Central planning, market and subsistence from a tundra perspective: Field experience with reindeer herders in the Kola Peninsula
AbstractThis paper is based on field experience in the tundra camp of a reindeer-herding brigade with mixed ethnic background (Komi, Sami, Nenets, Russians) belonging to the ex-Sovkhoz of Krasnoschelie. Its purpose is to situate the new critical issues facing the reindeer-herding collectives after the economic collapse in Russia in 1998. My main argument is that the increasing economic isolation of the tundra periphery forces the herders to redefine their relationship with both the centre(s) and the other tundra actors. Reindeer herding on the Kola Peninsula is analysed in relation to its heterogeneous economic system defined by the old Sovkhoz-like management and the new Western buyer of reindeer meat. Furthermore, the social environment in the herding territories has changed since the deterioration of the central planning economy, implying new renewable resources' users. After massive loss of jobs, militaries, miners and geologists came into the tundra for substantial hunting and fishing and so became actors in the local informal economy. Finally, tundra-located herders and hunters seem to be somewhere unified by a discourse against the town-based administrative power and economic actors such as mining industry. Therefore herders have to deal with both an old administrative system in the agrocentre and new realities in the tundra. Based on a case study of herding/hunting activities in a tundra camp, the paper analyses the social relationships between the different actors in the post-Soviet Kola tundra and express their quest for solutions.
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