Russian voting starts early for nomadic reindeer herders

27 PHOTOS
Reindeer herders cast their vote in Russian election
See Gallery
Reindeer herders cast their vote in Russian election
A woman from the indigenous community "Yamb To" (Long Lake) looks out a tent at a reindeer camping ground, about 450 km northeast of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
A herder of the agricultural cooperative organisation "Erv" pets a reindeer at a reindeer camping ground, about 250 km north of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
People are seen near a tent at a reindeer camping ground owned by the agricultural cooperative organisation "Erv", about 250 km north of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
Local electoral commission members leave a weather station during the early voting in remote areas ahead of the presidential election, in the settlement of Cape Konstantinovsky, about 250 km north of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
A tent and sledges are seen at a reindeer camping ground owned by the agricultural cooperative organisation "Erv", about 250 km north of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
A sledge covered with reindeer skin stands at a reindeer camping ground owned by the agricultural cooperative organisation "Erv", about 250 km north of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
A dog walks by a tent at a reindeer camping ground owned by the agricultural cooperative organisation "Erv", about 250 km north of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
A herder of the agricultural cooperative organisation "Erv" walks in front of a helicopter at a reindeer camping ground, about 250 km north of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 8, 2018. The helicopter was carrying local electoral commission members during the early voting in remote areas ahead of the presidential election. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
A member of the indigenous community "Yamb To" (Long Lake) walks with a dog at a reindeer camping ground, about 450 km northeast of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
Children from the indigenous community "Yamb To" (Long Lake) are seen at a reindeer camping ground, about 450 km northeast of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
A herder of the agricultural cooperative organisation "Harp" casts his vote into a mobile ballot box during the early voting in remote areas ahead of the presidential election, at a reindeer camping ground, about 250 km south of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 4, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
A herder of the agricultural cooperative organisation "Harp" takes part in the early voting in remote areas ahead of the presidential election, at a reindeer camping ground, about 250 km south of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 4, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
Herders of the agricultural cooperative organisation "Erv" are seen during the early voting in remote areas ahead of the presidential election, at a reindeer camping ground, about 250 km north of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
Members of the indigenous community "Yamb To" (Long Lake) look through a broadsheet with information about presidential candidates during the early voting in remote areas ahead of the presidential election, at a reindeer camping ground, about 450 km northeast of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
Members the indigenous community "Yamb To" (Long Lake) take part in the early voting in remote areas ahead of the presidential election, at a reindeer camping ground, about 450 km northeast of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
Herders of the agricultural cooperative organisation "Erv" wait as a local electoral commission member fills documents during the early voting in remote areas ahead of the presidential election, at a reindeer camping ground, about 250 km north of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
Members the indigenous community "Yamb To" (Long Lake) look through a broadsheet with information about presidential candidates during the early voting in remote areas ahead of the presidential election, at a reindeer camping ground, about 450 km northeast of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
Memebers of indigenous community "Yamb To" (Long Lake) sit inside a tent during the early voting in remote areas ahead of the presidential election, at a reindeer camping ground, about 450 km northeast of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
A herder of the agricultural cooperative organisation "Harp" rests inside a tent at a reindeer camping ground, about 250 km south of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 4, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
A herder of the agricultural cooperative organisation "Harp" rests inside a tent at a reindeer camping ground, about 250 km south of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 4, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
A herder of the agricultural cooperative organisation "Erv" stands in front of a traditional tent at a reindeer camping ground, about 250 km north of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
A child from the indigenous community "Yamb To" (Long Lake) is seen at a reindeer camping ground, about 450 km northeast of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
Pieces of reindeer meat hang at a reindeer camping ground owned by the agricultural cooperative organisation "Erv", about 250 km north of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
Members the indigenous community "Yamb To" (Long Lake) take part in the early voting in remote areas ahead of the presidential election, at a reindeer camping ground, about 450 km northeast of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
A herder of the agricultural cooperative organisation "Harp" feeds reindeer at a reindeer camping ground, about 250 km south of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 4, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
Members of the indigenous community "Yamb To" (Long Lake) greet a helicopter carrying local electoral commission officials during the early voting in remote areas ahead of the presidential election, at a reindeer camping ground, about 450 km northeast of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
Children from the indigenous community "Yamb To" (Long Lake) run to a helicopter carrying local electoral commission officials during the early voting in remote areas ahead of the presidential election, at a reindeer camping ground, about 450 km northeast of Naryan-Mar, in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin 
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

MOSCOW, March 13 (Reuters) - Russia holds a presidential election on Sunday but voting has already begun in the flat, snow-covered expanses of the Siberian Arctic, which are home to the nomadic Nenets people who herd reindeer.

Since late February, 282 members of the Nenets community, as well as some oil industry workers, have cast their ballots.

Kremlin politics and the six-lane motorways of Moscow may feel a world away in the Nenets Autonomous Region, 1,000 miles (1,570 km) northeast of the capital, where temperatures can drop to -40 degrees Celsius.

The area has no roads but politics reaches it anyway, thanks to Maria Uglovaya, her helicopter and a handful of ballot boxes.

"A few months ago, we met with the head of one of the communities and he told us where they and their herds would be during these two weeks," said Uglovaya, deputy head of the regional election commission.

"Then we flew 400 km to meet them. If their coordinates had been even a few points off, we would never have found them. The territory is vast," she said. Eight herders were unable to vote because they did not make it in time to the meeting point, which was marked by a reindeer hide tent.

Election officials can only reach the nomadic voters when weather permits. A blizzard last week saw visibility in some areas drop as low 10 meters, interrupting their daily helicopter flights.

Members of the community only visit the local capital, the small town of Naryan Mar, to renew passports and bring pregnant women to the maternity ward, said Uglovaya, who lives in the town.

So strangers, especially ones with ballot boxes, are a rare event and the atmosphere is festive, even though the outcome of the election is not seriously in doubt. President Vladimir Putin is expected to win a fourth term in office.

"Who the president is has an impact on us, yes," said a member of the community, Elena Tuleeva, 39. "If there are some laws there, they reach us too."

Tuleeva, who has always voted for Putin, said she knew several candidates in the race as she'd seen them on television.

"If the weather is good, we put up the satellite dish and then we watch the news," she said. The dish is mounted on a sleigh to make it easier to move when looking for signal.

For the Nenets, environmental issues are where the government has the most direct impact on daily life.

"They keep building these oil fields around us ... In one area we go sometimes, they've put up all these drills and pipes, and people drive all over. Soon there won't be any pasture ground there for our herd at all."

Uglovaya, who has worked for Russia's electoral system for two years, agreed.

"The Nenets, they see themselves as part of the earth, as part of the land ... That's why, even if they're so far-removed, they vote," she said.

(Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.