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 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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.