Reindeer Herder’s Day celebrated in Taimyr

Reindeer Herder’s Day celebrated in Taimyr

April 14, 2021

One of the most significant holidays is celebrated all over the North of Siberia these days.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. Every year, in April, hundreds of representatives of the peninsula indigenous peoples compete in national sports, identify the best reindeer riders and acquaint the guests of the holiday with the traditional way of life and culture of the northern peoples.

The first to celebrate the Reindeer Herder’s Day were the inhabitants of the village of Tuhard. Nomads from the tundra gathered for the holiday in order not only to take part in reindeer sled races, but also to meet with relatives and friends.

The races were attended by 30 men’s teams, 16 women’s and 26 youth’s ones, which had to overcome a 30-kilometer track.

The main prize is always a snowmobile. The prize for the second and third places is a boat motor.

On the banks of the Bolshaya Heta river, where the competition was held, a chum was installed, where everyone was offered to taste northern treats. There was also a trade fair.

In addition to reindeer sled races, the village hosted competitions in national sports: throwing a maut (a lasso) on a horey (a stick), national wrestling and jumping over sledges. For the villagers and guests of the holiday, national clothes and reindeer team decoration shows were organized.

The winners in each of the competitions got gas generators, chain saws, tool kits, sewing machines, which are necessary in the economy of the nomads.

Residents of the villages of Nosok, Novorybnaya and Syndassko will take over the Reindeer Herder’s Day celebration, where the competition will be held on April 17. The series of holidays in Popigay settlement will end on April 24.

For the first time in many years, the most colorful and distinctive holiday of the peninsula, and this year it is the 60th anniversary one, is held not only in the villages, but also in the capital of Taimyr, Dudinka. This became possible thanks to the World of New Opportunities Nornickel company’s grant program.

Within 60 years, the Reindeer Herder’s Day was held in Dudinka for the third time. Usually it is carried out only in the villages. It is unrealistic for an ordinary resident to get there from the city. This time everyone could see and feel the national flavor. And there were really a lot of guests. Not only from Norilsk, but also from other regions of the country.

Albina Zhgunova flew to Taimyr from Evenkia.

“I am from a reindeer herding family”, she shared with This Is Taimyr. Although in 1995 I moved from taiga to city, I am interested to see how your reindeer herders live. We also celebrate this holiday, and there are reindeer sled races. But you have open spaces, you can harness three or four deer. In our forest only two reindeer team can pass through it. There are other differences as well. Our reindeer have right-hand drive, different harness, different sleds. I have already taken a lot of photos and will show them at home and to my colleagues in the Evenk multidisciplinary technical school where I work”.

This time the reindeer sled races were extremely spectacular. Norilsk resident Vadim Lozovoy does not hide that he experienced a childish delight:

“I’ve taken my whole family with me to see the celebration. We’ve been living in Norilsk since the 1980s, but have come to the Reindeer Herder’s Day celebration for the first time. We’ve brought apples for the deer, but it turned out that they do not eat them, they prefer bread. We took a selfie with them. I’ve never seen so many snowmobiles and deer in one place in my life! We were told that today more than a hundred teams are taking part in the races. The indigenous people in their smart national costumes are such a beautiful sight, it takes your breath away! These are impressions for a lifetime”.

The reindeer herders of the Nosok and Tuhard tundra also arrived in Dudinka with their whole families.

A famous Nenets reindeer breeder Yakov Palchin is among them. When a young man, he studied at the Yakutsk State University. But after the third year, he realized that the city was not for him, and returned to his deer.

“They don’t teach anything useful in the city. We have our own universities in the tundra”, he says.

His son is of the same opinion, he gave up studying at the technical school and also returned to the tundra.

“If a child is accustomed to nomadic life from an early age, he will no longer rush to either a village or a city”, says Yakov Palchin. There are 8 people in his family in total. They live in the tundra all year round, driving their reindeer herd – 500 heads – from one pasture to another, overcoming hundreds of kilometers in a year. Only on the initiative of such people and their desire to follow the traditional nomadic way of life, we retain a unique branch of agriculture.

Deer for them is the meaning of life. It is food, shelter, clothing, and transportation. Although with these animals it can be quite difficult.

“In any season and in any weather we spend almost all the time outdoors – we need to watch the reindeer. They are not very smart animals – they can leave with a herd of wild reindeer, they need thorough watch and care. In winter, it’s easier with them: they have to dig snow to get reindeer lichen, so they don’t go far”, explains Yakov Palchin.

The reindeer sled races lasted nearly three hours. Nenets reindeer breeders Nikolay Yamkin and Henrietta Tasedo became the winners in the men’s and women’s races. They got the main prize – the Yamaha snowmobiles. Not a single modern reindeer herder can do without this means of transportation, as well as without mobile phones.

While there were races on the ice of the Yenisey river, an ethnic site was working for the guests. The hostesses of twelve chums treated everyone by national dishes: hot tea with lingonberries, sagudai and northern fish soup, venison broth, goose and partridge. The Heiro ensemble – the pride and cultural calling card of Taimyr – performed on the stage. There were also competitions in northern all-around, which included national wrestling, tugging a stick, jumping over sledges and throwing a maut. In total, the holiday was attended by about 6 thousand people.

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Text: Mikhail Tuaev, Photo: Marina Peshkova, Vitas Beneta, Alexander Haritonov,,

April 14, 2021

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