The ethnosemiotic studies of the Syktyvkar State University have been led by Dr. V.A. Semenov - the famous archaeologist and ethnographer, specialist in traditional worldview of the Komi people and their family rituals. Dr. V.A.Semenov is the author of several theoretical books:
It was by the initiative of Dr. V.A. Semenov that the Syktyvkar University started publishing the series of books on semiotics of culture.(3)
Dr. N.D. Konakov is the head of the laboratory of ethnosemiotics. He is also the head of the Department of Ethnography and Folklore. Dr. N.D. Konakov is the author of three monographs and editor-in-chief of several volumes of collected papers:
During the last years Dr. N.D. Konakov has concentrated on the mythology and traditional worldview of the Finno-Ugric peoples (Konakov: 1989-1994). In 1995 the Council of Editors of international project "Encyclopaedia of the Uralic Mythology" appointed Dr. N.D. Konakov as the editor and responsible compiler of the volume devoted to Komi mythology.
Dr. N.D. Konakov's ethnosemiotic studies include articles about symbolism in Ural paganism, in which the author proposed one of the new ways for solving the problem of origin and meaning of traditional ornaments. As Dr. N.D. Konakov has suggested, the geometric ornament of the Komi people has originated from the solar-calendar symbology, universal for traditional culture of many North Eurasian peoples. According to this theory, various motifs of diagonal-geometric ornament are graphical diagrams (symbols) corresponding to seasons of the year. However, this hypothesis can't be confirmed by geometric pattern, but by some other types of ornament (Konakov: 1987; 1990; 1994).
Traditional children's games, sport competitions and folk drama are the objects of D.A.Nesanelis' semiotic studies. Based on literature, archives, and field materials Nesanelis has prepared his M.A. thesis "Traditional forms of leisure of rural population in the Komi region". This work has been the basis for his book "Holiday rites and games in the Komi village" (Nesanelis: 1994). The main idea of the book is that many games, referring to archaic notions and rituals should be considered as synchronous ethnographical phenomena and provide a stable translation of the traditional culture. This idea develops further some general positions of modern theory of ethnosemiotics.
D.A. Nesanelis effectively applies methods of semiotic analysis in studying the history of Russian Orthodox Church, and the identity and culture of the Northern Old Believers (Nesanelis: 1989; 1990; 1993; 1994).
Three articles of D.A. Nesanelis, co-authored with V.E. Sharapov, deal with semiotic analysis of those old and present day children's games, which are somehow connected with the theme of death. According to the authors' opinion, "children's games with death, which are formally prohibited, depend on and are provoked by mythological notions about the life cycle and at the same time are units for storing and transmitting basic cultural values" (Nesanelis, Sharapov: 1991; 1994; 1995).
Another pair of articles by D.A. Nesanelis and V. Sharapov are devoted to the problem of rhythmic perception in the traditional worldview. The authors base their analysis on the Komi and Ob Ugrian peoples' folklore and ritual texts concluding, that the motif of "swinging" within traditional worldview can be defined as a "flexible modelling when a person overcomes state or situation of uncertainty and unprediction" (Nesanelis, Sharapov: 1994; 1995).
V. Sharapov is also the author of articles concerning the problems of traditional worldview, semantics of ritual and folk art of the Khanty and Komi people (Sharapov: 1990-1995). The topic of Sharapov's M.A. thesis is connected with study of translation mechanism of the traditional worldview (rituals, folk art, national etiquette). His current research is focused on the themes of ethnosemiotic description and analysis of the correlation between rite and everyday behaviour (Sharapov: 1990); the role of sacred symbols and images in behavioral code (Sharapov: 1993; 1994); dream-telling as a mechanism of culture (Sharapov: 1995).
Some articles, written by V. Sharapov as a result of the fieldwork in the Komi Republic and Tumen region, are devoted to the problem of ethnic specifics and dynamics of the traditional sign systems among the present day Komi and and Khanty peoples (Sharapov: 1990 ; 1993; 1994).
