- 1 This article is part of the MinorEuRus project (Empowerment and revitalization trends among the li (...)
- 2 In Russian: Таймырский (долгано-ненецкий) муниципальный район.
- 3 Until 31.12.2006, the Taimyr Municipality District was formally an Autonomous Area (in Russian: ав (...)
- 4 Although the status of Dolgan as an independent language is disputed, I tentatively assume Dolgan (...)
1The Taimyr Peninsula, in Russian official legislative terminology the Taimyr (Dolgan-Nenets) Municipality District,2 3 coincides with the eastern border of the Uralic language family. The five indigenous peoples officially recognized as indigenous people of the Taimyr are Enetses, Nganasans, Tundra Nenetses, Evenkis and Dolgans. Linguistically, Enets, Nganasan and Tundra Nenets belong to the northern branch of Samoyedic, Dolgan is a Turkic language closely related to Yakut; 4Evenki belongs to the northern branch of the Tungusic family.
- 5 Although Tundra Nenetses are still mentioned in demographic statistics of the Kola Peninsula, it i (...)
2Two of the five indigenous people, Enetses and Nganasans, reside entirely within the boundaries of the Taimyr Municipality District. The remaining three people, Dolgans, Tundra Nenetses and Evenkis can also be found in other areas of Siberia. Although the clear majority of Dolgans do indeed live within the borders of the Taimyr Municipality District, a small Dolgan diaspora can be found in the northwestern part of the Yakut Republic (the so called Anabar ulus). Tundra Nenetses live in two administrative areas carrying their name (Nenets Autonomous Area; Yamalo-Nenets autonomous area), as well as in some northern parts of the Komi Republic and historically on the eastern part of the Kola Peninsula and in the Arkhangelsk oblast outside the territory of the Nenets Autonomous Area.5 Evenkis are scattered in a vast territory beginning in the Xanty-Mansi Autonomous Area in Western Siberia, the Evenki Municipality District south of the Taimyr, in the Yakut and the Buryat Republics and ending on the shores of the Pacific Ocean plus an additional diaspora on Sakhalin. Further, Evenkis live in the People’s Republic of China and the Mongolian People’s Republic.
3Although the major scope of this article is the current status quo of the Samoyedic languages spoken on the Taimyr Peninsula, both Dolgan and Evenki are included for several reasons: first, the native intelligentsia residing in Dudinka, the administrative center of the Taimyr Municipality District, is multinational and aware of the general situation of other Taimyrian indigenous people. Second, most of the villages within the Dudinka district are multinational which makes a more sophisticated discussion necessary; a simple account focusing on a special people is partially arbitrary and distorts the picture quite profoundly; the outcome of Soviet minority as well as regional politics apply to all people of the Taimyr Peninsula, regardless of mother tongue.
- 6 Unpublished document of the former okrug administration (Данные Комитета государственной статистик (...)
- 7 The nearby Noril'sk City Area is administratively independent from the Taimyr Municipality Distric (...)
4In 2005, 1,328 individuals belonging to the five indigenous people of the Taimyr Peninsula were registered as inhabitants of Dudinka city; the overall population of Dudinka was given as slightly exceeding 25,000.6 More recent statistics from 2008 reports around 38,000 inhabitants for the Taimyr Municipality Area, out of which 10,217 (27%) were listed as belonging to the five indigenous people (Визитная карточка муниципального района). In this respect, the ratio of indigenous people to Russians and other immigrants of the 20th century is much higher than in other areas of Siberia and the Russian North.7
- 8 A major problem of the Taimyr Peninsula is weak official cartography, especially concerning the ea (...)
5Although Dudinka hosts a significant indigenous diaspora which is a direct outcome of urbanization in the Siberian North, the historical distribution of Taimyrian indigenous people until the middle of the 20th century shows a clear geographic distribution which is, with several modifications, still visible. Postponing several significant historical events for the moment, the following picture prevailed: administratively, the Taimyr Municipality District is subdivided into four districts; an earlier fifth district was dissolved in the 1960s and its territory assigned to two other districts. The northernmost area, the Dikson district is insignificant, as Dikson as the gate to the Arctic does not host an indigenous population. The Khatanga district in the east is predominantly Dolgan-dominated, with a small disappearing Nganasan enclave in and around the village of Novaja. Although an Evenki population must be historically assumed for the Khatanga district, this has assimilated with Dolgans already in the early 20th century.
6The Ust’-Jenissej district in the west is predominantly Tundra Nenets with some historical Tundra Enets enclaves around the villages of Tukhard and Voroncovo in the North, which have almost disappeared.
7The Dudinka district is clearly the most diverse area, as representatives of all Taimyrian people can be found within its boundaries. In the northeast lie Voločanka and Ust’-Avam, villages with a mixed Dolgan-Nganasan population. A former Tundra Enets diaspora in that area assimilated with Nganasans in the 20th century; Potapovo towards the south is a mixed Tundra Nenets-Forest Enets-Evenki village, and Khantajskoe ozero a mixed Evenki-Dolgan village. Still, the history of Potapovo, Khantajskoe ozero and the so far unmentioned Levinskie Peski close to Dudinka is more complicated and will be discussed in some more detail below as the impact of ‘closing non-perspective villages’, a Soviet administrative phenomenon of the 1950s and 1960s as well as deportation of repressed Soviet citizens from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s has shaped these villages profoundly.
- 9 In Siegl (2005) I have discussed this matter from the perspective of Enets.
8Demographic data on Taimyrian indigenous people is in general a very delicate matter due to a variety of reasons.9 Before some rudimentary data will be given, general problems need to be discussed, as they are necessary for the analysis of the current status quo and its development.
- 10 The Dolgan case is described in Anderson (2000) as “state ethnography”. Some limited observations (...)
- 11 As sketched in Siegl (2005) for Enets, the number of Enetses varied several hundred percent throug (...)
9First, both Dolgans and Enetses are rather “new people” on the map as the creation of these ethnonyms is a direct outcome of social-engineering from the heydays of Leninist Minority Politics.10 Whereas state authorities introduced new people, especially for census purposes, both Dolgans and Enetses did not adapt their new identities as quickly as anticipated; this can also be seen in the statistics of several Soviet censuses. For Dolgans and Enetses and to a certain degree for Nganasans, large-scale variation in census data is characteristic.11 Further, variation was caused by changing census principles underlying later Soviet censuses. The first polar census in 1927/1928 included many Siberian indigenous people which in later censuses were no longer counted and some of them reappeared as late as the last census of the Soviet Union in 1989. Peoples such as e.g. Enetses disappeared after the 1927/1928 census and were counted as Nenetses in the 1959, 1970 and 1979 censuses. Only in the last Soviet census in 1989 Enetses reappeared as an indigenous people on the state level. In contrast, on local administrative levels, Enetses were always present and even counted during their official non-existence on state level. Nganasans and Dolgans were counted in censuses after the polar census from 1927/1928, but their numbers show much variation which cannot be explained by population dynamics alone and again, the reasons must have been statistical but foremost political, qualifying as instances of “state-ethnography”.
- 12 Again, this cannot be exemplified in detail here and I refer to two earlier articles which discuss (...)
- 13 As interethnic marriages have risen quite drastically throughout the 20th century, multiple identi (...)
