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Deadly delicacies of the northern peoples
Deadly delicacies of the northern peoples

Kopalchen can save lives - but only for a select few. This dish will kill the stranger. One such incident occurred in the 1970s.

For an amateur

The traditional cuisine of northern peoples is generally not for everyone. Yes, there are also masterpieces in it - for example, stroganin. And ordinary products after heat treatment taste very good: milk and deer meat, rich in proteins and fats, game, meat of large sea animals (from walruses to whales), river and sea fish. Additional vitamins and minerals are provided by berries and herbs.

But the Nenets, Mansi, Komi, Khanty, Chukchi, Eskimos, Evenks, Nganasans and other peoples have recipes that are quite outlandish for people from the south. It hardly occurred to you to use the raw warm blood of a deer or a boiled heart, the eyes of a seal or fish offal. Unusual traditional dishes also include a thick "blood" soup with the unpronounceable name of wilmullirylkyril (boiled deer guts, offal, viscera fat and blood), ngaybat (steamed raw deer meat with fermented raw blood as a sauce), kanyga (partially digested deer stomach) …

The kiwiak is also puzzling - a gutted seal carcass stuffed with guillemots (small birds), which ferments under pressure for up to one and a half years. The decomposed mass of guillemots is used for food. And for dessert - akutak, ice cream made from walrus or seal lard with berries.

But the strangest and most dangerous delicacy is kopalhen (aka kopalchem, aka kymgut).

Reindeer breeder

The northern peoples eat everything they can, even the raw larvae of the subcutaneous gadfly, which overpowers the deer.


Kopalchen is pickled meat (not rotten or rotten, as some think). Eskimos and Chukchi make it from walruses and seals: the meat rolled into a huge roll and the internal organs of the animal must be sprinkled with herbs and put in a hole near the coast - and under a tight cover. For several months the meat is slowly fermented in a cool pit, and then it can be eaten. Northerners use copalchen as an excellent canned food - several tens of kilograms of high-calorie meat can feed a family for a long time in winter.

Kopalhen is also made from reindeer by the Nenets, Chukchi and Evenki. They choose a young individual and do not allow it to eat for several days in order to clear the digestive tract, and then strangle it (carefully so as not to damage the skin). Then the whole carcass is placed in a swamp and dripped with peat. The place is marked with a stake or flag. If a hungry Nenets or Chukchi wanders through the tundra and finds a copalhen, he can eat it, but according to custom he must then prepare a new one and bury it.

For at least six months, the deer decomposes and then dug out. Having cut off the mold, the Nenets or Mansi cut the meat and eat it with salt, often frozen. Sometimes kopalchen is eaten with fresh deer lungs. The putrefactive process makes the meat sour. This dish, although it emits a bad, pungent smell, is revered as a delicacy. A man needs a small piece for a whole day of violent activity in the cold.


Anyone other than the northerners themselves cannot eat copalchen - cadaveric poisons: neurin, putrescine, cadaverine and others. I even ate a little - and there is almost no chance of survival. Northern residents can eat it, because they are accustomed to such food from childhood and develop immunity to poisons, like in scavengers. In addition, the acidic environment of the stomachs of the indigenous inhabitants of the Arctic coasts also destroys the larvae of Trichinella, but the southerner can easily catch trichinosis by tasting Copalchen. But this is even the best.

Copalchen can be stored in glacial warehouses for several years

Kopalchen must be looked for, otherwise we will die

Forensic scientist Andrei Lomachinsky describes in his book of stories a case of the Brezhnev era. Topographers under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Duzin flew to Taimyr. In the helicopter there were two pilots, three topographers and one Nenets Savely Peresol - as a guide, who was well acquainted with the area.During the flight, something went wrong with the control system, and the Mi-8 crashed to the ground. The crew escaped with bruises, abrasions and a slight fright.

Just got out of the crumpled car - as it caught fire. So they ended up practically empty-handed - on Taimyr. Without communication, clothing and food. It was September, so death from frost was not yet threatened. It remained to wait that when they did not return, rescuers would be sent for them.


But several days passed - and no one. They ate lemmings and mice, lingonberries and cloudberries, mushrooms. And it gets colder at night. We thought - everything, we will perish. And the Nenets is all about kopalhen - in the swamp, he says, we have to go, find kopalhen - we'll eat our fill, take it with us and reach Kheta (this is such a village), and then to Khatanga. And they will send, they say, a helicopter for us then.

The pilots didn’t agree - we’ll still go hundreds of kilometers, we won’t get there. But they are interested in kopalchen. Peresol said that the Nenets bury deer in swamps, mark this place and then eat it. In general, he promised to find Kopalchen so that he could continue to wait for rescuers. In the evening the Nenets returned: Savely brought a whole reindeer leg to the camp. Not to say that kopalchen seemed yummy to the Russian: the taste is rancid, disgusting, but there is nothing to do - they pinched their noses, began to eat and ate, ate, ate … until they overeat.

Siberian Nenets

In the morning, Kopalchen made itself felt. Vomiting, liver pain, loss of consciousness. Only Savely Peresol is in perfect order. The next day the end came: in the morning the pilot and Duzin died, then the mechanic. Two surveyors lay unconscious. Peresol tried to save them with the help of magical rites, but it was impossible to appease or persuade the spirits of the tundra.

Just at that moment, the helicopter, which was so awaited, arrived. The military began to provide first aid to topographers, but they managed to save only one, the second died at night. Peresolya, after a long investigation and a heap of examinations, was sentenced conditionally - for "accidental murder by poisoning."

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