Arctic. The Pomors




The Pomors are a local group of Russian population, descendants of the Novgorod natives who explored the North and the sea coasts from the 11th – 12th century. In 17th century documents, “Pomor Land” was the term for the entire territory of the Russian North, but the White and Barents Sea coasts are considered the core territory of Pomor settlement. The geographical conditions affected the home and trade life patterns of the region’s inhabitants, whose main occupations were fishing, sea mammal hunting, shipbuilding, and commerce. Special fishing places, or tonyas, were set up on the White Sea coast. They were permanent or seasonal fishermen’s farmsteads, fishing/hunting bases of the Pomors. The Pomors lived there with their families. Traditionally, a fishermen’s farmstead comprised a complex of dwelling houses and outbuildings necessary for fishing and fish storage. By the mid-18th century, Pomor settlements had formed, which had retained their traditional appearance up to the early 20th century. They were located on the Pomor, Tersk, Summer, Karelian, Kandalaksha, Winter, and Onega Coast. In the second half of the 19th century, the east coast of the Murman was settled. Teriberka became the first sedentary Russian colony. The Pomors played a special role in the exploration of northern sea routes and development of shipbuilding. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Pomor natives on sail ships were active in the Russia’s exploration of the Arctic islands, Siberia, and Alaska. In Pomor Land, the most widespread materials for making clothes were canvas, cloth, silk, brocade, and fur. In a significant part of Pomor Land, clothes were made not so much of homespun as of shop-bought fabrics. Fabrics were bought at fairs from visiting merchants, dealers, pedlars, or purchased abroad, in Norway. The women’s festive clothes, especially rich, were decorated with galloons, gold filament, silver fringe, worsted, mother-of-pearl, and openwork metal buttons. Such costumes were kept safe and descended. The Pomors were renowned for their cult and household objects, which they made in spare time off sea hunting and fishing. Wooden tableware, distaffs, toys, and boxes for shoemaker’s tools were not only decorated with artful carving, but also provided with carves legends/stories, maker’s names, and dates. The Pomors have developed vast experience of survival and trade activity in the extreme conditions of the Far North, which to this day is the border of the oikumene, or the world inhabited by humankind. Despite active amalgamation processes, the Pomors have retained their local identity and some features of traditional culture up to this day. O.G. Baranova


Authors: O.G. Baranova