Liminality in the Ethnohistory, Culture, and Kinship
of the Nagaibaks
Svetlana Iu. Belorussova
1) Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera), Russian Academy of Sciences
2) National Research University “Higher School of Economics”
The Nagaibaks as an ethnic group originated in 1736 after the establishment of the Nagaibak fortress, which brought together natives of different backgrounds from adjacent areas and awarded them the status of Cossacks (on condition of their baptism). Later, after their resettlement to the New Line in 1842–43, the Nagaibaks formed a peculiar community: their membership in a military estate and the inclusion of peoples of different traditions and creeds helped them to become “a border people” in spatial and sociocultural dimensions. In turn, this “liminality” allowed the Nagaibaks to unite opposing traits within their ethnicity, such as hospitality and rivalry, and openness to innovation (in terms of active participation in ethnic projects) and closeness to traditions (in terms of preserving rituals of kinship). At various points in their history, the Nagaibaks turned to either openness or closeness, or a combination of both. In the Soviet period, an emphasis on closeness allowed them to preserve their culture (“introvert mode”). In the post-Soviet period, on the contrary, the Nagaibaks mobilized their ethnicity through openness (“extrovert mode”). This dynamic feature of Nagaibak ethnicity made it possible to transform themselves from the spatial mobility of the past to the activization of ethnicity in the present. Through their development at the crossroads of different types of cultures (nomadic and sedentary, Christian and Muslim, European and Asian) the Nagaibak ethnic group became open-minded and adaptable, while its nomadic and Cossack sociocultural heritage led to mobility and flexibility in attitudes.