Nenets Community











Nenets Community

The Nenets is a group of hardy pastoralists who reside in the Russian arctic. They are a one of a kind remote community that is known for their reindeer herding. The community consists of a group of around 50,000 people who manage to move 300,000 reindeers over a 1,100km stretch from summer pastures in the north to winter ones in the south of the arctic. Living in an environment where temperatures go as low as -500 and their difficult kind of herding produces a community that has a unified work ethic and a vibrant culture. What is even more impressive about their culture is that it has survived history through the Russian colonization, Stalin’s regime, and modern-day oil and gas development and globalization.

Demography and Location

The community is of Samoyedic ethnicity that is native to the Russian arctic north and the Yamal Peninsula of Siberian arctic.  The 2010 census revealed that their population is 44,857 within Russia (Taylor, 2012). They occupy the region that stretches from the Arctic Ocean to the arctic circle between Taymyr and Kola peninsulas. The major languages are Tundra and Forest Nenets. The majority of the population is of an older generation.

Culture and Economy

The economy of the Nenets is heavily dependent on pastoralism of reindeers. The community has almost 10,000 herders organized into groups known as Brigady (Taylor, 2012). The groups graze south in the Tundra forest in winter, migrate during spring to the north and spend a short summer and repeat the same at the end of the summer. The reindeers provide the community with food, clothing, shelter transport, spiritual fulfillment, and means of socializing (Stammler-Gossmann, 2010). The people gain money and supplies mainly through selling reindeer meat. They also sell reindeer antlers to china that is made to a male potency drug. The people also supplement their life through hunting and fishing which they sell the outcomes for money and supplies.

The religion practiced in the community is Shamanism. They also have an animistic belief system that reveres land its resources (Taylor, 2012). They migrate with a holy sleigh that carries with it bear skins, coins, and religious figures and are unpacked during religious rituals. The government of the community is held by the community elders who guide the group’s travels, lead religious rituals, and settle disputes among the people. The people have a world view known as Sya mei. It is a force that connects their world and one before birth and after death.

Way of Life

The stable food is the reindeer’s meat supplemented by fish and game meat. The transport system in the region also involves of sledges pulled by the reindeers. The people dress in traditional clothing made by women. A Nenet man wears a Malitsa, which is a coat made from four reindeer skins; the fur is in the inside close the body while the leather is on the outside; it is accompanied by a hood and gloves. The women wear a Yagushka created by 8 reindeer skins and buttoned at the front (Taylor, 2012). Both genders wear hip-high boots made of reindeer leather and tied up with a belt.

Their houses are known as Chum and are made of reindeer skins laid over wooden poles. One family occupies a Chum and they move with the house during their migrations. The community defines labor according to gender. The males are tasked with herding, slaughtering the animals, and choosing places for settlement and pastures. The women, on the other hand, do much of the domestic functions such as cooking, making clothes, and looking after the children. The children perform gender-based roles and are trained by their parents; however, the introduction of schools has presented an alternate life (Stammler-Gossmann, 2010).

Effects of Globalization to the Nenets

Globalization defines the interdependence or world culture, economies, and populations brought about by trade, technology, and information flow. The Nenets have not been left out of the effects of globalization. The discovery of oil and gas in the Nenet region has increased their contact with the outside world (Stammler-Gossmann, 2010). The oil industry has decreased the grazing lands and affected their traditional kind of life. They are now assimilating to modern social and political culture. Globalization has brought widespread education into the Nenet population and many of them are growing out of the culture to be successful professionals. Members of the community are also shifting to modern cities but find a hard time adapting to those environments (Stammler-Gossmann, 2010).




Stammler-Gossmann, A. (2010). ‘Translating’ Vulnerability at the Community Level: Case Study From the Russian North. Community adaptation and vulnerability in Arctic regions (pp. 131-162). Springer, Dordrecht.

Taylor, A. (2012, April 11). The Nenets of Siberia. The Atlantic; The Atlantic.

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