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Kikimora Publications Series B23


Khants' time
by Hanna Snellman

Kikimora Publications : Series B23. 2001
ISBN 951-45-9997-7
5 EUR + VAT 10 %
168 p.

"Khants´ Time" is a history book unlike any other. The source material used in this book is historical in the sense that it was collected a hundred years ago by a Finnish scholar U.T. Sirelius who later became the first Professor of Ethnology at the University of Helsinki. In 1898 the Siberian natural environment was still unspoiled, but the Khants and Mansis who lived in the area had already felt the effects of Western civilization. Because of reduced circumstances it was predicted that the Khants especially would come under the pressure of modern times.

However, there is nothing antiquated in the way the source material is treated in this book. Fieldwork notes written a hundred years ago are analyzed using modern methods. There are three main themes which are dealt with: field work methodology and the concepts of time and folk history; how the Khants measured time, and how the Khants experienced their own history. This study is in line with current trends in research concerning time. It is proved that nonliterate cultures are not as non-time-conscious as they have often been presented. The way time and history is measured is just different from the ways the majority use.

Today, a hundred years after the time when Western scholars rushed to document the traditional ways of livelihood of the peoples of Western Siberia, this area is again of topical intrest. Tundra and taiga provide a complex setting for life for the approximately 19,000 Khants living in the area. Natural gas and oil has so far been an important natural resource in North-West Siberia. The vast majority of the old-growth forests in Europe are located in Northern Russia. According to a report made by Finnish and Russian environmentalists in 1999, these Russian forests have seemed an endless source of cheap raw material for West European industry. In 1998 the Finnish forest industry for the first time expanded its procurement area to the Khanty-Mansi area. Yet there is still not enough knowledge of the natural resources of these areas, much less the cultural. It is our duty in the West to ensure that the Khant culture is not destroyed by the West´s need for natural gas, oil and wood products. This book is one way of taking a glimpse at the traditional Khant way of thinking and living in harmony with nature.