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People Won't Dance if They Have Nothing to Eat: Do Economic Transformation and Centrally Planned Cultural Revival Fit Together?

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The Sakha Republic has played an important role in indigenous reorganization policy of the post-Soviet period. In 1991, a law on nomadic clan-based communities (kochevaya rodovaya obshchina) was enacted that attempted to provide a legal platform for the "cultural and economic revival" of small indigenous groups. This law was followed by others that reorganized reindeer herding, hunting, and self-governance of indigenous peoples. This process is viewed by both the state and indigenous activists as an attempt to maintain "the indigenous cultural heritage." Not only Sakha and Russian, but many Western scientists, have praised the obshchina movement as the main form of indigenous reorganization. Shortly after the relevant legislation was adopted, the number of obshchiny increased to 400, but since then have decreased greatly. This paper discusses the concept of obshchina and shows that this new institution is only one of several new forms of property in the transition, which is treated on a vernacular level as an economic rather than a cultural institution. People themselves often prefer to establish other types of enterprises depending on the goals they pursue. Recent field research in Anabarskiy Rayon demonstrates that there is a discrepancy between centrally planned cultural revival and people's understanding of their culture and identity.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2003


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