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Komi Permjaks!

About two weeks ago Sami asked me to help with some small sub-tasks related to UrW development. For example, he asked if I could figure out what kind of valuables there are in UnReal World - rings, necklaces or so. Well, since we have some artistic freedom with the world of the game, at first I thought just to write down short descriptions of items, loosely based on what I remember reading about archaelogical findings of Iron Age Finland. But yesterday I happened to have couple of hours free time in between my customers, so I decided to spend the time at local libraries. I started with Vilppula library, which was about to close at 4 pm. So I quickly just borrowed one general textbook about Finnish folk culture - the book contains less than half a page about rings and brooches etc. I changed to Mänttä library, which is open until 7 pm. There I found two books which I took to the library study room, and I started to write down notes.

Have I already mentioned that I love libraries? Especially, public libraries, which are free to use, open and accessible for everyone. They have everything from comics and board games to music, fiction and textbooks. And friendly personnel helping anyone who can't find what one is looking for. They don't ask what is your social status or background, or if you have some formal qualifications or something - no, all the fact and fiction is there, freely available at the library for anyone to study and to enjoy. As I sat in the library study room, the magic of libraries started to have its effect on me - instead of just drafting items based on my vague memories and guesses, I was here to study and to learn new things. To gain a broader or more detailed view of the world and the history. To improve myself. Yes I know a lot of information is also freely available in the internet, and there are powerful search engines helping to find what one is looking for. Nothing wrong with that - but the old-school part of my soul is always delighted when I can just browse books one by one, pretty often accidentally stumbling upon something highly interesting I didn't even know to look for.

Well, but this time I had a vague idea and I wanted to check it closer - and luckily there was a good book about the exact topic I was interested in. Permian art cast in bronze. All those uniquely styled figures of elks, aquatic birds and bears. And the totem-like figures combining features of an eagle, a human and an elk. But who exactly where the people who created that branch of art, where did they live and when? I started studying the book, and it talked about a Finno-Ugric people, ancestors of modern day Komi Permjaks. About a thousand years ago - exactly the timeframe of UnReal World - they had a prosperous Permian culture, located on the western slopes of Ural mountains - quite a stretch to the east from Finland. Those ancient pagan Komi Permjaks mastered metallurgy and had developed a blooming culture producing unique art based on their shamanistic world view. And the Permjaks didn't only sit in their fortified villages, they also traded with neighbouring tribes. Apparently there were active trade routes all the way to the areas of Finnish tribes, as many Permjak items have been found in Finland. For example, take a look at this three headed eagle, dating back to 600 - 800 AD, found in Häme area Finland. A Permian silver ear-ring has been found at a Sápmi sacrificial site at Ukonsaari of Lake Inari. So, apparently, the ancient Sápmi peoples also had trading connections to obtain permian valuables.

Silly me - despite being interested in the history of Finland and Finno-Ugric peoples, never before have I fully realized that many of our eastern relatives had prosperous cultures like this. Yes I have recognized these names and that unique style of permian figures, but the Permian peoples - the ancient Komi Permjaks - have been just a vague spot not exactly located in my mental map of history. I was happy to educate myself about this fascinating era of history. Around 1200 AD the perm region was overrun by warring hordes - it was Mongols, Kievan Rus and Novgorod Rus fighting each other, until finally the Novgorod Rus secured their dominance over the area. A lot of Permjak culture was raided and destroyed in the process, a lot of Permjak people were either killed or scattered away, and the remaining ones were marginalized into lower-class minority. So ended the once-prosperous era of Komi Permjak art and culture.

Well, studying further I filled another vaguely blank area in my mental map of history. Around 1000 AD, roughly in between Iron Age Finland and Komi Permjak region, there was another rich and prosperous culture called Bjarmia. The origin and identity of Bjarmian people is not exactly known, and little of their culture has survived. According to Viking sagas, the Bjarmian people spoke a language resembling Sápmi languages, and they worshipped a deity called Jomali. In modern Finnish the word for God is Jumala. So whoever the Bjarmian people exactly were, seems like they belonged to the Finno-Ugric tribes. Like Permjaks, they Bjarmians were also prosperous traders, and at 1026 AD a band of Vikings led by Tore Hund looted a Bjarmian silver treasure. The following centuries saw Bjarmian culture declining until a distinct Bjarmian culture identity ceased to exists.

Back at home, as I was writing a draft for Sami, it slowly dawned on me that I happen to own a replica of Permian bronze art. A plate-like pendant with a bear figure. Years ago I got it as a birthday present from a friend. But since there haven't been that many occasions where I could wear that kind of pendant, I had almost forgot about it. But there the bear was, patiently waiting in a decorated wooden box sitting at the corner of my desk.

a Permian bronze bear
a Permian bronze bear
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