastation of World War II. While the denunciation of Stalin and the rehabilitation of the victims of repression were initiated by Khrushchev in the 1950s, they proceeded slowly and cautiously, and then, were halted altogether during the Brezhnev era of ―stagnation.‖ It was only with the era of glasnost’ or ―openness‖ inaugurated by Gorbachev that the dark side of Stalinism could be fully examined. In the Sakha Republic, Sakha historians and others began to look to the archives to discover missing pieces of their ―national memory‖ (Vinokurova 1991)—through cultural revival, but also through the rehabilitation of the victims of repression and new critical histories of the USSR. In conjunction with the opening of Soviet state archives, for the first time, Sakha historians published the horrific details of the violence and repression of the 1930s and 1940s (e.g. EE Alekseev 2004; I Nikolaev and Ushnitskii 1990; Sivtseva 109 2005). As the Sakha legal scholar, Ivanova (2006c) maintains, ―The restoration of justice, begun in the 50s and 60s, received its logical conclusion in the beginning of the 90s‖ (192). She highlights, in particular, Yeltsin‘s 1994 signing of a special order with regard to the Sakha victims of Stalinist repressions. She continues, ―This order has a huge historical significance, in that it allowed all unjust accusations of imagined political crimes to be removed from the repressed and has once and for all returned their names to their native people‖ (192). The ―restoration of justice‖ has in this way played an important part in the movement for national-territorial sovereignty in the aftermath of the Soviet Union‘s collapse as Sakha intellectuals sought to ―return the names‖ of the repressed to the people in a metonymical rehabilitation of the entire Sakha people, long suspected of harboring latent nationalism.30 Contemporary Sakha scholars look to the early Bolshevik approaches to nationalities‘ policy and especially Lenin‘s sensitivity to the roots of ethnic nationalism in oppression as an enlightened philosophy that sought to address the abuses of the Tsarist administration with regard to ethnic minorities. They also see the actions and philosophies of early Sakha Bolsheviks, like Platon Oiunskii (now seen as one of the founders of Sakha literature) and M.K. Ammosov (a leading Sakha Bolshevik and personal acquaintance of Lenin), as national heroes, who fought for the liberation of their people. In this framework, there is no essential contradiction between certain kinds of nationalism and orthodox Bolshevism. All sought to counteract the ethnic oppression and ―great power chauvinism‖ that had long subjugated the non-Russian peoples of the Russian Empire.31 For contemporary Sakha scholars, Soviet ethno-federalism and the establishment of the Yakut ASSR was not a concession to nationalists, but rather a sincere attempt to bring about greater social justice and equality for the different ethnic groups. Ethnically-based territories were supposed to be able to introduce communism in ―nationally-specific‖ ways and to protect minority groups from Russian 30 See also, Argounova (2007b), who demonstrates that the supposed crime of bourgeois nationalism was appended not just to those individuals, who were actively arrested and/or executed, but that the entire Sakha people were suspected of “bourgeois nationalism” and punished as such. 31 A number of English-language historians have also documented early Bolshevik criticism of Great Russian Chauvanism (Slezkine 1994, Hirsch 2005). Lowell Tillet (1969) also provides an early analysis of the contradictions between early Soviet perspectives on national tensions and later perspectives. 110 chauvinism.32 According to post-Soviet Sakha historians, however, Stalin turned this theory on its head and insisted upon non-Russian nationalism as the principle threat to the building of socialism. Ultimately, Alekseev (2007) argues that Stalin emerged as ―the destroyer of Lenin‘s multinational state and the principal persecutor and oppressor of non-Russian peoples‖ (16). For Alekseev, as for many other Sakha intellectuals, the blame for the repressions and mismanagement that resulted in the deaths of so many lies squarely with Stalin; later Soviet administrations were also guilty of continuing the repressive policies initiated by Stalin, but he was the architect. It was this view which contrasts so starkly with the renewed celebrations of Stalin‘s legacy and helped condition my surprise when I was confronted with veneration of Stalin during my first trip to Mirnii. As I suggest above, urban Sakha intellectuals have depicted the Stalin era, beginning from the late 1920s up until Stalin‘s death in 1953 as one of particularly severe ethnically-based oppression for the Sakha people and even genocide. They highlight: 