Nganasan - Sociopolitical Organization

The Nganasan have their representatives in each of the three village soviets as well as in the Taimyr District Soviet. They do not have their own representative in any of the higher organs of power of the Russian Federation.

Social Organization. The majority of Nganasan are trappers and fishers, seamstresses, animal herders, and, to some extent, reindeer breeders. Some work in local institutions of public health or culture and in schools or boarding schools. Hunting brigades are sometimes formed according to traditional kinship principles.

Political Organization. In December 1989 the Association of Native Peoples of the TAD was set up for the defense of their rights; the Nganasan also joined. They also have a representative on the Council of the Association of Minority Peoples of the North, the founding meeting of which took place in Moscow in March 1990.

Social Control. Village soviets and groups for public control connected with state enterprises are called on to combat offenses against the norms of customary law. A major role in the local village is played by public opinion (formed under the influence of the older generation).

Conflict. Before the Taimyr became part of Russia, bloody conflicts often arose among the various nomadic groups, even between Nganasan groups that were related to each other. These conflicts, as reflected in folklore, were basically over the control of reindeer herds. Russian power reduced these conflicts, but there were still occasional skirmishes with small governmental military units until the nineteenth century, by which time the territories of migration and of the autumnal hunts at river fords were almost completely stabilized. The wealthier Nganasan and Dolgan reindeer breeders suffered because of collectivization policies and expropriation of the reindeer herds in the 1930s. Their ensuing revolt was put down and many people were repressed—including the shamans. Later the Nganasan took part in World War II (1941-1945); their collective economies supplied the army with warm clothing, meat, and fish.

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