Asiatic Eskimos - Settlements



The shores of the northeastern and southeastern extremities of Chukotka are medium-elevation mountain country. Deep valleys bordered by mountains extend to bays (Providence, Tkachen) or to lagoonlike lakes (Imtuk, Kirak), that are set off from the sea by narrow sand spits. In the past a settlement of Asiatic Eskimos or of maritime Chukchee was to be found in every bay or "cell" and the promontories (capes) were natural boundaries. Most Eskimo settlements were located at points of the highest concentration of biological resources. Most often the settlements were situated on small terrace-shaped ledges on spits of sand or shingle, directly on a coastal declivity, or on a spit of pebbles separating the sea from a sandy lagoon.

In the 1940s and 1950s the majority of the traditional settlements of the Asiatic Eskimo were classified as "without prospects" and closed; their inhabitants moved to larger settlements. Thus, in 1942 Aran was closed, in 1946-1947 Tasik and Kivak, in 1950 Siklyuk, in 1958 Naukan and Plover, and in 1959 Unazik. The sole Asiatic Eskimo settlement that remained in its traditional location was Sireniki. (According to the provisional evaluations of archaeologists, it has been in existence roughly 2,000 years.) This policy had an enormous negative effect on the fate of the Asiatic Eskimos, depriving them of their traditional places of habitation, which were very suitable from the point of view of productivity; it also negatively influenced their psychological state and their sociodemographic situation, which led to the irrepressible growth of alcoholism, the rise in the number of suicides, and social apathy alternating with outbursts of individual aggressiveness.

Today among the Asiatic Eskimo there is a strong movement for a return to the traditional settlements—first to Naukan, Unazik, and Aran.

In the past there were two types of winter dwelling: the large, semisubterranean nenglu and the ribbed tipi ( karkasnaya yaranga ) of the Chukchee type, which also served as a summer dwelling and was originally covered with walrus skins, later with tarpaulin. For heating and lighting their dwellings they used the fat of sea animals. Today they live in more or less standard wooden houses with stoves or steam heat and electric lighting. These houses are not too well adapted to northern conditions and are distinguished from the same houses in European Russia only by yet greater impoverishment.


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