Saami - History and Cultural Relations

The first contacts of the Saami with Russians were in the thirteenth century, specifically in 1216, when there is mention of the payment of tribute by the population of the Terpsk shoreland to the Novgorodians. After the fifteenth century and the fall of Novgorod, Lapland began to gyrate toward the Great Principality of Moscow and later became part of the Russian state, which was then forming. With the onset of the sixteenth century, the Christianization of the Saami began; the Pechengsk monastery, founded in 1550, played a major role. The expansion of Christianity among the Kola Saami was also related to the activity of the Solovetsk, Antonievo-Siisk, Krestr, and Voskresensk monasteries.

Contacts by the Kola Saami with neighboring peoples have been occurring for many centuries. Toward the end of the nineteenth century the Saami interdigitated with other peoples. Particularly close were the contacts with Russians. Also of many years' duration were contacts with the Karelians and Finns, particularly on the southwestern part of the peninsula. Moreover, in the 1880s, groups of Komi and Nenet reindeer breeders came to the Kola Peninsula from the Pechora River; these contacts had a significant influence on those aspects of Saami life that were related to reindeer breeding. In the twentieth century the national constituency of the Murmansk Oblast became even more mixed. The large influx of an immigrant population—among whom were a significant number of Ukrainians, Belarussians, Tatars, and other nationalities—was connected with the intensive development of industry in the area in the 1930s. The influx continues to this day, and contact with other peoples has become very extensive. Ethnically mixed marriages constitute about 50 percent of all marriages.

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