Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area
// GENERAL INFORMATION
The Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area is an entire country in the center of Russia's Far North. It is located on the West Siberian Plain, the largest such plain in the world. A small part of its territory is situated on the eastern slopes of the Polar Urals (the city of Payer, elevation 1499 m). It has an area of more than 750 000 km2, or 1.5 times the size of France. More than 50% of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area lies north of the Arctic Circle; its northernmost continental point is located at 73° north latitude 800 km above the Arctic Circle.
The area borders on the Komi Republic in the west, the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area in the south, and the Taimyr Autonomous Area in the east. Its northern boundary is on the Arctic Ocean and is part of the national boundary of the Russian Federation.
The Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area is divided into six districts and seven cities. It has a population of about 500 000, including 32 000 native people (Nenets, Khanty, and Selkup). The capital is the city of Salekhard (formerly known as Obdorsk), which celebrated its 400th anniversary in 1995. Cossacks founded the city in 1595.
Settlement of the northern part of the West Siberian Plain began as early as the Neolithic Age. Hunters and fishermen lived in huts on the shores of the Ob and Taz rivers during the Bronze Age in the 3rd millennium B.C. after the glaciers retreated.
Around the beginning of the 2nd millennium B.C., reindeer-herding Samodis entered the region from the south along the Ob and Yenisei rivers. The Samodis assimilated with the aborigines of the tundra and northern taiga, giving rise to the Nenets, who were once known as Samoyeds, and the ethnically related Enets and Nganasans.
Russian manufacturers and merchants began arriving in the territory in the 11th and 12th centuries. The chronicle known as the Tale of Bygone Years records the first Novgorodian expedition to Yurga beyond the Urals in 1096. The Novgorodians reached Yurga by sailboat along the Pechora, Ob, and Taz rivers, with portages in between. The tribes living in the northern part of the area between the Ob and Irtysh rivers, an area teeming with "soft lumber" (i.e., valuable furs), were already considered tributaries of Muscovite Rus by the 15th century. However, it was only after Ermak Timofeevich's defeat of the Siberian Khanate in 1582 that this territory was opened up for large-scale trading and settlement. Cossack troops, "ploughing" peasants, people in service, industrial, and trading occupations, "idlers", and hunters headed for the territory, as they did to other parts of Siberia. Siberia yielded vast quantities of valuable furs like sable, fox, beaver, squirrel, and Arctic fox. Most of the furs went to European Russia as tribute in kind from the native people.
In 1595, Cossacks built a fortress on the right bank of the Ob River, where the Polui River flows into it in the permafrost zone near the Arctic Circle. The fortress was called Obdorsk, and at the time it was the northernmost fortress in Siberia. Its name came from the Ob River and the Komi word "dor", meaning "nearby place" or "near something". In 1933, the settlement received the name Salekhard, from the Nenets Sale-Kharn, or "settlement on the cape".
In 1601, Russians founded "gold-boiling" Mangazeya near the mouth of the Taz River. It was reached by the Sobsky Trail, which ran along a system of portages from the Pechora River basin to the Ob, then along the Ob, Ob and Taz bays, and by sea through Yugorsky Shar Strait and Baidaratsky Inlet. For 60 years (until 1662), the town with a population of 2000 was the center of fur-rich Yenisei Siberia until it gave way to Turukhansk. Mangazeya's economy collapsed and the town died. Archeologists discovered the ruins of its buildings in 1969. The present-day city of Novy Urengoi is located in the area.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Selkups (or Ostyak-Samoyeds, as the Russians called them) from Narymsk Territory, whose culture included a combination of Khanty and Samodi traits, began migrating to the Taz River, forming a separate Northern group of this people. A mass migration of Komi-Zyryans from beyond the Urals to the Ob River basin began in the 19th century.
