Stuck Between the Superpowers: Abandoned Eskimo Village of Naukan

It’s not quite as impressive as the precarious stilt village of Ukivok, but until it was abandoned in 1958, the village of Naukan on Cape Dezhneva was the most easterly settlement of Eurasia.  The village was founded in the nineteenth century but cleared as part of a campaign of consolidation of rural settlements.  Eskimos were resettled elsewhere, with evictions linked to potential military clashes between the United States and the Soviet Union at this strategic location on the Bering Strait.

(Images via Wikimapia)

Naukan also gave its name to the language spoken by the 70 or so inhabitants of the isolated Chukchi Peninsula.  As one of the four Yupik languages, together with Central Siberian Yupik, Central Alaskan Yup’ik and Pacific Gulf Yupik, Naukan is a linguistic intermediary between the Central Siberian and Central Alaskan tongues.  It’s almost as though, with the superpowers intent on maintaining the balance of power, this small group of indigenous folk maintained – linguistically at least – commonalities with both sides.

(Images via National Ocean Service, NOAA)

Today, Naukan village is little more than a ramshackle collection of foundations, dug-outs and mysterious whale bones emerging from the grass, suggesting a ceremonial significance to what was predominantly a vital food source.  The village reportedly stands near several monuments, including a wooden cross from around 1910.  But for all its wild beauty, there’s clearly been no rush to resettle this barren place.

(Images via Wikimapia and George R. King, sourced from National Geographic)

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