Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District is, so to speak, the central part of the arctic facade of Russia. Yamalia area is located in the arctic zone on the north of the largest in the world West-Siberian Plain and takes a vast area of over 750,000 km². More than a half of it is situated in the Arctic circle, spreading over the Ob lower course and its terrains, basins of the Nadyma, the Pura, and the Taza rivers, Yamalsky, Tazovsky, and Gydansky peninsulas, a group of islands in the Kara Sea (Bely, Shokalsky, Neupokoyeva, Oleny, etc.), as well as eastern flanks of the polar Urals. The northern point of Yamal continental part is 73º30 minutes north latitude, which fully explains the Nenets name of the peninsula - The Ends of the Earth.
The northern border of the district, washed by the Kara Sea, is 5100 km long and is a part of the State frontier of the Russian Federation (around 900 km). In the west along the Urals range Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District borders with Nenets Autonomous District and the Republic of Komi, in the south - with Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area, in the east - with Krasnoyarsk Territory.
The district terrain is mainly located in three climatic zones: arctic, subarctic and the zone of northern (taiga) belt of West-Siberian Plain. Climate here is specified by particularly sharp changes during a year, long, cold, severe winter, as well as strong blizzards and frequent snowstorms; the lowest temperature is 56ºÑ. Summer is short - 50 days long on average.
Arctic tundra zone embraces islands, the northern part of Yamalsky, and Gydansky peninsulas. Climate here is characterized by notably dramatic changes during a year, long, cold, harsh winter with strong blizzards and repeated snowstorms; the lowest temperature is -56ºÑ. There is very little precipitation in winter; snow cover depth does not exceed 40 centimeters. Spring arrives slowly; atmospheric temperature is above freezing in June only. Frequent fogs result in chiefly gloomy weather. Summer makes ground thaw 40-50 centimeters deep only. Fall is gloomy and windy; thaws sometimes last till November, although basically it is already below freezing in September.
Subarctic zone (tundra zone) covers southern parts of Yamalsky and Gydansly peninsulas, running down to Arctic Circle. Climate is inland: precipitation is rainfall mainly; summer is up to 68 days long.
Climate of the northern (taiga) belt of West-Siberian Plain is featured by a heavier continentality: average temperature is higher, snow cover depth is up to 60-80 centimeters and stays on from mid-October till the middle of May; summer is rather warm and humid, up to 100 days long; a lot of precipitation.
Conformation of the district is represented by two parts: mountainous and featureless. Almost 90% of the featureless part is within 100 meters above sea level, which brings about numerous lakes and bogs. The Ob left bank has an increased and broken relief. The right inland bank reveals a slightly hilly table land with a little fall to the north. The most raised areas of the lowland are in the south of the district within the limits of Siberian knaps.
The mountainous area of the district takes a narrow zone along Polar Ural and appears as huge rock massifs of 200 kilometers total mileage. Average height of the southern massifs is 600-800 meters, width - 20-30. The highest summits are Kolokolnya - 1305 meters high, Pay-Yer - 1499 meters high. To the north the height of mountains reaches 1000-1300 meters. The chief dividing range of Polar Ural is winding; its height above sea level reaches 1200-1300 meters and higher.
Peoples of the district
Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District - historical native land of thin peoples of ultima Thule: Nentsy, Khanty, Selkupy.
The percentage of aboriginal people from the total number of population is 7 percent (36,000 people); over 13,000 people live a roving life (which is 40 percent of the total aboriginal population).
The Nentsy is one of the largest Samoyed peoples. The very word 'nenets' means 'a person', 'neney nenets' - 'a real person' - was introduced to official use in 1930. Initially the Nentsy were called 'samoyedy', or 'samoyedy-yuraki'.
Traditional activity of the Nentsy is reindeer farming. There are some national peculiarities to this industry, such as year-round pasture of animals herded by shepherds and pasturing dogs, sledge deer riding. There are two types of sledges used: passenger and cargo ones. A straight-poppet Nenets sledge consists of a vehicle body fixed to skid bent up at the front. For better firmness poppets are slightly pulled apart at the bottom, which makes the distance between the skid wider than the width of the seat. Male passenger sledge seat only has the back to lean on, female - front and side walls as well to make it more convenient for them to go with children. In the passenger sledge, three to seven reindeers are hitched fan-like. They are usually climbed on from the left and driven with the help of a rein fixed to a halter (a bridle without a bit, but a rein) of the reindeer on the left, and a khorey-pole with a bone button at the tip. Sometimes they fix a metal spear-shaped tip to the other tip of khorey (in the past it used to be a weapon as well as a bow). A harness is made from reindeer or bearded seal skin. In a cargo sledge two reindeers are hatched; five to six cargo sledges together produce a caravan (arguish) as reindeers are tied with chains or straps to the sledge ahead. Every arguish is driven by a rider on a passenger sledge, very often a teenager girl; men on passenger sledges whip up the herd nearby. To noose the animals wanted, a special corral is constructed with the help of sledges. Reindeer eats moss - reindeer moss. As the food supplies run low, pastures have to be changed. Shepherds and their families move together with their herds.
On Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District terrain the Khanty mainly live in Shuryshkarsky and Priuralsky areas. The ethnicon 'Khanty' was originated from self-name 'khante'.
The Khanty are traditionally hunters and fishermen leading half-settled lifestyle. Besides, they have always been into reindeer farming in the north and cattle-breeding in the south. Hunters and fishermen had seasonal settlements and dwellings. There used to be a lot of types of lodgings, some of them were temporary and collapsible, others - permanent. Household outbuildings were various, cult constructions were usual. Household gear were made of local materials: wood, birch bark, cedar roots, etc.
The Selkupy are the people of Samoyed language group. They inhabit Krasnoselcupsky, Kargassoksky, Parabelsky, Verkhne-Ketsky districts of Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District, and they can also be found in the countryside of Kolpashevo town, Tomsk region. The total population of the Selkupy is around 4,000 people. Historically, two territorially isolated groups are distinguished among the Selkupy - the northern and the south ones. The self-name of the north Selkupy is 'solkup' or 'sholkup' (taiga man).
The capital of Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District is the city of Salekhard. Salekhard is the only city in the world located in the Polar Circle, its name is transleted from Nenets as "the settlement on the cape". July 5, 1595 is the official date of foundation of the city. The city is included in the list of the historical places of the Russian Federation.
The city's look has undergone changes for the last 5-6 years. Instead of the wooden buildings comfortable apartment houses, Ice Palace and Youth entertainment center "Polaris", new airport building and new business center, excellent schools and high schools, kindergartens and hotels were built. Foreign visitors compare the city on the Polar Circle to the cities of the North of the USA, Norway, at the same time emphasizing that Salekhard managed to preserve the local colour and culture of the indigenous people of the Arctic region.
There are regional museums in the Yamalo Nenets AD, the museum of North reclamation and other. There is a duplicate of a legendary Baikal Amur Railroad; railway Chum-Salekhard-Igarka among historical places of interest.