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Abstracts Session 2

Heritage and Identity Politics

Antonio Medeiros



Nations, States, changing markets and the politics of cultural heritage 

I would like to speak of funeral customs and the representations of death, of some of the similarities and differences that we nowadays can discover about them between Minho (NW Portugal) and Galicia (NW Spain). I shall pay attention to national laws and ways of life on one hand, but also to the transformations that ideologists, changing market relations and economic entrepreneurs have been able to impose on it recently. Through this particular approach I want to illustrate some of the reasons for the impasse in the contemporary relations between Spain and Portugal, but also of the changes that a current intensification in the area of inter-border transit could be bringing, due to the proceeding Europeanization process. The mentioned impasses are of a cultural order and that could be explained by the differences in the incidence of objectifications of culture, which has been verified on each side of the political border from the end of the 19th century onwards. Today, common and individual practices are rapidly changing those frames of references giving new life to heritage politics.

Lena Sidorova, Post graduated student

Northern-East Federal University (Yakutsk)


Cultural heritage of religion traditions

Some modern societies have more or less significant differences of ways of life in the industrial and postindustrial cities and archaic villages. It creates diversity and sometime opposite trends of development.

Innovation as a response to the challenges and pastness, cultural heritage are the main sources of the cultural changes. It is a base of revival of institutionalized religions like orthodoxy and original beliefs of peoples in Russia. In Yakutia, where most of the population is Russian and Sakha after the “perestroika” there was a revival of religion of both peoples: Christianity and traditional beliefs.

Yakutia became a Christian in the 17th century when it became a part of the Russian Empire. Prior to coming Russian Cossacks, Yakut people believed in shamans and gods – 9 with the main god – Yuryung Aar Toyon. These beliefs have survived to the present time, although in Soviet times, society has become secularized and atheistic.
In everyday life, the Sakha people always kept faith in natural harmony. The Soviet authorities couldn’t totally eradicate shamanism as well. In the 90’s they revived, and in the 2000’s, when there was a strengthening of Orthodoxy, it has evolved into a form of healing. So, even in atheistic Soviet times, people sometimes turned to the spirits. And always performed rituals like offering sacrifices to them. Nowadays in large villages people establish wooden models of sacred world-trees – Aal Luuk Mas, build houses of spirituality, which school children like to visit.

It becomes a part of everyday life and makes an appeal to the cultural heritage alive.

Guzel Stolyarova, Professor

Kazan federal University, Department of Ethnology and Archeology


The Chuvashs – Pagans in the Modern Tatarstan: the Ways of Keeping the Cultural Tradition*

The report is dedicated to traditions of the Chuvashs-pagans, living in one of the subjects of the modern Russia – a Republic of Tatarstan. The Chuvashs are the folk of the Turkic language group; the main mass of them are Orthodox and live on the territory of its national republic (the Chuvash Republic). The Pagan Chuvash population was formed on the territory of Tatarstan not later than XVΙΙΙ century as a result of transmigrations.  Escape from forcible christening, which was broadly practiced in Volga-Ural region from the second half of XVΙ century, was the main reason of migration.  At present the descendants of these migrants are portably settled in several rural settlings of Tatarstan in encirclement of the representatives of ethnic majority – the Tatars and the Russians. The main difference of this group of the Chuvashs is a strong pagan identification of people regardless of age, formation, social status. Particularly distinctly, this identification reveals itself in public and household rites. The Chuvashs firmly keep calendar pagan holidays and note them.

For centuries of its existence the Chuvashs-pagans in Tatarstan were subjected to multiple attempts to convert to Orthodox and Islam, to atheism at soviet period, but saved not only as ethnic group, but also as confessional group. Up to persisting time in the system of ethnic identity the confession occupies one of the most important places and is a powerful factor of adapting the group in interethnic occupation and of receivership of the generations.

*with financial support of Russian Fond of Humanitarian Studies, project № 11-01-18121е

Lia Zola, Research fellow

University of Padua, Cultural Anthropology



New Ancestors for Old Traditions: the case of the UNESCO Olonkho epic poems in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia)

With the unprecedented flow of cultural and spiritual revival that took place after the fall of the Soviet Union in the Sakha Republic, a Sovereign Republic of the Russian Federation, in the Russian Far East, there has been a growing, general self-consciousness brought on by intense efforts at cultural conversion, including new and often commercial interests in tradition. During the last decade, a new generation of intellectuals and scholars seemed to have viewed their past as inadequate to vindicate present positions. As a result, many have been in the process of inventing a new past to meet the situation: in this respect the Olonkho epic poems, originally oral poems narrating the adventures of supernatural knights belonging to the upper and lower world, have been the focus of a great interest. These poems were first written down in the XIX century and, from that moment on, were mainly taken as a source of inspiration (and re-creation) of the Sakha religious system. Dismissed in the Soviet period, the Olonkho poems in 2005 were proclaimed a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage. In contemporary Sakha Republic the Olonkho poems appear to be the main source to which intellectuals, historians and scholars draw not only to recreate a suitable religious system, but also a proper historical past and mythical ancestors through well-known strategies of identity construction such as historical revision and the reconsideration of collective memory.

My paper wishes to explore the role of the Olonkho poems as an example of intangible cultural heritage dealing with the issue of tradition and cultural change.

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