Accepted paper:

Before and after the road: the influence of Orlik-Mondy road in Buryatia on local identity and the sense of place

Author:

Anna Varfolomeeva (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the role of roads in changing people's relations with place and focuses on the case study of Okinskii district in Buryatia. It examines the intertwined changes which Orlik-Mondy road brought to Okinskii district and their influence on the articulations of local identity.

Paper long abstract:

This paper discusses the role of roads in changing people's relations with place and focuses on the case study of Okinskii district in Buryatia, South-Central Siberia. This is one of the remote areas of the region (approximately 700 kilometers from Ulan-Ude, the capital of the Republic), and it is scarcely populated. Out of 5,400 people residing in the district, around 3,000 - Soiots - have the status of an indigenous minority of the Russian Federation. Until 1993, Okinskii district could only be accessed by plane. The construction of the Orlik - Mondy road which connected the district with the rest of Buryatia was finished in 1993. The road was a long-awaited project and was even called "The Road of Life" in local media. The Orlik-Mondy road brought significant changes in its residents' life and changed their perceptions of time and place. As a number of interviews reflect, the local temporal references are often expressed through "before the road" or "after the road" concepts. The construction of the road offered opportunities for the development of extractive businesses and tourism in the region, and it also impacted the movement patterns of local residents. At the same time, for a number of residents the larger accessibility of their region means a threat to local traditions and beliefs. The paper examines the interconnectedness of economic, social and cultural changes which Orlik-Mondy road brought to Okinskii district and discusses how these changes influenced the articulations of local identity.

panel P107
From paths to roads: the transformative capacities of roads on movement and relationships