Reindeer People

Reindeer People

On page 48, author Piers Vitebsky wrote that “the interior of the country was turned into a homogenized space in which Soviet citizens could be moved from one end of the country to the another and find almost identical conditions wherever they went.”

I have two questions about that statement: A) Was it true? B) What about here in America?

The Soviet Union was incredibly vast, did they manage to at least partly accomplish their goal of having a roughly homogenized state?

In America, we certainly have extremely different cultures based on our regions. Someone from Boston has a very different cultural norm than someone from New Orleans, who is incredibly different than someone from Anchorage, Alaska or someone from San Fransisco. Do we as American aspire for homogeneity as well? Or do we try to be different from each other? I’d say that we embrace common themes like language and common laws but then do as much as we can to differentiate ourselves within those themes. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Should we be pushing for more homogeneity or less?

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On page 262 the book goes into the religious aspects associated with reindeer hunting, and it brought up something I’ve always had a question about. “A hunter can kill a wild animal only when it offers itself at the behest of Bayanay, who decides whether to give an animal or withhold it, place it in the hunter’s path or send it off in another direction.” On page 263 it talks about how a hunter must treat the body of an animal correctly, or he won’t be presented with future animals while hunting.

My question is, if hunting doesn’t work without the intervention of Bayanay, why bother hunting at all? I don’t understand the motivation of a hunter who thinks it wouldn’t matter how hard he hunts or how good he is, his success is determined entirely by Bayanay. Why not sit at home or in camp and wait for Bayanay to deliver something to you?

I grew up in a religious household, and these kind of questions pervaded my thoughts for years. Most people I brought it up to would say “God helps those who help themselves.” Without getting too deep into a religious debate here, that answer satisfied me (kind of), but from what I can tell Reindeer People doesn’t mention that kind of thinking.