More than 180 guests from Norway, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Taimyr, Salekhard, Chukotka, seven districts of Yakutia and Yakutsk participated the first ArcticSkills professional competence championship in Russia, held in the framework of International Seminar “Reindeer Husbandry – a Cornerstone of Indigenous Life in the Arctic”.

The championship and the seminar were held for two days in the village of Iyengra. The events venues were “Eyan” Ethnocultural Centre, Zolotinka Secondary Boarding School, the Iyengra river ice site and a temporary stage on the river bank.

The organizers of the event were the Ministry of Education and Science of Yakutia, the Centre for Professional Competences, the State Committee for Arctic Affairs, the Northern Forum Secretariat, the Neryungri District Administration, the South Yakutian College of Technology and the Arctic College of Peoples of the North.


Iyengra’s most special guests were a dozen of Saami indigenous people from north Norway. They arrived a day before the events at Chulman airport.

They were the students from the Saami High Schools and Reindeer Herding School Anna Valle Hoeivaag, Lango Inga Marja Andersdatter, Haetta Maret Eline Mattisdatter, Appfjell Nils Anders Bendik Utsi, Haetta Nils Olaf Olsen Eira, Bongo Sara Berit Ellen Johnsdatter, Nilut Sara Garen Anne, Brita Sandvik Wilks, and their teachers Sara Oddbjorg Haetta and Gaup Samuel Persen.


As SakhaNews was told by the head of delegation Sara Oddbjorg Haetta, they travelled from their how town in northern Norway by a complex route. At first they flew on small airplane to Helsinki. From the capital of Finland they flew to Moscow, then finally took a Moscow – Neryungri flight via Irkutsk.


The Head of the UArctic Institute for Circumpolar Reindeer Husbandry, Norway Svein Mathiesen arrived at Neryungri in the morning April 3 from Yakutsk, the UArctic president Lars Kullerud from Khabarovsk.

Among Iyengra guests there were representatives of Taimyr College from the High North of Krasnoyarsk Krai: Director Vera Cherkasova, teacher Lubov Bainova and the participant Artur Yaptune. From Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug: Director of Yamal Polar Agro-Economic Technical School Vadim Osipov and Deputy Director of Agro-Industrial, Trade and Food Department Stanislav Zakrevsky.


From Chersky eight representatives of the Arctic College of peoples of the North attended the event. By the way, initially the event was scheduled in Chersky, but due to the quarantine, it was relocated to Neryungri District. From Aldan District there were students from medical college, representatives of nomadic communities “Kustuk”, “Idzhek” and Aldan administration. Momsky District was represented by contestants from Ulakhan-Chistay school. Olekminsky District – by the representatives of agricultural cooperative “Tyanya”. Anabarsky District was represented by the foreman and reindeer herders of the herd No.7 of Spiridonov Minicipal Unitary Enterprise.



The Arctic Skills opening ceremony was held at the venues of “Eyan” ethnocultural centre. Although some competence events began earlier at Zolotinka Secondary Boarding School.


The main expert of the reindeer herder competence was Pyotr Yakovlev from Chersky. He gave a short briefing, and the participants competed at making harness elements, weaving the lasso and providing the first aid under a supervision of Neryungri Medical College staff.


On site behind the school 12 participants competed at competence “Operation and Maintenance of Off-Road Vehicles and Generators”. Within the time limit the contestants repaired “intentionally” malfunctioning Yamaha snowmobiles and AC electric generators, used for reindeer herding in taiga. The main expert at this competence was Vasily Sleptsov also from Chersky.


The solemn opening of Arctic Skills professional competence championship and International Seminar “Reindeer Husbandry – a Cornerstone of Indigenous Life in the Arctic” started at noon. The guests and participants were warmly welcomed by the First Deputy Head of Neryungri District Artyom Firstov, the Chairman of Yakutia’s State Committee for Arctic Affairs Prokopiy Nikolaev, the Head of Iyengra Evenki Ethnic Settlement Olga Ignatenko.

Artyom Firstov welcomed the participants on behalf of Neryungri District’s Head Viktor Stanilovsky, noting, that raising public awareness to Northern and Arctic personnel training issue, including reindeer herders, remains one of the priority tasks. Prokopiy Nikolaev also welcomed the participants, wished a fair fight and noted that such kind of events, first of all, promote exchange of experience and communication between indigenous peoples of the Arctic. He thanked Viktor Stanilovsky for a quick organization of the event in Neryungri District, since it was initially planned in Nizhnekolymsk District (some 3400 km to North-East). Olga Ignatenko began her speech with a greeting in the Evenki language, noting that for all residents Iyengra, hosting such a large-scale event is a huge honour.


The concert program conducted by Irina Kichigina was performed by the “Yukte” folklore ensemble, “Tandem” dance studio with Chukchi and Buryat dances, Anna Tarasova with the song in the Yakut language, Nikolay Bondarenko with the Russian song “Zolotyie Kupola” (Golden Domes) and “Vesna” vocal studio with “The Magic Country” performance.



