Tuesday, April 1, 2008

There's plenty of ivory in Russia

NOVY URENGOI, Russia — As Viktor Seliverstov works in his makeshift studio in this Siberian town, he is enveloped in a cloud of ivory dust. His electric carving tool whirs over the milky surface of the teeth and tusks, as he whittles them into key fobs, knife handles and scrimshaw figurines.

But these are not whale bones or walrus tusks he is working on. The ivory in this part of the world comes from the remains of extinct woolly mammoths, as their remains emerge from the tundra where they have been frozen for thousands of years. It is a traditional Russian business that had all but gone extinct itself during the Soviet period, but is flourishing now.

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