P. Limerov has written articles about semantics of traditional space, about the correlation between the world of the living and the world of ancestors in mythological notions of the Komi and Ob Ugrian peoples. P. Limerov has paid special attention to the traditional concept of the other world. Semantics and heterogenity of space are described and analysed in his writings on the basis of attributes and functions of various mythological images (Limerov: 1992; 1993; 1995). As a by-product of his M.A thesis, P. Limerov has prepared a collection of Komi folklore texts (with Russian translation), to be published in St. Peterburg in 1996.
Folklorist O. Uljashov has studied ethnic stereotypes of colour perception in Komi traditional culture. The main theme of his M.A. thesis (titled "Symbolic hierarchy of colour in Komi folklore") is defined by the author as "symbolics of colour marks and functions in ethnic culture". Based on semantic analysis of a vast number of Komi folklore texts, O. Uljashov reveals symbolic connections of colour with traditional concepts about the world structure and moral, ethic and aesthetic norms (Uljashov: 1992; 1993; 1994). O. Uljashov adheres to socio-cultural interpretation of ethnic differences and universals in colour perception. At the same time linguistic analysis of colour marks in Komi language allows the author to make some proposals concerning certain physiological determinants in creating ethnic colour prevalences (Uljashov: 1992a; 1993b; 1995).
In 1988 and 1989 the scientists of the Department of Ethnography and Folklore took part in the All-Union Summer School on Semiotics in Arkhangelsk. In 1990 the annual All-Union School on Semiotics was held in Syktyvkar.(4) The proceedings with title "Death as The Cultural Phenomena" (Syktyvkar, 1995) was the result of this symposium. The next semiotic school in Syktyvkar will be held in 1997.
Two volumes with articles devoted to the main topics of our ethnosemiotics laboratory were published in the first the half of the 1990s. These were:
1. EVOLUTION AND CULTURE CO-OPERATION OF THE PEOPLES OF THE EUROPEAN NORTH-EAST OF RUSSIA. SYKTYVKAR, 1993:
D.A. Nesanelis. FROM CHRISTMAS TO EPIPHANY: HOLIDAY RITES AND GAMES IN THE KOMI VILLAGE.
The article deals with the traditional Christmas-tide games, entertainment and amusements spread on the territory of Komi in the XIX-XX centuries. Differences between performers of the ritual texts are discussed on the basis of semantic criteria. Description covers field and literary data on ritual sexual change, which took place at holiday gatherings. The author draws the conclusion, that the semantics of the particular rites has been determined by the cyclical concept of space-time leading back to archaic notions.
N.D. Konakov. POLTERGEIST IN THE FOLKLORE AND BELIEFS OF THE KOMI.
The author raises the question of material sources on the origin of certain images of lower mythology, which personify the popular ideas of poltergeist type phenomena in the traditional beliefs of the Komi.
P.F. Limerov. CARNIVAL GAMES OF THE KOMI IN THE CONTEXT OF MYTHOPOETIC NOTIONS.
The article is devoted to semantic analysis of traditional features in the carnival games of the Komi. The study is focused on the connection of carnival games with the rites of transition, i.e, with the boundaries between the living and the dead. The presence of representatives from the other world and their actions were marked by certain masks and games. On the other hand, carnival meant a transitional state of the group, its symbolic death and rebirth in a new conceptual status.
O.I. Uljashev. SYMBOLICS OF LINEN IN THE KOMI CULTURE.
Analysing folklore and ritual data, the author discusses symbolics of colour and the role of linen in the Komi worldview. Through colour oppositions is shown the significance of linen in natural, social and natural-social relations. Artificial covers protecting people from external physical and psychical inflictions serve as markers of the human side. Linen also mark the life course from birth to death.
V.E. Sharapov. BIRCH, PINE AND FIR IN THE TRADITIONAL OUTLOOK OF THE KOMI.
