The Komi (original name), the Komi Mort (Komi man), the Komi Voytyr (the Komi people), the Zyryans (an old-fashioned Russian name) are all the names of the Komi nation. They are the indigenous people of the Republic of Komi (an autonomous region since 1921) who also live in the Archangelsk, Murmansk and Tyumen regions. These are people related to the Komi Perm and Udmurtia nations. They all speak the Komi (Zyryan) language.
THE EXPEDITIONS AND RESEARCH INTO THE KOMI LAND
In XII-XIV centuries the land along the middle course of the Vychegda and Vym Rivers known as the Vychegda Perm Land was under the impact of the Novgorod Principality and carried commercial intercourse with it. The prominent Russian historian Sergey Soloviov described the-then land as follows: "...independent of the Russian princes and inhabited by the Zyryans and Voguls that land was unattractive and dangerous for peaceful colonists who were coming in small numbers.
In 1379 Stephen of Perm came to the Komi land, with the consent of Prince Dmitry Ivanovich (Dmitry of Don) and the blessing of the leading Orthodox clerics went to the Komi land to convert the local people to the Orthodox Faith. Subsequently, he established an episcopate with the centre in Ust-Vym.
In 1481 a public inventory was made of the lands in Vychegda and Vym that were a part of the Moscow Principality and were laid under "monarchic tribute".
Nikolai Karamzin mentioned in his book "The History of the Russian State" that in 1479, during the reign of Ivan III, an expedition was sent "to search for silver ore in the environs of the Pechora River". Two Germans, Ivan and Viktor, were in that expedition led by Andrey Petrov and Vasily Boltin. As a result of the 7-month pilgrimage, there was brought forth a description of the silver ore deposit "with copper impregnations on the Tsilma River, some 20 versts off Kosma and 300 versts off Pechora... for the length of 10 versts ". Since that time, as Karamzin wrote, they themselves "have started to smelt metal and mint coins using their own silver; and they also had gold money and the Russian medals ".
In 1768-1772 a part of the Komi land was explored by an expedition of the Russian Academy of Sciences led by Ivan Lepekhin. Academician Ivan Lepekhin (1740-1802) was a prominent Russian traveler and naturalist. The expedition led by him was exploring a vast Russian territory: Orenburg Region, Volga Region, Perm Pre-Ural and Post-Ural areas. Lepekhin visited a lot of the rivers of the Komi land: Vychegda, Sysola, Letka and Luza and he also visited locations situated near them.
THE TRADITIONAL KOMI CULTURE
The ethnic territory
The ethnic territory of the ancestors of the Komi people (Zyryans) - The Vychegda Perm Land - was formed at the late Middle Age period (X-XV c.). It was at that period that cattle-breeding and arable farming were started along with original handicraft. The nomadic pattern of life was gradually shifted to the settled one at those parts. Then the Komi (the Permians) settled on a very large territory in the valleys of the lower and middle Vychegda with the tributaries of the Sysola and Vym Rivers, the Yug River with the tributary of Luza, Lower Sukhona and Small Northern Dvina, and the upper reaches of the Pinega and Vashka.
The Pechora Basin and the upper reaches of the Vychegda River were at that period the location of the tribal nomad's camps of the Ostyaks, Voguls and Samoyeds, ancestors of the present Khanty, Mansi and Nenets nations. The migration of the Komi people to the eastern and northeastern districts was notable as early as in the XV century; they were leaving a part of the western habitable territories at the same time. The first settlements appeared at the upper reaches of the Vychegda and Vishera Rivers in XV c. The Komi settled on the Upper Mezen River and Lower Pechora River in XVI c., Upper and Lower Pechora River - in XVII c. During XVII c. the settlements of the Komi were disappearing on the lower reaches of the Vychegda, Luza and Pinega Rivers.
The Komi's ethnic border was formed in XVIII c. And in the north - XIX c. By that time the ethnic territory had been ultimately defined. Its natural boundary on the east were the Ural Mountains, in the south the territorial borderline ran across the watersheds of the Vychegda and Sysola with Kama, in the west - Vashka and Pinega, Sysola and Vilyad. In the north, there was a clear borderline with the ethnic Russians (the Ust-Tsilems) at the mouth of the Pechora tributary of the Neritsa River, and the diffuse interface which ran near the Lower Pechora and the Mainland Tundra, where the Nenets reindeer breeders and the Izhma Komi people contacted intensively.
