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Encounters in Russian Lapland
Russian Lapland, a region of amazing contrasts. Here lies the last true wilderness of Europe, a rich and pristine ecosystem teeming with bird and animal life. But here too lie the dark, satanic mills of the former Soviet Union and the rotting remnants of the Northern Fleet’s nuclear submarines. Despite its strategic importance to the Allies during both World Wars, Russian Lapland – renamed Murmansk Region and now frequently referred to as the Kola Peninsula – remained a forgotten corner of Europe, inaccessible to foreign visitors, until perestroika. RUNNING WITH REINDEER is the first English account of life in this harsh but beautiful land for over a century.
Roger Took is almost certainly the first foreigner since the Russian Civil War of 1918-1920 to have explored the region extensively, witnessing at first hand the disturbing aftermath of communism. Living among remote reindeer-herding and hunting families, he follows the lives and traditions of the indigenous Lapps, or Saami. He meets pioneering villagers descended from medieval Novgorod fur-traders who are now learning to cope with the new economy, and the men and women originally forced north to mine Russian Lapland’s fabulous mineral wealth but now unemployed and stranded.
His arduous adventures take him to a lost Eden – home to bears, elk, reindeer and birds of prey, and fish that anglers dream of. And, avoiding the still vigilant security services, he explores the naval bases where nuclear-powered submarines are lying dangerously neglected.
His encounters with the land and its inhabitants are dramatic and comical as well as emotionally disturbing and at times physically dangerous. Moving between the lines of the official histories, coping with arduous Arctic condition and avoiding the still-vigilant state security services, he writes compellingly. The result is a vivid account of a unique part of Europe.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Roger Took left home in 1993 with rucksack, fishing rod and phrase book to discover the Kola Peninsula for himself. Returning several times to explore the lands of the Saami and struggling with broken Russian, he encountered all sorts and all situations in town and country. In 1998, together with a band of like-minded Russian scientists working in the region, he initiated the Field Research Group for the Kola North, a non-governmental organisation involved in wildlife survey, archaeology, social history, and reindeer-herding management. While broadening his historical knowledge of the region, this work has greatly complemented his personal experiences of Russia and the Russian North.
Roger Took lives in London and County Mayo, Ireland. An active Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, he spends much of the year in north-west Russia, combining expeditions with his writing, and continuing to work for the benefit of the people of Russian Lapland, in particular the ‘tundra-related communities’ – Saami, Komi, Nenets and Russian alike.
ISBN 0 7195 5736 4 365 pages Illustrated £18.99 Hardback February 2003
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