Nomadic reindeer herding of the Kanin Peninsula and its transformations (the first third of the 20th century first quarter of the 21st century)  

Kiselev S.B.



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The territory of the Kanin Peninsula is a part of Nenets Autonomous District (the north of European Russia), and it borders on the south with the Mezen River basin. The Kanin Tundra occupies almost the entire area of the peninsula. The Kanin Peninsula is the most western region of traditional inhabitance of the Nenets and Izhma Komi ethnic groups. Historically, the nomadic economy of local reindeer herders was based on combination of reindeer husbandry, hunting and fishing. In this paper, different types of nomadic reindeer herding in the region in the first third of the 20th century and transformations currently occurring in the traditional economy are analyzed. The main research sources are represented by the materials of the Circumpolar Census of 1926/27 and materials of the authors field studies. In the paper, principal components of nomadic reindeer herding in the region were studied, such as herd size and composition, migrations routes etc. Moreover, the factors determining specifics of the economic structure of the Nenets and Izhma Komi groups are analyzed, namely, the nature of interactions between the nomadic and sedentary populations of the region and the degree of orientation toward the market of nomadic economies. Characteristics of three basic types of the nomadic economy (hunting-and-fishing, mixed, and large herding) are given. The economic focus of households was determining the content of all elements of the traditional lifestyle. In the early 1930s, collectivization began in the region, and the nomadic reindeer husbandry started developing within collective and state farms; there existed nomadic reindeer herding. This circumstance greatly affected the nomadic economy of the region. In the early 1990s, collective and state farms were transformed into agricultural cooperatives. Comparing the nomadic economy of the two selected periods, it is concluded that the role of the reindeer husbandry in the occupational structure of the Nenets and Izhma Komi groups is currently increasing due to concentration of the industry within cooperatives. At the same time, the role of other occupations (hunting and fishing) is decreasing along with the loss of the natural foundations of the nomadic economy.

Keywords: European North of Russia, Kanin Peninsula, XX century, Nenets, Komi-Izhemtsy, traditional economy, nomadic reindeer herding.


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Accepted: 03.03.2021

Article is published: 15.06.2022


Kiselev S.B., Saint-Petersburg State University, Universitetskaya nab., 7-9, St.-Petersburg, 199034, Russian Federation, E-mail:,