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Siberian Village: Land and Life in the Sakha Republic

Bella Bychkova Jordan
Terry G. Jordan-Bychkov
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 160
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.cttttcbb
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  • Book Info
    Siberian Village
    Book Description:

    The village of Djarkhan is in the heart of Russia’s Sakha Republic, on the Central Yakut Plain. The world around Djarkhan, with its extreme subarctic climate and intractable permafrost, seems an unlikely place to look for a rich, historic, and exotic efflorescence of human life, and yet this is precisely what the authors found. Their book is a remarkable account of how the people of Djarkhan have created their own distinctive place through their unique relationship with a severe and demanding land.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9153-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. 1. SIBERIA: MYTH AND REALITY
    (pp. 1-13)

    Deep in the boreal forests of subarctic Asia, a hardy people—the Yakuts, or Sakhalar as they call themselves—wrest a living from an unforgiving polar land as sedentary cattle and horse raisers. They carried this ancient Eurasian livelihood farther poleward than any other people, a remarkable feat, considering the extreme severity of the regional climate. The Sakhalar reside in sizable permanent villages, the northernmost such agrarian settlements in the world, perched on the very outermost margins of the agricultural habitat in Eurasia.

    Our book concerns one such village, a representative Yakut settlement named Djarkhan. We endeavor to present a...

  6. 2. THE SNOW-MUFFLED VILLAGE
    (pp. 14-37)

    Djarkhan, Bella Jordan’s birthplace and ancestral home, lies deep in the “snow-muffled forests” of southwestern Sakha, where the solitude of the boreal woodlands is broken only at wide intervals by such isolated farming villages (Maps 1.2 and 2.1).¹ In this remote settlement, she was born in the dark depths of December, near the time of the winter solstice, in the year 1961. Her mother, Olga Danilovna Tikhonova, had returned to Djarkhan shortly before her birth so that Bella could be born in her village. At that time Olga worked as a dentist in the town of Suntar, the county seat,...

  7. 3. BEFORE A VILLAGE STOOD ON OYBON’S SHORE
    (pp. 38-63)

    The migratory path followed by Bella’s ancestral Sakhalar to reach the Vilyui Bend and the shores of Lake Oybon, with its lush haymeadows, was both lengthy and unlikely. Yakuts belong to a pastoral culture of “deep antiquity” and originated in a faraway country. In ancient times, they lived among other Turkic nomadic tribes on the endless steppes of central Asia, far to the south of modern Sakha, near fabled Lake Baikal. Their language reveals as much, for it bears a close kinship to Kazak, Kirghiz, and Uzbek.¹

    The legends and folk epics of the Sakhalar tell of military defeats at...

  8. 4. SOVIET VILLAGE
    (pp. 64-88)

    The fateful year 1917 brought the overthrow of czarist rule and the Bolshevik Revolution, but these events had little immediate effect on the Yakuts living on theiralaseswithin the great bend of the Vilyui River. They continued for a time to live much as their ancestors had, herding cattle and horses in more or less the ancient manner. The Russian Provisional Government had appointed a commissar for Yakutia, and in June 1918, after the Bolsheviks took power, a Soviet regime was proclaimed there. Not until December 1919, more than two years after the Revolution, did the Communist government actually...

  9. 5. POST-SOVIET DJARKHAN
    (pp. 89-105)

    Profound change came to Russia in the wake of political liberalization, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and the collapse of Communism. These changes reached remote Djarkhan with startling speed, transforming rural life in less than a decade. The result has been a modified land-use system, changed living standards, a restructured settlement morphology, an altered demography, and a revised socioeconomic order. Change continues and even intensifies at present, with no new equilibrium yet established. Only the collectivization of the 1930s, which created Djarkhan, brought comparable upheaval and change.

    Djarkhan well represents post-Soviet Russia’s demographic instability. Its population has fluctuated disconcertingly...

  10. 6. DO NOT VANISH, MY VILLAGE
    (pp. 106-112)

    Djarkhan, in its present episode of instability and restructuring, faces a “chaotic and unknown future,” in common with many other Siberian rural places.¹ The trends today are diverse and in some measure run counter to one another. We can view the situation in Djarkhan at the dawn of a new century and plausibly suggest several very different outcomes, ranging from abandonment to village viability.

    Predicting the future is a hazardous undertaking, particularly in times of rapid change, and while social scientists have an abysmal prognosticative record, we feel that we know this place and people well enough to make some...

  11. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 113-116)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 117-124)
  13. REFERENCES
    (pp. 125-134)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 135-140)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 141-141)