Drumming to Save Their Lives

Reuters Photo:  A cultural performance is seen in Pimchakh, 40 km (25 miles) from regional capital Petropavlovsk-KamchatskyOn the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East (across from Alaska), indigenous people are engaged in a work of cultural survival.

“Everyone of my generation speaks the Koryak language, knows the customs, dances, dishes like in the ancient times. But some of our children don’t know anything at all,” said folk performer Lidia Chechulina, slightly breathless after dancing to the beat of a deer-skin drum and the music of her own voice.

Her songs, sung in a guttural language reminiscent of Chinese, describe the beauty of the tundra, volcanoes and the sea, she explains. She adds that songs, one for each person, accompany Koryaks all their lives and act as a charm.

Soviet Communism, with all its Marxist talk about the dignity of labor, etc., had about the same effect on the Siberians peoples as Christianity did on the American Indians–especially when the Bureau of Indian Affairs used to hire missionaries as Indian agents. But then both Christianity and Marxism are monotheisms, in a sense.