It turns out that Chyltys produces CDs with money from the Kiyzassky coal mine — the very same mine that the shamans oppose. The singer actively performs at city festivals, openings of children's playgrounds and outdoor sports areas, also built with funds from coal mines. It is common practice for the industrial companies to support the culture of the Shors whose land they mine. But the price of this support proves exceedingly high.
Viacheslav Krechetov, a documentarian from Myski and our second guide, has been reporting on the harm that industrial corporations cause to the taiga and local residents for many years. He does so by both making films on the subject and writing reports to environmental organizations. Krechetov has become an invaluable door into the closed Shor community, which is distrustful of outsiders, especially journalists.
We went on the expedition during Maslenitsa
, and Krechetov used the occasion to introduce us to a man who would become an important character in our podcast — a Shor whose daughter had to leave the country due to harrassment by coal mining corporations. Krechetov invited the man over for pancakes as a friend, where we, a couple of ethnographers interested in Shor culture, just happened to be. We talked about early Shor culture, forest and river spirits, and Kashkachaks — grimy cannibals who stole children to eat in forest hideouts somewhere in the vicinity of Myski (which, apparently, is completely true, as historians and ethnographers later affirmed!).
This allowed us to smoothly steer the conversation towards coal mining and unobtrusively ask about the tragedy that had befallen our subjects native village and others like it.Bargaining for Spiritual Centers
Mezhdurechensk is a small city neighboring Myski in the Kemerovo Oblast. Many Shors who were forced to leave their village in the taiga now live there. Just 70 kilometers from the city are the Shor villages of Orton, Il’iinka, Uchas and Trekhrech’e. In 2021, prospectors arrived in search of gold. While exploring the mineral deposits, they dug up the land the indigenous population had been farming for years and trashed it with construction waste. Then they polluted the surrounding rivers — the only available local source of fresh water. Fish disappeared from the reservoirs, which hit the Shor fishing industry hard. The animals were pushed deeper into the forest by the roar of the industrial machines and crowds of workers, causing local hunters to suffer.
That makes it all the more interesting to learn that one of the gold mining companies, PAI-CHER 2, sponsors traditional hunting competitions. At these events, which are sort of trap-setting biathlons, it’s possible to win a snowmobile, which are both expensive and a very necessary means of transport for Shor hunters in the taiga.
These hunting competitions help Shor communities determine whose men are stronger, more dexterous, and more resilient. The marathon consists of five stages throughout the mountainous, rugged taiga: shooting a gun, setting traps, climbing to the top of the mountain, coming back down, and lighting a fire below a taut string of twine until it burns through. Only then do competitors cross the finish line. The Shors ski approximately four kilometers with the help of a kayk — a paddle-like object. Hunters use it both as a ski pole and to get out from under snow drifts or ice.
PAI-CHER 2 likely has nothing to do with the environmental damage being done in Orton, Il’inka, and neighboring villages, and we can’t accuse them without good reason. But gold mining in the Kemerovo region and Khakassia, where the Shors live, is carried out on such a large scale and by so many artels that one is skeptical of any gold miners.
Businessmen create and register companies in neighboring regions, open new branches, and buy several dozen exploration licenses in different areas. This creates bureaucratic confusion, which makes it difficult to try to prove that toxic substances entered the local river from this particular site, and not from a neighboring one owned by another company.