History of Izhma
People lived in the area of today’s Izhma even in ancient times This fact is proved by archeological remains of settlements dating back to the 8th to the 5th centuries B.C. According to chronicles the village was founded in 1567 or in 1572 by settlers from Ust-Tsilma. The first written information on this community dates back to 1576. The documents mention the community of Izhma, which was founded by Komi people who came from the Vym and Verkhnyaya Mezen areas. Founded later than Ust-Tsilma, the community of Izhma grew and soon its population outnumbered people of Ust-Tsilma.
Native people of the area call themselves "izvatas" or Komi-lzhma (in Russian) and regard themselves as a separate ethnic group. The Komi-lzhma people have their own way of life: as compared with the Southern Komi, who are farmers and tradesmen, the Izhma people are reindeer herders. In spring they migrate to tundra meadows near the Kara Sea and return back home in autumn.
The Izhma people are quite unique: they have adopted and developed quite a specific mode of reindeer herding over the centuries, combining the migration skills of Nenets people and the everyday mode of Russian life while keeping the ethnic culture of Komi-Zyryans. Nowhere in the world one can find such a "group" style of reindeer herding as in Russia. It is based on the experience of Izhma people who refused from the nomadic life two or three centuries ago and learned to drive herds to their villages for the winter.
Not many people know that in every village on the small tributary of the Pechora and the Izhma Rivers there were “millionaire people ” in late 19th and early 20th centuries. Izvatas family clans controlled vast territories of the Russian north from the Kola Peninsula to the Ob Bay. Izhma families were involved into small wholesale trade in the European north of Russia. Izhma people traded in needles, thread, vodka, nails or everything that could bring a good profit. For the sake of business they could cover hundreds of kilometers in reindeer harnesses, staying for the night at their relative’s places or hunters' houses or in "partridge houses" ( snow caves).
The late 19th and early 20th century saw the conquest of Parisian fashion by suede (leather made of reindeer skin). This village might have had a different fate. It could have become a major industrial and administrative center. World War I stopped the supplies of suede to Western Europe. The revolution divided people into rich and poor, and some of the rich managed to escape to Finland through the Kola Peninsula. But most of them found themselves in the GULAG for having engaged in business, for participation in the White Guard movement, and for their reluctance in joining collective farms. A little later, the vast Izhma territories were divided by administrative borders. The beginning of oil production on the Ukhta, a tributary of the Izhma, led to the development of the Ukhta Area. Railway construction divided the Sosnogorsk and Pechora Areas. And gas field discoveries separated the northern part into another administrative unit — the Usinsk Area.
Nowadays, Izhma reindeer herds move through "foreign" areas and graze in the tundra of the "foreign" territory — the Nenets Autonomous Region. This has not affected the way of life of Izhma reindeer herders. They continue their seasonal migration and always return to their houses in autumn.
Республика Коми : путеводитель./ cост. С. Журавлев. - Изд. первое. - М. : Авангард, 2004. - 191с.
Жеребцов И. Л. Где ты живешь: населенные пункты Республики Коми. Историко-демографический справочник. – Сыктывкар, 1994. – 272 с.