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Russia's Yakutia brands: from birch tableware to ritual cups

April 11, 19:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

A group of experts is working on a special list of Yakutia's cultural heritage objects

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MOSCOW, April 11. /TASS/. Birch tableware, jewelry, bride’s dress, ancient rock paintings on the Lena Pillars, ritual cups - called chorons, and other objects of the local cultural heritage are among Yakutia’s suggested brands. A group of experts from the Center for the Yakut people’s non-material cultural heritage is working on a special list of cultural heritage objects, which will be branded.

Experts say the unique centuries-long Yakut traditions and technologies may be lost in the industrial production, including abroad. Branding the cultural objects will announce them the national symbols, which were revived in the 1990s after the Soviet times’ tendency to abandon the local crafts.

TASS tells about Yakut symbols and crafts.

Crafts as brands

In the Soviet times, many traditions and objects, related to the local traditional culture, shamans, crafts, were lost or forgotten. Nowadays, the locals revive not only traditional skills of making objects, but also restore their spiritual and cultural meanings, the Center’s Head Agafya Zakharova said.

"Take, for example, the choron ritual cup, which used to have sacred meaning," she said. "From the historic sources, dated XVI-XVII centuries, we know that the biggest cups - which could be one and a half meters high - were used for treating koumiss (milk drink - TASS) to superior gods during the ritual holiday of welcoming summer - Ysyakh."

"Cups used to be of different sizes, they were used for rituals - the size depended on the owner’s social status," she added.

According to the expert, choron is Yakutia’s national brand. "However, it is not registered as a national brand or symbol," she continued. "Thus, we are making the object’s description now: the history, how it was used in the XVI-XVII centuries."

"By the way, in the pre-Revolution time, chorons were exported actively - this is how some of them traveled overseas and now are exhibited at the American Museum of Natural History," she added. Only a few masters, making chorons, remain now in the region’s far-away villages. "All our masters working with wood inherit the skill, like the shamans or performers of Olokho (the ancient Yakut epos - TASS)."

"Of course, time modifies the traditional objects to attract clients, and some authors are using modern equipment, thus moving away from traditional approaches," the expert continued. "We are happy that the choron is alive, that it is not just a museum object."

Experts say, in addition to the choron, Yakutia’s other national symbols should be the jewelry with unique national ornaments and symbols, birch tableware, which makes unique conditions for storing food products, as well as various samples of the ethnic clothes, and winter boots.

Competition with China

Experts point to the growing demand for products with national symbols and technologies. However, small producers cannot satisfy the demand - this is what Chinese entrepreneurs have seen - they are exporting to Yakutia the tableware with Yakut ornaments, traditional closes and even the unty (high boots of reindeer fur). "In China, they make everything, including the republic’s main symbol - the choron, however, made not of porcelain, but of clay," the Center’s head told TASS. "The traditional Yakut dresses, made in China, only look as original traditional objects."

"It is to a big extent a blame of our businesses, which place orders with Chinese producers," she said. "This way, the products are cheaper, and the businesses save money."

According to the expert, this is a potential threat, and thus, she said, the scientists should at first describe accurately and register the local cultural heritage objects. "I am convinced, this work must continue to the end, as our crafts and traditional objects should become national symbols and should be under the state’s protection."

History curators

The Center for the Yakutian peoples’ non-material cultural heritage was organized in 2015. Its specialists are working on a base of historical heritage objects.

"The work we are doing is big; we are only four, and the number of peoples, whose heritage we register, is bigger," the Center’s head said. "Our greatest achievement is that the Olonkho Epos is now on UNESCO’s list of non-material masterpieces."

Every element on the base should comply with the World Heritage Convention, which describes the cultural heritage rather widely: those are folk crafts, traditions, festivals, calendar holidays, healing skills, etc. "Every cultural element should be in the base if it is still used," the expert said. "For as long as there remain carriers of culture, amateur groups, and masters - our work must continue."

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