The Nenet Choom of the Yamal Peninsula, Russia.

The nomadic Nenets in northwest Siberia, move their choom every 3 or 4 days so their reindeer do not overgraze the landscape. Ö

 

 
 

This is a choom in the frozen marshlands of the Yamal Peninsula in northwest Siberia, Russia. The choom, home to the nomadic Nenet, uses reindeer hides wrapped around wooden poles. During periods of migration chooms are moved every other day. Choom sites are chosen based on pasture and ground quality with a water source nearby. After checking the vegetation on a choom site the Brigadier pushes his reindeer driving stick, called a khorei, into the ground where he wants the centre of the choom to be.

   
           
         
 
           
         
 

Reindeer skin has a remarkable capacity to absorb and retain heat. The hides are arranged in two layers. The outer layer faces hair outward with the inner layer facing the hair inwards. A wood stove sits in the middle of the choom, which generates enough heat to keep everybody comfortable.

The Nenet reindeer breeders live with the daylight going to bed early, and get up early at about 5am. During the night the stove isnít used, but you are still warm sleeping under a yaguskhka made of reindeer skin. In the morning, it is fresh and cool inside the choom.

Sledges and caravans are arranged in half-circles around the choom with a sacred sledge always behind the choom pointing directly at its centre (see picture left).

 

 
           

Nenet sledges (below) are assembled from different wooden parts, which fit into each other. No nails, screws or other fittings are used. Despite this, the structure is very solid and reliable. Sledges usually serve for several years and are used for travelling long distances not only in the winter, but also in the summer; their wooden runners slide easily on reindeer moss. Such sledges are light, durable and capable of absorbing the shock from collision with bumps and pits.

When it's time to move on to new pastures the reindeer herd is gathered in one place. Women pick reindeer for womenís sledges and men picked reindeer for menís and cargo sledges. You can see a wonderful collection of pictures of the Nenet on 'Life On Thin Ice' (a little slow to load).