Tompo | By Alexey Vasilyev

Topolinoye village is located in the eastern part of Yakutia (Russian Federation), on the left bank of the Tompo River. The word ‘tompo’ in Even means ‘thread’. The population of the village is about 1000 people. Native people, evens, are representatives of one of the small nations of the North. The village was founded in the 30s of the XX century as a result of collectivization of reindeer herding and fishing farms. Long ago the evens had a nomadic life when were engaged in deer breeding. They were called reindeer people, they were the masters of the mountains and taiga. However, with the advent of Soviet authorities, the evens were brought to a settled lifestyle, due to which the areas of their settlement were reduced, and the family continuity that preserved the language and culture was broken. The traditional economy, which had been developing over the centuries, was completely subordinated to the Soviet system.

The coexistence of humans and deer has always been a part of their daily life. The deer was everything for the even: house, transport, food, warm clothes, shoes, bed. The even proverb says: ‘No deer – no even’. If the evens will stop grazing reindeer – they will leave to the city, lose language, forget traditions, assimilate. There is a conflict between the even way of life, culture which is tied to nature and the lifestyle of outer world. The modern world does not always leave enough opportunities for an alternative lifestyle. In spite of everything, reindeer people who lives by the river in harmony with nature, preserve their national identity, dignity and looking forward with hope.


Alexey Vasilyev was born in 1985 in the coldest region of Russia – Yakutia. In 2008 graduated from the philological faculty of the Yakut state University. From 2010 to 2019 worked in the children’s republican newspaper “The Youth of the North”. Since 2017 a member of the Russian Union of photographers. In 2018 entered the school of modern photography in St. Petersburg “Dokdokdok”. Features of her work have been published in the The Guardian, National Geographic (Russia), Wired, Calvert Journal, Meduza, It’s Nice That, Takie Dela (Russia), (Russia), LensCulture, MoscowTimes, MyModernMet and etc. In his documentary works he focuses on the daily life research of people in the far North and their national identity in the global world.


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Photo Essay edited by Alejandra Martínez Moreno