10Another problematic matter is the absence of any detailed sociolinguistic data. Whereas the last Soviet census in 1989 gathered at least some rudimentary (socio-)linguistic data, questions about native language (L1) and skills in other languages were not systematically gathered in the 2002 census of the Russian Federation and consequently, no point of reference is at hand. My own experience with state demographic data has made me abandon such data if local data is available as the latter is generally much more accurate.12 As some demographic data are nevertheless necessary, the following data from local Taimyrian authorities is given, so that some point of reference for later discussion can be established (Vizitnaya kartochka munitsipalnogo rayona). For 2008, the following data were published on the official homepage of the Taimyr Municipality area: Dolgans 5,517; (Tundra) Nenetses 3,486; Nganasans 749; Evenkis 270; Enetses 168. What must be borne in mind is that such demographic data has no sociolinguistic implications, as it simply states the number of people who feel themselves as belonging to a certain nationality. Of course, such simple numbers do not allow assumptions concerning the numbers of native speakers in comparison to the overall population, language usage, language attitudes etc. which due to massive interethnic marriages in recent decades is even further complicated.13 For a prelimnary discussion of the current linguistic status quo of the Taimyrian languages, this simple demographic data must be reinterpreted against the demographic situation of a given village. Although we will return to this point later, the following two initial observations sketch the situation. First, although indigenous literacy and relative number of speakers seem intuitively supportive for language preservation, the situation on the grass-root-level may turn out to be opposite. Although Tundra Nenets and Evenki have a comparatively long tradition of (educational) literacy, which started in the early 1930s, this has not prevented language loss, especially not on the Taimyr Peninsula. In general, the first attempts of teaching Tundra Nenets in Taimyrian schools (predominantly in the Ust’-Jenissej district) started as late as in the 1970s. Evenki was never taught in relevant Taimyrian schools in the Soviet Period (neither Potapovo nor Khantajskoe ozero). In contrast, Dolgan, whose way towards literacy started in the 1980s, is comparatively safe, at least in the eastern part of the Khatanga district. This is due to a very compact settlement area and relatively homogenous villages with a large, if not dominating Dolgan population. In Ust’-Avam and Volochanka (both located in the Dudinka district), Dolgan does not seem to be as safe, and the same must be assumed for Nganasan due to interethnic marriages which nowadays result in monolingual children. Further, negative language attitudes within the Nganasan speech community are eventually hostile, a point taken up again later.
11In a nutshell, although both Tundra Nenets and Dolgan are relatively safe, though still endangered, this is foremost due to relatively compact settlement areas and the larger number of speakers. The existence of literacy and some limited use of the language in primary schools have not contributed to their preservation. The language of the Nganasans, albeit being a numerically a larger people, is highly endangered too. Intuitively a rather compact settlement area with a longer tradition in bilingualism in Dolgan seems to be supportive for language preservation. Nevertheless, both relocation of non-perspective villages and massive shift to Russian tell a different story.
- 14 Repression and deportations are vividly discussed and are therefore not stigmatized topics as in o (...)
12Although no detailed history of the Taimyr Peninsula has been written so far, the general picture which has evolved during my fieldwork does not differ from the general picture as sketched in works such as Slezkine (1994) and Pika (1999). The only marked difference, which has played a more dominant role than elsewhere in the North, is the role of repression and GULAGs. Its impact on local demographics was much more severe than in most other areas of the Soviet North.14 Although the erection of GULAGs in Dudinka and Noril'sk as well as mass deportations to villages within the Taimyr Peninsula has shaped the Taimyr Peninsula, some historic continuity is at hand as already in Czarist Russia, political prisoners were sent to the Taimyr Peninsula.
- 15 The following passage is based on Предтеченсая (2006) if not mentioned otherwise.
- 16 Still, Donner did not mention any political prisoners in his travelogue.
13When Kai Donner arrived in Dudinka on Christmas Eve in December 1912, only a sparse description of the area made its way into his published travelogue (Donner 1979, p. 175-178).16 The description of Dudinka in the historical overview on the District’s official homepage also presents a small village, which in 1923 consisted of twelve wooden houses and a church (Историческая справка). In 1930, Dudinka was made the center of the Taimyr (Dolgano-Nenets) Autonomous Area which was founded officially on December 10th 1930. In the early 1930s, the total population of the Taimyr Peninsula was estimated at roughly 10 000 individuals (for Dudinka 1300), out of which about 5,500 were classified as indigenous people, the remaining 4,500 consisting of an older Russian population (most probably Old Believers) and recently arrived Russians (Samigullin 1936).
- 17 The GULAG in Noril'sk operated from 1935 to 1956.
14In June 1935, the erection of the Noril'sk Nickel Combinate was decided in Moscow and already in July 1935, 1,200 political prisoners arrived in Dudinka. These prisoners had to start the construction of the Combinate in Noril'sk, mines and mining shafts and the necessary infrastructure such as the port in Dudinka as well as the railway connection between the port of Dudinka and Noril'sk. By 1939, already 11,560 political prisoners were counted on the Taimyr Peninsula. Although contact between political prisoners and the local indigenous population was prohibited, by 1939 the local indigenous population was already outnumbered. World War II would change the demographic situation even more severely. This topic will be discussed below.17
15Whereas the growth of Dudinka had apparently no immediate effect on the geographic distribution of Taimyrian indigenous people, the erection of the Noril'sk GULAG most certainly had, as it destroyed several Dolgan-Evenki camps in the area, in particular the fieldsite of Ubryatova (Ubryatova 1985). The last surviving Dolgan-Evenki village, Časovnja, close to Noril'sk, was closed in the early 1950s and then started an odyssey for its remaining inhabitants. Several families were sent to the village Kur'ja on the right shore of the river Pjasina; this village, too, was closed in the middle of the 1960s. Kur'ja’s inhabitants were then repatriated to the village Levinskie peski opposite of Dudinka (on the left bank of the Yenisei) and Ust’-Avam. Some families were sent to the village Novo-Anan'insk north of Dudinka which was closed in the 1970s. (Plužnikov, Karpukhin 2008, p. 394) In a nutshell, the speech community of Ubryatova’s work is no longer intact and has ceased to exist.
- 18 Also for the Khatanga district, deportees are mentioned in Taimyrian discourse, but no published d (...)
16Whereas the first wave of political prisoners arriving on the Taimyr Peninsula in the 1930s must have consisted of victims of the Stalinistic Great Terror wave, deportation continued. In the period 1942-1943 more than 8,000 Volga Germans, Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians arrived on the Taimyr Peninsula. In 1944 around 900 Kalmyk families followed (Predtechenskaya 2006, p. 8) and the influx continued until the mid-1950s. Apart from these nationalities, one can add e.g. Ingrians, Koreans, but also Black Sea Greeks, although the latter were clearly less-numeric. The distribution of these families into existing villages on the Taimyr Peninsula was however far from uniform. Due to missing land connection to other parts of the USSR, a situation which has not changed until the present, political prisoners could only be transported by ship on the Yenisei from the Krasnojarsk area. Upon arrival, deportees were then sent to villages located along the Yenisei or major side rivers. This step excluded the Khatanga district which has no direct water connection to the Yenisei and so, the majority of deportees ended up in villages of the Dudinka and Ust’-Jenissej districts.18 A document from the Dudinka district Soviet from the 9th of July 1942 reproduced in Svecha pamyati (p. 96) reported that 2,360 families were sent for construction work to the following villages (* marks villages no longer existing today):
17Levinsk-Goroxov mys* – 200 families;
Točino* – 150 families;
Luzino* – 250 families;
Tomskiy mys* – 160 families;
Ust'e-rečki Khantayka* – 250 families;
Priluk* – 400 families;
Potapovo – 250 families;
Lipat'evsk* - 160 families;
Sitkovo – 400 families;
Nikol'sk – 140 families.
