Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 163

163 Arctic Yearbook 2015 The Russian Revolution, however, ushered in the era of Soviet rule, initiating the subjugation of Chukotka’s indigenous peoples and forever changing their relationship with the state. The economic activity of Chukotka’s indigenous peoples in the early Soviet era was intrinsically linked with the landscape. Coastal peoples such as the Yupik were sea mammal hunters, while tundra and inland dwellers such as the Yukaghir and Koryaks were reindeer herders. The Chukchi, the largest indigenous group in Chukotka, were comprised of both herders and hunters, depending on whether they resided on the tundra or the coast. Both occupations required a great deal of travel, and the indigenous peoples were either nomadic or semi-nomadic peoples (Diatchkova, 2010). Soviet authority was slow to penetrate Chukotka’s indigenous peoples, likely because the great distance between Moscow and the region coupled with their nomadic lifestyles, but also because they had resisted political control during the Tsarist period. Indeed, the first step to managing Chukotka’s indigenous peoples was sedentarization. According to Pika (1999), there were three stages of state policy towards northern native peoples in the Soviet Union. Between 1929 and the early 1930s, the state offered “assistance oriented towards education, self-government, and the formation of cooperatives” (Pika 1999: 59). From the 1930s through the mid-1950s, the state’s concern was the development and solidification of the “totalitarian administrative command system” and the exploitation of the indigenous labour pool to meet state planning objectives (Pika 1999: 59). Finally, the mid-1950s through the early 1980s ushered in the era of “state bureaucratic paternalism” which was characterized by the formation of “minor privileges, perks and ineffective aid” (Pika 1999: 59). In the formative years of the Soviet Union, the “frontline strategy for civilizing the North” was the kultbaza (culture base), a Soviet school for indigenous children (Gray 2005: 104). The first such school in Chukotka opened in Uelen in 1923. The komsomol (communist youth league) was instituted to lead the “cultural revolution,” and in Chukotka particularly, to bring “literacy to the tundra” (Gray 2005: 101). A policy of korenizatsia (indigenization) was instituted to grant self-determination to Soviet indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples were recruited to key roles within state enterprises to create an indigenous elite, competent in MarxistLeninist principles and loyal to the communist regime (Gray 2005). However, as Kertulla (2000: 10) argues, rather than “homogenize the Union,” korenizatsia instead “institutionalized ethnic identity.” Over the course of the post-war period, participation in state organs by indigenous peoples significantly decreased. For example, in 1945, 72% of Chukotka’s komsomol members were indigenous, but by 1980 membership had dropped to 14.2% (Gray 2005). This decline may also have been a reflection of the significant decrease in the number of indigenous peoples as an overall proportion of the population in Chukotka, due to in-migration from other parts of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s, collectivization of reindeer herds had begun in Chukotka, although it would be the 1950s before the Soviet authorities completed the sedentarization of Chukchi herders (Thompson 2008). The Soviet policy of ukreplenie (consolidation) closed villages and relocated residents to permanent settlements for reasons of administrative efficiency in the provision of services (Gray 2001) and for strategic military purposes (Abryutina 2007b). The results were two-fold: post-relocation villages consisted of mixed Russian and indigenous populations (Krupnik & Chlenov 2007); and, control over the economic drivers of indigenous society was relinquished to outsiders (Pelaudeix 2012). Chukotka’s Wilson & Kormos