Indigenous People of Siberia













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Siberia is a part of Asian territory of Russian Federation between Ural mountains in the West and the mountains of the Pacific Ocean watershed in the East; between Arctic Ocean in the North and the steppes of Kazakhstan Republic and Mongolia in the South. It stretches 3500km North to South and 7000km West to East with a total territory of some 10.000.000 km2. In accordance with its geographic and climatic conditions it is divided into Western (occupying predominantly Western lowlands and Altai mountains) and Eastern Siberia (comprising elevation occupying mostly the Mid Siberian plateau).

Western Siberia occupies the territory between the Ural mountains in the West and the Yenisey River in the East. Most of the territory presents a woody lowland (taiga) rich with marsh, rivers and numerous lakes, in the North transforming into tundra ecosystem and in the South into more elevated open lands and rocky Altai mountains. See map1

Finno-Ugric People

GYULA DECSY// The Uralic Protolanguage: A Comprehensive Reconstruction.1990.

According to generally accepted views, the Uralic Proto-language was spoken up to 4000B.C. in the area along the Forest Zone-Steppe-Border (mainly north of it) between the Volga Bend in Eastern Russia and the Ob River in Western Siberia. It was language of the ancestors of the following (still living) people: Finnish, , Estonian, Lapp, Saam, Karel, Veps, Izhora, Livonian; Mari, Mordva; Komi, Udmurt; Mansi, Khanty, Hungarian; Selkup, Nenets, Enets, Nganasan.

There is also a number of ethnic groups originally Finno-Ugric but later assimilated: Kammass, Koibal, Karagas, Taigi, Khakas, Motor, Tuva - Turkicised; Merja, Muroma, Meschchera, Valdai-Finns, Ryazan-Pskov, Vots - Russified; Livonian -Latvianised.

A considerable part of the present-day Russian nation of the East European Turkic population thus have a strong Finno-Ugric ethnic component. It is also assumed that certain groups among the Tatars and Bashkirs (today Turkic speaking) in the Volga-Ural area may be of Hungarian origin. The speakers of the Uralic Protolanguage were fisherman and hunters in the forest/ waterland area of Northeast Europe and Northwest Siberia. Up to about 500 A.D., they probably controlled some of the waterways between Scandinavia, the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea and the western Siberian rivers. They developed and practised a remarkable "inland sailing/boating" technique on the lakes and rivers of the water rich Northern Eurasian forest zone; this technique made it possible for them to migrate to and occupy distant territories and to assimilate there large groups of the previous aboriginal (apparently, non-Uralic) population mainly in the forest zone, and further to the north in the arctic regions. The inland sailing/boating made the Uralic groups extremely mobile and helped to spread their language as a kind of lingua franca along the major rivers and in the Lakeland of Northern Eurasia. Because of their skill in inland sailing/boating they can be called "fluvial nomads". The fluvial sailing technique of the Vikings coming from East Sweden to the south (Novgorod, Kiev) in the 9th century A.D. may represent a borrowing from Finns. All of the Uralic groups remained in the Forest Zone and/or in the arctic regions except for the Hungarians who left the northern areas around 2000 B.C. and became "mounted nomads" in the steppe living in a Turkic ethnic environment between the 4th and 9th centuries A.D.

Coined by O.Pritsak 1981. The origin of Rus. v1.

Ob-Ugric People

E. D. Prokof'eva, V. N. Chernetsov and N.F. Prytkova// The Khanty and Mansi.// Peoples of Siberia.

In scientific literature the Khants and Mansi are combined under the general title of "Ob' Ugrians." The Khants were known earlier as "Ostyaks", "Ob' Ostyaks", "Obdor", "Berezov" and "Surgut Ostyaks" and so on, while the Mansi were known as "Voguls". Some of the Mansi groups, however, also were called Ostyaks.

Scientific literature contains a variety of explanations for the term "Khants". It is derived from the combination "Khondy-Kho" (in the Khant language "man from the river Konda") and it has also been explained as meaning "Khan people" and connected with the name of the Huns. "The origin of the Russian name for the Khants, "Ostyaks'', which appeared first In the 16th century is also explained in different ways, being either interpreted as mutation of the Khant words "as" or "yakh" ("as" is the Ob' or "Great River", and "yakh" means people), or else from the word "Ushtyak", which was what the Siberian Tatars called the Khanty.


Khanty People

E. D. PROKOF'YEVA, E.D., CHERNETSOV, N. and PRYTKOVA N.F. The Khanty and Mansi.

FORSYTH J.A. J. A History of the Peoples of Siberia. Russia's North Asian Colony. CUP 1992.

Kretzmann, S. & Wright, S. 1998 - Drilling to the ends of the earth./Survival International. Rainforest Action Network.1998.

Lukina N.V. & V.M.Kulemsin. . Tomsk State University. 1970.

The present-day territory of residence of Khanty lies to the east of the Ural Range along the Ob' and its tributaries. This territory is mainly covered by vast swamps, numerous rivers and lakes, richly forested.

During the Bronze and Early Iron Ages, forest-steppes of Western Siberia were inhabited by nomadic groups, horse-breeders. These nomads are considered the early Ugrian tribes. The horse-breeders and hunter-fishermen from the North contacted closely. From these wooded steppes the Magyars left in the ninth century AD to Central Europe and founded the Hungarian nation. Other Ugric ethnoses moving north changed the culture and lifestyles into hunting, fishing and rain-deer breeding.

First in the XV century - the Great Novgorod republic and later in the XVI century the Moscovite state had already encroached upon Finno-Ugrian peoples of the west of Ural, founded outlying trade towns and established nominal suzerainty over Khanty and Samoyed inhabitants of the region around the mouth of the Ob.

Khanty, who may have numbered, together with Mansi, about 16,000 at a time when the population of Moscovite Russia was perhaps about 10 million, were not nations with a single ruler or a sense of common identity, but belonged to many separate clans, each with its own hereditary chieftains. The territory occupied by the Khanty extended from the mouth of the Ob and the northern Urals for 400 miles up the Ob to the confluence of the Irtysh, and from there a further 400 miles eastward into the heart of Siberia.

The tribal priests - shamans presided over religious rites in these sacred places, sacrificing horses, reindeer or other animals under a tree and smearing the mouths of spirit effigies with blood to "feed" them. In early times human beings were sacrificed in this and other ways.

Despite all the anti-religious measures employed by the Communist Party, shamans and shamanism continued in Siberia till nowadays.

Finding themselves at best disregarded, but frequently exploited and abused by the invaders of their territory, the native Siberians living to the north seeking escape from the destruction. At the beginning of the twentieth century the peoples of the North, pushed back from the intensively colonized zone of the railway, lived as separately from the 'white men' as did the Indians of North America.

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