The tundra west of the mouth of the Pechora river is called in Russian “Malozemelskaia Tundra” – tundra of the small land. There is also a “big lands tundra” on the other site of the Pechora which goes up to the foot of the Ural mountains. The village Nelmin Nos is now the administrative centre of the region once inhabited only by Nenets reindeer herders on the tundra and Nenets and Russian Fishermen on the sea cost and the Pechora delta. All of their small settlements were abandoned in the 50ies and resettled to the central village.
To discover the history of the village and the surrounding regions it’s always a good idea to start with the local museum. It’s more of a local storehouse for old things and memories than a tourist attraction, and it serves mostly school children for local history lessons.
The museum has a rich collection of old photographs, and if found, some early portraits of my interlocutors there.
The 81 year old Aleksei Aristarkhovich Taleev was the son of the head of the village during the war. His father was one of the few men who did not go to war, but had to organise the work for the front in the hinterland. After his military service he became a mechanic and worked for decades in the local electric station where exposure to the noise of the diesel engine made him nearly deaf.
Mikhail Trofimovich Ardeev lived all his live in the tundra. He was a party member and was decorated for being the best brigadir (leader of a team of reindeer herders in the kolkhoz) with a medal. Party discipline forced him to agitate his relatives to move to a sedentary life in the village during the 70ies, although he understood that this would be disastrous for the social fabric of the nomadic society. The children and women were separated from the reindeer herders and became alienated this way from the work and life with the reindeer in the tundra.
The oldest lady in the village is Maria Egorovna Laptander in her 86 year. She had to work all her life in the tundra and is now dependent on the help of her relatives to heat her house. The village administration is delivering firewood and coal, but Maria is not able to prepare the firewood any more. Nevertheless she served me tea in her cold kitchen and shared her disappearing memory about her life an work as a “chumrabotnica” (tent-worker) in the team of reindeer herders.