- 19 These new fishing brigades were apparently not intended to provide food for the local Taimyrian po (...)
18Additional 750 families were sent into fishing brigades into the following villages:19
19Khantayka* – 150 families;
Liptat'evsk* – 30 families;
Potapovo – 200 families;
Priluki* – 50 families;
Nikol'sk* – 15 families;
Sitkovo* – 10 families;
Levinskie peski – 50 families;
Zaostrovka* - 50 families;
Anan'evsk* – 75 families;
Luzino* - 20 families;
Časovnja* – 100 families.
- 20 In this period the first contacts between deportees and Taimyrian indigenous people started.
20Although the families’ size is not mentioned anywhere, the overall impact of these numbers is not hard to anticipate.20
21In my major fieldsite, Potapovo, the older generation (among them several former deportees) consistently mentioned that before the arrival of the first deportees in 1942, the village consisted of several houses only. The arrival of deportees caused huge tensions and trouble, as the limited infrastructure could not cope with the newcomers. Frequently it is claimed that Potapovo as a village started to exist only in the late 1940s, after the arrival of deportees. In an area 69 degrees north and higher, the shortage of accommodation and food had devastating effects on the deported and death tolls rose enormously. Whereas many deportees returned to their former homelands after rehabilitation in the 1950s, other remained on the Taimyr Peninsula, among them many Volga Germans.
- 21 The appearance of larger numbers of Yakuts, Evenkis and (the indigenous ethnonym for Yakut) is not (...)
22For the year 1943, another official document published in Svecha pamyati (p. 99) provides very interesting intermediate data concerning population growth; the overall Taimyrian Population was given as 54,315 individuals, out of which now roughly 13% were classified as indigenous: 2,201 Sakhas, 2,045 Nenetses, 791 Nganasans, 740 Evenkis, 1,685 Yakuts.21 In less than 10 years, the number of non-native inhabitants had risen by several hundred percent and the relation non-native/native population had decreased drastically.
23The impact of this influx is so far unstudied, due to the absence of detailed published demographic data for this period. Siegl (2007) offered some observations for Potapovo from a Forest Enets perspective, which is based on stories and personal judgments by Forest Enets speakers. In general, the arrival of large numbers of speakers of other languages changed earlier communication strategies in a very short period and Potapovo was in need of a new lingua franca to replace Tundra Nenets. The quick enforced introduction of Russian resulted in assimilation and homogenization, a process that started much earlier in Potapovo than elsewhere on the Taimyr Peninsula. What can be reconstructed from conversations with Tundra Nenetses from the Ust’-Yenissey district, enhanced with life stories in Svecha pamyati, the domination of Russian in Potapovo preceded similar tendencies by at least one if not two generations. In more peripheral areas in the Ust’-Yenissey and Khatanga district where the number of deportees was lower than in the Dudinka district the domination could have been postponed for some more decades.
24In the 1950s and 1960s, Soviet administrative reforms such as the liquidation of non-perspective villages led to enforced centralization of state infrastructure. Whereas the fate of the Dolgan-Evenki village of Časovnja was already mentioned above, from a Forest Enets perspective, the closing of Nikol'sk and (Ust’)-Khantayka which served as two more administrative anchors for the Forest Enets population left Potapovo as the only remaining village for them. Potapovo was then already multinational but still multilingual, yet clearly drifting towards Russian. In the next two generations all heritage languages (whether indigenous Taimyrian or those of deportees) ceased to exist. Nowadays, any skills in other languages of inhabitants native to Potapovo can only be found in the generation +50. (Siegl 2007) Similar developments are said to have happened in Khantayskoe ozero, to which larger numbers of deported Balts and Volga Germans were sent. Nowadays Evenki, which in the later period of the 20th century was spoken only in this village, lost the struggle against Russian and is now critically endangered. The closing of non-perspective villages also affected the Nganasans quite drastically. First, in 1965, an earlier existing Ust’-Avam district (the aforementioned fifth district) was dissolved and its former territory was merged with both the Dudinka and Khatanga districts (Savvinov 2005, p. 53-54). Several smaller settlements located on the Dudinka-Khatanga trail were dissolved and new villages emerged:
When the government closed these stations, it concentrated social services, such as education and medical care, along with the local administration, to three new locations: Novorybnoe on the middle Avam River; Old Avam, at the confluence of the Avam and Dudypta Rivers; and Kresty, at the confluence of the Dudypta and Piasina Rivers. After several phases of collective farm consolidation in the 1950s and 1960s, the administration of Avam’s tundra’s working population was moved to Volochanka […]. In June 1971 […] the current settlement of Ust Avam, 13 km upriver form Old Avam, was created. Novorybnoe and Old Avam were closed, and services at Kresty were restricted. Most Dolgan and Nganasan families were moved to the new settlement. (Ziker 2002, p. 81)
- 22 The situation in the district capital Khatanga might differ, but I did not make any inquires yet, (...)
25The outcome among the Nganasan is well known; whereas the preservation of language skills ranked high over the general average throughout the heydays of the USSR, a fact often mentioned in major handbooks (e.g. in Hajdú's description of Nganasan in Hajdú, Domokos 1987), after the enforced resettlements language transmission was disturbed and apparently stopped, this phenomenon being perhaps supported by increasing bilingual marriages which, in contrast to earlier days, produced monolingual speakers of Russian. Based on several conversations with Dolgan activists in Dudinka, the same situation seems to prevail among the Dolgan population of Ust’-Avam and Voločanka, which is said to be in decay in both villages. In contrary, in the neighboring Khatanga district which is still largely Dolgan- dominated and fairly homogenous, Dolgan is generally preserved better, although the closing of several non-perspective villages has affected local speech communities too.22 Still, it appears that Dolgan is under pressure in the villages closest to the more urban administrative center Khatanga, and the language is generally better preserved in the periphery towards the border of Yakutiya.
26For Tundra Nenets in the Ust’-Yenissey district, a similar picture prevails. In Karaul, the multinational administrative center of the district, Tundra Nenets is under heavy pressure and the same is valid for the gas-industry dominated Tukhard; in more homogenous villages, the language seems to be comparatively safe. Although the closing of several non-perspective villages has affected local speech communities too, its impact was apparently comparatively mild.
- 23 In the western area, both Tundra Nenets as well as the Russian pidgin Govorka served as major ling (...)
- 24 This means that bilingualism and trilingualism (with Russian) was a quite usual phenomenon in seve (...)
- 25 In the generation of ethnic Forest Enetses no longer speaking their heritage language, several mar (...)
27As elsewhere in Siberia, the influx of newcomers, whether deportees or colonialists paired with relocation of entire villages, profoundly changed marriage rules and established bilingualism and local lingua francas.23 Before the 1950s, marriage rules (on the macro-level) followed traditional constellations reflection the dominating geographical distribution of the Taimyrian indigenous people e.g. Forest Enets-Tundra Nenets, Tundra Enets-Tundra Nenets, Tundra Enets-Nganasan, Nganasan-Dolgan, Dolgan-Evenki.24 E.g. for the first half of the 20th century, only one Forest Enets-Evenki marriage was reported in Potapovo (Vasiljev 1963). For the later period of the 20th century, the situation among the Forest Enetses in Potapovo turned up-side-down and I could only document two marriages among speakers of Forest Enets, the rest marrying with representatives from other nationalities.25 (Siegl 2007)
28This development is, of course, neither restricted to Forest Enets nor unique. Similar observations are reported by Szeverényi, Wagner-Nagy (2011) for Nganasan in Ust’-Avam and during my stay in Dudinka, I have met numerous other representatives from local minority people confirming this observation in other areas. Still, language transmission is not only disturbed in bilingual marriages but in monolingual marriages as well – a fact which speeds up language endangerment quite drastically. This is fueled by education in Russian, boarding schools and unsatisfying principles of teaching native languages.
