Identity and Conflict
The goal of the expedition in July - August 2013 to Kemerovo region was to collect materials on contemporary ethnic and cultural identity of the Shors, an ethnic group of Turkic origin, officially included in the list of small northern indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation in 1993.
The field study was initiated after the information from the field was received regarding aggravation of the conflict of interest caused by mining companies, such as JSC “UK South”, expanding their work zone in the area. The company has been developing area in the lower Mras-Su River, densely populated by the Shors. This territory officially belongs to Mysk City Council (Novokuznetsk district, Kemerovo region). Currently, the vast majority of the Shors from lower Mras-Su river region lives in the town of Mysky and partly in Mezhdurechensk. Few rural settlements remained there – Chuvashka village (former council center in the 1990s), Cazas, Toz and Chuazas.
The field trip had several objectives: to analyze people's views on the nature of the conflict, land use, resilience of the locals / cultural response to the upcoming elimination of Cazas village populated mainly by the Shors. We expected to get a full picture of the specifics of today's ethnic and cultural identity of the local Shor population. The material was collected through interviewing people about their life (biographies), which we tried to keep focused on three topics - land use, conflict and reaction. We interviewed all the Cazas population present and individual former residents who had already relocated to the neighboring towns. In addition to this, the picture of the situation was completed through meetings with key stakeholders, including employees of the town administration (including acting mayor of Mysk), businessmen, academic / museum staff, managers of offline and online Shor organizations and initiative groups, spiritual leaders, analysis of archival materials and media publications, participation in working group meetings and other group activities, as well as observation (including active observation), photo and video shooting.
Observation and analysis of collected materials allowed to record increasing use of ethnic terminology (in this case Shor terminology) when discussing the conflict in comparison with the data available for the same group of villages for the period of the first half of the 1980s, early 1990s, and even the first half of the 2000s, when the conflict was not so obvious. “Shor national interests”, “Shor land”, “genocide of Shor culture” are the typical terms used in the identified discourses. At the same time we could see that a process of separation and emphasis on “Shor interests” exclusively lead to the loss in the attempt of entire local population to save their environment. JSC “UK South” understood this situation better than anyone. Since none of the national leaders could clearly articulate the idea of building a new village for the residents of Cazas in the same area, the company embarked on a policy of dividing the population through private negotiations on terms of house redemption and bargaining when discussing every single situation.
As a result, by mid-July 2013 there was almost no a single family (mostly elderly people) in Cazas, who would not dream to get “decent” compensation from JSC “UK South”. By “decent compensation” they meant a sum of money sufficient for buying one-, two-, or three-room apartment on the secondary housing market in Mysky or Mezhdurechensk cities, that did not reflect the actual market value of land in Cazas village and loss of profits. Neither of the sides of the conflict seriously considered the problem of depriving people of their ancestral lands, tribal taiga, chance to lead traditional lifestyle, and depriving the Shors of their native culture basis in general. All the houses and buildings which had been bought out were demolished to clear the land for expanding industrial activities.
Use of ethnic terms in discussing the conflict expectedly lead to increasing Shor religious identity. In July 2013, the foundation and first layers of polygonal yurt (construction unknown for the Shors in the past according to the available historical data) were established in one of the unoccupied sites near the store and former village council in Chuvashka, to be used as a Shor spiritual center consecrated by a Shor shaman specially invited for this occasion.
Second trip to Shoria took place during October 31th - November 4th, 2013. The goal of the trip was to track changes in the situation around Cazas village, occurred since the end of the first expedition. During this trip the team recorded six interviews with the locals, took photographs of the disappearing villages and open-pit mines. In the end of the trip, the expedition team attended the opening ceremony of the Shor spiritual center in Chuvashka village, located on the other bank of Mras-Su River. Today this village remains the last location of compact settlement of the Shor ethnic group in the lower Mras-Su. There are plans to revive Shor culture through activities of the established spiritual center “Ene Tag”.
Return trip allowed not only to confirm pessimistic predictions of experts regarding the fate of Cazas village (number of families remaining there as of 01.11.2013 had dropped twice as compared to July 2013), but also observe a significant increase in interest and importance of shamanism, perceived as “Shor national religion”. According to local media, creation of the center was initiated by the public organization “Shoriya”. Location for the center was chosen taking into account the views of shamans. It turned out that this place had a special power, located near the center of Chuvashka village, densely inhabited by indigenous population. The Center is a small ethnic village (in Shor language - aal). In the main building of the village the Shors will be able to conduct Shor rituals and ceremonies. Several smaller yurts will be used for handicraft workshops, expositions, etc. (Spiritual Center of the Indigenous Population Will Open in Myski // News of Kuzbass. News agency [website], 2007-2014. URL: http://www.kuzbassnews.ru/2013/07/16/v-myskah-poyavitsya-duhovnyy-centr-shorcev.html).
Many people are turning to shamanism seeking not only “protection” for Cazas, which has been obviously lost, but mainly peace of mind and strength needed to preserve remaining Shor villages, first of all, Chuvashka, the last “stronghold” of Shor culture in the lower Mras-Su river.
Team of the first expedition:
Dmitry Funk - Director, Chief Research Fellow at LSAR, Chair of the Department of Ethnology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Doctor of History, Professor
Sergei Artsemovich – Assistant at LSAR
Anton Sadyrin – Assistant at LSAR
Team of the second expedition:
Sergei Artsemovich – Assistant at LSAR
Danil Shostak – Photographer
An update on the situation can be found in the following materials:
Destruction of Cazas (Shor village) [electronic resource] // Shoria. Internet community. News / Shoria.info – Electronic data. - Mysky,  - Access mode: http://shoria.info/new-shoria/myski/material/unichtozhenie-kazasa-shorskaya-derevnya, free.
Boriskin, V.P. Genocide in Cazas. Problems of the Shors Hidden Behind Million Tons of Coal. [electronic resource] // Shor People News / Shor People News – Electronic data. - [B.m.], 2014 - Access mode: http://news.shor-people.ru/news/genocid-v-kazase.html, free.
Two Houses are Left After Another Arson in the Shor Village of Cazas [electronic resource] // National Accent / National Accent. The Guild of Ethnic Journalism – Electronic data. - [M], 2003-2013 - Access mode: http://nazaccent.ru/content/11004-posle-ocherednogo-podzhoga-v-shorskom-poselke.html, free.