Dolitsky: World at war — lessons from Siberian Yup’ik

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By ALEXANDER DOLITSKY

The world’s political leaders, including main actors such as Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, European Union, United Kingdom, United States and Canada, failed a trust giving to them by the world’s communities by allowing Russian/Ukrainian conflict to erupt quickly into a menacing threat of a global war with devastating consequences for all humanity.

As a result, we are witnessing a brutal hot war between Russia and Ukraine, a renewed cold war between the West and the East, and the emerging threat of World War III.

Indeed, the world’s political leaders and power elites have failed us with their lack of foresight, their ineffectiveness to compromise with opposing parties, and their truancy of an altruistic, cognitive wisdom (i.e., when we act to promote someone else’s welfare, even at a risk or cost to ourselves).

They should take a lesson on preserving peace from the ancient societies. One such lesson is found in the Siberian Yup’ik tale “The Two Strongmen and the Oldster.” 

This tale falls into the genre of a magical tale about two strongmen weaned by animals. One of the men, Ettuvi, is from Kigi, Arakamchechen Island in the Senyavin Strait, Bering Sea. The second man, Kaynuvi, is from Yanrakinot, also in the Bering Sea, on the shore of the Senyavin Strait. 

The tale was narrated in 1960 by A. Algalik, an inhabitant of Chaplino Village in the Chukchi Peninsula of the Russian Far East. It was recorded and translated into Russian by Gregoriy A. Menovshchikov and later translated into English and edited by Henry N. Michael and Alexander B. Dolitsky.

The Two Strongmen and the Oldster

“On the island of Kigi, there lived a man who had been suckled by a wolf. They called him Ettuvi—a Chukchi name meaning “of a dog.” And in Yanrakinot, there lived another man who had been suckled by a brown bear. They called him Kaynuvi—a Chukchi name meaning “of the wild deer.” From the milk of their animals they had derived enormous strength. They had never seen each other, but Ettuvi from Kigi had heard that Kaynuvi was very strong, and the people of Yanrakinot told Kaynuvi that there was nobody stronger in the world than Ettuvi. Through his people, each sent word to the other of his desire to compare their strengths in a great contest. 

One day an old man from Yanrakinot was casting a fishing net into the lagoon. In the bottom of his baydara [an open skin boat with a light frame of driftwood and covered with split walrus hide, similar to Alaskan Yupik umiak] lay two hard poplavoks—hunting floats made of the skin of a variegated ringed seal. Suddenly, he caught sight of the two strongmen—Ettuvi and Kaynuvi—coming toward him. 

“Watch us, old man,” they said, “as we compete in our strength. And tell us who is stronger!”

The old man replied, “Wait for me here while I place the net.”

Keeping his eyes on the strongmen, the old man spread the net slowly. While he worked, Ettuvi and Kaynuvi lay down on the sand, propped up their chins with their hands and talked peacefully to each other. From the sand, Kaynuvi picked up a bone from the joint of a walrus flipper and crumbled it into dust with his fingers. Ettuvi’s elbows rested on a float made of seal skin. He reached to pick it up to mend it, and had barely touched it when the float collapsed. 

The little old man watched all of this out of the corner of his eye as he continued to work. When his net was spread, he said to them, “You have already competed. One of you has turned a bone into dust with his fingers, and the other, by just a light touch of his hand, has collapsed a float made of seal skin. 

“Could you not, Ettuvi, say that your body is better at making dust of bones? And you, Kaynuvi, could you not say that your body is better at squashing floats of seal skin filled with air? 

“Both of you are so strong that if you start competing you will kill each other. It will be better if you don’t fight! And you know you live in different villages!”

The strongmen listened to the old man from Yanrakinot. They did not fight. Each went his own way. 

That is all. And that’s the way I heard it. The end.”

Clearly, a small minority consisting of members of the economic elite and policy-making networks, holds the most power — and this power is independent of democratic elections.

This power elite occupies the dominant positions in the three pillar institutions — state security, economic and political of the dominant and technologically advanced countries. Nevertheless, democratically elected officials must hold the power elite responsible for the atrocities we are witnessing today in Central Europe.

Indeed, I blame current world leaders for what is happening in Ukraine; for initially ignoring and now, actually, supporting all of it, regardless of its effects on the poor Ukrainian people and Russian conscripts used as simple political pawns. 

World leaders cannot undo the devastation that has ransacked the people and communities affected by the Russian–Ukrainian war/conflict. However, with a concerted effort to focus to humanitarian values, an effort to compromise, and their determination to adhere to altruistic, cognitive wisdom, peace and stability can be restored.