- 26 For gifted indigenous students, limited scholarships to attend universities in major cities in the (...)
29Beside the events sketched above, there are of course other factors that contribute. Although space prevents us from going into details, the collapse of the Soviet infrastructure has contributed massively to this problem. Transport problems with antiquated means of air transportation resulting in astronomic prices, complications during child birth, flu or pneumonia in a village or in the tundra can become lethal; further dwindling health care, high rates of unemployment, alcoholism and resulting domestic violence, general negative attitudes toward traditional spheres of life (usually seen as antiquated behavior of the grandparental generation) increase existing problems and life in Dudinka and Noril'sk is clearly favored and seen as a possible form of escape.26 In the older generation, a strong scent of nostalgia for the Soviet period is increasing, but life in urban Dudinka becomes increasingly popular also in this generation.
30Dudinka is truly a multinational town. Apart from its significant indigenous population and descendants from formerly political prisoners who have decided to stay on the Taimyr Peninsula, Russians, a large Ukrainian and White Russian diaspora, Azeris and other people from Central Asia can be frequently encountered. Especially in summer, vegetables and fruits are traded by Azeri and Central Asian merchants, while otherwise they can be found in one indoor-markets. Another market shows a larger number of Vietnamese traders. Although a general, perhaps Soviet inherited, negative attitude towards Turkic and Caucasian people as well as recent Vietnamese traders is observable, languages other than Russian can be heard in these indoor-markets. Otherwise, the city is Russian-speaking.
31Due to the comparatively high number of indigenous people among the population of Dudinka, one is constantly reminded about the native people of the area when walking through the streets. This is further enforced by different kinds of political outdoor placards and on official signs on different administrative buildings where the two major indigenous people as part of the official district name are displayed. However, when looking for other signs, one will not find more than Dolgan элдэн ‘Aurora Borealis’, the name of a restaurant close to the main building of the local administration. Whereas in the Finno-Ugric and Turkic republics of the Russian Federation official signs on administrative buildings are represented in local languages and Russian, this is not the case in Dudinka.
- 27 In Russian: Таймырский дом народного творчества.
- 28 In Russian: Городской центр народного творчества.
32At least visually, the local research institute the “Taimyr house for popular creation”27 shows some traditional Dolgan ornaments on its walls and a chum-like main entrance visually shows the presence of indigenous people in the area. Another local institute, the “City centre for popular creation”28 has three enlarged copies of Nganasan idols in front of its entrance.
33Further, in the entry hall of the local Taimyrskij Kolledž one finds ‘Welcome’ signs in the five local languages and in Russian. Nevertheless, Russian is the dominating language of Dudinka.
34As no published account on this topic is available, the following impressionistic list of observations derives entirely from my fieldnotes. Whereas the situation in Dudinka can be presented with reasonable confidence, the situation in the villages apart from Potapovo is based on second hand knowledge, conversation with the native intelligentsia and reports from colleagues and representative of the local government.
35In spite of its numerically significant native minority, schools in Dudinka have a bad record in teaching indigenous languages on primary school level. Most efforts have centered on School Number 1 with its adjacent boarding school, with a significant number of children from the Dudinka and Ust’-Yenissey districts. Since fall 2010, new attempts to teach Dolgan, Nganasan and Evenki have started, but apparently only twice, if not only once a week. Teaching is there restricted to primary school.
- 29 In local discourse, School Number 1 has the worst reputation in town and many parents try to put t (...)
36In 2008, the Dolgan community, itself the largest indigenous community in Dudinka, negotiated with the local administration for opening Dolgan classes in a different school and transferring interested Dolgan students into this school but so far without result.29 For Tundra Nenets, the situation is slightly different as teaching of the language in School Number 1 has a longer tradition and is not limited to primary education. The popularity of these classes is reported as low nevertheless.
- 30 I could convince myself as I was invited to teach several classes in winter 2007.
37Further, the Taimyrskiy Kolledž, an institute of higher secondary education and practical education, offers language classes for Dolgan, Tundra Nenets, Nganasan, Forest Enets and Evenki, as well as some basic training in educational sciences. As the Forest Enets teacher was close to retirement in 2008, the overall future of Forest Enets teaching was unsure. Although she could be convinced to continue, her sudden death in 2009 marked the end of the program as no new teacher could be hired ever since. In addition, some classes in the history of Taimyrian people are offered to all students, but as the majority of students are Russian, the overall interest is low.30 In reality, the role of these language classes is at best symbolic.
38In late fall 2006 special evening classes in Tundra Nenets for both older Tundra Nenets boarding school students as well as adults were given at the “City centre for popular creation”. The teacher from the local boarding school, Mikhail Nenyang, offered both a condensed overview on grammar and some practical oral skills. Teaching was based on his compiled conversation guide (Nenyang 2005). This was however a one-time experience, as the money was obtained directly from Krasnojarsk, and limited to six months.
39In general, the role of native languages in education is marginal. Whereas both Tundra Nenets and Dolgan are better off, due to the existence of a variety of teaching materials, the complete absence of teaching materials for both Enets languages, and the limited amount of teaching materials for Nganasan restricts pedagogical efforts. Further, a general shortage of teachers and especially of young teachers is often complained about. Although the Institute of the people of the North in St. Petersburg is still preparing teachers for Nenets, Dolgan and Evenki, no specialized teacher training exists for Enets and Nganasan, either in St. Petersburg or Dudinka. Although the existence of teaching materials is certainly not negative, the absence of trained teachers which still have good or at least satisfying command of their native languages is a serious problem for Enets and Nganasan and becomes an increasing problem even for Tundra Nenets and Dolgan. The same applies for Evenki, which in spite of extensive educational materials effectively has almost no speakers left on the Taimyr Peninsula. Further, the dialectal stratification of Evenki, whose written standard is based on the variety spoken in Buryatiya is also problematic.
40Again, the following overview is impressionistic and concentrates on the ‘grass-root’ level. This is necessary, as official regulation in Dudinka and their implementation in the villages are far from being coherent, as the situation in Potapovo, Volochanka and Ust’-Avam shows
41Although Enets is usually assumed to consist of two dialects, the attested difference in the grammar and the lexicon would allow speaking of two independent languages. In general Forest Enets is better known and this coincides with the availability of printed materials.
- 31 In Russian/Enets : Родное слово – Кεрна'' базаба'' (Mothertongue).
42Both Enets languages belong to those languages in the Soviet Union which did not benefit from the introduction of an educational program, neither in the 1930s, nor during the second wave of literacy creation since the late 1970s. Whereas a potential orthography for Forest Enets was published in 1986 (Tereshchenko 1986a), it was not used until the publication of a small Tundra Enets text collection (Labanauskas 1992) and the trial translation of a fragment of the Gospel of Luke in 1995 (Luka 1995). For educational purposes, a Forest Enets-Russian-Forest Enets school dictionary (Sorokina, Bolina 2001) was published in 2001. In 2003, a handbook31 intended for local educational purposes, including both texts and grammatical information about Forest and Tundra Enets appeared (Labanauskas 2002). Although, since the early 1990s, there have been numerous references to an upcoming Forest Enets primer, work has stopped. In 2003, a small Forest Enets-Russian conversation guide was published (Bolina 2003) which serves as a kind of primer in both the local school in Potapovo as well as in Forest Enets classes at the Taimyrskiy Kolledž.
