Arkhangelsk: Sevkraigiz, 1936. Item #1800
24,  pp.: ill, 5 ills. 17,5x13,5 cm. In original dark blue cloth with blind lettering and mounted illustrations on front cover; illustrated endpapers. No dust jacket. Spine tanned, some foxing on inserts, otherwise very good.
First and only edition. One of 10 000 copies. Scarce.
The earliest collection of folklore of socialist Nenets people. This ethnic group, also known as Samoyeds, is native to the Russian Far North. After the Revolution, nomadic Nenets people were forced to settle down in villages and to adapt to the Soviet ideology, institutions and occupations. At the same time, active study of the Nenets folklore began. A writing system for their language was created, basing on Latin script (earlier some travelers wrote down Nenets words using Cyrillic one). The first Nenets ABC, ‘Jadej wada’ (New Word) was compiled by G. Prokofiev in 1932. In 1939, Nenets language was switched to Cyrillic script, just like all national languages of the USSR.
A foreword for this book was written by professor Vladimir Tan-Bogoraz (1865-1936), well-known for his studies of indigenous peoples of Siberia. Just like some other Russian scholars of the 19th century, he began his ethnographic research during an exile to Siberia (because of revolutionary activity). Bogoraz had to spend about 10 years in the town Srednekolymsk but was allowed to join an expedition to the Chukchi people in 1895-1897. In 1918, Bogoraz worked in the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Academy of Sciences, in different Leningrad universities. In 1929, he initiated foundation of the Institute of the Peoples of the North and the Committee for Assistance to the Nationalities of the Northern Outskirts (1924-1935). In all, Bogoras issued about 130 published works on ethnography, folklore and linguistics of the peoples of Eurasia and America. In some cases, he managed to write down examples of folk songs shortly before they were forgotten.
This foreword ‘Nenets poems and tales’ provided Bogoraz’s approach to the adaptation of national folklore for Russian readers but also analysis of this work. The text was published posthumously.
In the Soviet period, old Nenets tales were transformed raising issues of class struggle and women liberation, but they still preserved the national spirit and echoed natural conditions of Nenets life. A folklorist Viacheslav Tonkov 1903-1974) collected examples of Nenets folklore from contemporary narrators. Of 9 people, five older narrators were illiterate, but they orally retell stories and folk tales. Younger representatives were literate and active propagandists of the socialist ideology. Both groups adapted to the new conditions and reshaped traditional stories adding a revolutionary undertone.
Among them is a public figure, writer and artist Tyko Vylka (1886-1960) who was one of the founders of Nenets literature. Mainly developing as the self-educated artist, Vylko was interested in Nenets folklore since the 1910s and released a collection ‘Notes about Novaya Zemlya’ in 1914. Among tales he shared was ‘Limb’a’ (A Female Eagle) that Tonkov first reproduced in an original handwritten record (using Nenets language in Latin script), then translated it literally and finally published a literary translation of the story. Other tales were published in Russian adaptation.
The edition also includes a curious piece of poetry written by a young Nenets man (a son of one narrator). He gave a book of poetry to Tonkov and some lines were published within the foreword. They read: “Once upon a time in the Arctic Sea, / Once upon a time in the Arctic sea / We abraded fleshy palms until calluses. / Under our Soviet power, / Under our Soviet power / Without any paddles / We go across the Arctic Sea”.
The edition was designed by O. Fursei. For the front cover, the artist created a laconic silhouette image of a Nenets hunter shooting an arrow, as well as a short band of colorful Nenets ornament above the title. Mounted illustrations on separate leaves, head- and tailpieces were produced in the same silhouette style. They depicted characters of stories: people in national clothes, nature and animals, including deers, birds, wolves, bears. The last insert features a silhouette profile of Tyko Vylka.
About 20 bibliographical sources are printed in footnotes.
Worldcat shows copies located in LoC, Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, California and Stanford Universities.
Arkhangelsk: Sevkraigiz, 1936. Item #1800