Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dogs and the Soviet Union

Terrierman (Patrick Burns) has an interesting post on "Russia's Terriers of Oppression". The Black Russian Terrier, he writes, "may be the only breed of dog ever created by a state purely to subjugate its people." Developed by Soviet security forces using stock from several breeds, they were used for many of the same jobs that German Shepherd dogs do for the U.S. military and police forces, plus others less savory. Despite the bleak circumstances of the breed's origin, I suspect Black Russians could be great dogs in the right hands. As with pit bulls, it's not just the dogs, it's who controls the dogs that makes the difference.

I was interested to see that the Soviets had actually created a breed, given that the Soviet state did its best to destroy dog breeds that, by their very existence, challenged Communist ideology and Russian nationalism. The Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute were originally bred by native Siberian peoples, the husky by the Chukchi "Indians" and the malamute by the people of the same name—Mahlemut. Tragically, both were all but completely eliminated in their land of origin by a deliberate Soviet policy of "assimilating" (read eradicating) native cultures.

Fortunately, however, Americans with an interest in dogsledding had "discovered" huskies and malamutes a few decades earlier, and had imported some of the dogs to the States. America became an "ark" for those breeds when the USSR instituted its genocidal policies.

I'll write more later on sled dogs, including sibes, mals, and the Alaskan husky.


Steve Bodio said...

Russia was pretty hard on Kazakh and Kyrgiz native dogs, too, at least until after Stalin.

Didn't know you had a blog!--I'll link.

Matt Mullenix said...

And don't forget the borzoi who were killed with the ouster of the czar.