43In 1992, a Forest Enets activist tried to start teaching Forest Enets at the local boarding school in Potapovo, but this attempt was seen as “unnecessary” by parents and was stopped shortly after. Occasional attempts during later years were reported to me, but the general negative attitude continued. During my stay in the village in winter 2006-2007 and summer 2008, teaching had stopped, as the local teacher was freed from teaching obligation due to psychological problems. Later, she nevertheless returned to her job. Although in general, Forest Enets should be taught in Potapovo as a foreign language next to German once a week, I could not obtain any concrete information about the curriculum. It appears that some teaching of Forest Enets is done from grade 1-4, but apparently not more than once a week. As only a small fraction of school children have any direct Forest Enets ancestors, the language program is unpopular due to missing identification possibilities for the vast majority of children who should participate in such classes. Further, the lack of specialized teaching materials and qualified teachers prevented the education of future L2 speakers and the looming language death could not be reversed.
44Concerning Tundra Enets, no information about Voroncovo are available to me. It seems very unlikely that any attempts to teach Tundra Enets were ever made. In contrast to Forest Enets, printed resources in Tundra Enets are more restricted and not even a specialized Tundra Enets-Russian word list exists. Due to the attested linguistic stratification, materials other than portions of Родное слово would be unsuitable anyway.
- 32 I thank Beáta Wagner-Nagy (Hamburg) for providing some further background information. Additional (...)
45In general, the picture in the three villages with a Nganasan population does not differ too much from Forest Enets.32 Similar to Enets, Nganasan did not belong to the group of languages which received literacy during the early Soviet period. As late as 1986, a potential orthography was designed (Tereshchenko 1986b), but Nganasan was used in print for the first time in 1991 in a small Russian-Nganasan conversation guide (Momde, Aron 1991) and in a small text collection (Labanauskas 1992). In 2005, fragments of the Gospel of Luke (trial-edition) were published in Nganasan (Luka 2005).
46In recent years, several materials for education were published such as primers for first grade (Žovnickaya-Turdagina 1999) and second grade (Žovnickaya-Turdagina 2005) as well as for pre-school (Momde 2007). Further, a short grammatical sketch (Žovnickaya-Turdagina n.d.) and a Nganasan-Russian-Nganasan dictionary containing a sketch grammar (Kosterkina, Momde, Ždanova 2001) appeared in print as well as a collection of Nganasan folklore (Labanauskas 2001). On the grass-root level however, the impact of these educational materials is quite low, as most of them are said to be missing in the Nganasan schools in Ust’-Avam. Further, as there is no specialized teacher training for Nganasan language instruction, the overall impact of these newly created materials, even on primary school level, is apparently far from being supportive for acquisition as L2. Whereas teaching of Nganasan in Ust’-Avam and Volochanka is said to cover grades 1-11 for 2-4 hours a week, the situation in Novaya, in the Khatanga district, is unknown.
47From a conversation with a Nganasan language activist who herself is married to a Dolgan, I heard some personal judgment concerning the curriculum in Volochanka. In 2008, both Nganasan and Dolgan were taught parallel in the same time slot which made it impossible for children from mixed Dolgan-Nganasan marriages to attend both classes. Although the activist would have liked her child to attend both, she was forced to choose and Dolgan was decided on.
48What is however most important is the fact that only Nganasan is partly taught in Nganasan. All other subjects are taught in Russian. This prevails in all areas of the Taimyr Peninsula where native languages are taught. Whereas there is some teaching of native language as a subject, any other subject is not taught in these languages and no attempts to change this approach are undertaken.
49Education in the remaining three languages of the Taimyr Peninsula cannot be covered even in an impressionistic manner. Tundra Nenets is taught in the schools of the Ust’-Yenissey district and the boarding school in Dudinka and a variety of centralized teaching materials are in usage. The majority of teaching materials in usage are compiled in both the Nenets Autonomous Area and the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area, printed in Saint Petersburg and shipped to the Taimyr Peninsula. Only limited additional Nenets and Russian teaching materials are prepared in Dudinka. This means that the local Tundra Nenets variety is excluded from Taimyrian education.
- 33 The unusual way of Dolgan literacy creation is covered to some extent in Siegl, Rieβler (under rev (...)
50Apart from the schools in Ust’-Avam, Volochanka and School number 1 in Dudinka, Dolgan is apparently taught in all schools in the Khatanga district. Although Dolgan is a comparatively young written language, the amount of teaching and other language materials produced in the last 25 years is impressive and most certainly this is supportive for language maintenance at the current moment.33
51Evenki is taught in the local school in Khantayskoe ozero, but apparently not successfully. Data on the history of teaching Evenki in Khantayskoe ozero is currently not available. In 2010, some attempts to teach Evenki in Dudinka’s School Number 1 were made, but this experiment ended rather soon as the teacher resigned and moved away from Dudinka.
52In 2008, the administration of the Evenki Municipality District donated a large number of educational materials in Evenki to the Taimyr Municipality Area (V biblitekakh 07.08.2008). Although this step is of course positive, it will not affect the survival chances of Taimyrian Evenki and should be understood as a symbolic supportive act for identity maintenance in an area inhabited by Evenkis.
- 34 Numbers derive from a talk by a representative of the local administration Tatyana Drupova in Septe (...)
53Taimyrian languages underlie strict state-regulations, though in legal terms, their status differs considerably from each other. Tundra Nenets has a fully accredited curriculum and therefore a legally different position from the remaining four Taimyrian languages which can only be offered as facultative classes. This difference in juridical terms has, however, no impact on the prestige of the language in education which is generally said to be rather low. In fact, more and more parents do opt against participation of their children in language classes. For the year 2010-2011, 2,028 indigenous children were registered in Taimyrian schools, though only 71% equaling 1,435 children attended language classes.
54Such classes are supposed to be taught two hours a week, but the actual implementation is dependent on individual decisions in schools based on the availability of teachers. For 2010-2011, 48 teachers for indigenous languages were employed in the Taimyr Municipality Area, but not all of them had a pedagogical or higher pedagogical education:
- 35 In Russian: учитель родного языка и литературы народов Севера.
||4 teachers own a diploma as teacher of language and literature of the people of the North35
||3 teachers own a diploma as teacher of language and literature of the people of the North
||1 teacher owns a diploma as teacher of language and literature of the people of the North
||native speaker, no formal education in pedagogy
||basic pedagogical education
55Ever since the advent of communism in the Siberian periphery, tensions between state-enforced education in boarding schools and parents unwilling to let their children be educated in distant places have been prevailing. Further, stigmatization of the use of indigenous languages in boarding schools has contributed to decreasing language skills, if not in complete language shift.
56Since 2008, several nomad schools (based on balok type sleds) have been installed in the Ust’-Yenissey district. They travel with Tundra Nenets reindeer herding families to avoid early separation of children from their parents. These schools, offering primary education from grade 1-4 before children have to be transferred to boarding schools, seem to be welcome among the Tundra Nenetses. The local administration nevertheless complains that it is hard to recruit teachers for such schools, as this means a life in the tundra which for many Russians is unattractive. Although it is hoped that such schools will attract young teachers from indigenous people in the near future, this has yet not been the case. Further, running costs of such small schools are very high, which imposes funding problems. For the near future, the existence of these experimental schools seems to be safe and new schools of the same type are supposed to be installed in the Khatanga district among Dolgan reindeer herding families too.
