Chukchi men with reindeer

The image of "authentic reindeer folk," never subjugated by anybody, is still a dominant part of the Chukchi mentality. Their reindeer economy is viable and there is no power to share in the tundra wilderness, since few Russians live in the interior beyond a handful of mining and rural communities. The main battle so far is focused upon privatizing reindeer herds presently monopolized by state farms. As the new property system for reindeer becomes established, whether as cooperative, family, or even private herding enterprises, the issue of land claims, pasture allocation and compensation for lost and polluted grazing areas will eventually surface as the main political priority.

The biggest threat to the revival of Reindeer Chukchi is the generation gap induced by decades of Soviet acculturation. Although older people rooted in Native tradition are numerous and well respected, the middle-aged and younger generations are now attached to a more comfortable village life. Raised in Soviet boarding schools, they lack the experience and stamina of real tundra herdsmen. The survival of the Chukchi culture and language depends upon the success of hundreds of current village residents in returning to their former lifestyle.

- Igor Krupnik
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