In 1708, Peter the Great issued a decree forming the Province of Siberia, which included the territory of the present-day autonomous area. Then, in 1775, Catherine the Great signed a decree establishing Tobolsk Province, which included nearly all the lands of Western Siberia.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the population of the lower Ob became involved in trading. Starting in the mid-18th century, large trade fair was held annually in Obdorsk from December 15 to 25. Sales at the fair, during which the settlement's population increased to several thousand people, were more than 100 000 rubles, an enormous sum for those times. Russian traders, mainly from Tobolsk, brought flour, grain, wine, cloth, iron and copper goods, tobacco, and ornaments and received furs, fish, fish glue, bird quills, mammoth ivory, and walrus tusks in exchange. A fishing industry school was founded in Obdorsk at the same time.
The life of the local population remained almost unchanged for several centuries. The area was sparsely populated, except for scattered tribes of nomadic tribes of hunters and reindeer herders and small Russian settlements separated by enormous distances here and there along the Ob River. The northern nomadic peoples maintained their traditional forms of everyday life, e.g., teepees, which were the main type of dwelling. Orthodox Christianity spread along with traditional beliefs.
Under Speransky's charter of 1822, "On the Administration of Non-Russians in Siberia," the northern tribes were assigned to the group "nomadic non-Russians," whose internal affairs were to be regulated by non-Russian councils and tribal administrations. One of the largest uprisings of Northern peoples took place between the 1820s and 1840s. Its leader was Vauli Piettomin, a Nenets from the lower tundra of the Taz River. In January 1841, he and a squadron of 400 people reached Obdorsk, but he was captured and sentenced to hard labor in Eastern Siberia.
The economic situation in southern Siberia changed little in the 19th century. There were some changes in the fishing industry, which was becoming commercially important. Shipping traffic began on the Ob in mid-century. There were no cities, and Obdorsk remained the largest settlement. Small permanent villages were located mainly along rivers and coastal bays. In between the rivers, there were only temporary settlements of one or more teepees covered with reindeer skins in winter and birchbark in summer. The settled population lived in small log huts.
Soviet authority was established in the area in April 1918, but the Civil War lasted right up to the end of 1921. From 1918 to 1923, the territory of the modern-day Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area was part of Berezovsky and Surgutsky districts of Tyumen Province; and from then until 1930, it was part of Obdorsk District, Tobolsk Area, Ural Region.
The Yamalo-Nenets National Area, with its center in Obdorsk (later Salekhard), was formed in December 1930 by a resolution of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (VTsIK). The area has been part of Tyumen Region since 1944.
The area's reindeer-herding and hunting and fishing grounds were collectivized in the 1930s. An experimental farm station was established in Salekhard in 1933; and fur farming (silver and blue fox and mink) began in 1936. Muskrat released into local lakes and rivers became a target for hunting. Most of the nomadic and seminomadic population switched to a settled way of life.
In the early 1950s, prisoners from the GULAG built the Subpolar Railway (the Dead Railway) running from Salekhard towards Igarka (it was supposed to go to Norilsk), but for political reasons, it was never opened. Up to the early 1970s, there were no cities in the autonomous area except for Salekhard.
The most significant event in the area's postwar history, which fundamentally changed its entire economic and social life, was the discovery of enormous oil and natural gas reservoirs. The appearance and accelerated growth of new cities and communities in northwestern Siberia, which only a few decades ago had been a remote and sparsely populated territory, were directly connected with the rapid development of the oil and gas fields and construction of oil and gas pipelines.
In accordance with the Constitution of the USSR of 1977, the national area became known as an autonomous area. Since 1993, under the new Constitution of the Russian Federation, the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area has been a full-fledged subject of the Federation. The area has representatives in both the Federation Council and the State Duma. The Charter (Fundamental Law) of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area was adopted on September 19, 1995.
The autonomous area is situated for the most part in three climatic zones: the Arctic and subarctic zones and the northern taiga belt of the West Siberian Plain. Permafrost, closeness to the cold Kara Sea, coastal inlets penetrating far inland, and an abundance of bogs, lakes, and rivers all influence the climate. The climate is severely continental, with average January temperatures of -22 îÑ to -26 îÑ and average July temperatures of +4îÑ to +14îÑ; average annual precipitation is 200-400 mm. There are frequent magnetic storms, which are often accompanied by the Northern Lights in winter. Polar days and nights are typical of the region.
Tundra-gley and boggy soils predominate in the northern part of the area; and gley-podzolic and podzolic-boggy soils, in the south. The vegetation is typically tundra and forest tundra, with forests of Siberian larch, spruce, and cedar in the south and on riverbanks.