Since XII c., the Komi land was invariably a part of the Novgorod domain. During XII-XIII centuries, the Vladimir and Suzdal Princedom (the Rostov and Suzdal) was a chief rival of the Novgorod Principality.
AS THE CLEAN SPRING FLOWS UNDER THE PROTECTION OF THE PARMA...
Every national culture with the centuries-old-history reveals and bears its own distinctive features characteristic of the nation, starting from the life styles or dwelling and ending with the traditions of handicraft and verbal poetry.
The decorative and applied arts of the Komi people has always been multicoloured and varied. The Komi knew how to work metals, jewellery and leather, emboss it and decorate with metal beads, make various birch, roots and hay plaiting, wood carving, metal or hay marquetery. The creativity of the Komi is revealed in various genres of verbal poetic and song works, musical and visual arts.
THE NATIONAL COSTUME
The Komi national cultural originality has found its vent in the national clothes. Hand spinning and weaving were widely widespread before the imported fabrics and ready-made clothes became available at the mid-to-late XIX century. The Komi have preserved their own terms related to the techniques and working tools as well as some specific methods of spinning and weaving.
Subsequently, the casual clothes of an ordinary peasant consisted of underwear, a smock and trousers tailored of simple and cheap fabric. The best bib and tucker was made of a silk or sateen shirt, cloth trousers and store-bought cloth caftan and, surely, leather boots. Ladies' wear was much more varied: the wear of ladies, married women, widows and old ladies differed much. That difference was made in the form of headwear, a colour of outer garments and even the fabric.
DWELLING AND TRADES
The Komi parma and affluence of wood predetermined the character of housing development and use of wood as a basic building material. Villages and settlements were made of wood. That clearly affected the varied nature of the peasant utensils. The timber was processed with amazing ingenuity and skillfulness. All tree species and parts of a tree stem were used. Various wood potteries were made with great ingenuity. It was hollowed out and riveted.
Weaving and knitting
Machine-tool patterned weaving was made using several types of looms. The products included towels, tablecloths and ladies' blouses. In terms of artistic features, the traditional and highly developed art of the Komi people was an integral part of patterned weaving in the Western Europe.
5-needle patterned knitting is noticeable among the other sorts of the Komi traditional art. The Komi knitted ornament is of complex nature; it was formed in the process of gradual adoption of one or another sort of ornament by different groups of people. As a result, each district developed its own art specificity. As a combination, those specificities make an inimitable style of the Komi knitting.
The Komi use all sorts of the folk musical instruments. Many of them, like chipsanes, polyanes and some others are very original and produce a specific style of musical sounds, and have their own terms and pitch. Also, there is compelling evidence that the Komi masters have made a significant contribution in the development of the musical instrumental cultures of the peoples of Russia and the globe (musical master Nalimov and some others).
Fur and leather making
Leather and shoemaking was greatly developed in the one but last century. Some sorts and methods of making fur and leather, in particular, tweed making became rather profitable to form economically viable production with the course of time.
RITES AND TRADITIONS
The creative power of the Komi people has brought forth various genres of verbal poetic and song works, folk music and visual arts. During their multi-age history, the Komi people produced lamentations, proverbs and sayings, fairy tales, epic songs and ballads, couplets, labour and lyrical songs, child's folklore, folk drama and folk music. All that variety of the poetic genres reveals the life of the Komi people, their diligence, needs and social aspirations, its wisdom and hopes for the best future. Wedding poetry and wedding rites were the most original with the Komi people.
At the mid-to-end of the XIX century, there appeared still-existing couplets and elegiac reflective songs and recollection songs about the by-gone youth "Shondi banoi olomoi" (The Bright Life). Their appearance has become an important landmark for the Komi song folklore based on the multi-age poetic experience of the nation.
(Based on the materials of Institute of History, Language and Literature, Komi Science Centre, Ural Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences)