The Siberian art expeditions to the Sel’Kupy tribes in the 1910s & 20s. The sketchbooks, watercolours & oils of Andrei Prokof’evich Lekarenko.

Andrei Prokofievich Lekarenko (1895-1974) is one of three well-known Krasnoiarsk artists, (the other 2 being Dmitri Innokent’evich Karatanov & A. G. Vargin) who undertook several expeditions into Siberia during the 1910s and 1920s.

Lekarenko studied under Karatanov and V. A. Favorskii, and was one of the founders of “New Siberia.” He also taught at the High School of the Arts in Krasnoiarsk & at the Surikov Academy of Arts in that city. In 1967 Lekarenko was awarded the “Order of Honor” and named “Honored Artist of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic” for his dedication to educational work.

All three artists, sketched & painted subject matter associated with the indiginous people. Of the 3 artists, Lekarenko seems to have veered into the ritual side of the tribe more that the others as well as portraiture. Like Vargin he also documented the clothing.

The Selkups originated in the basin of the great Ob River, a cross breed mixture between the aboriginal Yeniseian peoples and Samovedics from the Sayan mountains early in the first millennium.  They were fine for the first thousand years. They thrived. They survived the Mongol hordes who came in the 13th century and subjugated them. Around 1628, the Russians came. They conquered the area and the Selkups were subjugated once more. The Selkups tried an uprising against Russian rule but were beaten by the gun, easily defeated.

By the 17th century, some Selkups relocated up north to live alongside the Taz & Turukhan rivers. They hunted, fished and bred reindeer. The Russians wouldn’t let them be. A century later Russian settlers to the area began Russians hunting the Selkups reindeer which made breeding reindeer next to impossible. The Russians attempted to convert the Selkups to Christianity and to Russian-ise them. The Selkups clung tightly, hung on to their complex ancient rituals and customs. Their identity. 

In 1920 when the three arrived it was well into the Soviet Period. The Selkups were being systematically forced to adopt a more settled and less nomadic lifestyle and their traditional culture had already suffered a severe decline. The three expedition artists were recording a dying culture.

It’s an old story. The Selkups have been facing an ongoing slow death cultural extinction by assimilation from Russian culture ever since. Today they suffer from racial discrimination, unemployment, addiction and alcoholism.

Shaman. 1926.
Idols in the trees.
Eptudusi. 1927.

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