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A Russian Sami smokes some fish: Natalya Saprunova’s greatest {photograph} | Images

EEver since I used to be a youngster, I’ve been fascinated by indigenous peoples. Rising up in Murmansk, I knew the Sami, who’re historically reindeer herders from the Kola Peninsula in northern Russia, however there are additionally Sami in Finland, Norway and Sweden. In Russia, I used to be first fascinated by the Sami spiritual websites similar to Lake Seydozero, which is sacred to them; then I grew to become serious about their historical past and the way the Soviet period had restricted and adjusted the Sami tradition.

Communism virtually destroyed their complete nomadic existence and their reindeer herds had been organized in collective farms referred to as kolkhozes.. They got quotas for fishing on the tundra and had been pressured to dwell a sedentary life, housed in icy condominium buildings with out heating. They had been forbidden to talk their language, put on their conventional garments or rejoice their tradition – so it disappeared virtually fully. Nonetheless, among the Russian Sami finally started to understand sure “facilities”, similar to helicopters to get to remoted locations, boarding colleges the place they might go away their kids whereas they labored, and bonuses for elevating reindeer herds.

At the moment, they’re a somewhat injured group of folks that the authorities have fully forgotten. About 1,500 Sami dwell in villages in northern Russia, however only a few know the language – about 200. Now they’re making an attempt to revive it and their tradition.

This image was taken in March when there may be nonetheless quite a lot of snow and the Sami have a two-day competition referred to as the Nordic Pageant. They take part in conventional winter sports activities, snowboarding and sledding, and have sled races. The individuals who compete are skilled reindeer herders who’ve handed on their secrets and techniques from technology to technology. If you don’t practice the reindeer skillfully, they may go in all instructions.

When the Sami had been nomads, the reindeer had been important for his or her lives, not just for meals however for garments and instruments, and issues like belts, sneakers and even buttons. The reindeer is a sacred animal to those individuals and solely the chosen ones, bred for the aim, are killed – they don’t kill those that had been raised to race or pull sledges. Earlier than they kill the reindeer, there’s a ritual by which they ask the animal for forgiveness.

This picture is a part of a report referred to as Kildin, a Language for Russian Sami Survivors who received the Marilyn Stafford PhotoReportage Award, and explores how the Sami in Russia adapt to modernity whereas preserving their tradition and traditions on their very own phrases.

It exhibits a younger man, Andrei, who brings firewood to the hangar they use to smoke fish in the course of the competition. He didn’t converse Sami, which was not taught in colleges in Russia, however he’s now taking classes. The fuselage was from a broken airplane taken to the village by his father, who had labored for Aeroflot within the Nineties after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The warfare in Ukraine has been exhausting financial for the Russian Sami and it has divided opinions. Some are in opposition to the warfare, however as a result of some are for it, the monetary assist they obtained from Sami teams in neighboring international locations has ceased.

I purchased my first digicam once I was 19. The editor of the native newspaper, Murmansk Messenger, observed me and requested to see my photos. He preferred them and despatched me out as a particular correspondent to {photograph} the Sami.

It has at all times been my dream to do such a report concerning the Sami. It is a love job, as a result of I am passionate concerning the topic. I’m serious about all natives and nomads and work on a number of tasks. I actually dwell a type of nomadic life.

Natalya Saprunovas CV

Portrait of Natalya Saprunova
Photograph: Courtesy Natalya Sarpunova

Born: Murmansk, Russia, 1986.
Skilled: Graduated as a French instructor in Russia, studied advertising and marketing and communication in France after which documentary photojournalism on the EMI-CFD faculty.
Influences: “Pieter Ten Hoopen, Jane Evelyn Atwood, additionally French humanist photographers similar to Robert Doisneau and Henri Cartier-Bresson.”
Excessive level: “Begins photographing once more after an eight-year break throughout his research in France.”
Low level: “When my lens jumped from my pocket into the river in the midst of the tundra.”
Prime ideas: “Pay money for the circumstances. If one thing doesn’t work, let go and rebuild your self.”

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