With much of its territory above the Arctic Circle, Yamal means ‘edge of the world’ in the language of its indigenous people. The Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District
spans from the slopes of the Polar Ural Mountains, north to the Kara Sea. Its administrative centre, the historic town of Salekhard (population 43,000) straddles the Arctic Circle. The Yamal Peninsula was considered so inhospitable that Stalin built his prison camps here. And yet a rich, colourful and resilient culture and ancient shamanistic religion have managed to survive here. Yamal is the home of the Nenets, custodians of a style of reindeer herding that is considered the last of its kind. To survive Yamal’s extreme climate, the Nenets migrate with herds of up to 10,000 strong from their winter pastures in the southern taiga, north to their summer grazing lands near the Arctic Ocean.