Ghosts on reindeer sleighs. Konstantin Simonov wrote about reindeer-team drivers from Yamal
14:53 8 мая 2019
Категории: News in English
Today not many people know that forming of reindeer-transport battalions was started on the 20th of November in 1941. They fearlessly fought during the war against the enemy.
The archive document: the resolution of the State Defense Committee of the USSR on mobilization of reindeer, reindeer sleighs and reindeer-team drivers was signed by Stalin on November 20, 1941. Then creation of reindeer-transport subdivisions was started in the first winter in all divisions of the 14th army of the Northern Fleet. Soon they became the main enemy of Germans in the Arctic. Reindeer-transport subdivisions appeared suddenly, destroyed bridges and roads and then as ghosts disappeared in tundra. Also they were busy with delivery of ammunition and transportation of wounded soldiers. The reindeer was always there. Eyewitnesses recalled courage of the animals.
Reindeer were mobilized for the battlefront already in winter of 1941-1942. They were able to go there, where motor transport was not able. And, of course, reindeer were irreplaceable in military operations in polar regions.
In April of 1942 high-ranking journalists arrived from Moscow in location of reindeer-skiing brigades: 26-year-old handsome man, the winner of Stalin prize, the order-bearer and the famous poet Konstantin Simonov and forty-year-old resident of Odessa, the knight of the order of Lenin, the editor-in-chief of the magazine “Ogonyok”, the author of the famous “The Twelve Chairs” and “The Little Golden Calf” Yevgeniy Petrov. Both writers were eager to describe the exotics of the Karelian Front. It should be said, they succeeded.
The commissar of the 14th division Dmitry Yeryomin reminisced about their arrival in a letter to Simonov. According to him, they arrived in his shelter trench and Yevgeniy Petrov asked to get a typewriter — to print the material that the journalists had already collected, being in the army. The request was granted. He printed the material, as Yeryomin remembered, about reindeer-skiing brigades. It was a new formation for the arctic, irreplaceable at that time. And he called his narration “Oleni v shtanakh” (Reindeer in pants).
A regional ethnographer from Salekhard Sergey Shulinin does not doubt that reindeer herders from Yamal participated in reindeer-transport echelons. Though, there are not many documentary confirmations to this fact. There are several lines by the poet, the journalist Konstantin Simonov published in 1942 in the newspaper “Krasnaya Zvezda” (Red Star).
“Giant gray-green boulders are piled up here and there on steep slopes, as if glued. They are overgrown with reindeer moss — Yagel. Patches of Yagel are peeking out of snow similar to greenish silver. Reindeer are chewing it, bowing their branchy heads. Reindeer-team drivers – Nenets people, who came here from Yamal, are standing near light sleighs, smoking pipes. They have brown faces with high cheekbones and unflappable calm of people, who live all their lives in the north. The troops are moving forward, the headquarters is moving forward, and simple property is loaded on the light sleighs: phones, tents and light iron stoves. There are many places, where a car can not pass, and horses are trapped chest-deep in snow. But reindeer with sleighs pass everywhere, transporting food and ammunition and delivering the wounded to the home front”, it was written in the newspaper “Krasnaya Zvezda”.
According to Sergey Shulinin, the words of Simonov deserve trust. But who were they, what were the names of the participants of the reindeer-transport battalions called up for military service or born in Yamal is not known yet.
Some researchers suppose that use of reindeer from Yamal did not make sense due to remoteness of Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug and non-developed transport scheme. However, it does not exclude participation of reindeer herders from Yamal in reindeer-transport echelons. Small nations in Nenets Okrug and Yamal are intertwined with close family ties. Thus, history of the reindeer army can be replenished with more than one page and hero.