– The amount of words in Skolt (as in all other living languages) is infinite, explains Michael Riessler, head of the Kola Saami Documentation Project in our first email conversation.

– And besides this every speaker of Skolt has its own stock of words in her or his mind. If you restrict to the word stock found in the existing dictionaries of Skolt (and ignoring that not all words found in the dictionaries are representative of all the single speakers' Skolt Saami language) you end up with approx. 10000 recorded words multiplied to more then 30 letters of the alphabet. Every linguist will envy you for such a collection of recorded words!

The facts are not very uplifting: There are 4 Saami languages spoken in the Kola Region (including northern Finland): Skolt, Akkala, Kildin, and Ter. Akkala is now extinct. The last speaker of Akkala passed away in 2003. Ter Saami in the Murmansk region has about 30 speakers, all age 50 and above. The Kildin Saami has about 300 active speakers. Likewise the Skolt Saami has around 300 speakers on the Finish side of the border and only a handful of old people left on the Russian side (speaking the special Russian dialect of Skolt).

But Michaels comments make me rethink my melancholic impression of Skolt Saami as a dying language. Infinity is a powerful concept to bring into any reflection. If every speakers vocabulary is potentially infinite or to be regarded as a “part” of infinity (that in itself would be infinite), then a dying language is not ceasing to exist by slowly shrinking in size as one would expect (due to forgetfulness, language shift or some other kind of deterioration of the collective memory). It is still present and alive in its vibrant infinity even with only one speaker left on earth (or maybe two? Does not a language need a listener? Or maybe it is sufficient with only one subject speaking to him- or herself? I guess that would be the perfect communication: The last speaker of a dead language muttering to himself).
2008-04-19 00:00:00 UTC by the silent reader

The beauty of totality.

By now I probably own the largest library of Skolt Saami to Finish language dictionaries in the world. Except for a few Skolt - German ones from the 1800 century that I found visiting the Humbolt University Library in Berlin last month, I have gathered all I could find.

The sum total is 4 books and 1 bad photocopy from the 80s.

They all vary greatly in size and quality, and I have tested my way through them all in the hopes of finding a candidate for scanning and optical character recogniction.

Finally today, a breakthrough. Mosnikoffs and Sammallahtis dictionary from 88 seems to have all the necessary ingredients: the copy is in strong black and white ink, the “c” does not look like an “e” (who would have thought that this would be the greatest of challenges for the digitizing community?) and all the special letters of the Skolt Sami language are possible to separate from each other. The ? from the d, the ? from the k, the ? from the ?, the š and ž, and å and â, not to mention the õ ö ? and ?. (Even your browser probably do not support these characters...)

I am starting to get a close relationship with these characters. Their corresponding sounds roll silently in my mouth like liquorice while I stare at the enlarged scans. Teaching the computer to understand all of them takes patience, but gives a rare glimpse into the microscopic world of the letter. The shapes of the characters are blown up and supersized until I see every molecule of ink filling up the topography of the paper.
2008-04-16 00:00:00 UTC by the silent reader

I feel my eyes drying up. I am lost in a desert of broken letters. Literarily.

Struck by a sudden premonition I see my next two weeks before me: working day and night proofreading a dictionary that translates between two languages, neither of which I understand a single word.

Today has been a technical research day. How to digitise a dictionary. How to wield the computing power to my needs. How to teach a blind computer to read.

The first goal: to build a database of the Skolt Saami language. A dying language in the arctic regions of northern Norway, Finland and Russia.

The next goal: To travel to northern Finland and collect samples of all the words of the Skolt Saami language. To film one informant per letter of the alphabet reading all the words.

The final goal: To build an art installation for the new Skolt Saami museum in Neiden, Norway - an exhibition of the totality of a dying language. At the push of a button, one by one of the words will be given to the visitors. One word each, given as a task - for the visitor to take responsibility for and remember for the future.
2008-04-16 00:00:00 UTC by the silent reader

Goodiepals 11. time

For correct viewing please play the audio file named “maved_soundtrack” along with this video sequence…
2008-01-04 00:00:00 UTC by the silent reader


What do people in the Barents Region have in common - other than the notion of living on the periphery? What happens now when the region experiences a potential change from periphery to center? Why is everybody speaking English to each other? Is the opening of the first IKEA store in the region a major event in the history of the Barents?

USB is a performance that investigates these and other questions; questions dealing with local, global and northern identity, the power of definition, borders, similarities and differences in the Arctic, and the love of IKEA.

Welcome to the brave new world of the United States of Barents!

Amund Sjølie Sveen is an artist and percussionist from northern Norway who developed USB (United States of Barents) originally after taking part in the artistic research project Connection Barents in June 2006. USB was premiered in the Barents Spektakel-festival, in Kirkenes, January 2007. An Internet version of the USB presentation was made especially for this Region in focus.

via LabforCulture
2007-08-09 00:00:00 UTC by the silent reader

This time next year, Kentucky based physicist and futurist Brooks Agnew hopes to board the commercially owned Russian icebreaker Yamal in the port of Murmansk, and to sail into the polar sea just beyond Canada's Arctic islands...

Mr. Agnew is the latest in a long line of people to peddle the nutty, yet persistent, theory that humans live on the surface of a hollow planet, in which two undiscovered openings, near the North and South poles, connect the outer Earth with an interior realm...

While he insists the journey has a genuine scientific purpose, Mr. Agnew also says the expedition will include several experts in meditation, mythology and UFOs, as well as a team of documentary filmmakers...

If the polar opening isn't there, the voyage "will still make an outstanding documentary," he promises.

more info at the national post
2007-06-01 00:00:00 UTC by the silent reader


April 63, needing a break after the bay of pigs invasion, Fidel Castro travelled to Murmansk. Here he is seen visiting the local pioneers.
2007-05-22 00:00:00 UTC by the silent reader

MURMANSK 2007: Distribution of the Sensible
Images of buildings and non-buildings in Murmansk, Russia taken in may 2007 by Espen Sommer Eide
2007-05-10 00:00:00 UTC by the silent reader