Nomadism


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Nomadism

 

a particular form of economic activity and the way of life associated with it. The term “nomadism” is generally applied to the mode of life of herdsmen in arid regions, although it is sometimes used to denote the more archaic patterns of economic and cultural activity based on migratory hunting and gathering. Nomadism emerged in the course of the social division of labor, when livestock raising became an independent form of economic activity. A great many problems related to nomadism have still not been worked out, and many points of view exist among scholars.

Nomadism arose at the end of the second millennium and early first millennium B.C. among the mountain and steppe tribes of Eurasia. With the growth of productive forces and the settling of new regions, some of the tribes in the steppes, semideserts, and deserts passed from settled and semisettled pastoral stock raising to migratory herding. In the course of the first millennium B.C. and in the first centuries A.D., nomadism became widespread in Central, Middle, and Western Asia, in the Black Sea region, and, somewhat later, in North Africa. The transition to nomadism promoted an increase in the number of animals, the utilization of formerly unsettled areas of the arid zone, and the development of links between tribes. The animals best adapted for nomadism were sheep, horses, camels, and goats. In the arctic zone, at a comparatively later period, nomadic reindeer breeding arose under the influence of the southern stock-raising tribes. Livestock raising, the chief occupation of nomads and seminomads, was generally combined with other occupations, such as farming, trading, and hunting. Frequently, part of a tribe migrated, and part led a sedentary mode of life.

Various forms of nomadism emerged under different natural conditions. In “meridional” nomadism the herds were driven north in the summer and south in the winter. “Desert” nomadism was characterized by migration from well to well or around a well and “vertical” nomadism by migration from winter pastures in valleys to summer alpine pastures. Nomadism is characterized by specific manifestations of material and spiritual culture and by the preservation of vestiges of a tribal social structure. Tribal subdivisions were usually united into nomadic groups for the pasturing of cattle and migrations; there were tribes and tribal confederations. This type of organization was thought to reflect a common origin, usually legendary, since actual blood relationships occurred only in small nomadic groups.

Scholars hold different views concerning the forms of property and social relationships among nomadic stock raisers in the slaveholding and feudal periods. Private ownership of livestock and a kind of communal ownership of pasture and water supply (arising from the conditions of nomadic stock raising) developed among nomads in earliest antiquity. Medieval documents indicate, however, that chiefs and prosperous herdsmen, using their authority and economic position, seized the best pastures for their personal use. Exploitation was often concealed behind various forms of neighborly assistance. Patriarchal forms of slavery and the sale of slaves captured during military raids were pre-served for a long time. In every historical period the essence and nature of the social division of labor necessitated economic, political, and cultural links between nomadic herders and settled farmers. Peaceful relations were sometimes interrupted by hos-tile clashes. Large temporary confederations were often formed by nomads, and sometimes these “nomadic empires” became powerful feudal states on territories with a settled agricultural population, for example, the states of the Mongol and postMongol period in Central Asia and Iran. In the feudal era, however, production in nomadic societies developed very slowly, which also hindered the development of social relations.

A crisis in nomadic stock raising occurred in the late 19th century, brought on by the development of capitalistic animal husbandry and the use of mechanized transport, with the result that some nomads adopted a settled way of life.

In tsarist Russia at the beginning of the 20th century nomadism was prevalent among the Kazakhs, Kirghiz, and, to some extent, the Turkmen, Buriats, Balkars, Karachais, Nogais, and Altais. In several countries of Central and Western Asia and Northern Africa, large groups of nomads still exist among the Mongols, Arabs, Kurds, and Baluchi. In the USSR extensive, planned settling of nomads has taken place with state assistance, and the same process is now under way in the Mongolian People’s Republic.

REFERENCES

Marx, K. “Formy, predshestvuiushchie kapitalisticheskomu proizvodstvu.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., vol. 46, part 1.
Engels, F. “Proiskhozhdenie sem’i, chastnoi sobstvennosti i gosudarstva.”Ibid., vol. 21.
Vladimirtsov, B. la. Obshchestvennyi stroi mongolov. Leningrad, 1934. Pershits, A. I. Khoziaistvo i obshchestvenno-politicheskii stroi Severnoi Aravii v XlX-pervoi treti XX vv. Moscow, 1961.
Rudenko, S. I. “K voprosu o formakh skotovodcheskogo khoziaistva i o kochevnikakh.” In Geograficheskoe obshchestvo SSSR: Materialy po otdeleniiu etnografii, part 1. Leningrad, 1961.
Batrakov, V. S. Khoziaistvennye sviazi kochevykh narodov s Rossiei, Srednei Aziei i Kitaem (s XV do poloviny XVIII vv). Tashkent, 1958.
Abramzon, S. M. “Formy rodoplemennoi organizatsii u kochevnikov Srednei Azii.” In the collection Rodovoe obshchestvo. Moscow, 1951.
Zhdanko, T. A. “Mezhdunarodnoe znachenie istoricheskogo opyta perekhoda kochevnikov na osedlost’ v Srednei Azii i Kazakhstane.” Sovetskaia etnografiia, 1967, no. 4.
Potapov, L. N. “Iz istorii kochevnichestva.”Vestnik istorii mirovoi kul -tury, 1957, no. 4.
Markov, G. E. “Nekotorye problemy obshchestvennoi organizatsii kochevnikov Azii.”Sovetskaia etnografiia, 1970, no. 6.
Tolybekov, S. E. Kochevoe obshchestvo kazakhov v XVII-nachale XX vv. Alma-Ata, 1971.
Viehwirtschaft und Hirtenkultur: Ethnographische Studien. Budapest, 1969.

G. E. MARKOV

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