Elder Knowledge and Sustainable Livelihoods in Post-Soviet Russia: Finding Dialogue across the Generations

Susan A. Crate

Abstract

Russia’s indigenous peoples have been struggling with economic, environmental, and socio-cultural dislocation since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. In northern rural areas, the end of the Soviet Union most often meant the end of agro-industrial state farm operations that employed and fed surrounding rural populations. Most communities adapted to this loss by reinstating some form of pre-Soviet household-level food production based on hunting, fishing, and/or herding. However, mass media, globalization, and modernity challenge the intergenerational knowledge exchange that grounds subsistence practices. Parts of the circumpolar north have been relatively successful in valuing and integrating elder knowledge within their communities. This has not been the case in Russia. This article presents results of an elder knowledge project in northeast Siberia, Russia that shows how rural communities can both document and use elder knowledge to bolster local definitions of sustainability and, at the same time, initiate new modes of communication between village youth and elders.

  • Susan A. Crate, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University, David King Hall, MS 5F2, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax, Virginia 22030-4400

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