Valery Nikolaevich Chernetsov was a 20th-century Russian archaeologist and ethnologist who worked in close contact with indigenous peoples, learned the Mansi language and some of their folk tales and customs, and was one of the first to study the culture and history of Ob-Ugric (Khanty and Mansi) and Samoyed (Nenets, Sel'kup) peoples.
In 1925, at the age of 20, Chernetsov became acquainted with the ethnologist Vladimir Bogoraz, who convinced the talented young man to enter the ethnographic department of the geographic faculty of Leningrad University. During his student years, Chernetsov participated in several large expeditions: in 1925, to the Mansi of Lozva river; from June 1926 until April 1927 to the Mansi of Northern Sosva river, where he participated in the Arctic population census; and in 1927 on the rivers Tagil and Lozva, where he studied rock art and ethnography of the Mansi. From June 1928 until December 1929, Chernetsov participated in the expedition to Nenets of Yamal peninsula. On this expedition he studied ethnography, but also made partial excavations of two settlements of Arctic hunters of the 9th-10th and 15th-16th centuries: Tiutey-sale and Haen-sale. While still a student he published an ethnographic article "Sacrifice of Voguls" (1927), with a detailed description of sacrifices to the main spirits of Mansi. In 1930, Chernetsov finished at Leningrad University with a specialty "ethnography of the Finno-Ugric peoples."
From 1930, Chernetsov worked at the Institute of the Peoples of North (Leningrad). Here he devoted his work to the creation of a Mansi written language, producing the first Mansi dictionary (1932), a Mansi grammar (1933), and a digest of Mansi fairy tales (1935). In this work he was assisted greatly by his wife Irina Chernetsova. In 1935, Chernetsov began work at the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, where he headed the Siberian department. In those years he continued active expedition work. From 1931 till 1939, Chernetsov spent a total of 2.5 years among Mansi and Khanty, studying rock art of the Urals, archaeology, ethnography, folklore, and language of these peoples. During this time he perfected his understanding of the Mansi language, became their great friend, and was accepted in one of the tribes of Mansi under the name Lozum-hum ("Man from the river Lozva").
In 1940, he moved to Moscow and began work at the Institute of History of Material Culture (later, the Archaeological Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR), where he worked until the end of his life. From this time, the main theme for him became archaeological studies. In his candidate dissertation "The basic stages of a history of Ob-region from most ancient times up to tenth century AD" (1942), he summarized analysis of the genesis of ancient cultures of northwestern Siberia in connection with the ethnogen-esis of Khanty and Mansi. In 1946, he headed an expedition on the Taz river to study the medieval Russian city Mangazeya and collect ethnographic data about the Sel'kup people. His second wife Vanda Moshzinska, a Russian archaeologist, helped him assemble ethnographic materials on this expedition. Chernetsov's archaeological studies were fruitful and widespread. His investigations covered areas of the North of Ob region (study of archaeological monuments in Salekhard), basins of Northern Sosva and Konda (work on a number of monuments), the Tobolsk region (excavation of the medieval cities Suzgun and Potchevash), the Omsk region (excavation of settlements of Bolshoy log and Besymyannoye), and the neighborhood of Tyumen (prospecting and excavation of monuments on Andreevskoye Lake).
His theoretical heritage is very great and many-sided. Chernetsov became the founder of Russian Uralistic studies—both in ethnography and in archae ology. In the 1930s-1940s, the question of a lack of Khanty and Mansi clan division was actively debated by scientists. Chernetsov detected relics of a classic tribe in these peoples and has demonstrated its existence in the past. He devoted two large essays to this problem: "Fratrial device of the Ob-Ugrians society" (1939) and "To a history of tribal building among Ob-Ugrians" (1947). He gave great attention to traditional beliefs—describing unknown rites, detecting relics of totemism and a cult of ancestors in the Bear Ceremony, and reconstructed folk performances about souls (according to which men had five souls, and women four). These problems are mirrored in works such as "Performance about soul of Ob-Ugrians" (1959) and "Rites and ceremonies of Ob-Ugrians, connected with a bear" (1965). Recently, the reconstruction of performances about souls has been disputed by some Russian ethnologists, who find the performances to be only about two or three souls. But it is necessary to note that the modern field material is much poorer than that which Chernetsov had in the 1930s-1950s.
Chernetsov's archaeological studies were devoted, basically, to the ethnogenesis of Ob-Ugric and Samodians. He made the first discovery of the settlements of the pre-Nenets population and demonstrated their involvement in the ethnogenesis of the Nenets. Having studied a number of burial grounds and other monuments, he described Ust-poluyskaya archaeological culture in Western Siberia and connected it with the Khanty and Mansi. He put forward the theory about forming these peoples on the basis of two components—aboriginal and nomadic settlers arriving from the south. Many works are devoted to these problems: "An essay of ethno-genesis of Ob-Ugrians" (1941), "An ancient history of Ob region" (1953), and so on. In the late 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s, Chernetsov worked on the study of rock art in the Urals. This work resulted in two monographs, in 1964 and 1971, and at the beginning of 1970 he defended his doctoral dissertation "Rock drawings of Ural." Chernetsov's theories are now updated and concretized as additional archaeological evidence is being discovered; major provisions of his concepts now find complementary confirmations.
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