Alexander B. Dolitsky was born and raised in Kiev in the former Soviet Union. He received an M.A. in history from Kiev Pedagogical Institute, Ukraine, in 1976; an M.A. in anthropology and archaeology from Brown University in 1983; and was enroled in the Ph.D. program in Anthropology at Bryn Mawr College from 1983 to 1985, where he was also a lecturer in the Russian Center. In the U.S.S.R., he was a social studies teacher for three years, and an archaeologist for five years for the Ukranian Academy of Sciences. In 1978, he settled in the United States. Dolitsky visited Alaska for the first time in 1981, while conducting field research for graduate school at Brown. He lived first in Sitka in 1985 and then settled in Juneau in 1986. From 1985 to 1987, he was a U.S. Forest Service archaeologist and social scientist. He was an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Alaska Southeast from 1985 to 1999; Social Studies Instructor at the Alyeska Central School, Alaska Department of Education from 1988 to 2006; and has been the Director of the Alaska-Siberia Research Center (see www.aksrc.homestead.com) from 1990 to present. He has conducted about 30 field studies in various areas of the former Soviet Union (including Siberia), Central Asia, South America, Eastern Europe and the United States (including Alaska). Dolitsky has been a lecturer on the World Discoverer, Spirit of Oceanus, andClipper Odyssey vessels in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. He was the Project Manager for the WWII Alaska-Siberia Lend Lease Memorial, which was erected in Fairbanks in 2006. He has published extensively in the fields of anthropology, history, archaeology, and ethnography. His more recent publications include Fairy Tales and Myths of the Bering Strait Chukchi, Ancient Tales of Kamchatka; Tales and Legends of the Yupik Eskimos of Siberia; Old Russia in Modern America: Russian Old Believers in Alaska; Allies in Wartime: The Alaska-Siberia Airway During WWII; Spirit of the Siberian Tiger: Folktales of the Russian Far East; Living Wisdom of the Far North: Tales and Legends from Chukotka and Alaska; Pipeline to Russia; The Alaska-Siberia Air Route in WWII; and Old Russia in Modern America: Living Traditions of the Russian Old Believers; Ancient Tales of Chukotka, and Ancient Tales of Kamchatka.

A few of Dolitsky’s past MRAK columns:

Read: Alaska Day remembrance of Russian expansion into Siberia and Alaska

Read: Beware of activists who manipulate history

Read: What is freedom?

Read: Understanding anti-semitism

Read: Russian Old Believers in Alaska live lives reflecting bygone centuries

Read: Russian saying: Beat your friends so your enemies fear you

Read: Neo-Marxism and utopian Socialism in America

Read: Old believers preserving faith in the New World

Read: Duke Ellington and the effects of Cold War in Soviet Union on intellectual curiosity

Read: United we stand, divided we fall with race, ethnicity in America

Read: For American schools to succeed, they need this ingredient

Read: Nationalism in America, Alaska, around the world

Read: The case of the ‘delicious salad’

Read: White privilege is a troubling perspective

Read: Beware of activists who manipulate history for their own agenda

Read: Alaska Day remembrance of Russian transfer

Read: American leftism is true picture of true hypocrisy

Read: History does not repeat itself

Read: The only Ford Mustang in Kiev

Read: What is greed? Depends on the generation

Read: Worldwide migration of Old Believers in Alaska

Read: Traditions of Old Believers in Alaska

Read: Language, Education of Old Believers in Alaska

5 COMMENTS

  1. “Indeed, the world’s political leaders and power elites have failed us with their lack of foresight, their ineffectiveness to compromise with opposing parties, and their truancy of an altruistic, cognitive wisdom (i.e., when we act to promote someone else’s welfare, even at a risk or cost to ourselves).”

    Globalist world salad gibberish by a soviet quitter.

    This article reads like how to explain the Ukraine conflict to an underperforming five year old with a crayon picture book.

    I also don’t give a single shite about Ukraine if I’m being honest.

  2. The elites who control Western Europe are self destructing their own countries, along with the elites who control the US through the utterly corrupt “Build Back Better” plan to destabilize the energy systems. Russia, China, India and many other countries are not going along with this madness and are developing alternatives to the dominance of the US Dollar for international trade . The rules based world order set up at the end of WWII with US dominance is ending.
    The case was never made to the American public to identify the threat and gain public support to start a war with Russia. Instead our “leaders” have prevented negotiations and escalated the crisis into a hot proxy war.
    The economic war is lost already, Europe and the US are economically anemic while clamoring for escalation of the conflict. Our corrupt leaders are prepared to fight until the last Ukranian is killed. This war is high intensity, the lifespan for a Ukranian conscript is measured in hours. The kill ratio is 20 to 1 or more in favor of Russia.
    The weapon systems we are sending have no accounting in place, many are being sold and turning up in places like Syria. The weapons delivered to the Eastern Front are destroyed or captured. In fact the Russians are learning how to deal with our weapons in real time, negating any advantage we may have had.
    The same politicians, pentagon, business interests and generals who brought us the Iraq and Afghanistan disasters are getting us into a far more destructive mess.
    It is doubtful the EU or NATO will survive this incompetence of leadership, and we Americans are headed toward third world status.

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