The Komi
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The Komi

Reindeer herders

Reindeer herders

The Komi people come from European Russia’s extreme north. They are indigenous to the Komi Republic and further north, towards the Arctic White Sea.


  • Region is Europe

  • Climate here is Polar

  • The challenge here is Medium

  • This trip has been rated 5 by other travelers



Since agriculture is quite limited in the forested region, men only hunted, fished, grazed reindeer and cut and transported firewood through the rivers. They also hunted bear bears in their winter burrows and caught wild reindeer with traps. Nowadays they are mostly reindeer-herders.


The main Komi settlements were villages located along the river banks with homes of a raised wooden framed construction. The houses were raised above ground level. There was a room where they kept the fire, made of wood. They stored the crops in a barn planted on poles.


Social Structure

The Komi did not preserve the traditional tribal society. Family and kin ties are reckoned patriarchal, although traces of matrilineality can still be noted. Because of Orthodox Christian influence the Komi kinship system and marriage institutions are similar to those of the Russians.


Originally Komi spiritual beliefs were based on animism and they had a constant interaction with the spirit world. Komi hunters were associated with forest spirits, while fisherman, were allied with water spirits. These traditional beliefs are now a thing of the past. Nowadays most Komi belong to the Russian Orthodox Church.


Komi values and beliefs are evident in their oral traditions and folklore. Sacred animals have always been honored in the Komi culture, especially the pike and the duck. Consequently, the bones of these animals have been used to make protective amulets.

The Komi are also known for their musical prowess; songs originally accompanied all aspects of life from birth to death.

Their stories emphasize the bond with nature, their ideal of hard work, and their generous hospitality.


The Komi language belongs to the Ural family of languages which has two branches: Finno-Ugrian and Samoyedic. Most Komi people also speak Russian which they are taught in school.


Centuries of experience have made the Komi well-versed in wood carving. Wooden household items are beautiful as well as functional, including dishes, utensils, decorations and ornaments. Beyond carving, they are also skilled in jewelry making, metalworking, stamping and engraving. Braided baskets or other crafts are created by intricately weaving pine tree roots, straw or birch bark. Komi knitting is highly developed, with each region creating their own distinct patterns of five spokes. Their materials come, as they always have, from the land, whether skin, bone, bark or wood.


Reindeer herders holiday “Teryb kor". Teryb Kör in translation from the Komi language means “swift deer”, and the festival with this name is a deer sled race. The holiday is held at Int and is dedicated to the Day of the Tundra Worker — the Day of the Spring Equinox. Racing is very spectacular.
Further knowledge

Further knowledge

Although many young Komi are now forgoing traditional ways of life for a more modern way of living, Komi language lessons are now offered in school in a bid to preserve the language and maintain their cultural heritage.

Photo credit: Racing on Reindeer sledding

Photo credit: Man riding Reindeer sleigh

Photo credit: Riendeer fur shoes

Photo credit: Kola peninsula house

other photos credit: Baikal Nature - Russia