Nenets - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religion. The traditional religious conceptions and customs of the Nenets fall within the general definition of Siberian shamanism. The shamans, of whom there were several categories, were the principal mediators between humans and spirits. The latter used to be represented by anthropomorphic wooden idols, of which great numbers were assembled in the sacred places of the Nenets. During the last few centuries the traditional religious conceptions came to be mixed with elements of Christian origin, and figures from the Orthodox pantheon, notably Nikolai Chudotvorets, or Mikulay in Nenets, were adopted as patrons. Officially, Christianity reached only the western Tundra Nenets, whereas some of the eastern groups preserved shamanism until the Stalin period. Today the shamanist worldview seems to have largely vanished in favor of the official materialistic ideology.

Arts. Among the Nenets, the scope of figurative art is traditionally limited to the ornamentation of everyday artifacts and articles of clothing, but they have a rich tradition of oral literature and music. Two main categories of folklore include the long epic songs ( siudbabts ), as well as the short personal and lyric songs ( yarabts ). Sung in anhaemitonic pentatonics and following an archaic textual pattern with a complicated rhythmic superstructure, these songs seem to reflect a tradition of considerable age. Only fragments of the old epic poetry are still performed today, but personal and lyric songs are a living and developing genre. Several native poets and writers have emerged on the basis of these folkloric traditions. Some of them are today raising their voices to help save the cultural heritage and ethnic identity of the Nenets.

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