Siberian Stories

Episodes

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01Old Believers20120709

Five sketches of life on the move in the wild Siberian borderlands. Cicely Fell follows the upper reaches of the Yenisei river to nomadic and religious communities on the southern edge of Russia.

Life is changing for two Russian Old Believer villages on a remote branch of the Yenisei in the republic of Tuva. The Old Believers fled to this hidden corner of the taiga forest to escape religious persecution. But, as Cicely discovers when she visits the community during hay-gathering season, today they are facing competition from outsiders for the land that has provided their livelihood for generations.

Producer: Cicely Fell

An Above the Title production for BBC Radio 4.

03The Shaman's Drum20120711

Five sketches of life on the move in the wild Siberian borderlands. Cicely Fell follows the upper reaches of the Yenisei river to nomadic and religious communities on the southern edge of Russia.

Tuva's remote and impenetrable mountain landscape enabled the survival of shamanic clan lines despite the Soviet repressions. The region has remained one of the strongholds of Siberian shamanism and is an important centre for its revival. Today, in Tuva's capital Kyzyl, associations of shamans and walk-in clinics compete for customers seeking healing or divination.

From a shamanic ritual to a drum-maker's workshop, Cicely Fell traces shamanism in Tuva and Khakassia. Chochigar Kes-Kam, a hereditary Tuvan shaman, performs a ritual to seek a blessing from the spirits for his young apprentice. A story of repression and revival, told through the shaman's drum.

Producer: Cicely Fell

An Above the Title production for BBC Radio 4.

04Khakassian Horsemen20120712

Five sketches of life on the move in the wild Siberian borderlands. Cicely Fell follows the upper reaches of the Yenisei river to nomadic and religious communities on the southern edge of Russia.

The horse is at the heart of Khakassia's ancient yet fragile culture. Cicely Fell camps out with a group of horsemen who have returned to a nomadic form of horse herding since the collapse of the local Soviet state farm.

The valley where their herds graze is scattered with ancient rock carvings of horses, traces of a horse culture going back four thousand years. But today, as Cicely discovers, the Khakassian horsemen are struggling to protect their herds from a rare species of red wolf.

Producer: Cicely Fell

An Above the Title production for BBC Radio 4.

05 LASTReindeer People20120713

Five sketches of life on the move in the wild Siberian borderlands. Cicely Fell follows the upper reaches of the Yenisei river to nomadic and religious communities on the southern edge of Russia.

The Tozhu reindeer people live in the remote taiga forests of eastern Tuva, on Russia's border with Mongolia. For thousands of years, these nomadic hunters have kept small herds of reindeer as pack and riding animals and for milk.

Today, with the construction of the first railway into Tuva and the arrival of Russian and Chinese mining giants in the taiga, the Tozhu's traditional lands are under threat. Fewer than twenty reindeer herding families remain active in Tuva and the number of reindeer has fallen to around 1,000.

Cicely travels to the Kyrganai family's summer encampment in the high mountain taiga, a week's ride from the nearest village. The disappearance of Soviet subsidies and transportation has split the reindeer herding families between their camps in the taiga and the villages. Today they have no income and no access to provisions or medicines. Economic hardships and the depletion of wild game stocks by commercial hunters are driving the Tozhu to sell their reindeer for meat, using nearby mines as trading posts.

Producer: Cicely Fell

An Above the Title production for BBC Radio 4.