1) repressions for bourgeois nationalism that resulted in thousands of Sakha deaths and destroyed the ―national intelligentsia,‖ which effectively halted Sakha ―cultural development;‖ 2) the havoc wreaked on rural livelihoods, where the bulk of the population (the ―essence‖ of Sakha culture) resided; and 3) the spectacular level of neglect and mismanagement of the home front during World War II, which disproportionately affected non-Russian and more remote groups like the Sakha. First, they argue that repressions for bourgeois nationalism resulted in thousands of Sakha deaths, which for a ―small people‖ like the Sakha is an enormous number. In citing the huge numbers of people killed during the repression, for example, Alekseev (2007) argues: ―It follows that the loss of one person for such a small-numbered people, like the Buryats and Yakuts was equivalent to the loss of tens and hundreds of people for the largenumbered peoples like the Ukrainians, Kazakhs, and others‖ (32). 32 There is significant disagreement in the literature on the nature of early Bolshevik attitudes to non-Russian nationalities, however. While Slezkine (1994) insists upon the “earnestness” of early Bolshevik leaders with regards to ethnic minorities, others have suggested that assimilation was always the ultimate goal. Hirsch (2005), for example, argues that even in the 1920s, nationalities‟ policy was NOT directed toward national self-determination for its own sake, nor was it a kind of Soviet version of “affirmative action” as Terry Martin (2001) has argued. Rather, the intent was to assist victims of Soviet modernization and to usher the entire population through the Marxist timeline of historical development (8). For Hirsch, then, Stalinist nationalities‟ policy did not contradict Lenin‟s, but rather represented an acceleration of the Marxist transformation that Lenin and other early Bolshevik leaders also sought. At the same time, as I point out above, she also emphasizes the fact that “Sovietization” was an “interactive and participatory process” in which different groups and individuals often pursued competing agendas under ostensibly similar frameworks of revolutionary Marxism. 111 Secondly, these repressions targeted and ultimately exterminated (istrebili) the entire pre-Soviet Sakha intelligentsia, who contemporary intellectuals insist were ―the best part of the people‖ (Alekseev 2007, 32). As cultural and intellectual leaders, the intelligentsia was supposed to be at the forefront of Sakha cultural enlightenment and would be the ones who would lead the Sakha into modernity in culturally and ethnically specific ways, and in this way, allow for the autonomous and progressive development of Sakha culture. 33 So when they were repressed this was a blow to the entire Sakha people, who had no one to lead their cultural development. Uliana Vinokurova also echoes this argument in suggesting that after the destruction and diminishing of Sakha cultural leaders, ―nothing was left except to follow the shining representatives of other peoples‖ (1991, 5). By this she means that without the intelligentsia, ordinary Sakha had to follow the intelligentsia of other peoples, i.e. Russians. This argument is also echoed in post-Soviet efforts to revive and rehabilitate repressed Sakha leaders from the 1920s and 30s—a variety of museum exhibits, books, articles, and concerts, for example, all celebrate a handful of notable intellectuals as ―shining representatives‖ of the Sakha people, who were eliminated. These were people who would have been able to effectively merge ―tradition‖ and ―modernity‖ for the Sakha people, allowing them to overcome the ways that Sakha identity, like that of so many other indigenous groups, is indelibly linked with tradition and the past. Third, histories of Stalinism have sought to demonstrate that it was not simply the intelligentsia who suffered (even if they did disproportionately to everyone else), but rather all Sakha suffered from the collectivization and industrialization that concentrated resources in the urban centers and left the countryside in disarray. While collectivization had a positive impact on grain agriculture, which was largely practiced by Russian peasants, it had a disastrous impact on the ―national wealth‖ of the Sakha people—their cattle and horses, undermining Sakha subsistence practices. 