Russia and Siberia

Today northern Siberia and the Far East are home to approximately 28 groups of indigenous peoples who continue to live traditional lifestyles in remote areas as fishers, hunters, and nomadic herders.

Extreme regional diversity is evident in all aspects of indigenous Siberian material culture, including clothing and footwear. The embellishment of these items, using embroidery, relief, appliqué, fur inserts, and beadwork, invariably reflects Siberian beliefs, including strong connections to the spirits of ancestors, animals, and the land.

Boots are almost universally worn, and are made primarily of reindeer and sealskin. Each indigenous group has characteristic designs, ranging from tube-like 'foot bags' of the Nganasan to sealskin boots with preformed soles favoured by the Chukchi and Yupik. Among the coastal Amur, salmon skin is often used for the making of boots, and the Nanaits, one of the Amur groups, create exquisite appliquéd curvilinear designs representing mythical beasts.

For conservation reasons, and in order to show more variety over time, only a selection of footwear from the permanent collection is displayed in our exhibitions at any one time. This means there's always something new to see.

image of Russian and Siberian footwear