Report: Nogliki

Nogliki (08.08-12.08.14)
Ksenia Shagal

In the early morning of August 8 the overnight train brought us to Nogliki, where we planned to spend 4 days before moving further to Okha. Nogliki is a big urban-type settlement at the end of the only Sakhalin railway line, which starts in the southern part of the island. The population of the settlement is around 10 000 people, predominantly Russians and Nivkhs, and nowadays it has become a very special place. On the one hand it is just one of the thousands of Russian villages, but on the other hand it is a supplier for the two oil fields located off the coast to the northeast, which fills it with amazing contrasts.

Many houses in the streets look old and neglected, and the roads are bumpy and muddy, but at the same time there are clear signs of emerging infrastructure, which has become essential in the recent years due to the development of the oil industry. Thus, apart from two established hotels, there is now at least one small (and most probably secret) hotel, where we stayed, there is also a glass and concrete supermarket, a cafe with white leather armchairs, and, of course, a night club. During the day the latter serves as a restaurant, so in Nogliki we had a wonderful opportunity to enjoy our lunch right next to the dance floor.

Most of the time in Nogliki we worked at the local library, and many interesting people came there to talk to us. Among them there were a famous Nivkh writer and the author of numerous books and primers Vladimir Mikhajlovich Sangi, probably the most fluent speaker of the East Sakhalin dialect Nadezhda Jakovlevna Tanzina, whose stories we listened to during the Nivkh course in Helsinki, and many other people, including teachers from a local school. One of them, the teacher of Nivkh Anetta Valerjevna Dashieva kindly invited us to see the school she works at, showed us plenty of textbooks and other materials in Nivkh and told us about the Nivkh summer camps that used to be organized in Nogliki several years ago.


Interviewing Nadezhda Tanzina.


August 11 was a very important day for us, since it was the day of the official opening of the exhibition that we brought to Nogliki with the delegates of the Sakhalin Regional Museum. The exhibition presented pictures of the Sakhalin indigenous people from both Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and Hokkaido, so the Japanese delegates were also present at the event. We also had a chance to see the permanent ethnographic collection of the museum, and it is needless to say that even during this day we managed to conduct several interviews.

Since the only significant minority in Nogliki are the Nivkhs and our group was interested in meeting as diverse people as possible, we decided to spend one day in a different settlement called Val. Val is a small village 61 km to the North from Nogliki. It used to be a union of three neighboring villages, but today the so called ‘Old Val’ is being destroyed and people are forced to move out of their houses. The population of Val is about 800 people, mostly Russians, Uiltas and Evenkis, and all the social life is naturally concentrated in the local ‘house of culture’, where we were invited to conduct our interviews. In Val we met several Uiltas and an Evenki woman, and they provided us with a lot of valuable information on sociolinguistics, grammar, and toponymy.


Vladimir Sangi (centre left).


We worked a lot in the Nogliksky district, we met and interviewed more than 20 people there in total, Nivkhs, Uiltas and Evenkis. But we did have some Sakhalin-style fun as well. One day we were taken by the locals to the bay where fishermen set their nets. So we had a chance to see the fish they catch and to hear them complaining about this fish being stolen by sea lions (who, by the way, did not even tried to hide, so their heads and tummies kept showing above the water here and there). We also had a little time to walk along the shore and enjoy abundant flowers, berries and whatnot. Cloudberries were particularly great.

On August 12 it was time to leave Nogliki and move to Okha. That is what we did, and after some 6 hours in a bus we arrived to our new basecamp.

Photos: Andrew Logie