57For the period 2010-2011, some alternative forms of language teaching were also mentioned. In the village of Potapovo (Dudinka district), specialized pre-school Dolgan and Tundra Nenets courses were organized; the same was reported for Dolgan in Volochanka (Dudinka district) and Syndassko (Khatanga district). Further, Dolgan has been taught in a children’s home in Dudinka for over 15 years and a specialized booklet with Dolgan fairytales (Bettu 2011) has resulted from this.
- 36 The step into the new media has not yet taken place.
58As much as the role of Taimyrian indigenous languages is restricted in education, so is their role in the media.36 Further, not all languages are used in Taimyrian media; as far as I know Evenki has never been used in the media and the same applies to Tundra Enets. Also Forest Enets is used less than the other languages; the following overview presents a condensed survey.
- 37 I have spent considerable time in Dudinka browsing through the archives of the local newspaper. By (...)
- 38 The former reporter stated that the installation of a Forest Enets radio program was enforced by l (...)
59The installation of a local radio station followed shortly after the foundation of the Taimyr Dolgano-Nenets Autonomous Area, on October 20th 1931. The first broadcasts in native languages of the Taimyr Peninsula started in 1948, unfortunately it remained unmentioned in which languages (Kozhevnikov 19.10. 2001). In another contribution concerning indigenous broadcast (Levenko, Konyushenko 8.2.1994) it is stated that broadcast started in Dolgan, and was soon followed by Tundra Nenets and later by Nganasan.37 In 1991, additional broadcasts in Forest Enets started, but were not prolonged after the reporter resigned from radio work in 2002.38 In 2008, programs in Dolgan, Tundra Nenets and Nganasan were still broadcasted, though as far as I can recover from my fieldnotes, not on a daily basis any longer. In the summer of 2011, only news in Dolgan and Tundra Nenets, followed by a short radio program in one of the two languages was broadcasted. The service (both news and radio program) was restricted to weekdays and lasted from 19:10-20:00. As the salary of editors and reporters preparing news in local languages is not competitive, the future of this program is far from being safe, especially as most of the reporters reach retirement age soon.
- 39 See Anderson (2000 chapter 4) for historical background. Literacy creation for Dolgan would eventu (...)
- 40 Although the politics, one page of news once a month for each language is underlying publication p (...)
60The appearance of indigenous languages in the local print media Soveckiy Taimyr / Taimyr is a comparatively recent phenomenon. While in the 1960s, some attempts for Dolgan were made due to increased political pressure concerning identity creation, this was abandoned very quickly.39 The decisive step was taken on 27.01.1990 when for the first time in the history of the newspaper one page was reserved for news and stories in local native languages. Unsurprisingly, this started with Dolgan and Tundra Nenets. Since then, news in native languages are published once a week in the Wednesday edition, but they are limited to one language only. Since September 1993, news in Nganasan and since March 1998, news in Forest Enets appear once a month on Wednesdays.40
61In general, covered topics are diverse and apart from news reproduced in local languages, fairytales, word lists concentrating on specialized terminology (including fading traditional terminology), but also portions of Bible translations as well as portraits of central members of the indigenous intelligentsia can be found. Whereas the newspaper is distributed in Dudinka as well as in the villages, the impact of Forest Enets news in Potapovo was close to zero; no Enets consultant of mine went to the library asking for the Enets news edition during my fieldwork in the village.
- 41 It must be added that the broadcast scheme was not fully comprehensible. Whereas local news can be (...)
62The most recent attempts establishing local indigenous languages in the media concern the local section of the Russian state channel Rossiya. In fall 2006, an attempt to broadcast weekly news in both Dolgan and Tundra Nenets was started on Saturday morning for 10-15 minutes each. Whereas this service operated until the end of 2006 (at least until the 12th of December 2006 when I travelled further to Potapovo), only news in Tundra Nenets were broadcasted in 2007 after my return to Dudinka in late February. In the meantime, the Dolgan news reader had quitted his job and as he could not be replaced, so the service was simply closed.41 Later, he could be re-hired and the service was continued. Both, Tundra Nenets weekly news as well as Dolgan weekly news are still broadcasted on Saturday morning, if the newsreaders are not on vacation or occupied with other tasks.
- 42 Although claiming to cover the indigenous people of the Taimyr Peninsula, Evenkis are actually exc (...)
- 43 After a short historical overview concerning the political status quo, individual chapters present (...)
- 44 http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/doc/src/00120-EN.pdf
- 45 The 9th factor is the state of language documentation and its impact, which cannot be addressed he (...)
63The topic of viability and especially predictions about the linguistic future is a topic which inevitably produces diverging and conflicting accounts. Paired with the absence of detailed sociolinguistic investigations, the overall state of affairs is again impressionistic, but not necessarily incorrect, at least on the macro-level. Among the best-known resources in English is probably still the collection of papers in Northern minority languages – Problems of Survival (Shoji, Janhunen 1997) to which one should add the monography by Vakhtin (2001) and a recent collection of papers edited by the same author (Vakhtin ed. 2007). From a Siberian perspective, the monograph Poeples of the Taimyr published by a Krasnoyarsk based sociologist (Krivonogov 2001) must be added for bibliographical reasons, but the latter is in many concerns imprecise.42 Finally, a recent monograph compiled by Sillanpää (2008) must be mentioned; in spite of its promising header, it is equally useless for linguistic interpretation.43 The major problem of Krivonogov and Sillanpää is the interview (and Russian-) based approach which result in general statements of either knowing, knowing poorly, understanding or not understanding a given language. Based on numerous personal observations, the label understanding a language is almost always paired with discourse on identity (e.g. an ethnic Enets always understands his language even if the opposite actually applies). Such statements, which can be found in both works can be best supported or recast by a field linguist by starting to work on a given language, a technique not available or not of interest to sociologists and many ethnologists in contemporary Russia. Especially judgments of other community members are very helpful, but this would call for some diversified approaches based on language sociology which are again outside the scope of works such as Krovonogov and Sillanpää. Whereas such a qualitative approach is possible for small speech communities (from the Taimyrian perspective Enets, Nganasan and Evenki) this becomes problematic for more numerous people as the Dolgans and the Tundra Nenetses. In the end, also the following overview about viability and prospects of Taimyrian languages will remain impressionistic. As some formal means for comparison are necessary, the following overview follows the general framework developed in a document prepared by the UNESCO Ad Hoc Expert Group on endangered languages.44 Among the categories connected to viability discussed in the document, nine decisive factors are singled out and eight will be integrated into the short discussion below:45
- Factor 1. Intergenerational Language Transmission
- Factor 2. Absolute Number of Speakers
- Factor 3. Proportion of Speakers within the Total Population
- Factor 4. Trends in Existing Language Domains
- Factor 5. Response to New Domains and Media
- Factor 6. Materials for Language Education and Literacy
- Factor 7. Governmental and Institutional Language Attitudes And Policies Including Official Status and Use
- Factor 8. Community Members’ Attitudes toward their Own Language
- 46 Other Tundra Enetses fell under the influence of Nganasan and assimilated with them.
- 47 The number was given in a presentation by Andrey Shluinksy in Vienna in March 2010.