The main rivers are the Ob, Taz, Pur, and Nadym. There are a large number of bogs and more than 5000 lakes, most of them small (up to a few hundred meters in diameter), although there are some large lakes 10-20 km in diameter; the largest are Yarato, Neito, and Yambuto. The large lakes are ice-free only in midsummer and are already frozen again by mid- to late October.
Oil and gas are produced in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area. Along with hydrocarbons, there are abundant deposits of solid minerals. The subsurface of the Polar Urals in the western part of the area contains commercial quantities of many valuable resources, such as gold, lead, a unique variety of marble, phosphates, barites, and limestone. Shows of nonferrous and rare metals, e.g., bauxite, copper, and chrome, copper-molybdenum, copper-zinc, and iron ores, have also been discovered.
The Administration of Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area is the area's highest executive body. The Governor appoints and heads the Administration, which consists of a Vice-Governor and 11 Deputy Governors.
As head of the Administration of the autonomous area, the Governor determines its main lines of activity; settles questions concerning the budget, financial, credit, monetary, and exchange systems, state property management, and the life and activities of northern minorities; and settles other questions as stipulated in the Charter (Fundamental Law) of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area. The Governor directly coordinates the activities of the main committees and departments. He considers questions relating to the activities of regional structures of the federal security service, federal border service, the Ministry of Defense, the Regional Administration for Combating Organized Crime (RUBOP), the State Tax Inspection, the Public Prosecutor's Office, and judicial bodies. He is also in charge of civil defense in the area.
The State Duma of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area is the area's highest legislative body.
The Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area is a resource-producing region. The oil and gas industry is the leading economic sector, with a 93% share in total industrial production. More than 90% of Russia's natural gas and 12% of its oil are produced here. The leading gas companies are RAO Gazprom, AO Urengoigazprom, AO Nadymgazprom, AO Yamburggazdobycha, and its subsidiary Surgutgazprom. These companies produce 99% of the natural gas, and their resource base constitutes 85% of the area's total reserves. The largest gas fields include Urengoi, Medvezhye, Yamburg, and Vyngapur.
Intensive oil field development is going on along with gas production. According to various expert evaluations, oil production could be as much as 40-70 million tons. The main oil-producing companies are AO Noyabrskneftegaz, and AO Purneftegaz, which produce 96% of the oil. Noyabrskneftegaz is now part of Sibneft, a modern oil-producing operation that is developing 145 fields. AO Rosneft-Purneftegaz has 13 operating pools, more than 80% of which belong to three fields: Tarasovskoe, Barsukovskoe, and Kharampurskoe.
A total of 5175 companies operate in the autonomous area; this includes 362 in industry, 77 in agriculture, 1166 in construction, and 1045 in commerce.
Owing to the severe climate, agriculture in the region is limited to reindeer herding, hunting, fishing, and fur farming; reindeer herding accounts for 92.2% of all agricultural production. These sectors are the main occupations of the local native population, who are experiencing difficulty in the transition to market relations. However, in recent years, several dozen private farms and reindeer-herding, fur-farming, and hunting businesses have been registered in the area. The livestock farms are located in the Ob valley. At present, 13 state farms and new organizations and 34 private farms are involved in agriculture in the autonomous area. Projects are being worked out to set up companies to prepare raw fur materials from reindeer skins, rebuild the Salekhard Fish Canning Plant, and so on. Vacuum-packed reindeer and fish products and native craft items have received high marks from consumers at several All-Russian exhibitions and are in great demand.
The Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area has a developed finance and banking system. Thirty-eight credit institutions and 10 insurance organizations operate in the area. The main clients of the region's commercial banks are large oil- and gas-producing companies; thus, real economic sector is the basis of their operations. The West Siberian Commercial Bank (Zapadno-Sibirsky KB) has an extensive branch network in the area. A number of banks based in Tyumen, Nizhnevartovsk, Ekaterinburg, Omsk, Kaluga Region, and Moscow also have branches here.