33 In a recent article, Michelle Rivkin-Fish (2009) discusses the way that “the intelligentsia” in Russia is constructed as an essential class and argues that this has been reinforced in the present through narratives about the Bolshevik revolution as essentially an attack on the intelligentsia by the uncultured masses. This discourse is also echoed in contemporary discourses of the Sakha intelligentsia, especially in the sense that the intelligentsia forms a stable and enduring class. However, there are important differences when it comes to the relationship of the Sakha intelligentsia to the Bolshevik revolution, conditioned by the relationship of the Sakha to the Tsarist state. As I suggest above, the revolution itself is seen as a moment of potential national liberation. For most Sakha intellectuals, then, it was Stalin who corrupted the relatively noble goals of the revolution and turned Russians against non-Russians. The attack upon the Sakha intelligentsia, then, came not so much from the unruly Sakha masses, but rather from the unruly and uncultured Russian masses and the machinations of Stalin. 112 Finally, as I suggest above, they highlight the ways that World War II was especially traumatic for Sakha people, who were asked to fight for a country they hardly knew existed. Most traumatically, they point to the massive famines and the spectacular failure of collective farm policy that resulted in widespread starvation in the countryside. In this way, the history of the War as the common victory and tragedy of the multinational people of the Soviet Union is challenged. The tragedy is highlighted as a specifically Sakha one, and a source of collective belonging against the state (cf. Oushakine 2009). In this way, contemporary scholars tell a horrific story of suffering and state neglect/ persecution that was largely downplayed in official discourse even after Khrushchev‘s denunciation of Stalin in the 1950s. This account is echoed in many of the post-Soviet texts by (especially) Yakutsk-based Sakha writers, who embraced the opportunity to revitalize ―national memory,‖ in part, by telling the untold tales of hardship inflicted upon the Sakha people by the Soviet State. As Sakha sociologist and outspoken advocate for sovereignty, Uliana Vinokurova (1991) argued: ―historical truths about interethnic interactions can call to action reserves of the people and have a creative and mobilizing effect on the descendents [of those involved in past historical events].‖ Ultimately, however, this attempt to link cultural repression with the necessity for ethno-political sovereignty has been thwarted by a steady undermining of the federal treaty signed in 1993. As I explore in the previous chapter, a narrative of anti-ethnonationalism once again posits Russia as a fundamentally international state, and has effectively effaced attempts to assert ethnicity as a legitimate basis for political agitation. Ironically, the contemporary Russian state is able to draw on the legacy of the Stalin era as a time of Soviet multinational unity in order to undermine the legitimacy of ethnic politics. I come back to this point in the final section of this chapter. In the next section, I examine the tensions between the post-Soviet deconstruction of Soviet narratives of international unity and friendship, and the narratives of rural, elderly Sakha. Elderly narratives emerge as crucial nodes in tensions between an ―international‖ Russian identity and Sakha assertions of independence. Elderly Sakha support efforts for cultural revival and embrace their role as ―bearers of culture.‖ However, they also contest the narrative of ethnic oppression posited by urban intellectuals and younger cultural activists. For them, Stalin remains a hero and 113 attempts to denigrate his legacy are perceived as personal attacks upon their own sense of identity and achievement. 4.3 “We Were Hardworking People…” I dwell extensively on the tragedy of World War II and the pre-war repressions in part because this was a conversation that seemed to be constantly present, if not always articulated, during the time I spent in the Sakha Republic. As the above discussion indicates, the collapse of the Soviet Union opened new possibilities to explore the trauma of the war and of the processes of collectivization and industrialization that preceded and followed it, and to remember the suffering, the starvation, and the sacrifice of ordinary people. Popular and scholarly accounts, like those of Alekseev, have sought to challenge older narratives and to pose an alternative narrative of systemic, state-sponsored persecution of the Sakha people and to attribute political responsibility largely to Stalin. This has not been a simple process, however, as the political imperative to dismantle Soviet master narratives and recover untold stories of suffering and oppression often comes up against the very memories and personal experiences of a very large portion of those who lived through these turbulent events. Ethnographers working in Siberia have highlighted the ways that indigenous Siberians often look back to Soviet times with nostalgia despite a violent history of state subjectification, in which their lives and livelihoods were drastically altered and