Words and Silences

Nenets Reindeer Herders and Russian Evangelical Missionaries in the Post-Soviet Arctic

by Laur Vallikivi

Words and Silences tells the story of an extraordinary group of independent Nenets reindeer herders in the northwest Russian Arctic. Under socialism these nomads managed to avoid the Soviet state and its institutions of collectivization, but soon after the atheist regime collapsed, while some staunchly resisted, many of them became fervent fundamentalist Christians.

By exploring differing concepts of how traditional and convert Nenets use and define words and of the meanings they ascribe to the withholding of speech, Laur Vallikivi shows how a local form of global Christianity has emerged through intricate negotiations of self, sociality, and cosmology.

Moving beyond studies of modernization and globalization that have all-too-predictable outcomes for indigenous peoples, Words and Silences invites us to view not only religious devotees, but words themselves, as agents of a complex and ongoing transformation.


  • isbn
  • publisher
    Indiana University Press
  • publisher place
    Bloomington, Indiana USA
  • rights
    CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0
  • rights holder
    Indiana University Press
  • rights territory