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This paper examines the conditions behind the tragic situation of isolation in remote rural settlements of post-Soviet Siberia. Ethnography, archival research, and a literature review are used to show how the landscape itself poses formidable impediments to bettering the lives of indigenous Evenkis living in one northern district of Krasnoyarsk Kray. Over one or two generations, traditional Evenki systems of mobility were reconfigured according to mechanized vehicles, centralized settlements, and a heavy reliance on non-local goods. The fragility of the Soviet system for operating northern settlements can be taken as a general warning to other sub-Arctic and Arctic communities in the circumpolar North.