A gift to Joseph Stalin on the 25th anniversary of the Red Army from Chukotka bone carver Master Onno, 1943
The decorative dagger was made of Walrus tusk
and covered with carvings and coloured etchings,
which exhibited an unexpected combination of
people and animals. Famous master Onnosent his present
to Soviet leader Josef Stalin
from the far off Chukotka.
There are depictions of fascists on the dagger, along with peaceful northern animals: fox,
walrus and seal. Furthermore, the dagger shows a Soviet warrior and a hunter, who fought
off the enemy together and near them a polar fox, rescued from the trap.
The author's character and personality were the reason behind the unusual
combination of personages in these images. Master Onno of Chukotka was a shaman's
grandson, with a love of nature and the ability to envision the “real” world.
The events of the Great Patriotic War (as called part of WWII fought on the Soviet territory)
deeply shook the indigenous artist. Onno uniquely combined the wartime political cartoons
from Soviet newspapers with habitual for him images of northern animals.
Author cartoons Boris Efimov
The master etched his scenery
into the bone with ordinary
stitching needle and filled
the resulting grooves with
pencil lead. It turned out to
be one of the most interesting
gifts to Stalin and the Red Army.
At the start of the 20th century, bone carving and etching crafts gradually began to center in
the settlements of Whelan, Naukan and the cape of Dezhnev. A stationery bone-carving
workshop was established in Whelan in 1931.
Master Onno (1912-1953), a descendant of hunters and shamans, was the engraver and draftsman
at this workshop in the 1940s.
The events of the Great Patriotic War struck pain in the hearts of the bone carvers of Chukotka.
Some of them took an active part in the fight for the motherland, some worked at the home front,
depicting the heroic efforts of the Soviet people in their creations. Artist Vukvol (1914-1942), who took
part in the war in Belorussia as part of an artillery regiment, was an indigenous Chukchee, just like
master Onno. His unit was one of the first to engage the enemy in 1941. In the letters to his brother,
he wrote, “The fascists are hoarding in and we are fighting these scumbags off. There is nearly no time
to sleep. But when I dose off even for a while, I dream of my native Whalen… Nothing can replace
your home.Chukotka, Russia… How it sounds for me!” He continued his artistic work even in the
harshest of battleground conditions: he sent back two anti-fascist drawings to his brother back home,
which were later engraved on walrus tusk by master Onno. This letter containing the drawings was
the last of his letters from the front. In 1942 he died fighting for the homeland. His memory
lives in our museum's collection in the shape of two of his carved compositions, dedicated to the
legendary Cheluskin epic. Back in 1934, a Cheluskin ship was crushed by ice blocks in the Chukchee
Sea, causing the crew to escape to a drifting piece of ice,upon which they spent two months before being rescued.
Chukchi Anadyr, 1906.
Author Paul Niedieck. This media file is in the public domain