In the afternoon the competitions were continued. In the assembly hall of the Zolotinka Secondary Boarding School, contests in the “Lavvu-keeper” competence began. Pre-contest briefing was conducted by the chief expert in this field, the director of the Arctic College of Peoples of the North, Chersky village, Elena Antipina. In this competence, a total of 17 girls competed.


The first discipline within the competence was the dressing of the skins, the second - the provision of first aid in taiga (outdoor) conditions.


First these competitions were held in school classrooms. Competitions of eight participants in the discipline “Designing a Reindeer Herder’s Campsite and Building a Tent” also began in the computer rooms, where the contestants designed a reindeer herders’ camp model on the computer within a time limit.

After that, the guys went outside, to the schoolyard, where they erected real lavvus, but without the top cover.


The most exciting and entertaining contest of the first day was the stroganina (frozen fish slicing) contest, which gathered a huge number of fans and those who wanted to taste this northern delicacy. Four experts became the jury members of this interesting competition: first deputy head of the city Neryungri Dmitry Dyachkovsky, head of the village Chulman Stalik Deryagin, teacher of the Technical Institute (branch) NEFU Lyubov Yakovleva and director of the Zolotino secondary boarding school Nikolai Anisimov. The main expert of competence was the director of the Arctic College of Northern Peoples of the village of Chersky Elena Antipina.


First the participants played the knives with which they were going to cut the fish. Then they settled on the snow, where each participant was given 20 minutes to slice a deep-frozen fish, prepare the sauce and impressively present the dish.


The stroganina contest concluded the first day of the competition.



The next day the competitions continued in the open air, on the ice of the Iyengra river and on its bank. In the “Reindeer Herder” competence 18 participants continued competitions in the disciplines “Lasso throwing” and “Reindeer counting”. The fifth, the final stage of this competence was the ability to harness reindeer.


Also, 18 participants of the “Lavvu keeper” competence continued their competition. If on the first day they provided first aid and processed reindeer skins, on the second day the lavvu keepers had to demonstrate their skills in making a bonfire, preparing a fish soup and tea, led by the director of the Arctic College Elena Antipina.


Simultaneously with the competitions on the river, there was a round table in the “Eyan” ethnocultural centre with a topic “Reindeer Husbandry – a Cornerstone of Indigenous Life in the Arctic”. Participants of the round table were members of the Government of Yakutia, representatives of secondary professional educational institutions of the northern regions of the Russian Federation, representatives of delegations from Norway, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Krasnoyarsk Krai and others.


The moderator of the round table was the executive director of the Northern Forum, the chairman of the board of the World Reindeer Herders Association Mikhail Pogodaev. The participants of the event were greeted by First Deputy Chairman of the Government of Yakutia Pyotr Alekseev, UArctic President Lars Kullerud, Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Yakutia Andrei Popov, Deputy Director of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Food of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug Stanislav Zakrevsky, Head of the UArctic’s Circumpolar Reindeer Herding Institute Svein Mathiesen and the Head of the Iyengra Evenk Ethnic Settlement Olga Ignatenko.

In the first half of the seminar the participants discussed international and regional experience in reindeer husbandry. The reports on this topic were made by the Executive Director of the Northern Forum Mikhail Pogodaev, the chairman of the State Committee for the Arctic Affairs of Yakutia Prokopiy Nikolaev, and the head of the “Young Reindeer Herder” movement from Iyengra Alena Kolesova.

After a short break, the seminar in “Eyan” ethnocultural centre continued with the topic “Reindeer Husbandry Personnel Training and Promotion of Arctic Skills Competences”. The director of the Arctic College of Peoples of the North from Chersky Elena Antipina, the teacher of the Saami High School and Reindeer Herding School Sarah Oddbjorg Haetta, the director of the Taimyr College from Dudinka Vera Cherkasova, the director of the Arktika School Maria Rufova, the director of the Neryungri Medical College Irina Adamova spoke in this part of the round table.

As a result of the seminar, cooperation agreements were signed between the Sámi Higher School and colleges in Dudinka and Chersky. The resolution of the event was adopted as a basis. First Deputy Chairman of the Government of Yakutia Pyotr Alekseev noted that this resolution will help to join mutual efforts in the field of reindeer herding personnel training.



The culmination and the most spectacular moment of the two-day program of the International reindeer herders’ Arctic Skills championship were the reindeer races on the ice of the Iyengra river.


First, all the participants of the races gathered around the temporary stage, where they were greeted by the First Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Republic Pyotr Alekseev, First Deputy Head of Neryungri District Artyom Firstov. Chairman of the State Committee of the Arctic Affairs of Yakutia Prokopiy Nikolaev announced the prizes of the competitions. Two identical sets of prizes were prepared - separately for men and women. The first prizes were presented by the State Committee of the Arctic Affairs of Yakutia - a couple of snowmobiles, worth 300 thousand rubles each. The second prizes were 30 thousand rubles for every race, presented by YakutUgol, coal mining company. The third prizes were 20 thousand rubles from “Novaya” artisan prospectors.


