The North: The ethnographic world of Ilya Samuilovich Gurvitch

By National Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Inspired by the "North", northern ethnography and anthropology, Ilya Samuilovich Gurvitch devoted most of his life to studying the peoples of the North. The contribution made by Gurvitch on the study of the ethnography of northern peoples is truly unique. 

Evens at the factory (1962) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Life in the north

Its uniqueness lies in the fact that he had conducted scientific expeditions with incredible consistency and diligence, which allowed to cover the gaps in the study of the North and the peoples inhabiting it. His love and the desire to research were rewarded with response among the local population: people were open, friendly and very willing to help him. And the result of his many years of research is the valuable knowledge, his proceedings and the photo collection. Thanks to these photos, we can immerse ourselves in the world of northern peoples, and feel the Northern life...

Family of Evens (1952/1978) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Even - one of the indigenous peoples of the north-east Siberia

A dog with a breastplate and a boot (1953/1954) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Sled dogs - irreplaceable companions and helpers of people of the North.

Expedition dog sled (1954) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Without these animals, many geographical discoveries and human exploration of the Arctic would have been impossible.

The collective farm radio station (1951/1959) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Children's clothing (1953/1954) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

The world of childhood

Ilya Samuilovich Gurvitch always tried to capture the portraits of children, their games, and school time. At one point of his life, he worked as a teacher in the Olenek region of the Yakut ASSR, and was later appointed as a school director. He knew that the children environment, their upbringing and everyday life, can show and tell a lot about a nation.

Teacher (1952/1959) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

A big family among the northerners was not only a blessing, but also an excuse for life on earth. Each person must have an heir, a continuer of the family. The absence of children was perceived as a great misfortune.

Lesson at school (1976) by Sergey TsikhanovichNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Children of the tundra (1987) by Victor ZagumyonnovNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Child is riding a deer (1951) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Most of the population then led a nomadic lifestyle.

Turn off mauth (1959) by Maria ZhornitskayaNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Life and hunting

Mode of life is part of the physical as well as social life of a person, which includes the satisfaction of material and various spiritual needs. This section reveals the daily life, life of the inhabitants of the North, including hunting. The peoples of the North have a thousand-year experience in catching wild animals, fish and birds, and they are well aware of animal biology and the characteristics of the territory in which they hunted.

Cleaning fish for school (1952) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

In the complex economy of the majority of the northern peoples, fishing along with hunting and reindeer herding occupied an important role.

Small foxes fur farm (1959) by Maria ZhornitskayaNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

According to the 1959 population census, only 442 Yukagirs lived in the Soviet Union, including 419 in Yakutia and the Magadan region.

A Chukchi woman at the entrance to the yaranga (1976) by Sergey TsikhanovichNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Traditional food of the Chukchi nationality is based on meat.

Yakut V. Postnikov (1952) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Man has been hunting since prehistoric times. With the development of human society, the ways and purposes of hunting changed. In the primitive society, hunting was one of the main sources of food, and was also part of rites and rituals.

Simmental bull (1952) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

The agro-industrial sector is leading in the economy of the northern regions of Yakutia.

Yarangas on the background of mountains (1976) by Sergey TsikhanovichNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Yaranga - the traditional home of the peoples of the Far North. These homes are regularly used by reindeer herders and now.

Study zoo veterinary rules on the collective farm "Turvaurgin" (1950) by G. NaumovNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

The nomadic community "Turvaurgin" exists to this day. As of 2010, there are 14,000 deer in the reindeer herding indigenous community Turvaurgin. Residents of Turvaurgin say: “As long as we have a deer, we will develop as a nation. If the deer disappears, then we will disappear with it.”

Hunting for walruses (1962/1987) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Walrus hunting is a traditional way of life and the preservation of the national culture of the indigenous peoples of the North. Sea-walrus tusks are a raw material for carved products; fat is used for heating and lighting. The durable skin is suitable as a raw material in the manufacture of ropes and for warming dwellings, as well as for boat trimming - traditional Chukchi canoes, and waterproof capes are made from the intestines and stomach.

