Field research by students of anthropology
From July 8th to July 22nd, 2015, Ekaterina Lukyanova and Sergey Artsemovich participated, together with students of Moscow State University (MSU), in ethnographic fieldwork in Sakhalin supervised by Chair of the MSU Department of Ethnology and project manager of the LSAR grant, Dmitri A. Funk. The research was focused on the indigenous people of Sakhalin – the Nivkh and the Uilta. The students collected information on economic activities of the aboriginal (Nivkh) population in the context of unresolved rights to fishing grounds as well as on contemporary (neo) religious beliefs and practices of residents of the villages of Nogliki and Nekrasovka and the city of Okha.
Katya Lukyanova explains: ‘In the course of the expedition we split into several groups, each of which would study certain issues – the issues of Nivkh education, religion, the preservation of the Nivkh language, the Nivkh culture, and the relationship with the local authorities. Our group consisted of three persons and we dealt with religion.
Christianity in Sakhalin and more specifically in the village of Nogliki has been introduced just recently, around 15 years ago. Before that there were missions of neo-Christianity carried out here. Such religious movements as the ‘Light of the Gospel’ and the Church ‘Grace’ are growing more popular with the Nivkh today. Our first stop was in the village of Nogliki, where we worked on the case of the Church ‘Light of the Gospel’. The attention was paid to the issues of transition of the Nivkh to another religion and to the attitudes towards that of the Nivkh sticking to the traditional faith. As the main reason for adopting the new religion the Nivkh indicated the following: the life has changed for the better with the adoption of the Evangelical faith. In the village of Nekrasovka there is only one Nivkh woman who is a parishioner of the ‘Light of the Gospel’, which is not surprising because the church has started here just two years ago. Another point of interest was the Evangelical church in the city of Okha. Today the Nivkh do not visit this church but the church is actively doing its mission in the neighbouring villages, for example, in the village of Nekrasovka where the local church belongs to the religious community of the Okha.
Apart from working in groups, there was a general programme for all. We got to know the history of the Nivkh visiting museums of Sakhalin, namely the Sakhalin regional museum of local history in the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the Nogliki museum of local history in Nogliki, the Okha museum of local history as well as the school museum in Nekrasovka. Each of the museums has a rich collection of exhibits which show the traditional way of life of the Nivkh, their everyday life and traditions.
As part of the expedition we interviewed representatives of the Nivkh people. The questions we asked dealt with today’s life of the Nivkh, their traditional occupations (fishing) and some related phenomena (poaching, oil business) as well as the problem of preservation of the Nivkh language, Nivkh education, and the relationship of the Nivkh with the local authorities. In Nekrasovka we were lucky to have met activists defending the rights of the Nivkh to fishing’.
These field materials will be processed and will constitute a part of all the data collected during the field trip. One will then be able to use them for research publications and in the area of consulting.
Elena Chernyakova became a participant of the summer school and the 20th youth conference on Judaic studies conventionally organized by the Sefer Centre of researchers and university teachers in Judaic studies which were held in Moscow and the city of Glubokoye (Belarus) in July 2015: ‘There were a lot of sections in the conference dedicated to the Jewish thought, the Jewish history, ethno-cultural contacts, the study of Israel, Jewish literature, arts, music, etc. I made a presentation titled ‘The institutionalization of ethnicity of the Jewish communities of Siberia in the beginning of the 20th century’. The main aim of my research was to answer such important questions as: how the Jewish diaspora managed to adapt among the local population over a relatively short period of time and how the nation carried out the politics of self-maintenance and preservation of their confessional and ethnic identity on this new territory away from fellow followers of their religion. My presentation was selected as the best presentation in the section ‘Jews in the Russian Empire’ and will be published in the collection ‘Tirosh works on Judaism’.
After the conference I attended three lecture courses during the summer school on Judaism in Moscow. A number of both well-known and less-studied issues of Jewish participation in the Russian political and cultural life were considered here. Besides that, one had the opportunity of visiting master classes. In several classes I managed to master the basic rules of Yiddish grammar, the basic vocabulary and colloquialisms for beginners.
Some educational programmes run by the Sefer Centre include field schools-expeditions, in one of which held in the city of Glubokoye (Vitebsk region, Belarus) I also took part. The main attention during the expedition was paid to the practical work: collection of ethnographic information, description of Jewish cemeteries, and archaeological excavations. I worked in a team of ethnographers whose goal was to gather information about Glubokoye and its residents, their customs and traditions and relationships with other ethnic groups – it is known that in the 1920s the majority of the city population were Jews.
During the whole period of work, we took over 75 interviews (total duration of 120 hours). Apart from the intense fieldwork and everyday seminars on the processing of the field materials collected, there were a few plenary lectures given during the school.
The SEFER Centre is an excellent platform for exchange of ideas and generating new projects. The SEFER helped familiarize ourselves with different facets of the Jewish life and different issues of Jewish studies. The knowledge and experience acquired in the field school-expedition will be useful for further work in my research field’.
In July–August 2015, Anton Sadyrin, TSU student of anthropology, also carried out his own field research.
Here is a brief photographic account he prepared of his field observations:
‘Kazakhstan, particularly the Eastern part of it, is a unique field for an anthropologist. The multi-faceted history of the region has largely shaped the current state of affairs, with different peoples and cultures being intertwined, and the processes taking place that require greater attention of the academic community. The study of just one of these processes –educational migration rom Kazakhstan to Russia – provides the broadest understanding of the cultural relationships between the two countries, of problems and possible solutions on the way to new knowledge. I would like to tell about my field trip, my interest in Kazakhstan and the uniqueness of this region via a few pictures which are great evidence of the above said. The picture below is direct evidence of the cultural diversity of the studied area of Kazakhstan. Depicted in it is a kiosk with diary products of local origin named after the Russian military commander Pyotr Ivanovich Bagration.
Astana is the capital city of Kazakhstan, for the good of which the rest of Kazakhstan is supposed to work. Also, Astana is the symbol of new Kazakhstan and of unity and so in the next picture you can see the well-known Astana sight ‘Bayterek’ scaled down here, possibly reminding of ‘new Kazakhstan’.’
In the picture below, there is a check point set on the border with Russia, the so-called ‘Gateway to Asia’. Compared to Russian check points, it looks much better both outside and inside. In my view, it is a marker of a kind of the already mentioned ‘new Kazakhstan’.
Very notable is the sign ‘Kazakhstan’ made in Hollywood style, against the backdrop of a mosque.
The next picture depicts a poster advertising some finance and credit organization where at the end of the poster it is written ‘пластикалык карточкалар’.
The Russian language has of course itself borrowed a lot from other languages but still it is interesting to observe such signs. The Kazakh language is not as rich as the Russian one, and this is why there are a lot of suchlike posters and signs with different words. In fact, if to listen to Kazakh speech carefully, one can hear an interesting synthesis of Russian and Kazakh where the number of words used from both languages is practically equal. One of my informants, Sakidjanov Aydyn, a young guy of 18 years of age, when asked by me to tell something about the Kazakh culture or history answered with a smile on his face: ‘Anton, what can I tell you? I am just as Kazakh as you are’. In my opinion, this phrase alone can give birth to an interesting article.’