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0 134 13:23 02.07.2018
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I have pelts of the brown and black bears, and I longed desperately to become a proud owner of the white Polar bear pelts, even just a rag 10 to 10 cm. And where, again, one can come across such thing; only on the extreme North of our country and, in all probability, among the genuine chukchi people, there existed the pelt, as I simple-heartedly supposed.


By Vladimir Saphronov (Nikolayitch)
Translation Of V. Kirgizov

I have pelts of the brown and black bears, and I longed desperately to become a proud owner of the white Polar bear pelts, even just a rag 10 to 10 cm. And where, again, one can come across such thing; only on the extreme North of our country and, in all probability, among the genuine chukchi people, there existed the pelt, as I simple-heartedly supposed.

Once, a helicopter was going to fly to the very North, paying a visit to a geologic party. It was 2 to 3 days flight, and I pleaded with the pilots to give me a lift to a some primordial nomad encampment of chukchi. In those times, one could easily reach an agreement on that issue for the price of a bottle of liquor. If you want to have the chopper landed in an unspecified point, you just switch off the self-writing barometric altimeter — some kind of the «black box». And where it flies, the helicopter itself, there were no ways to fix it in those times. It’s now that the gee-pees navigators thrives, but in the past there was nothing like it, let’s fly wherever you want, yet not too far from the helicopter’s scheduled track, since the flight duration nevertheless get registered following its return to the airfield. And if the route has been set for several days, the pilot should feel himself a free bird at all.

Having bought almost a pack of vodka (a supreme currency in the North as well as in other wild and not so wild places), and having picked up a pair of tinned stew and of condensed milk cans (God knows what they eat there), I have been loaded into the chopper. The flight was long, the boundless tundra spreading below, and here we are, arriving at the chukchi encampment (stoibische) — three skin tents, yarangas or chooms, and the large choom in the middle. Getting about hundred meters close to the chooms (to escape chukchi or deers being afflicted by the rotor blades), the helicopter quickly landed, and just as quickly flitted away, and I dragged myself along, my heavy load bottle-tinkling, me burying my eyes in the reindeer moss — yagel stamped out by the deers.

Getting closer to the chooms, me being already surrounded by the aborigines, there a stamped path has come up in the yagel just 30 meters long, leading, as I could descry, to a greater choom. Already approaching the choom, I was surprised to see right and left of the path a human experiment, a-feces-ctations in rolls and shits. However inept or duff, I am a hunter and can discern between human and animal excrements. I was appalled. Well, you cannot hide in tundra, but yet, man, just get behind the choom, why go besmearing in front of it!

So, stooping under heavy weight and getting perplexed, I tumbled into the greater choom and stood still like a soldier on dancing — the choom was filled with half-naked women taking air baths and fiddling with something (chukchi all but never take any other baths). Completely at a loss, I backed tinkling with the bottles. At that point, the master of the encampment come running and met me inviting to the right choom not so big.

While we were eating the not so fresh planed meat and washed it down with vodka (or vice versa, as I could not fathom). Women, at the moment, got something stewing and frying. The masters almost completely lacked knowledge of Russian language, and it helped greatly having there a youngster who spent several years in boarding school and, therefore, could interpret. The food was not varied but nourishing, and naturally, I politely refused having been offered a bit rotten fish.

At the party’s end, a chukchi maiden silently came to me and, as I made out, they proposed her to me for the night. I refused, of course, and kept the masters drinking vodka without break to escape them feeling hurt. We, the Caucasian people, used to make it furtively as if stealing something, while here the parents themselves offer it, well in their own choom! We don’t do it that unaccepted way. Plainly enough, one should not go interbreeding for a long time, and chukchi understood that instinctively, however I didn’t feel better knowing it.
Waking up in the morning from the hangover, I happened to be the only one in the choom and started to examine everything around me, and paid a special attention to a spot reminding me something like the «red corner» with the icons, of the peasant’s log hut. A small wooden idol stood there in secluded fashion and there were other attributes of their religious cult together with the tambourine. Among those items, something looked like beads hung, yet not the beads since it lacked any symmetry. Pebbles of various colors were fastened to the skin straps, as well as all kinds of cockleshells, rags, wooden tendrils of the Arctic dwarf birch and the similar fiddlesticks, still it was primitively beautiful. At that moment, a little youngster-interpreter came in, so I asked him what is was and what did that mean.

«AAAAA», — he said, this was, I say, a notebook of our stoibische. See there a black pebble, oh, it was a great deer plague, and there — my mother was born and so forth, and so forth. The point is that chukchi people has no written culture, and they register that way everything that happens to them. Something like knot literature, or memory.

Already going out of the choom, I recalled the things that were lying along the path and asked the youngster what did they mean. As I grasped from his narration, it was a notebook as well just like the knot literature but not more than a guest-book from the grateful visitors. Every grateful guest does it as if saying «Thanks!» to all residents of the stoibische. You fed me, you give me (something) to drink, you put me to bed beside a women, so I lay it down, being grateful to you, my heap of shit in front of your choom.

So, every morning the master comes out from the choom and observes it: here, that thin and long one, it was that guest’s release, here, this baby blonde from him scampers; and this, short and stout, remained from the so-and-so guest, there, a blue-eyes lassie left over from him.

On the whole, there are no flies in the tundra, just blood-sucKing insects, and when you figure out all the nuances, everything turns logical. Well, here stands the nomad’s camp, and then proceeds to a new station. So, the grateful guest’s notebook starts functioning all over again from the blank sheet.

Yet the white bear pelt, I never purchase it but still, if wishes were horses… so, let’s put a bold face on it; nevertheless the flight wasn’t meaningless, and I came to know so much new.
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