Landscape of the human face and the timescape of the memory

While making interviews in the village of Krasnoe I was amazed at the traces and expressions on the faces of my interlocutors. Humour and dignity, icy wind and hard labour, fortune and personal tragedies – it seems that all this can be explored on the faces of my interviewees as well as in the remembered stories they told me.

It was of big help that I had local helpers here that introduced me to the elders. Some of them were quite reserved when I asked them if I could make an interview with them.

Ivan Petrovich Sadeiskii

Ivan Petrovich for instance said, that he knows nothing about history and that generally he could not tell me anything interesting. I convinced him to agree to at least have a cup of tea with me. Then I told him about my experiences in Siberia and he started to share his stories. He was a driver in the kolkhoz and knows almost all reindeer herders from the village.

Ivan Alekseevich Taleev

Ivan Petrovich agreed to help me interview the old reindeer herder Ivan Alexeevich Ledkov, who was one of the first who decided to leave the kolkhoz at the beginning of the 90ies and become a private herder. Although he did not go to school he became an honoured reindeer herder and brigadier (leader of a team of herders) and has lived all his life in the tundra.

Ivan Alekseevich with grandchildren

We discussed with him the introduction of innovations to the tundra, like snowmobiles, helicopters, rubber-boots, motor-boats, radios and walkie-talkies. I learned that geologists had brought a great amount of trees trunks to the tundra that reindeer herders were able to use in the treeless area as building material and firewood.

In the book of honor of the kolkhoz

Maria Vasilevna Taleeva remembered very well the visit of my colleague and friend Florian Stammler to her reindeer brigade some years ago. She told me proudly that they had even named a place in the tundra after Florian: „Lorian-Myaderma“ means Florian’s nomad camp (The Nenets language doesn’t know the combination of F and L at the beginning of a word).

Maria Vasilevna

Maria Vasilevna is now living in a new house built with the compensation money of the oil companies that work in the tundra. The house looks beautiful, but stone houses are not adapted very well to the local climatic conditions. They need a lot of energy in the winter and are quite hot during the short summer. People here told me that the elders try to stay in the tundra after retirement because when they move to the village their health is deteriorating quickly.

New house

Egor Gavrilovich Ledkov served me the most delicious food I ate in the north: fresh chilled reindeer bone marrow. It melts in the mouth like chocolate. After the interview I made some portraits of him but he insisted that I should also photograph his granddaughter, who was very curious about the camera and tried to look at and touch the lens constantly.

Egor Gavrilovich Ledkov's granddaughter

In the interview he told me among other things about his experiences in the boarding school. He thinks that the life in the boarding school prepared him for the army and got him used to the life outside the Nenets world. He did not experience any pressure to give up the culture and language of the reindeer herders in the boarding school, went back after school to the tundra and became a reindeer herder. Negative attitudes towards boarding school I experienced mostly among Nenets that left the tundra and the world of the reindeer herders and whose children started to orientate themselves towards the way of life of towns people and gave up their language easily.

Egor Gavrilovich

Egor Gavrilovich Ledkov's granddaughter 2


About Stephan Dudeck

Anthropologist at the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi, Finland, the Centre for Arctic Social Studies at the European University at Saint Petersburg and the Centre of Arctic and Siberian Exploration at the Sociological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia
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7 Responses to Landscape of the human face and the timescape of the memory

  1. Jonas Büchel says:

    great pics, stephan… and yes, faces DO tell something more than words

  2. Michaela Schäuble says:

    Hast Du auch die Fotos gemacht? Tolle Porträts!

    • Stephan Dudeck says:

      Danke für das Kompliment. Alle Fotos hier im Blog sind von mir, aber für ein gutes Portrait braucht es immer zwei, die gut miteinander können. Und laut Barthes sogar drei, weil der Betrachter am Zustandekommen des Bildes genauso beteiligt ist, wie die, die in und durch die Kamera schauen. Mit einer guten Geschichte ist es genauso. Der Erzähler, die, über die erzählt wird und die, die zuhören müssen miteinander interagieren, damit die Geschichte zustandekommt.

  3. Штефан, завтра постараюсь опубликовать твой пост. Немножко текст переделываю. буду читать твой блог:-)

  4. fstammle says:

    Stephan, wonderful!!
    I am VERY VERY pleased to see that Maria Vasilevna is alive and more or less ok! She was one of the sweatest hosts I ever had, modest and often in the background, but out in the tundra I could always feel her warm aura around when she was there. It always makes me feel sort of tundra-sick when I hear / read such stories, so I want to go back and join them again. I am sure many fieldworkers among us feel like that. Has anybody ever written about that fieldwork-longing? I think it is a very powerful emotion that we anthropologists deal with here, and which definitely influences our writing too. I hope you greeted Maria Vasilevna, and also Nazar from me?
    On the ORHELIA contents of the blog entry: very interesting what you found out about the boarding school. This shows us again how important it is to create an ‘enabling environment’ for the people to express their own views, rather than coming with pre-fabricated opinions which people often want to get confirmed or challenged. For boarding schools, for example, isn’t it often that everybody goes and talks to people pre-supposing that this type of school is bad and ‘cultural genocide’, as Larissa Abryutina said once to a press conference that I had to translate.
    And yes, great pictures! I see them already in my mind in some photo exhibit from the project or so…
    Best, Florian

  5. ostapof says:

    Класс! Вы молодец!!!

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