“Pavlutsky's Campaign” Walrus Tusk
Crafted by Chukotka Master Ichel, 1936
Here's a whole story engraved on the walrus tusk.
Chukotka's folk artist Ichel (1896-1956), known for a deep interest in history,
depicted an important event from the 18th-century Russian history on the tusk.
Looking at the images, we will immerse into the
thrilling events of the Russian expedition of 1727 to the Far East,
where the Russian Cossacks and the aborigines fought their first battle.
Pavlutsky's campaign in Chukotka was the first
Russian attempt to establish control of the
Far Eastern shores. The empire was getting
stronger and wanted to subjugate people who
were under no one's control. Captain Dmitry
Ivanovich Pavlutsky took 400 Cossacks and
soldiers for his campaign against the Chukchee.
The expedition was difficult and tiring, but the
residents of the peninsula faced an even graver
consequence. Initially Pavlutsky tried to convince
the Chukchi to enter the Russian Empire, but these
peaceful arguments had no effect…
Chukchee reindeer herder, Yakutia
The campaign was a bloody one, which is clearly
shown in Ichel's imagery. As the Cossacks moved
deeper into Chukotka, armed clashes became more
and more frequent. Obviously the Chukchee suffered
greatly from violence and physical elimination.
The author of this carving showed both of the
conflicting parties in detail and with accuracy.
What we see in this sculpture is the peaceful life
of the inhabitants of northern yurts (nomads tents)
facing the severe Russian military, which had crossed
more than 2000 kilometres of frozen tundra and
swamps on foot. We can even see the reindeers,
not only the ones which the Cossacks took from
the locals, but the ones which they had to
bring with them from the mainland for food.
Collection custodian:
“The carving has many authentic features: the uniform of Russian soldiers
and Chukchee, yurts, sledges pulled by reindeers, even an Orthodox icon and
a crucifix, which were used to convert the Chukchee to Christianity. In the
centre of the sculpture a fight between the troops’ leaders is depicted. To
show the significance of the occasion, the carver enlarged their figures,
as ancient carvers did it.”
Judging by some historical documents, the conflicting
parties nevertheless showed mutual interest and respect.
In his report, Pavlutsky calls the Chukchee “strong
people, tall, brave, broad-shouldered, strongly built,
sober, just, belligerent, cherishing their freedom and
hating deception, and revengeful; when in battle, upon
finding themselves in deadlock they kill themselves.
They fire arrows and throw stones, but not very skilfully.
“As for major Pavlutsky, he became one of the main
heroes in the Chukchee folklore. Honestly speaking,
in local tales and stories he is often remembered as
ruthless warrior, who wanted to kill all of the Chukchee
and was tagged with a horrifying name “Yakunin,” which means “merciless murderer.”