64As much as the history of both Enets languages since the 19th century is known, the first crucial period started after the end of Enets-Tundra Nenets wars, which resulted in Tundra Nenets hegemony including the advent of large scale reindeer breeding on the left side of the Yenisei. Enetses and especially Forest Enetses continued to live mainly as hunters on the right side of the Yenisei whereas at least several Tundra Enets families started to engage in large scale reindeer herding after having fallen under Tundra Nenets domination. The emerging Tundra Nenets dominance resulted in assimilation which affected Tundra Enetses more severely than Forest Enetses.46 Whereas Tundra Nenets is still a relatively dominant language within the Ust’-Yenisey district, Russian started to dominate Potapovo in the 1950s due to the events sketched above. As speakers of both Enets languages were clearly outnumbered by other languages, the further domination of Russian pushed both languages towards the verge of extinction. Whereas for Forest Enets, 37 potential speakers (including both speakers of all kind as well as rememberers) in the generation +50 are still alive, the number of potential speakers of Tundra Enets does not exceed a dozen.47 The Enets languages have effectively lost almost all spheres of language use to Russian (in the Tundra Enets case to Tundra Nenets and Russian) and serve as a means of communication in occasional private surroundings and specialized folkloristic contexts coinciding with folklore festivals. Although Enetses are officially recognized as a local indigenous people, no overt “linguistic” benefits have resulted from this status. Language attitude has long been negative; recent attempts in language documentation have however had some positive effect among the generation of last speakers. As the first attempts of literacy creation have occurred at a very late stage (effectively as the language has already fallen out of everyday usage), no positive effects could be observed. Both Enets languages must be classified as moribund and critically endangered and inevitably are on their way to extinction.
65Among the Samoyedic people of the Taimyr Peninsula, Tundra Nenetses have been seen as most prestigious, due to large reindeer herds which resulted in socio-economic domination. This opinion continues to play an important role in local discourse even today. Socio-economic dominance resulted also in linguistic dominance, which is vividly remembered in Potapovo; usually, Tundra Nenetses did not learn any Enets but required Enets spouses to learn their language. In extreme cases, the language of the spouse was not learnt at all and one simply continued to use one’s own language and the spouse answered in his or her own which due to the closeness of Forest Enets and Tundra Nenets was apparently not too difficult. This constellation changed in the late 1950s since Russian serves as the dominant lingua franca. A similar constellation seems to apply for Tundra Enetses too.
66Early literacy creation, which in the Tundra Nenets case goes back into the 1930s, had not effect in language maintenance on the Taimyr Peninsula as Tundra Nenets literacy in both education and media started much later than in comparison with the core Tundra Nenets area in the west.
67A relatively compact settlement area continues to be supportive for language maintenance, especially in traditional spheres of economy – a fact widely used in general discourse (as long as there are reindeer breeders speaking Nenets, the language will survive). However, also Tundra Nenets struggles to find a place in new domains and frequently, many community members adhere to the myth of the ideal language of the tundra unsuitable in the rural and especially in the urban domain.
68As Tundra Nenetses are officially recognized as a titular people of the Taimyr (Dolgano-Nenets) Municipality Area and as several local politicians are Tundra Nenetses themselves, there is a good chance that local political effort will be beneficiary for them also in the future. Whereas Tundra Nenets loses speakers to Russian, especially in bilingual marriages and in urban surroundings, the language is generally better off than all the other Samoyedic languages of the Taimyr Peninsula and has chances for further survival, even if the current status quo cannot be improved.
69Although networking with other Tundra Nenets centers (in both the Nenets Autonomous Area and the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area) are very limited, the role of the Institute of the people of the North in Saint Petersburg is supportive.
70Nganasan is currently on a cross-road and the immediate future holds the key to its survival chances. Although having shown a high number of native speakers for most of the 20th century, the outcome of repatriation in the 1970s has stopped language transmission and there seem to be no active native speakers in the generation younger than 30 years. A rather unusual factor, at least as stated by Helimski (1997) is the negative language awareness by speakers themselves:
Let them better not to speak our language at all, than to butcher it? (This kind of apprehension appears completely justified: the Nganasan language is so complicated, that, without having grown up in a “pure” linguistic environment, practically nobody learns to speak it well enough. By the way, the Nganasans themselves unanimously, and not without pride, estimate their language as being very difficult in comparison with neighboring languages, especially Dolgan). (Helimski 1997, p. 64).
- 48 For a field linguist, this statement is surprising as untrained native speakers lack understanding (...)
71Although this statement is surely exaggerated, as in earlier days Tundra Enetses have assimilated with Nganasan and acquired a new language successfully, this argument can be frequently heard today, even in Dudinka.48 Further support for the “uniqueness” of Nganasans is usually deriving from reference to shamanism, which ceased among the Nganasans in the late 1970s, comparatively late when comparing it to other Taimyrian people. What the Nganasan case however shows is, that even a larger people with a comparatively clear-cut settlement area inhabited by both Nganasans and Dolgans and moderate long lasting bilingualism does not prevent language endangerment. What seems to be counterproductive in the Nganasan case is the relatively late introduction of literacy, which perhaps one generation earlier might have slowed down endangerment.
72Also for the Nganasans, the benefit of being a recognized indigenous people of the Taimyr has played no decisive role. Finally, also in the Nganasan case, domains of language use keep on shrin-king, resulting in severe folklorification. Fueled by the general negative attitude of elder speakers, the drift towards extinction seems to have sped up in recent years; Nganasan is clearly severely endangered.
- 49 See also Siegl, Rieβler (under review).
73Among all Taimyrian indigenous people, the future of Dolgan seems to be safest. First, the relative large number of Dolgans and the majority living in a relatively homogenous area, especially in the Dolgan-dominated Khatanga district seem to have played a dominant role supporting language transmission and maintenance. Especially in the peripheral eastern area of the Khatanga district, which continues to preserve traditional lifestyle and traditional economy, Dolgan is said to be dominant even in everyday life. However, in the Dudinka district, the western-most areas of Dolgan settlements with increasing numbers of multinational villages, language shift to Russian is a serious problem. Although shift to Russian is presumably a problem also in the administrative center Khatanga and the villages in its vicinity, this process is well-observable in the Dudinka area, particularly well in Levinskie Peski, Potapovo and Khantayskoe ozero. Although Dolgan shares the same problem of diminishing spheres of language use in rural domains (including the new media), so far the language has stood the test of time and Dolgan seems to be comparatively safe. Being the other official titular minority people and the largest of the area as well as due to several high Dolgan officials in local administration, state support seems much more likely to be beneficiary in the future. Although being a comparatively young written language (the first steps were made in the 1980s), creation of educational materials as well as other language materials in a period as the language is still actively spoken by the majority of Dolgans will inevitably show some positive effects in language maintenance. Still, as several major promoters of native literacy have died in recent years, new language activists need to emerge in the future; the transition has not yet been fully made and the current period is in itself a minor cross-road.49 Finally, both the existence of a Dolgan program at the Institute of the people of the North as well as contacts with Yakut scholars are further positive supportive factors.
- 50 The same is valid for Evenki in Potapovo. Whereas active usage of Evenki in and around Potapovo is (...)
