Substitution and Continuity in Southern Chukotka Traditional Rituals: A Case Study from Meinypilgyno Village, 2016–2017

Konstantin Klokov


The village of Meinypilgyno is located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean in southern Chukotka. In the past, some of its inhabitants were engaged in reindeer herding on the tundra, while others fished. However, 20 years ago, during the economic crisis that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, reindeer herding was lost. However, the Chukchi of Meinypilgyno did not stop performing their main reciprocity ritual. Instead, they substituted small reindeer models and dried salmon for live animals. The central theme of the ritual has remained unchanged over 100 years, despite radical changes to the social organization and economy of this region. The clever use of ritual substitutions allows the community to keep in touch with the spirit world in a new social and economic context. This paper describes this significant ritual and also makes comparisons to Chukchi communities to the south and north.

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