Expansion of the transportation network is a priority for regional development. Development of land routes in particular will decrease the cost of shipping freight to and from the area. At present, it is difficult to provide transportation services to the population.
Maritime and river shipping have historically been very important for the region. The main navigable rivers are the Ob, Nadym, Pur, and Taz. There are large ports in Salekhard, Nadym, Urengoi, and Tazovskoe. However, the rivers are navigable only during the short summer period, generally no more than 3-4 months and only 2 months in the north. The northern seaport is little used at present. In 1995, as an experiment, a Russian Navy nuclear submarine delivered the first-ever civilian cargoes under the ice to the town of Kharasavei. Economists calculate that using nuclear submarines for transport purposes will decrease shipping costs and make year-round polar navigation possible.
The area has 4044.3 km of roads, most of which (3247.3 km) are company roads; the remaining 797 km are general-purpose roads. In addition, there are more than 3500 km of winter roads. Roadbuilding is going on at a rapid rate. A major program called "Yamal Roads" has recently been adopted in the area and will become a constituent part of the president's "Russian Roads" program. Realization of this program will connect the region to the countrywide transportation system. There are also plans to build a commodity transport corridor from Stockholm through St. Petersburg and Arkhangelsk to the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area and Norilsk.
Air transport is especially important in the area. Aviation is of fundamental importance for transporting passengers, mail, priority freight, and medical services in the huge, virtually undeveloped territory with its isolated communities. Two airlines, Yamal and Tyumen Airlines, operate in the area.
Rail transport is the only available form of transportation for nearly a third of the area's residents. At present, there are several railway stations and two unconnected rail lines in the area.
Pipeline transport, especially gas pipeline transport, has developed rapidly along with development of the area's gas fields and now has a significant place in the area's transport network. Existing gas pipeline systems deliver Yamal gas to industrial centers in the Urals, Altai, Kuzbass, European Russia, and foreign countries. The system consists of the Northern Lights (Severnoe siyanie), Urengoi-Chelyabinsk, and Urengoi-Uzhgorod-Western Europe gas pipelines. A major project, the Yamal-Europe project, is being implemented, which entails construction of a nearly 3000-km-long pipeline network. With construction of the pipeline network, deliveries of Russian gas to Europe will double to 150 billion m3 by 2020. Oil from fields in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area is transported via the Tarasovsky-Kholmogory and Kholmogory-Western Surgut oil trunk pipelines.
CULTURE AND ART
Archeologists have proven that tribes with a high level of material culture inhabited the banks of the Lower Ob River. The long and fascinating history of this territory is reflected in its distinctive culture.
The native people love colors, taking them from nature itself and transferring them to a palette of flora and fauna on their national costumes. Every woman in her tent is a skilled artist. They even send men off to successful hunting and fishing with their embroidery work. Brightly decorated clothing is also an essential attribute of national sports, for example, northern all-round competitions, such as axe throwing, hop, step and jump, tossing a snare on a pole, sled-vaulting, 3-km cross-country relay races, which all use everyday tools as sporting gear. These sports have their own heroes, for example, German Sandrin, who can throw an axe 200 m; Yury Taligin, who tossed a snare pole 68 times; and Bely Yar native Aleksandr Tasmanov, whose phenomenal achievement of jumping over 820 sleds was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Written language appeared in Yamal during the Soviet period. Ivan Nogo, the first Nenets dramatist, wrote the plays Shaman and Vauli Piettomin between 1932 and 1934; and Reindeer, the first poem by Ivan Istomin, was published in the regional newspaper in 1936. By 1940, there were already ten libraries in the area. The network of cultural establishments grew especially rapidly in the 1960s: there were 17 houses of culture, 39 rural clubs, 2 national theaters, 3 music schools, a local history museum, a folk art house, and a cultural center in Gydoyamo. There were also 64 libraries with 500 000 books and more than 100 movie theaters. Poet and prose writer Ivan Istomin became the first member of the Russian Writers' Union in Yamal. A new group of talented writers appeared, for example, Leonid Laptsui, Ivan Yuganpelik, Roman Rugin, Mikul Shulgin, and Prokopy Saltykov.
Modern-day Yamal is a cultural center for Northern peoples.
Official Site of Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area: