These are syadei, made by members of the Nenets people, an Indigenous community in North Siberia.

It's difficult to describe what a syadei is accurately in English, because they are part of a very different way of viewing the world. For Nenets people, syadei were and are alive. They see, feel, communicate and act, and are part of the way Nenets people communicate with their landscape, reindeer, game and ancestors. They might be considered the material version of a god, spirit guardian or ancestor.

This syadei, now in the Polar Museum, was brought to the UK by Frederick George Jackson in 1894 from Vaigach, the Nenets people's sacred island and a site of pilgrimage. It evokes so many unheard voices, from those of Jackson's Nenets hosts, to the sacred island of Vaigach, to the syadei his or herself. 

Eleanor Peers, Arctic Information Specialist in the Scott Polar Research Institute Library, tells us more.

Eleanor has also recorded a Russian-language version of her video:

More information


carved, human figure made of wood with a label tied around its neck

carved, human figure made of wood: shaped with a head and face and a torso. the surface of the wood is shiny


You can read George Frederick Jackson's account of his travels here:

Jackson, F. G. 2013. The Great Frozen Land (Bolshaia Zemelskija Tundra): Narrative of a Winter Journey across the Tundras and a Sojourn among the Samoyads. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Eleanor's video draws on the following publications:

Baryshev, I. B. 2014. O Vozmozhnykh Interpretatsiiakh Kul’tovoi Skul’ptury O. Vaigach. Kul’torologicheskii Zhurnal 2014/1(15). 

Boiarskii, P. M. Glasov. 2001. Sviashchennyi Ostrov Nenetskogo Naroda. Okhrana Dikoi Prirody no. 3(22). 

Dikson, Olard (ed.). 2017. Dukhi Tundry: Epicheskie, Rodovye i Shamanskie Skazaniia Nëlëko Vylko iz sobraniia M. C. Sinitsyna, Zapisannye na Ostrove Vaigach v 1948-1949 gg. Moscow: Veligor. 

Khariuchi, G. P. 2013. Sviashchennye Mesta v Traditsionnoi i Sovremennoi Kul’ture Nentsev. Saint Petersburg: Istoricheskaia Illiustratsiia.