My future host, the Saami woman, warned me over the phone that the temperature had dropped to -50 ° C. From my previous personal experience, I knew this was not possible and she was right. In the state of Illinois, we have much lower temperatures than in this region of the world, sometimes below -30ºC. Regardless, he was outfitted with warm clothing to be prepared for any kind of surprise.
It was a cold winter day. From the airplane window, I saw a chain of hills. We walked through the snow to the airport, and it seemed that no one even bothered to clean the hallways. As I entered the luggage area, I recognized my hostess from afar. He reminded me of a Saami, a short woman with a large round face, dressed in a long fox fur coat.
The path to the Revda (by western standards) was in excellent condition, wide and shovelled. We stopped at a roadside shop where drivers and locals could buy various varieties of frozen fish and other frozen goods. This small temporary place could only be seen by its Russian flag. It was interesting to see this little unheated fishmonger in the middle of nowhere. A dog greeted us. While driving a bit, we came across another well-known local landmark: a large tree by the side of the road known to the locals as “Lenin”. His profile closely resembles the same silhouette of Lenin that rested on the coins of the former Soviet Union.
We arrived in the small town of Revda to find a high-rise building, private houses, a church, and several concrete buildings. At that time, Revda, as a result of the closure of some companies and mines, people moved, it was mostly unoccupied. The settlement had basically been built with wooden barracks before 1967, and after the railroad started, many high-rise houses were built. Buildings of more than five stories were being built in large cities or in those settlements that had considerable growth prospects.
Seeing nine-story apartment buildings at the Arctic Pole surprised me, especially since they were almost empty at the time. What type of government, architectures and other stakeholders participated in this project? Did you know (or at least ask or ponder) how much it would cost to maintain a high-rise home? To my knowledge, no one knows the real price of keeping concrete buildings in acceptable living conditions. The families that still lived in these buildings spent hours without heat or electricity.
These days, there are 9,700 people living in Revda. In the Revda there is a joint-stock company “Sevredmet”. JSC produces loparite concentrate, a raw material for tantalum, niobium and rare elements, partially titanium. Before the collapse of the USSR, this company satisfied 70 percent of the country’s demand for rare metals and 80 percent for niobium. The raw material source is a unique Lovozero deposit, with underground mines at Karnasurt (since 1951) and Umbozero (since 1984). During the last decade, the company has faced serious difficulties due to a crisis in product sales.
I spent several days with the Saami family in Revda, about eight miles (twenty kilometers) from Lovozero, the center of the Russian Saami. I tried to learn from my Saami host, something to share in the future with my readers about Saami culture, history, family values, traditions, clothing and other details from within. Maybe even to discover some interesting facts about the art of the shaman. Saami called these people Noaides.
According to my host, Olga, both of her parents were Saami. His father, Olonkin Serge, was a famous hunter on the Kola Peninsula. Serge was sometimes paid well: for killing eighteen male wolves, he received five mail reindeer and a doe plus 2,500 rubles; for killing five wolves, he received five female and one male deer and 3,000 rubles. He had many government awards. His mother was a manager of collective milk farms and had been part of a family that was persecuted by the government at the time of collectivization.
Serge had six sons and a girl. He came from a family of fifteen children and a girl. Later, Serge was forced to move with his family to Lovozero from the Voronya settlement, like all Saami. At that time, the government began to build the Sovhoz, a large collective farm, huge plants, manufacturing facilities, mines, military bases, and power stations.
The former Soviet Union completely changed the Kola Peninsula before World War II and almost wiped out the Saami as an ethnic group after the war. The colonization by different neighboring countries, as well as the sometimes aggressive or hidden conversion to Christianity, the disappearance of the small ethnic group was almost total.