Siberian Nomad Homes: Yurts, Yarangas, and Chums

Photo of Altai yurt

An article by Alexandra Seven on Russia Beyond the Headlines looks at the traditional homes of indigenous Siberian nomad families, with some really great photos.

She describes the traditional structures:

Siberian nomads made their traditional homes – chumsyarangas and yurts – from animal skins, wood, hair and wool. The frame was always wooden. In warm seasons, the frame was covered with bark or buckskin, while in winter, they used animal skins. Eskimos insulated yarangas with turf on top of walrus skins, while the frame was made of whale bones – ribs and jaws. The Tuvans covered their yurts with felt and tied everything together with ropes made of horse hair.

And how building techniques and designs made their way from group to group:

Nomads passed on the most successful house-building technologies from one to another. For instance, in the mid-19th century, the Nganasans, the Dolgans and the Enets borrowed the sledge chum from Russian peasants and used it as a winter house: A portable frame-based construction covered with deer skins and having runners on the bottom, all pulled over the snow by a team of deer.

And how modern life and technology has influenced these traditional dwellings:

Khakassians now use canvas yurts on tubular steel frames, which can be purchased at local equipment stores for tourists. Unlike Chukotkan deer herders, local fishermen, hunters and shepherds appreciate this hybrid of a tent and a yurt. Chukchas prefer natural materials.

Check out her article. She also shares some photos, bits of indigenous Siberian nomad superstition, and details of how the yurts were decorated and lived in.

We apparently are doing it slightly wrong: our kitchenware and our weapons are not separated neatly into men’s and women’s sections.

And dammit if all those animal skins don’t make it look much, much cozier. We’ve got hunting to do!