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The 1926/27 Soviet Polar Census Expeditions

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The 1926/27 Soviet Polar Census Expeditions

Edited by David G. Anderson

346 pages, 51 tables & figs, 10 maps, 18 photos, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-84545-766-2 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (May 2011)

ISBN  978-1-78238-097-9 $34.95/£27.95 Pb Published (November 2013)

eISBN 978-0-85745-044-9 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $34.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


The contributors have made excellent use of recently opened archives and interviews with descendants of the people surveyed to provide a uniquely human portrait of this seminal project. While the chapters focus most thoroughly on the Nenets, Khanty, and Yakut, the analysis is of broader relevance to an understanding of Siberian peoples during the first stages of the sovietization of the Far North. This book will prove of unique value to historians of the Soviet period as well as to cultural anthropologists specializing in polar peoples. Highly recommended.  ·  Choice

All in all, this book is an important contribution to our knowledge about the ethnography and ethnohistory of the indigenous peoples of this region as well as about the immense work undertaken during the very early years of the Soviet Union in an effort to understand the demography and livelihoods of these peoples. The volume belongs on the shelves of all researchers working on these issues.  ·  Polar Research

This a much-welcome addition to the modern English-language reference library on Siberian indigenous people and the first book-size effort to address their plight and status from the perspective of the Russian archival statistical and documentary records of the early 1900s. It is an outcome of a monumental collaborative project.”  ·  Igor Krupnik, Smithsonian Institution


In 1926/27 the Soviet Central Statistical Administration initiated several yearlong expeditions to gather primary data on the whereabouts, economy and living conditions of all rural peoples living in the Arctic and sub-Arctic at the end of the Russian civil war. Due partly to the enthusiasm of local geographers and ethnographers, the Polar Census grew into a massive ethnological exercise, gathering not only basic demographic and economic data on every household but also a rich archive of photographs, maps, kinship charts, narrative transcripts and museum artifacts. To this day, it remains one of the most comprehensive surveys of a rural population anywhere. The contributors to this volume – all noted scholars in their region – have conducted long-term fieldwork with the descendants of the people surveyed in 1926/27. This volume is the culmination of eight years’ work with the primary record cards and was supported by a number of national scholarly funding agencies in the UK, Canada and Norway. It is a unique historical, ethnographical analysis and of immense value to scholars familiar with these communities’ contemporary cultural dynamics and legacy.

David G. Anderson is Professor of the Anthropology of the North at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. He researches the history and ethnography of the circumpolar Arctic and has conducted fieldwork in Eastern Siberia (Taimyr, Evenkiia, Zabaikal’e), the Russian North (Kola), Northern Norway and in Canada’s Mackenzie Delta. His current research is on the different visions of history among settler states and aboriginal peoples and how this is linked to the growing debate on indigenous rights. His publications include Identity and Ecology in Arctic Siberia (Oxford University Press) and three coedited books, Ethnographies of Conservation, Cultivating Arctic Landscapes and About the Hearth (Berghahn Books).

Subject: Anthropology (General) History (General)
Area: Asia-Pacific


List of Figures
List of Tables
Note on Cyrillic Transliteration                                                                                               

Chapter 1. The Polar Census and the Architecture of Enumeration
David G. Anderson

Chapter 2. Seasonal Mobility and Sacred Landscape Geography among Northern Hunter-Gatherer
Peter Jordan                       

Chapter 3. The Interpretation of Nenets Demography in the First Third of the 20th Century
Elena Volzhanina

Chapter 4. Undaunted Courage: the Polar Census in the Obdor Region
Elena Glavatskaya

Chapter 5. Household Structure in the Multi-Ethnic Barents Region – A Local Case Study
Gunnar Thorvaldsen

Chapter 6. Statistical Surveys of the Kanin Peninsula and the Samoed Question
Igor Semenov

Chapter 7. The Sustaining Landscape and the Arctic Fox Trade in the European North of Russia 1926-1927
Konstantin Klokov

Chapter 8. The Origin of Reindeer Herding as ‘Sector’ on the Kanin Peninsula
Stanislav Kiselev

Chapter 9. The Spatial Demography of the ‘Outer Taiga’ of the Zhuia River Valley, Eastern Siberia
David Anderson, Evgenii Ineshin, John Ziker                       

Chapter 10. Identity, Status, and Fish among Essei Iakuts
Tatiana Argounova-Low                                                                         

Chapter 11. Subsistence and Residence in the Putoran Uplands and Taimyr Lowlands
John Ziker

Appendix I:
The Manuscript Archives of the Polar Census Expeditions
Appendix II: Table of Measures                                                                                                           

Bibliographic and Archival References                                                                       

Notes on the Contributors

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