Turks have long been known as good blacksmiths, who were one of the first to master this craft. According to the statement of one of the Rouran khans, the first Turks, who lived in Altai, were “his blacksmiths” who smelted iron and steel for his horde. Many years have passed since then, the once united people scattered all over Eurasia, but the blacksmith’s craft still occupies one of the central positions among the Turks.
The Sakha people, being one of the oldest representatives of the Turkic world, preserved the traditions of their ancestors and even managed to develop them in the extreme conditions of the North. Among the Yakuts, the position of the blacksmith in the hierarchy was quite high, so according to legends he was the elder brother of the shaman. The shamans feared these people, who were ministers of the sacred fire and were able to subdue it.
Today we tell you about Nikolai Popov, one of the best blacksmiths in Yakutia.
Nikolai began to learn the blacksmith craft from a young age, that's what he says about it:
- I have been interested in blacksmithing since my early childhood, this is a family business, many of my ancestors were masters-blacksmiths of the Sakha people. As I remember, I made my first knife at the age of 12, from the iron hinge of the door, I used to carry it around many years. In the beginning it was at the level of a hobby, but after graduating from university I began to engage in blacksmithing thoroughly. In addition to the manufacture of knives, I also make khomus (harp). In 1991, I made the world's first electronic khomus, based on the principles of electromagnetism.
- You have participated in many blacksmithing contests, such events are an excellent opportunity to promote the Yakut knife and the blacksmiths' skill in particular. What is the situation with the 'Yakut knife' brand recognition?
- In 2004, when I first visited a major exhibition, not a single Yakut knife was presented at it. Now many firms make knives under the Yakut brand. On the first day of the first exhibition I participated, all my knives had already been bought. I was surprised by the great interest of visitors. During my next visits to the exhibitions I began to notice an increasing number of knives under the Yakut brand. It turned out that all these buyers were managers of large companies. Subsequently, company representatives admitted that they simply copied my knives, but I did not get peeved with them for this. Connoisseurs of good blades know that a good knife can only be purchased from Yakut blacksmiths. The Yakut knife is one of the best in the world. Experts estimate our knife as universal. The first thing that experts notice when they see our knife is that it has nothing superfluous. This form of the knife did not appear immediately, the blade developed for hundreds of years, in many ways the shape of the knife was sharpened for the certain type of activity. If other peoples have different knives for certain types of activities, the Yakut has always been a hunter, fisherman, carpenter, etc. The versatility of the knife is due to all this.
I would like to note that recently along with the khomus the Yakut knife has become one of the brands of the republic.
- I heard a lot, both in childhood and now, that a blacksmith in Yakut mythology possesses supernatural powers. There are many myths that the shaman fears only him and that only he can stop the dark shaman.
- It is true that a blacksmith as a person possessing the secret of smelting metal was always held in high esteem. Much of the sacred things of the shaman were made by the blacksmith, the shaman honored him and perhaps the master, making attributes, imposed certain restrictions on the shaman so that he could not use his power against the blacksmiths. The blacksmith does not belong to certain forces in terms of the Upper and Lower Worlds. Our deity Kydai Bakhsy, the ancestor of the blacksmith family, lives in the Lower World, but is closer to the Middle World and is a neutral figure. The fire and metal that we use is in many respects the personification of the evil world of abaasy. As we know from Olonkho, in the Lower World there are iron forests and lakes from liquid metal.
- It is very interesting, is it possible to say that you are still worshiping Kydai Bakhsy?
- We worship Kydai Bakhsy and, of course, the spirit of fire, give them gifts, feed the fire and ask for help in our work. A lot of what our ancestors knew was gone. The link between generations was interrupted during the Soviet years, of course, there was no persecution of blacksmiths in those years as such, but still... Simply, much of the knowledge was not passed on to the younger generation; atheism’s state policy played a decisive role here. As for the production of metal by the “old-fashioned” method: the extraction of ore and the extraction of iron from it, is now almost forgotten. Currently, some enthusiasts and I have smelted iron several times in this way, and it can be argued that there is some progress in this direction. The problem here is that many nuances are forgotten, but we will continue to work in this direction. It can be said that we are rediscovering the original blacksmithing of the Yakuts. After all, without a basis consisting of traditions and precepts of ancestors, we will not be able to rise to a new level.