Nelmin Nos area

Getting to Nelmin Nos in Arctic Russia‘s Nenets Autonomous Okrug is not easy. From Naryan-Mar, itself only accessible by boat or air, you take a 4-hour barge up the Pechora River, climb off, scramble up the banks and are greeted by what must be one of the most ramshackle collections of wooden shacks that can still be called a village. There are no streets, just wooden gangways in the swampy patches between rows of houses. In winter temperatures can drop to the minus 50s Centigrade and in summer the clouds of mosquitoes are so dense that you are constantly having to spit them out of your mouth, pick them out of your nose and brush them out of your hair. Alcoholism is rife while the indigenous Nenets have forgotten their native language and only work three-month shifts in the tundra with their reindeer, spending the other three months drunk in the village. It should be noted that this is the complete opposit of the situation with Nenets from other areas like the Yamal Peninsula and Yugorskiy Peninsula, who have retained their language and traditional year-round nomadic way of life. Even in the Nelmin Nos area, however, they still live in a conical tent while out with the reindeer, wear fur clothing and migrate by reindeer sledge. The village is a gritty example of what the Soviet Union’s aggressive forced settlement and collectivisation of reindeer policies did to some of the nomadic peoples of the north.

Nenets reindeer sledge at Korovinskaya Guba to the north of Nelmin Nos, Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Arctic Russia

Nenets reindeer sledge at Korovinskaya Guba to the north of Nelmin Nos, Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Arctic Russia

Several boats run every week up the Pechora River from the town of Naryan-Mar to Nelmin Nos, taking 4 hours each way. Naryan-Mar has no railway but is accessible by boat from Pechora in the Komi Republic and Pechora is accessible by train from Moscow. In winter when the river is frozen there is plenty of traffic on it driving all the way to Naryan-Mar. There are also regular flights to Naryan Mar from Moscow. Once in Nelmin Nos talk to the administration about finding someone to take you out by motor boat then on foot to the reindeer herders’ encampment. Neither Pechora, Naryan-Mar or Nelmin Nos require special permits but the tundra north of Nelmin Nos where the reindeer herders wander does require one. See this website’s main Nenets Autonomous Okrug page for details on how to obtain this permit.

Click here for my blog about semi-nomadic reindeer herders from Nelmin Nos. It’s 5353 words and 17 photos. Compare it with my blog about the fully-nomadic and much more traditional reindeer herders from the Yamal Peninsula here. It’s 9212 words and 87 photos.

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