Oral History of Empires by Elders in the Arctic - ORHELIA    


A common history – common economy – common language roots – and different practices – among four Arctic indigenous peoples

The idea for this project arose long ago, when we were talking to a Pupta Pudanasevich Yamal (this surname does not exist on paper any more, but in the memories of people) and his wife in Yamal, West Siberia, who told their life story in 2001. Their grandchildren couldn't believe how much they had gone through. They asked then if we could record more of such history to bring some of this wealthy memory to younger people.

People living in the Arctic have had decisions made for them, far away in Southern in capital cities, be it in Russia, Finland or any other Northern country, but their local implementation was often a process of negotiation. Our project takes a bottom-up approach to the writing and reading of the histories of the people of the North, and how their lives developed in the 20th Century.

The acronym Orhelia translates as “Oral History of Empires by Elders in the Arctic” with the subtitle “A comparative history of the relations between states / Empires and their subjects in their northernmost peripheries”.

The Orhelia project developed a comparative history of relations between remote people and states in the eyes of Arctic indigenous elders, by using the method of life history analysis and oral history fieldwork combined with anthropological participant observation. Doing so, the project also contributed to preserve incorporeal cultural heritage among Uralic speaking northern minorities of Europe and study the transmission of historical heritage between different generations. A report on fieldwork in one of the regions of the project can be found here.

For us the inclusion at every stage of our research of the local people we are working with was an important goal. This also implies informing about and bringing back the results of our research and the production not only of academic but also popular forms of research output.

The project was funded by the Research Council for Society and Culture at the Academy of Finland.