Last Nomads of Northern Europe

Saami (Lapps), one of the most ancient and enigmatic peoples of Northern Europe, have lived in the North of Fennoscandia since olden times. Their origin, culture and language remain not fully investigated.  The roots of this people date back to the Mesolithic, and their ancestors were reindeer hunters and fishermen of Northern Europe. Genetic research in recent years revealed the commom features of the modern Saami and the descendants of an ancient population of the Atlantic coast of the Ice Age – contemporary Berbers and the Basques. The Proto-Saami moved to Lapland for the first time from the south following the retreating glacier and the northward migration of wild reindeer (this happened no later than in the 4th millennium BC), and gradually reached the place of their today residence. Their common homeland is divided now by the political borders of Russia, Sweden, Norway and Finland, and stretches from the Kola Peninsula in Russia to the northern regions of Scandinavian countries.

In accordance with their customs and way of life, the Saami engage in all the types of economic activity characteristic of the peoples of the Arctic Circle. They practice reindeer breeding in its two variations: large herd and forest; hunting and gathering; river, lake and sea fishing, and marine mammals hunting.

The dominant feature of the exhibition are the unique objects collected among the Saami in the first two decades of the 20th century on the territory of the Kola Peninsula, in Norway and Finland (acquired by O.O. Vizel, S.I. Sergel, V.A. Plotnikov, L.L.Kapits). These collections reflect the most archaic stratum of folk culture and create a vivid image of the last nomads of Northern Europe. Impotent components of the exhibition are also the items collected by D.A. Zolotariev from the Kola Saami in the 1920s.

The exhibition contains about 200 objects and 30 historical photographs that ideally provide an opportunity to represent in entirety traditional way of life of the Saami. The reindeer in the history of this people may serve as a visual representation of their lives. Saami reindeer breeding had unique features that are displayed in such articles as a sleigh-boat which is considered to be one of the most ancient means of transport in Europe; tools and devices for herding reindeer, and several types of male and female reindeer harnesses. Also are included in the exhibition the complete outfit of a reindeer-breeder, fur and woolen clothes, an abundance of birch bark, wooden and bone utensils, and the complete structure of a portable dwelling.

Ritual objects which also form part of the exhibition round out the portrait of the Saami as do the articles used to care for children: unique cradles in which infants were carried on reindeer across snows of Lapland.

Exhibits; about 200 items

Exhibition area: not less than 150 m²