The state cost accounting Chukchi & Eskimo ensemble Ergyron is known beyond the Chukotka boundaries. It has existed for 32 years now, during which time it toured in over 40 countries of the world.
CHUKCHIS FIND IT HARD TO SING IN ESKIMO BUT THEY ARE VERY KEEN
The international community enjoyed the songs and dances of Soviet Chukchis. They would like today, too, but the ensemble is performing much less frequently than under the Soviets. During our stay in Anadyr, there was just one incidental show, for the richest company in Chukotka, the Savings Bank of Russia, had placed an order. The premises of the Savings Bank, currently under construction, are the most sumptuous building in the entire Chukotka. The employees, something like thirty or forty people, turned up at 3 p.m. on Friday at the threadbare Palace of Culture, spent one delightful hour enjoying the art of Chukotka and went home. And the ensemble went home, too.
The average salary in the ensemble is 3000 Rouble a month. A tour of concerts involves the fare of 12 000 Roubles (return trip) per person. Besides, the freight of bags and props. There are 42 people in the ensemble. According to Oleg Osipov, Ergyron manager, a tour of European Russia (Samara, Nizhny Novgorod, Vladimir, Yaroslavl) by some 30 ensemble participants would cost 500 thousand. This does not include accommodation, food and transfer between those cities, for the inviting party are taking it onto themselves. Osipov must only to make it to Russia. He is looking for sponsors. Who will provide 500 thousand for a cultural project? At first it seems that no one. And yet, somehow sponsors do come round. Like last year they all went to Holland. Osipov is fully convinced that he will find the money this year, too.
Osipov confesses that he would have left Chukotka, where life is so hard, long ago, but for his work. He just happens to love managing the ensemble, it is so interesting. Tough, though. The oldest ballet dancer is 45, vocalists are over 40. True, recently Osipov hired five young Eskimos, and prior to that it had been only Chukchis in the ensemble. But there must be some Eskimos, for the ensemble bears the name of Chukchi & Eskimo. Chukchis do not know the Eskimo language, but they do sing in it. They have been complaining to Osipov for quite some time now that they cannot make head or tail of those songs. «What if we are singing them wrong?» — Chukchis would say. However, Osipov believes, the appearance of Eskimos in the ensemble will not help, for they do not know the Eskimo language either. Only one does. But even his command is limited. «Have they lost their language», — Osipov is asking with a sigh.
On the other hand, they have preserved the Chukchi language in Ergyron. By singing Chukchis. Or rather half-bloods. Because, according to Osipov, most members of the ensemble come from mixed Ukraine-Chukchi marriages. Well, if they must...
Alexander NIKONOVPhoto(s) by Alexander BASALAYEV