CIRCUMPOLAR MEDIA CONGRESS
SALEKHARD • 9—11 DEC 2018 
The Fastest
Maria Berezina
Maria Berezina
Russia
Correspondent of the newspaper "Arkhangelsk"

THE FASTEST

Фото Марии Березиной/ Photo by Maria Berezina.jpg

The tenth traditional sports competitions of reindeer herders of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug "Syamyankhat mereta" (translated from Nenets as "The fastest"), which are held in the region every two years, took place on Saturday in Naryan-Mar. They include several types of competitions, the main of which is the race on reindeer sledding.  

"These competitions are very important for the district. This is not only a good holiday when there is communication of reindeer herders, but also a potential tourist brand, because the holiday is very beautiful, high quality, good, kind, but it should be promoted," said the Deputy of the Arkhangelsk regional Assembly from the Autonomous district Matvey Chuprov.

Hius and frost

In Naryan-Mar it’s 25 degrees below zero and evil and prickly strong wind ( locals call it khius) is blowing. "With this wind it's like minus 40 without the wind," said the speaker of the regional Assembly of deputies Anatoly Myandin. "Oh, what the wind, but it's sunny, that’s good," said the participant of the races on reindeer sled Ilya Ledkov.

Ilya Gavrilovich came to the competition with his son. The agricultural cooperative "Erv", represented by the Ledkovs, has four sleds for the race. "All four teams will participate," said Ilya Ledkov 10 minutes before the start of the final race. “We got prepared, drove deer. A deer might develop speed 60 km per hour." Ilya Simonov said on my doubt, "It iruns pretty fast," and runs to prepare for start.

Deer sleigh starts are the culmination of the holiday.

Reindeer sleigh starts are the culmination of the holiday. Before that, the participants competed in such traditional Nenets sports as jumping over sleds. "The wind doesn’t matter, the young are jumping well," said Matvey Chuprov.

Another kind of competition is throwing tenzey on khorey. Tenzey is something like a harness used to catch deer. A khorey is a long pole, a reindeer sleigh is controlled with it. For the beginner, the key is to learn to hide the head in time, as I had to do when I was carried by Olga Yavtysaya on her sled .

I asked the owner of the sleds about the names of deer. "No, not everyone has a nickname. Here's Pushok, it's the leader. We select them for a team.”

“By size?"

"Not even in size, more in nature, psychological compatibility, so to say," explained Olga.

Самый быстрый/ The fastest

Main start

On Friday, Naryan-Mar hosted the Congress of reindeer herders of the district. This event is held every three years, so this time the participants not only from the nearby settlements gathered for the "Syamyankhat mereta" competition. The winner of the current sled race Mikhail Vylka came as much from Varandey in the North-East of the district. This is the part of NAO where polar bears come quietly. Naryan-Mar is 364 km from Varandey.

“We have been going on deer the whole week, stopped, of course, to have a rest, but have been going for a long time,” Mikhail Vylka told. There were four deer in the team, as he said, three of them participated in a race.

“Mainly deer-males, but sometimes involved and vazhenki (females),” says the winner.

17 teams involved in the main race of the men. "The opponents are serious, and the track is difficult – such hills are set, the deer need to jump over them," says the champion. Mikhail Vylka won the race "Syamyankhat mereta" in 2014, and in 2016 he took third place. The winner, by the way, got a snowmobile as a prize.

In the evening reindeer herders went back on the same sled that participated in the race. Someone like Ilya Ledkov went to Krasnoe Red that is 40 km from here, and someone at 300 km and beyond.

Tourism potential

"I think that the most important competitions in our district should become "Syamyankhat mereta". Reindeer sledding races take their history from the 30s of the last century to the present day, this tradition is preserved. I know that once this holiday was combined with the holding of snowmobile races, but I think that it is not necessary to return to this. Deer racing can be not less interesting than "Buran-Day,” said the acting Governor of the Nenets Autonomous area Alexander Tsybulsky at the opening ceremony.

"Syamyankhat mereta" can become one of the activities of event tourism in the NAO.

“We have three directions of tourism development in the region: the first is event tourism. The second interesting direction is industrial tourism. We talk a lot about how we produce oil, hydrocarbons, and how the district's budget depends on them, but few people have seen how this process really happens, and this is really interesting. And the third is extreme natural and climatic tourism,” said  Alexander Tsybulsky.

“We need to work on the service component, and then it will be good to play. We have quite a few entrepreneurs who are engaged in this, there is already a category of established tourists who come here from year to year. Our task is to make it more widespread and to streamline the provision of tourism services,” said the head of the NAO.


Фото Матвея Чупровa/ Photo by Matvey Chuprov

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