First, the women's race started, in which 15 women took part. Victory was won by Victoria Andreeva. By the way, on the recent Iyengra Reindeer Herder's Day, on March 3, she was third at a distance of 5 kilometers. Here the distance for both men and women was the same - 8.5 km, and the track was finally cleared literally a few minutes before the races.


33 participants took part in the men's race. Here the first to reach the finish line was the reindeer herder Aleksandr Kirillov, who was the winner of the races and on the recent Reindeer Herders Day. The second was his son - Igor Kirillov, a student of the South Yakutian College of Technology in Neryungri.



The solemn closing of the Arctic Skills professional competence championship and International Seminar “Reindeer Husbandry – a Cornerstone of Indigenous Life in the Arctic” was held late at night in the “Eyan” ethnocultural centre. Winners and prize-winners of competitions on competences were given two certificates for reindeer, laptops, electronic tablets, chargers and memorable gifts.

The ceremony was opened by the Deputy Minister of Education and Science Andrei Popov. After that, various competence awarding began.

In the “Reindeer Herder” competence in a stubborn but honest struggle, Aleksei Kolesov from “Zolotinka” Municipal Unitary Enterprise took the first place. The second place - Igor Kolesov from the “Oldoyo” nomadic tribal community. The third place - Nikolai Vasiliev from “Buta” nomadic tribal community. All three are representatives of Iyengra.

In the “Operation and Maintenance of Off-Road Vehicles and Diesel Generators” competence the fastest and most qualitative result was shown by Vladimir Maksimov from “Zolotinka” Municipal Unitary Enterprise, Iyengra. He became the best in this field. The second place - Pyotr Avelov from “Kustuk” nomadic tribal community of the Aldan District. The third place - Artur Semyonov from “Zolotinka” MUE, Iyengra.

In the “Designing a Camp and Lavvu Building” competence, Aleksei Ukhsek from Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, a student at the Arctic College in the village of Chersky, became the champion. The second place - Andrei Shchetinin from Iyengra, the third place - Dmitri Lebyodkin from “Tyanya” nomadic tribal community of the Olekminsky District.

The “Stroganina” competence’s best was Stepan Tuprin, from the village of Yuryung-Khaya, Anabarsky District of Yakutia. The second place -  a student of the Taimyr College (Krasnoyarsk Krai) Artur Yaptune. The third place - Vladimir Syrovatsky, representative of the Arctic College from the village of Chersky. As you can see, all prizes were given to representatives of the northern regions with long fishing traditions.

In the “Lavvu keeper” competence Anna Kolesova from Iyengra became the best keeper. The second place - a student of Neryungri Medical College Aksinya Stolyarchik, the third place - Zhanna Tymnenkau from Yakutsk State Agricultural Academy, Yakutsk.

During the awarding ceremony of the International Championship of Professional Skills the following people came out to the stage with congratulations: the main competition expert, the Director of the Arctic College of the Peoples of the North, Elena Antipina, the Tutor of the Sámi Reindeer High School Sara Oddbjørg Haetta, the UArctic President Lars Kullerud, the Executive Director of the Northern Forum Mikhail Pogodaev, the Head of Iyengra Evenki Ethnic Settlement Olga Ignatenko.

The ceremony was held by Irina Kichigina. The concert program was performed by the “Yukte” folk Evenk ensemble, actors of the Actor and Puppet Theatre of Yakutia with the “Olonkho” performance, Anna Tarasova with the “Witch-river” performance, Nikolay Bondarenko with the “Ptitsa Schastya” (Bird of Happiness) song.

"It was a great honour for us to host this large-scale international event. In our Neryungri District, great attention is paid to preserving and enhancing the traditional Arctic industries, handicraft, national customs, culture and way of life of indigenous peoples. The seminar program events were fully accomplished. We hope that all the guests and participants have the best impressions of both the event and the Neryungri District. I am confident that the International Seminar in Neryungri will be an important and useful step in preserving the traditional sectors of the North, developing links between different northern regions,” Viktor Stanilovsky, Head of the Neryungri District, said at the final stage of this major seminar.

"I am very proud of our Iyengra team. The most skilled in three competencies were the representatives of Iyengra. They were Aleksei Kolesov in the “Reindeer Herder”, Anna Kolesova the best “Lavvu keeper”, and Vladimir Maksimov - in the “Operation and maintenance of the vehicles”. In general, all three prizewinners of the “Reindeer Herder” competence were from Iyengra”, - said the Head of Iyengra Settlement Olga Ignatenko.


These two bright and eventful days will be the one of the most memorable days for all the participants. According to many witnesses of the event, the participants in colourful national costumes became the brightest ornament of this Arctic festival. All of them very patiently, thoroughly and kindly answered all questions, which were very interesting to spectators and colleagues, willingly told about culture, traditions, footwear, clothes, features of a life of the peoples of the North. All this was very interesting, informative and useful.