Russia: Siberian old-timers celebrate 300 years of uninterrupted traditions


May 29, 2018

In Krasnoyarsk on May 29, 2018 there was a festival of old-timers of Siberia. These are those who, at the end of the 16th and the mid-18th centuries, moved to Siberia from different parts of Russia for various reasons, and founded there the first Russian settlements. The event was organized by the Kezhemsky community, which comprises the inhabitants of the village of Kezma and the settlements of the Kezhemsky district, which flooded in 2012 due to the construction of the Boguchanskaya HPP. It is believed that their traditional culture has survived like nowhere else.

In the Lower Angara, where Kezma was founded, most of the inhabitants settled from the Russian North — from the Arkhangelsk, Vologda, and Olonets provinces. It is difficult to reach the Angara villages, and the locals themselves did not go anywhere, but lived rather closed-off from the world, in isolation. Thus, after more than 300 years, the language, songs, rituals and traditions were preserved in the form in which they were brought here by the original pilgrims. In the territories where they came from, all these elements have been lost. But in Siberia, they were preserved.

The dialect of Kezma is the dialect of northern Russia. And here it retained its identity, ‘preserved’. It has a lot of narrow regional words, and the intonation is unique. There are also relics of pronunciation, which Lomonosov heard in his native land. Because of its isolation from the world, Kezma retained linguistic and cultural traditions that were lost even in the “mother” territories. Now it’s all going away from us. All this identity is now at the bottom – literally,” said “Siberia.Reality” Doctor of Philology, Professor Galina Belousova.

The same phenomenon is the case with Angar songs. As the Doctor of Philology Nelli Novoselova explains, in the Kezhemsky district it is possible find song stories that cannot be found now in the whole of Russia. For example, there are many songs about the campaign of Ivan the Terrible to Kazan, which apparently came to the Angara region along with the archers who were part of the old-timer population of Siberia. The manner of singing these songs is special: it’s a chant with complex polyphony.

These songs were also heard at the festival of old-timer peoples. Among the ensemble that sang were “The Living Antiquity”, “Pimochki”, and children’s folk groups. Girls braided a birch tree and kissed through its branches — this is called “cuckoo”, and serves to prevent quarrels until the next Pentecost. And then they took the birch to the Yenisei. Whatever direction it floated, there the groom would live. The festival ended with a tasting of traditional Angara dishes. By the way, two of them — the bream and the broccoli — can be officially considered objects of intangible cultural heritage, says Lyubov Karnaukhova, the chairman of the Kezma community. Now the community is engaged in the preparation of documents.

The construction of the Boguchanskaya HPP began in 1974. People from the zone of the alleged flooding of the hydroelectric station bed began to be relocated in the late 1980s. The resettlement continued until 2012, when Kezma was flooded. A total of 29 settlements populated the flood zone of the Boguchansky reservoir: 25 in the Krasnoyarsk Territory and four in the Irkutsk Region.

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