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Accepted Paper:

A life history of the concept "Pomory" in Russian scholarship and society  
Natalie Wahnsiedler (University of Aberdeen) Masha Shaw (University of Aberdeen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper contributes to the discussion of the Soviet theory of etnos and its contemporary use through the example of Pomory identity.

Paper long abstract:

The concept of etnos has played an important role in the institutionalization and development of Soviet ethnography. Scholars understood etnos as "a culturally self-reproducing set of behavioural patterns linked to collective self-identity" (Shanin 1989: 413). They have systematically studied the concept of etnos and the processes of its development (ethnogenesis) since the 1960s. Even today, etnos-thinking persists within the Russian scholarship and wider society.

In this paper, we present a case study of how the concept of etnos has dominated ethnographic accounts of Pomory. We will also discuss its contemporary use in recent debates about the status of Pomory as an "indigenous group".

The term Pomory derives from the Russian "po moriu", which means "by sea". It has been used to refer to a group of Russian people who live along the White Sea and Barents Sea coasts in the northwest of Russia, and whose main occupation has been fishing. Russian ethnographers have suggested a number of ways to classify Pomory within the etnos-theory. Proposed classifications included such concepts as "ethnographic group", "cultural-geographic group" and "local group". The most common understanding of Pomory has featured them as a sub-etnos of the Russian people.

The all-Russian census of 2002, the first one after the collapse of the Soviet Union, revealed that roughly six and a half thousand people registered themselves as Pomory. This number featured in a campaign whereby a group of activists in the city of Arkhangelsk announced Pomory a statistic reality and appealed to the federal government to grant Pomory an official status of an indigenous minority.

Panel P020
Themes in the history of anthropology
  Session 1