Wild and semi-domesticated reindeer in Russia: status, population dynamics and trends under the present social and economic conditions


  • Eugene E. Syroechkovski




reindeer, status, Russia, Chukchi, Even, Evenk, herding, hunting, Khanty, kolkhoz, Komi, Mansi, Nenets, Rangifer tarandus, Selkup, sovkhoz, Taimyr, Yakutia


At present (in 1999) there are approximately 1.5 million semi-domesticated and 1.3 million wild reindeer in Russia. The co-existence of these two forms remains a major problem. Reindeer herding has declined while the number of wild reindeer has increased during the last 10 years. The main causes of these changes are social and economic. The 1960s and 1970s were characterised by a deliberate attempt to eradicate the nomadic way of life of reindeer herders. It was relatively easy to introduce public (kolkhoz or sovkhoz) reindeer herding in the Nenets, Chukchi and Komi-Izhem areas where large-scale reindeer herding was typical and, as a result, there were almost 1 million reindeer in collectives in the extreme north-eastern part of the USSR. At the same time reindeer herding deteriorated among the Khanty, Mansi, Evenk, Even, Selkup peoples. Perestroika in the 1990s resulted in the formation of a market economy. Collective reindeer herding declined and the number of semi-domesticated reindeer decreased during a period of gradual return to private ownership of reindeer. The largest region of reindeer herding is now the Nenets tegion in the north-west of Russia. Successful sympatric existence of wild and semi-domesticated reindeer is not possible. The Taimyr wild reindeer population numbers about 500-600 000 reindeer. From 1971 to 1981 not less than 700 000 reindeer in this population were shot. Ecological and economic control over them has now been lost. There are approximately 200 000 animals in Yakutia. The number of wild reindeer here has grown following the decline of reindeer husbandry. Yakut and Even reindeer herders believe that the decline has been due to wild reindeer drawing semi-domesticated teindeer away. At present 13 aboriginal peoples in northern Russia engage in reindeer herding. Five former reindeer herding peoples have given up herding but thete are signs of improvement in the situation among those peoples which have retained reindeer herding culture following the gradual restoration of private ownership of reindeer. In the 20 regions where only a few wild reindeer remain hunting should be prohibited and measures should be taken for protecting and restoring the populations. There are approximately 6000 reindeer on Novaya Zemlya; a further 6000 animals live on the Novosibirsk islands. The Red Data Book of Russia should include rare and disappearing populations both on the periphery of the species' distribution and inside it to preserve and restore the species and to conserve its genetic diversity.




How to Cite

Syroechkovski, E. E. (2000). Wild and semi-domesticated reindeer in Russia: status, population dynamics and trends under the present social and economic conditions. Rangifer, 20(2-3), 113–126. https://doi.org/10.7557/2.20.2-3.1507