Chukchee author Yuri Rytkheu dies

May 20, 2008

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The writer Yuri Rytkheu, from the Siberian Chukchee tribe, died in St. Petersburg last week. Rytkheu was known as the most significant Indigenous author in Russia. The son of a hunter, he was born in 1930 in Uëlen on the Siberian Chukchee peninsula.

The Chukchee traditionally lived as hunters and nomadic reindeer herders. During the Soviet era, they were forced to carry out these activities for collective farms. They came to depend on this system, and the collapse of the Soviet Union has meant that their way of life is now seriously threatened.

Rytkheu wrote in both Russian and the Chukchee language. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, his books were also printed in German and other European languages. One, ‘A dream in polar fog’, was published in English in 2005.

In his articles, poems, short stories and novels, Rytkheu described the Chukchee way of life and how it was influenced by the Soviet Union. He was often critical of ‘civilisation’, and of how Indigenous peoples were treated in what he called a ‘silent genocide’.

Yuri Rytkheu lived his last years in Anadyr, the administrative centre of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug and the easternmost town in Russia.

Read a short description of Yuri Rytkheu's novel 'A Dream in Polar Fog' (Archipelago Books, 2005)

Siberian Tribes