June 7, 2018

On our earth there are so many unknown nationalities, cultures and languages. One of these unknown and hidden places is Sakha, which we call Olonkho land. I will make a separate blog post about ‘OLONKHO’ itself, as it is itself a whole UNIVERSE. In political terms, our Sakha land is called THE REPUBLIC OF SAKHA (YAKUTIA).

From the deepest most ancient time, a small piece of earth began to stretch until it become a whole world. The creator of this world and the many gods living there such as Aiyy, Demons Abaahy and Spirits Ichchi is named Yurung Aiyy Toyon. He created our universe of mythology, its land and mountains, rivers and beasts. He also created the children of the sun — humans. He is embodied in mythological imagery as a human body with the white head of a stallion or an eagle. He is the lord of all skies and gods, living on the ninth sky of the pantheon. The meaning of word ‘Yurung’ translates to ‘white’ and is associated with purity, brightness and honesty.

Below I am presenting a translation of the opening passages of Olonkho, describing the creation of the universe and middle world. I have also included the original text in Sakha alongside the translation. While there are many versions and interpretations of Olonkho, they all contain the same essential elements shown here. I have presented the original text using the Latin alphabet. The beginning of the heroic epic was taken from the book ‘Nurgun Botur The Swift’ by Platon A. Oyunsky, dated to the early 1930s. In 2007 this epic was translated into English, following the 2005 UNESCO decision that the Olonkho epic was to be honoured as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

By the way, did you know that Sakha language was previously written in Latin? The Latin Alphabet has its own specific phonemes such as ө [ö], ү [ü], diftongs like үө [üö], yo [uo], ыа [ya], иэ [ie] and consonants like ҕ [ğ], ҥ [ng], дь [j], нь [n’], һ [h] which do not exist in the Russian alphabet. Later, the writing changed to use Cyrillic characters. Sakha language then used the same letters as Russian, along with newly created symbols for non-existing letters, such as: нь, дь, ҥ, ҕ, ө, һ, ү, уо, үө, ыа and иэ. The most ancient Sakha writing was RUNIC, most of which is found in cave paintings, but we won’t go too deep today into the topic of the language and grammatical structure. Today, I want to speak about Sakha (Yakutia) itself as an OPENING TOPIC for my later BLOG POSTS. The question is “Who Am I?”. In the context of who I am, I will give an explanation of what kind of nationality I am.

The Flag of the Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

I was born before the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) disintegrated and grew up in the Russian Federation, where the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) remained as an one of the subjects of the federation. In total at present time, there are 85 subjects of the federation. Some of the subjects have remained as republics, including autonomous oblast and okrug, kray, oblast. Here is the quote from Wikipedia: “Every federal subject has its own head, a parliament, a constitution, and legislation. Subjects have equal rights in relations with federal government bodies. The federal subjects have equal representation – two delegates each – in the Federation Council, the upper house of the Federal Assembly”.

Personally, I have travelled a lot, most of my trips being related to performances with my khomuses. In these places to which I am traveling, people frequently ask me this question: “Are you a real Russian?”. In these kind of moments, I really feel hesitation before I can give the answer. In fact, I am Russian — not in race but as a nation, because we are born and raised inside this environment and with this language. I am sure that both people from inside the Russian Federation and from outside of Russia will share these same feelings with me. While it is a strange feeling, these kinds of situations are also inspiring me and filling me with enthusiasm to tell people about my own land, located far away beyond what is commonly known as Russia. People from all over the world are showing their deep interest in our music, culture, language and heritage, it is really inspiring me. Half of the world is hidden and undiscovered, and it is my passion to reveal the secrets of my place in a positive and truthful way! I have done my research carefully before writing this BLOG. I hope that you – my dear reader, are enjoying it! You can trust that the information that I’m writing is accurate.

Okay, let’s go! The Republic of Sakha is a multicultural and multinational land located inside of Siberia, with the largest geopolitical territory on the Earth (according to the Wikipedia, it is the largest subnational governing body by area in the world at 3,083,523 square kilometers and 8th largest territory in the world, if the federal subjects of Russia are compared with other countries). It is larger than Argentina and just smaller than India, which itself covers an area of 3,287,590 square kilometers. The capital of Sakha is the city of Yakutsk and the republic itself is one of the ten autonomous Turkic Republics within the Russian Federation.

We can see on the map (title picture), that the Laptev Sea is located to the north of the Sakha territory, above which lays the Arctic Ocean and the North Pole. On the right side of Laptev Sea is the East Siberian Sea, above the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug which is bordering Sakha to the right. In the on Subarctic zone below Chukotka (which itself is inside the Polar Circle) is the Magadanskaya Oblast, then below and to left side of it (bordering with Sakha) is Khabarovskiy Kray, which touches the Sea of Okhotsk. On the lower left side of the Sakha Republic is Amurskaya Oblast, and then other surrounding lands bordering and ascending are Chitinskaya Oblast, Irkutskaya Oblast, Krasnoyarskiy Kray (which includes Evenkiyskiy Autonomus Okrug) and on the farthest Arctic region, Taymyrskiy Dolgano-Neneskiy Autonomous Okrug.

Ölüöne Turuk Khayalara – A view of the Lena Pillars from my camera, 2010

During Khomus performances in 2010, I had a chance to the Lena Pillars in reality. Here I am a young Khomusist with the Algyschyt (Sakha Greeting’s Ritual sign on my forehead). One day if you will visit the Lena Pillars, the same Algyschyt will probably be there!

The most beloved thing for me to tell you about my Republic is the fact that it is the coldest inhabited place on this earth. It is located partially inside the Polar Circle. In the world there are eight countries which reside partially or wholly inside this area, named the Arctic Council: Finland, Norway, Alaska (USA), Yakutia (Russia), Denmark (representing Greenland and Faroe Islands), Sweden and Canada. They are also known as the “Arctic Eight”. The most extreme cold temperature of -70 °C was found in Oymyakon, Republic of Sakha. Oymyakon is known as the Northern Pole of Cold, the other being the town of Verkhoyansk, located 629 km (391 miles) away by air. The ground is permanently frozen (continuous permafrost). On February 6, 1933, a temperature of −67.7 °C (−89.9 °F) was recorded at Oymyakon’s weather station. This was the coldest officially recorded temperature in the Northern Hemisphere. Verkhoyansk and Yakutsk are the only places in the world with a temperature amplitude (lowest to the highest inside a year) of more than 100 °C (180 °F). Personally, I have experienced Yakutsk city (the capital of our Republic) in Winter at -55 °C. The warmest temperature in Winter is -45 °C. The cold is not just simply cold and freezing, it is a completely different feeling which pinches your face skin and ‘twists’ circularly — that’s why people are covering their face by scarfs and other warm clothes.

In Ancient times Mammoths inhabited these cold places. In our territory, local Sakha people are discovering frozen and perfectly preserved bodies of the Mammoths and other animals when they going into the vast forests for hunting or for other reasons. Knowledge of the existence of Mammoth corpses has been reported since the 18th century, and since these times people are making ornamented hand carved jewellery and decorations for knives from the Mammoths tusks. Currently, Sakha Scientists in collaboration with other countries are trying to resurrect the Mammoth by cloning it from ancient DNA!

Mammoth (The picture from a book of Siberian Mammoths ‘Mammoth’ by A.N. Tychonov , 2005)

Finally, for those who believe in UFOs: another interesting fact is that reports of UFOs are most commonly tracked inside of Sakha and Siberian territory. There are many unusual stories from local people there! I could make another post about that topic, I will see!

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