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ORHELIA: 'Oral History of Empires by Elders in the Arctic'

ORHELIA: 'Oral History of Empires by Elders in the Arctic'

“A comparative history of the relations between states / Empires and their subjects in their northernmost peripheries”.

Funded by the Academy of Finland, and coordinated by the anthropology team at Arctic Centre, Finland

The Orhelia project develops a comparative history of relations between remote people and states in the eyes of Arctic indigenous elders, by using the method of life history analysis and oral history fieldwork combined with anthropological participant observation. Doing so, the project will also contribute to preserve incorporeal cultural heritage among Uralic speaking northern minorities of Europe and study the transmission of historical heritage between different generations.

People living in the Arctic always have had decisions made for them, far away in Southern in capital cities, be it in Russia, Finland or any other Northern country. Our project takes a bottom-up approach to the writing and reading of the histories of the people of the North, and how their lives developed in the 20th Century.

The idea for this project arose long ago, when Florian Stammler was talking to Pupta Pudanasevich Yamal (this surname does not exist on paper any more, but in the memories of people) and his wife in Yamal, West Siberia. They told their life story in 2001 in presence of their grandchildren. The younger generation couldn't believe how much their grandparents had gone through. They asked then if we could record more of such history to bring some of this wealthy memory to younger people.

The ORHELIA project has a focus on comparing people's life histories along the shore of the Arctic Ocean, starting from northern Norway and Finland, Russia's Murmansk Region, Nenets and Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Regions, and parts of Arctic Yakutia.

The project produces a database of audiovisual material that is being indexed and keyworded, which will be made accessible for comparative listening and reading by anyone interested in the perception of history by the Arctic's most remote residents. Academically, this is the basis for our comparative research in the diverse influences that centrally planned policies have on a set of human societies that share a similar environment yet developed very diverse livelihoods.

The project is funded by the Research Council for Society and Culture at theAcademy of Finland and managed by the anthropology research team of the Arctic Centre, Finland.

News from the field and other project outcomes are announced under the "oral history" category of the Arctic anthropology website.

A complete list of team members is available on the main project website.

Field sites in the ORHELIA project

Image 1: Field sites in the ORHELIA project

Fieldwork partner Ulyana Prokopievna Kolodeznikova investigating old photographs from the glorious and sad past at Bykov Mys, Lena Delta, Arctic Yakutia

Image 2: Fieldwork partner Ulyana Prokopievna Kolodeznikova investigating old photographs from the glorious and sad past at Bykov Mys, Lena Delta, Arctic Yakutia

Tyude Okotetto and his daughter, with Florian Stammler and ORHELIA team colleague Roza Laptander

Image 3: Tyude Okotetto and his daughter, with Florian Stammler and ORHELIA team colleague Roza Laptander