Yukola (1957) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Yukola is a fish from which bones and entrails are removed, dried in the open air. Unlike salted dried fish, yukola fish does not cause thirst, but it is stored longer.

Chaplin Eskimos (1987) by Victor ZagumyonnovNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

The spiritual and material culture of the peoples of the north

The variety of forms and manifestations of the ethnic cultures of the peoples of the North is unique. Thousands of people in the Far North preserve the ethnic and local characteristics of their peoples. Clothes, dances, folklore, games - all this is captured in photos of researchers of the North.

Bow after the dance "Omukanovo" (1959) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

"Omukanovo" - the national dance of the inhabitants of the village Russkoe Ustye.

The Koryaks (1977/1985) by Victor ZagumyonnovNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Headpiece made of leather strap and beads (1976) by Sergey TsikhanovichNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

In Chukotka, ornaments, beads on the accessories of girls are an integral part of traditional clothing. They have a certain value and are used as a talisman.

The game “Budyldundalmachak” (1952/1962) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

For indigenous people, traditional games, competitions and physical exercises have long been an independent activity, being an integral part of patriotic education, they were constantly used in everyday life.

Children (1959) by Maria ZhornitskayaNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

A team of deer. Even decorations on reindeer (1953/1954) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Tambourine (1987) by Victor ZagumyonnovNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Belief

The belief system of the northern nations closer to polytheism, animism and shamanism. They believed in the existence of variety of gods and spirits, that personified different forces and natural phenomena. Besides, they thought that everything in the world, including animals, mountains, rivers, trees, objects made by man, has a soul and knows how to suffer, rejoice, get offended; therefore, a person had to be able to find a common language and strive to live in harmony with all the souls of the outside world. 

The cult place Akka (1976) by Sergey TsikhanovichNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Since ancient times, the indigenous population paid tribute to sacred sites. And today, such places are easy to identify by the cluster of multicolored ribbons in the trees.

Remains of a shaman (1951) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

M. Suzdalova holds a conversation with spirits (1959) by Maria ZhornitskayaNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Ritual dance of the shaman.

Shaman from collective farm “Krasniy may” (1952) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

The only photo of the shaman.

Old residents of hunting brigade of the Stalin collective farm (1953/1954) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Portraits

The genes store the history of human ancestors, and the gene pool, the set of genes of the whole nation, – store the biological history. Every nation has its own “genetic portrait,” which is made up of the genomes of individuals. Comparing the "genetic portraits" of modern nations, scientists study the genealogy of all mankind, which came out of Africa about 60 thousand years ago and settled in Eurasia and the rest of the continents.

Hinging loop for partridge (1953/1954) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

The main tools for catching partridges are traps - loops of various designs.

The old woman Aksau-Givevcheyvuke (1987) by Victor ZagumyonnovNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Koryak (1981) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Clothing Koryaks closest to the Chukchi. The material for summer and winter clothing was the skins of young deer. Other skins (dogs, foxes, wolves, wolverines) were used only for finishing outerwear or for sewing caps and mittens.

Correspondent Kama Gogolev (1952) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

On the territory of Abyysky district in 2014-2015, sensational paleontological finds were found: the remains of a baby woolly rhinoceros, two cubs of a cave lion - the only predatory carcasses in the world.

Kisilekh (1953/1954) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

In addition, the portraits from the collection of I. S. Gurvitch simply show us how all the people of the North are beautiful in their own way and open to the world.

Credits: Story

Maksimova Sargylana,
candidate of Historical Sciences, Associate Professor, Director of the National Library of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)

Alexey Ivanov,
author and curator of the project «Culture of Yakutia in the world space» (inclusion of regional cultural of institutions of Yakutia into the project Google Cultural Institute), initiator of support for the Yakut language and languages of indigenous peoples in machine translators, research fellow of the National Library of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)

Neustroeva Valentina,
librarian of Science and Research Center of Book Memorials, National library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Exhibition of 2018

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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