forced to accommodate utterly alien ideologies and development projects. Rethmann (1997) for example, has argued that this nostalgia is a kind of ―historical homesickness,‖ enabling individuals to both appropriate and assert feelings toward their own history and to express their detachment from a disempowering, harsh present. Similarly, Bloch (2005), argues that elderly Evenki veneration for Stalin and for the Soviet Union more generally, ought to be seen in light of their contemporary experience of increasing marginalization and thus as a kind of protest against the globalizing and liberalizing trends of Neoliberalism. At the same time, she also calls attention to the complex workings of power that simultaneously positioned Evenki as a privileged vanguard of Soviet progress and marginalized their cultural practices and traditions. Contemporary nostalgia, she suggests, focuses on the privilege and 114 care the Soviet state extended to Evenki in relation to their present marginalization, and also points to the powerful socialization practices of the Soviet state that engendered strong feelings of identification on the part of its citizens. Elderly Sakha also express nostalgia for the Soviet Union and contrast the social stability of the Soviet Union with present day instability and marginality. For elderly Sakha, the values of the Stalin era, in particular represent a time of order, when everyone did all one could for the country and for socialism, and they contrast the strict moral order of those times with a perceived decline in moral standards of the present. In this way, Sakha nostalgia also represents a form of protest against a disempowering and harsh present and reflects some forms of privilege and care accorded to indigenous Siberians that have since been eradicated or transformed. At the same time, elderly Sakha veneration for Stalin is not only a matter of nostalgia, but it is also about particular forms of subjectivity and historically sedimented structures of feeling (Williams 1977). In this section, I briefly describe the ways in which rural, elderly Sakha spoke about Stalin in conversations with me. In each of my interviews with these bearers of culture, they insisted upon Stalin‘s greatness and expressed frustration with more recent attempts to denigrate his memory. It is not that they looked upon their youth with rose-colored glasses, nor that they escaped the hardship and suffering that afflicted much of the region‘s population during that time; rather, they saw their personal experiences of hardship and suffering in terms of willing sacrifice and representative of the endurance and strength of their generation. They contrasted the values of the Stalin era, when people saw hard work as necessary and good, with the materialism and frivolity of the present era. Furthermore, they also looked to their own childhoods as a time when Sakha culture itself was protected and promoted by the state—not as a period of ethnically-based oppression. 4.3.1 The Great Leader As I traveled around the villages of the Nyurba ulus in the summer of 2008, I was astonished by the number of portraits of Stalin that hung in peoples‘ homes. My own host family jokingly offered me a portrait of Stalin that used to hang in an elderly relative‘s 115 home.34 In addition, almost every village museum had a portrait of Stalin. One even had an entire room dedicated to his role as leader in World War II, underscoring the importance of the War itself in the continued veneration of Stalin. Despite the fact that these images seemed to be present everywhere I went, however, there was a surprising lack of overt discussion about Stalin, particularly in the villages. In conversations about the War, or about collectivization, it was as if the figure of Stalin was always there just under the surface, but at the same time, there was nothing to be said on the subject. It took me some time to gain the courage to broach the subject myself because it was a sensitive subject and people were defensive about the topic, especially considering my position as an American. Eventually, however, I overcame my hesitancy and started making it a point to ask my interlocutors about Stalin directly. Some were, as I expected, reluctant to speak on the topic at all, but many were not shy about emphasizing their deep support and admiration for him. Generally speaking, for those over the age of 70 and many over 60, the positive legacy of Stalin was simply a fact. When my friend Svetlana was helping me with Sakha language interviews and I asked about Stalin, for example, she would often rephrase my qu
UBC Theses and Dissertations
Between indigeneity and nationality : the politics of culture and nature in Russia's diamond province Hicks, Susan M. 2011
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