The “Radio in the Tundra”
Sculptural Arrangement
This sculptural arrangement was created in Yakutia, 1930s
This complex and difficult arrangement depicts a then-current topic: the radio
had reached the Yakutian tent! This piece of art was made using
the model-making technique: each of the figures was separatelycarved
out of mammoth bone and was attached to the walrus tusk base. This
sculpture was presented to “The All-Union Prefect,” Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin.
Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin (7[19] November 1875 – 3 June
1946) was a top-ranking party functionary and state official
who held the top Soviet position for a number of years.
From 1922 until 1938, the Central Executive Committee of
the USSR was the highest state body and it was headed by
Kalinin, which made him the formal Head of the Soviet Union.
He was called “All-Union Prefect” among the people. He got
this nickname because hundreds of petitioners and applicants
came to his office every day. Kalinin's office was known in
every nook and corner of the Soviet state. He would sometimes
meet up to 500 people in a day!
Source: State museum of political history of Russia.
This media file is in the public domain Mikhail Kalinin
An unknown artist from Yakutia carved a typical scene from the
northern life in this arrangement: men and women dressed in
traditional dresses had gathered near the tent, with children
running towards them and pets roaming close by. But the lives of
these characters had been invaded by a great novelty. They had not
just gathered there to chat for they were discussing current affairs,
with their faces beaming with unspeakable emotions! And why wouldn't
it be so, because along with the radio the massive “Soviet world"
had taken over the tundra. For now the radio, just like the
metallic loud-speaker looked like a foreign object in the
snow white virgin desert… The faces of the Northern people
showed their deep interest in the current developments.
Mammoth tusks. Picture the late 19th century.
The Yakut art of bone carving was born
in the 18th century, stemming out of the
local artistic traditions. The Yakut
bone carvers depicted northern animals,
reindeer sleds, scenes showing bear and wolf
hunting and national festivals in their art works.
Contemporary life became one of the most common subject
matters among the local craftsmen during the 1930s, with
the start of the large-scale exploration of natural resources
of Yakutia by the Soviet State.
The image of mammoth skull
Collection custodian:
“The Yakut artists used mammoth bone for making
pieces of art. Yakutia has an abundance of this
fossil material, but the mammoth bone, which
has been buried in the permafrost for tens of
thousands of years, is very hard to find.

It was due to the high cost of mammoth bone
that the northern people developed a tradition
of making model-type sculptural arrangements.
The sculptures of the main characters were
carved out of mammoth bone, but relatively
cheaper bone was used for making the base or
stand, lowering the cost.”
Interesting fact:
The people of Yakutia always considered the mammoth
bone as a gift from above and a precious gift of the
spirit of the underground. They would always replace the
mammoth bone that they would dig out of the permafrost with
something to fill the void. The size of their return gift had
always been proportional to the bone found: if the bone were huge,
the people of Yakutia could bury a whole reindeer in its place!