74The general state and the recent history of Taimyrian Evenki is very similar to the fate of Forest Enets. As Taimyrian Evenki was dependent of the fate of one village, Khantayskoe ozero, since the 1950s, both relocations of Dolgans to this village as well as the arrival of political prisoners, Volga Germans and deportees from the Baltics created a situation similar to Potapovo which lead to interethnic marriages and the linguistic homogenization of this village. Whereas there are about a dozen elderly speakers of Evenki left in Khantayskoe ozero, the language is functionally extinct.50
75Summing up the preceding discussion, the overall picture is unfortunately rather clear. Whereas the two titular indigenous people Tundra Nenets and Dolgan are comparatively safe, Nganasan has entered the path towards extinction, although some revitalization would, in principle, be possible. Both Enets languages as well as Taimyrian Evenki are critically endangered and moribund and will disappear in the not too distant future.
76Both Tundra Nenetses and Dolgans score high in two points of the UNESCO document, proportion of speakers within the community as well as the number of speakers in relation to other speakers of majority languages in the area and are indeed much better off. Both people live in two rather homogenous areas where traditional economy continues to play an important role (both economically as well as for self-identification). Further, due to transportation restrictions, the influx of other people is rather limited. This is supported by the border area status of the Taimyr Peninsula which makes migration to this area rather complicated and therefore less threatening. As the new media (inclusding internet) is still marginal in this area, I see the following points as the most obvious problems for language preservation in the immediate future:
- Decline of bilingualism, even in mono-ethnic native marriages;
- Interethnic marriages and continued preference for Russian resulting in continuative decline of bilingualism;
- Decisive steps against “folklorification” of native languages as the language of the tundra, folklore and folklore festivals;
- Extension of language use into the Russian-dominated rural and urban domain.
- Creation of functioning literacy outside the sphere of education, folklore and occasional news in the newspaper.
- 51 In Russian: torch.
- 52 The official name of the village derives from Tundra Nenets ту ‘fire’ and хард~харад ‘wooden build (...)
77As already mentioned above, industrial large-scale exploration of natural resources started already in the early 1930s in Noril’sk. This immediately affected a Dolgan-Evenki speech community as shown above. In the 1950s the construction of the Messojakha-Dudinka-Noril'sk gas pipeline started (Istoricheskaya spravka) which in the 1970s led to the construction of a new village, first called Fakel,51 later renamed as Tukhard, located 100 west of Dudinka on the left side of the Yenisei.52
- 53 The local college in Dudinka immediately saw this new opportunity and soon introduced a training p (...)
- 54 Although the local Committee of Indigenous People was given the chance to comment on the project, (...)
- 55 Knowing how large gas and oil companies import cheap labor from e.g. the European rural parts of R (...)
78As transport is a crucial problem on the Taimyr Peninsula as mentioned above, large-scale transport is currently still a monopoly of the port in Dudinka. This situation must have prevented further exploration of natural resources, but due to ever rising prices for gas and oil on the world markets, the situation on the Taimyr Peninsula has started to change. In summer 2008, I attended a public presentation of Taimyrgaz, which presented its plans for a new gas pipeline crossing the Tukhard tundra to Dudinka. This pipeline is now under construction. Whereas the local administration was pleased to see new investments which eventually will create new jobs,53 the reaction among the local indigenous population was mixed. As the Tukhard tundra is one of the most important areas of reindeer herding for Tundra Nenetses, construction work, resulting pipelines, potential spills and pollution will of course affect the remaining reindeer breeding families in the area. Especially relatives of these families were rather pessimistic about the results and its impacts. After all, the ecological damage and pollution from nearby Noril'sk are well known, as well as the impact of oil and gas explorations in other areas of Siberia.54 Still, younger men from the indigenous population who are not interested in traditional economy and struggle finding work in the Russian dominated urban world, perceived the coming exploitation more positively, as they hope to find new jobs in their area.55 Although it must be stated that reindeer breeding is of course only a small sector of entrepreneurship and incapable of providing income for a larger group even in a small community such as the local Tundra Nenets community, the Tundra Nenets language is without doubt best preserved in those families who still engage in reindeer herding or have close ties to it. It is therefore quite likely that the resulting changes will affect the speech community in the long run. Further, as the pipeline does not only go through the tundra as it must cross several rivers including the Yenisei before ending in Dudinka, local fishermen and their corporations (both indigenous and Russian) could and most probably will be affected by pollution. Also for the Khatanga district, increasing interest in the exploitation of natural resources has been reported and in the long run, the same problems will affect local Dolgan communities.
79The conclusion to be drawn, even as I have to confess a certain kind of impressionistic picture due to missing qualitative and quantitative studies concerning Taimyrian Dolgan and Tundra Nenets, correlate with population dynamics. First, only the languages of the two titular people of the municipality district, Dolgan and Tundra Nenets are comparatively safe and have survival chances, especially in more homogenous peripheral areas within the core settlement areas Ust’-Yenisey and Khatanga districts, which preserve traditional lifestyle better. This correlation periphery and traditional lifestyle is of course neither new nor surprising, but by relying on these correlations instead of active modernization, the survival chance of both languages will inevitably decrease from year to year. To a certain degree, such challenges are understood by the native intelligentsia and especially by those who are engaged in education. Whereas existing teaching materials in Tundra Nenets and Dolgan are still compiled for an assumed monolingual child entering primary school, the number of such young speakers is decreasing, and this calls for a more diverse approach. It means that not only L1 speakers, but also bilingual children that show preference for Russian are among the new target audience. What current teaching materials are incapable of addressing are potential second language learners, both children and adults. Although I perceive this as another major challenge, this should not mean that language acquisition and language preservation via education is to be handled by schools and teachers - language acquisition remains a family matter and is not the responsibility of schools. Schools have to play a supportive role, but this is however not fully understood. This became obvious during numerous conversations with speakers from the parental generation who were eager to overstate the role of education for language acquisition and language maintenance.
80For both Enets varieties as well as Taimyrian Evenki, the linguistic future is unfortunately obvious, as these languages are on the verge of extinction and have passed the point of revitalization chances. Although not on the daily agenda of language preservation efforts, languages will inevitably die and this is the case here.
- 56 Due to the Taimyr Peninsula’s status as a restricted access area and resulting complicated invitat (...)
81Finally, the immediate linguistic future of Nganasan does not look promising as language transmission has stopped; there seem to be no active or even potential speakers in the generation under 30 years of age. Whereas there is at least a theoretic potential for some kind of revitalization, the task to be tackled includes the creation and maintenance of a stable literacy standard in which further educational and other reading materials should be published, but not only. Other and equally important tasks are the reversing of negative language attitudes, re-introducing native languages in daily usage and enforcing new spheres of language usage which are currently occupied by Russian. This is of course not only mandatory for Nganasan. Still, such a task is much more than field linguists and any language documentation can do;56 this requires a much larger language sociological approach and support from within the speech community. Ideally, the speech community itself should get this starting but unfortunately, reality often tells a different story. In a recent paper by Pasanen, a very sobering account concerning attitudes toward language nests and reversing language loss for Viena Karelian in contrast to Inari Saami show how perspectives and prospects do indeed differ (Pasanen 2010). Although I have not attempted to gather such sociolinguistic data for the Taimyr Peninsula, I assume that the overall negative attitude encountered among Viena Karelian parents would become easily visible if one were to conduct similar research on the Taimyr Peninsula.
82In September 2011, Annika Pasanen was invited to Dudinka to present the concept of revitalization via ‘language nests’ to the local authorities in a small conference. As I happened to be in Dudinka, I was invited to this conference. With a certain amount of surprise I witnessed strong local interest but whether language nests will evolve on the Taimyr Peninsula and whether they have any impact on the sociolinguistic status quo of the future remains to be seen.