Accepted Paper:

Mobility of ethnicity: the Nagaibak case  


Svetlana Belorussova (The Institute on history and archeology (The Ural Branch of Russian Academy os Sciences))

Paper short abstract:

Nagaibak people, ethnic minority in Urals, Russia, are descendents of steppe nomads, but nowadays conduct sedentary lifestyle. The turbulent trajectory has guided Nagaibak from spatial mobility to ethno-building activity.

Paper long abstract:

Nagaibak people, ethnic minority in Southern Urals (Russia) numbered ca 8 000, speak a Tatar dialect, keep Orthodox religion, and identify themselves as descendants of Cossacks who protected the border against steppe nomads in the time of Russian Empire. Their ancestors were mobile warriors; but today Nagaibak are villagers. Last time Nagaibak have moved in 1842, when they were ordered to relocate from a fortress in Bashkiria to the new military line in Orenburg area. Oral history still preserves that event as ethnic drama reflected in songs, proverbs and folk tales. Since then Nagaibak retained their places of dwelling as persistently as if they guarded them from outside infringements. Being professional borderguards they succeeded in protecting both borderline and their own social status.

In the years of Soviet power Nagaibak have been deprived of their ethnic name and ascribed to Tatars; that time they were hidden or "introvert" community. After Soviet collapse, in the 1990s, they have experienced a boom of ethnicity and gained an official status of indigenous minority of Russia. That was decisive turn to ethno-cultural openness, "extrovert" self-representation. They have built four ethnic museums and organized more than a dozen folk groups in their villages.

The turbulent trajectory has guided Nagaibak from spatial mobility (in the past) to ethno-building activity (nowadays). They still live at the crossroads of different cultures — nomadic and settled, Muslim and Christian, and they preserved mobility and maneuverability of their forefathers as well as contributed it with receptive and adaptive qualities generated in complex ethnohistory.

Panel LL-NAS01
Anthropology of movement: a road map