Oral History of Empires by Elders in the Arctic -  ORHELIA Research Project


Time: 2011- 2015
Funded by: Academy of Finland and the Research Council for Society and Culture


The project develops a comparative history of relations between remote people and states in the eyes of Arctic indigenous elders. This is done by using the method of life history analysis and oral history fieldwork combined with anthropological participant observation. The project contributes to preserve incorporeal cultural heritage among Uralic speaking northern minorities of Europe, and study the transmission of historical heritage between different generations. Research is done in cooperation with four groups; the Skolt Saami, Kola Saami, European Nenets and Yamal Nenets.

All four groups are united by their experience of the rise of the Soviet Union, with consequences such as sedentarisation pressure, prosecution of shamans, deportation, collectivisation of reindeer, World War Two, resettlement, encroachment of pastures, land use change, demographic and socio-economic marginalisation, and language change. Comparing the experience of such events in elders’ lives, this project will contribute to our theoretical understanding of state development in what is often called the ‘northern periphery.’ Thus, while the project documents life histories of Arctic elders, it goes further than that in its comparative ambition to contribute to a theory of states as, perceived on the ground in their most remote of outposts.

The project will have a duration of four years, starting from September 2011 to 2015. Four part-time researchers will work in close partnership with members of the four groups and institutions for the study of incorporeal cultural heritage. The results will be distributed in the forms of academic publications, audiovisual material, and public outreach material.

All research will be conducted, and materials handled, observing the best possible combination of research ethics guidelines by IASSA (International Arctic Social Sciences Association) and the Principles and Best Practices by the Oral History Association.

Preliminary research has already commenced, and a short report from the first field trip is available at the Arctic Anthropology Blog. (http://arcticanthropology.org/)

Information on the ORHELIA project can be obtained from the project webpage and Senior researcher Florian Stammler.

Email: florian.stammler at ulapland.fi
(or for Russian letters and during fieldwork: stammler at mail.ru)

tel  +358 (0)40 013 8807, (2717)
Fax: +358 (0)16 362 934