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Those Traders Were the Same All Over

The Nenets live in the polar regions of northeastern Europe and northwestern Siberia from the Kanin Peninsula on the White Sea to the Yenisey delta. They also inhabit the Arctic Ocean islands and the Kola Peninsula.

Interaction with non-indigenous people had negative effects on the Nenets in the 19th century, much like was experienced by the Inuit in North America. Having lived only from the land, they became dependent on colonial traders who extorted outrageous prices for essential goods like tea, sugar, flour, tobacco and gunpowder.

This abuse included the use of liquor to manipulate them into running up debts from which they could not escape. The objective was furs for the trader, and it was not uncommon for a Nenets hunter to find himself paying furs to clear debts of his father, or even his grandfather!

In the 1870s Russia used the Nenets to secure territory - resettling them on Novaya Zemlya to keep the Norwegians out of the Arctic regions that it considered its own.

Almost a century later (1953) the Canadian government resettled an Inuit community 2,000 km / 1250 miles further north at Grise Fiord for basically the same purpose.

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