This article presents folklore and ethnographic materials dealing with symbolic classification of different species of trees in the traditional Komi culture. The opposition coniferous/leafbearing trees, typical for the mythological arboretum of the Finno-Ugric peoples, is examined on the basis of examples such as fir and birch. The author promotes the idea that the triad "fir-pine-birch" might serve as one of possible codes in the description of dynamic characteristics of the mythological model of the universe. It is noted that the above mentioned species may be correlated with some other trees in the mythological arboretum (silver fir - bird-cherry tree - mountain ash) forming in some cases independent oppositions. The materials confirm the universal significance of a total system of identification characteristic to the traditional worldview.
2. ETHNO-CULTURAL PROCESSES AND TRADITIONAL WORLD VIEW OF THE PEOPLES OF EUROPEAN NORTH-EAST OF RUSSIA. SYKTYVKAR, 1996 (to be published soon):
N.D. Konakov. THE HOUSE-RAISING OF THE KOMI.
The construction of a new house was perceived as an event of cosmic proportions in the traditional worldview of the Komi, dependent upon an existing set of ceremonial norms, directives and rules accompanying the entire process, beginning with the selection of trees for timber, and finishing with the ceremony of moving in. This article describes the house-raising ceremonies of two closely-related peoples - the Komi-Zyrians and the Komi-Permians.
P. Limerov. LEGENDS ABOUT CHUD IN THE CONTEXT OF COSMOLOGICAL NOTIONS.
Notions about the first ancestors who lived during mythical times, are the productive basis of the image of Chud. Mythical time is characterised by completeness of the cosmic structure, by indivisibility of top and bottom, heaven and earth. At the same time, it is the epoch of Golden Age. Chaos, despotism and chance defined the activity of Chud, caused the end of the Golden Age and marked the beginning of the vertical development of Cosmos.
D.A. Nesanelis & V.E. Sharapov. THE MOTIVE OF "SWINGING" IN THE MYTHICAL BELIEFS OF THE KOMI.
The article is devoted to the "motive of swinging" within traditional calendar rites, divination, games and folklore of the Komi people. Based on wide typological parallels in Finno-Ugric peoples' culture, the authors conclude that the motive of "swinging" can be defined as one of the mechanisms of symbolic overcoming of space-time borders and states of "uncertainty" in space-time.
O.I. Uljashev & V.E. Sharapov. THE OPPOSITION BLUE/RED CLAYS IN THE TRADITIONAL OUTLOOK OF THE KOMI.
The article discusses symbolic classification of clays in the traditional Komi worldview. The analysis is mainly based on folklore and ethnographic/linguistic documents about the Komi culture. The authors show the way the colour asymmetries of clays relate to the universal oppositions in the traditional worldview.
Despite the differences in their subject of study, all above mentioned articles are related in their scientific theme, which can be titled as "dynamics of cultural traditions". The papers were written on the basis of new field documents and archival research. In their works the authors test both diachronic and synchronic approaches. Articles written with a co-author can be seen as constructive dialogues of colleagues as well as polemic adresses. We truly believe that it is important to develop further the semiotic approach to ethnological problems.
Scientist of the Department of Ethnology and Folklore have also participated in Russian and International symposia:
Ethnosemiotic works concerning mythology and traditional worldview, ancient calendar systems and childhood ethnology have also been published in American, French, Finnish and Hungarian series. In 1996 several articles were published in the cultural magazine ELEMENTA (Journal of Slavic Studies and Comparative Cultural Semiotics) edited by the Dr. V.V. Ivanov, currently in the United States (ELEMENTA, Harwood Academic Publishers, New York, 1996).
In 1995 the researchers of the Department took part in a discussion about the new national emblem for the Komi Republic. According to the request of the Republican Government they analysed and prepared scientific motivations for its symbology.
2. Uspeskij B.A. K probleme genezisa tartucko-moskovskoj semioticheskoj shkoli // J.M. Lotman i tartucko-moskovskaja semioticheskaja shkola. Moskva, 1994.
3. Tradicionnaja duhovnaja kultura narodov Evropejskogo Severa: Ritual i Simvol. Mezvuzovskij sbornik nauchnih trudov. Syktyvkar, 1990;
Semiotika kulturi. III Vsesojuznaja shkola semiotiki. Syktyvkar, 1991;
Smert kak fenomen kulturi. Sbornik nauchnih trudov. Syktyvkar, 1994.
4. Nesanelis Dmitri, Death as a Phenomenon of Culture. Komi Seminar of Semiotics of Culture 15-18 August 1991. Syktyvkar. Also published in: Semiotics of Nature and Culture of the Komi. Helsinki, 1994.
(1991) Calendrier de chasse et vision du monde chezles anciens komis. Etudes Finno-Ougriennes. Paris. V.XXIII.
(1993a) Mythological archaic in komi folklore. Uralic mythology // Specimina Sibirica. V. YI. Szombathely: Savariae.
(1993b) Die Kalendersymboliks des uralischen Heidentums. // On the borderlines of semiosis: Acta Semiotica Fennica. II / Proceedings from the JSJ conferences 1991 and 1992 in Imatra.
(1994) Calendar symbolism of uralic peoples of the prechristian era. // Arctic anthropology / Published by the University of Wisconsin. Press. V. 33. N 1.
(1991) About Possible Mythological Sources of Percepcion of "Cordius Acgvatievs" in the traditional notions of the Komi // Specimina sibirica. Tomus VI, Uralic mythology. Savariae.
(1993) Death as a Phenomenon of Culture. Komi Seminar of Semiotics of Culture 15-18 August 1991. Syktyvkar.
(1994) Some Remarks on the relationship between play and etiguetee in the traditional culture of the Northern Russian village // The Petersburg journal of cultural studies. Vol. II. S.- Petersburg.
Nesanelis Dmitri & Sharapov Valeri
(1993) Kuolema Komin lasten perinneleikeissä // Aamun Koitto, N 22.
(1993a) Birch and spruce in mythological concepts of Komi people. // Specimina sibirica. Tomus VI, Uralic mythology. Savariae.
(1993b) The zoomorphik code in the symbolism of children's furniture of the Komi people. // On the Borderlines of Semiosis. Acta Semiotica Fennica II. Paino Oy Yla-Vuoksi, Imatra.
(1993c) Wooden plastic in the context of shamanistic worldview of the Salym Khanty // Shamanism and performing arts. Budapest.
(1994a) The zoomorphic code in the symbolism of children's furniture of the Komi people // Semiotics of Nature and Culture of the Komi. Helsinki.
(1994b) The magic of folk pedagogics (attitude to childrens misdeeds in traditional Komi family) // Family as the Tradition Carrier. Abstracts. Estonia. Tallinn.
(1995) Symbolic classification of trees in Komi traditional worldview // Congress Octavus Internationalis Fenno-Ugristarum. Jyvaskyla 10.-15. August 1995. Pars II. Moderatores, Jyvaskyla.
Sharapov Valeri & Limerov Pavel
(1993) Fire in cosmological concepts of the Salym Khanty // Specimina sibirica. Tomus VI, Uralic mythology. Savariae.
(1993a) "Shuvgey" - mythological character of the udora komi // Specimina sibirica. Tomus VI, Uralic mythology. Savariae.
(1993b) The reconstruction of cosmological ideas of the Komi // On the Borderlines of Semiosis. Acta Semiotica Fennica II. Paino Oy Ylä-Vuoksi, Imatra.
(1994) The reconstruction of cosmological ideas of the Komi // Semiotics of Nature and Culture of the Komi. Helsinki.
(1993b) Hearing and Eyesight in the Komi Mythology // Specimina sibirica. Tomus VI, Uralic mythology. Savariae.
(1993c) Semantik der Metalle in der Weltanschauung des Komi-Volkes // On the Borderlines of Semiosis. Acta Semiotica Fennica II., Imatra.
(1994a) Semantik der Metalle in der Weltanschauung des Komi-Volkes // Semiotics of Nature and Culture of the Komi. Helsinki.
Valeri Sharapov, M.A.