The significance of the Bear Ritual among the Saami and other Northern Cultures

August 28, 2008 at 6:36 pm | Posted in Community, Japan, Scandinavia, Traditions | 2 Comments
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Things are becoming more and more interesting! As I told you yesterday, I remember some kind of religious ritual related to the bear as a Saami practice. I saw it when visiting the Ajte Museum in Jokkmokk last December. So I keep searching, and see what I found! A very interesting article by Brandon “Kál’lá” Bledsoe:

The Significance of the Bear Ritual Among the Sami and Other Northern Cultures

By Brandon “Kál’lá” Bledsoe

There is an ancient belief that the bear is in communication with the lord of the mountains and with the sky, and certainly he has from time immemorial been surrounded by an aura which enjoins caution and respect.
-Ivar Lissner, Man, God and Magic, (p.163)

Of all the animals that inhabit the worldís northern climates none has been subject to greater reverence than the bear. Indigenous societies of North America and Northern Eurasia share a seemingly uniform belief that this elusive creature is endowed with supernatural qualities. Ceremonies venerating slain bears were, until more recent times, an important aspect of the Sami belief system. Close examination of eyewitness accounts shows that this ritual is in many ways typical of other bear ceremonies in the northern hemisphere. In this essay I will explore possible explanations for the common occurrence of bear ceremonialism, and what this indicates about the Samiís relationship with other indigenous cultures. This subject has received a fair amount of scholarly attention, and a few anthropologists have actually theorized about the origin of the ritual. Based on their information I believe that we can logically infer three possible explanations for this cultural parallel.

1. Convergence – In each culture the bear is recognized, on some level, as the archetypal messenger to the supernatural world. The uniformity of this belief is the result of an inherent human tendency to venerate certain animals. The special role of the bear in the aboriginal metaphysical system is not due to contact between these societies, nor is it the result of a common ancestral belief system. The contention is that the rituals are a consequence of semi-isolated groups of people reacting to similar environments in a similar manner. These northern people can be said to constitute ìa single circumpolar cultural district in which a single environment forms the basis of common developmentî (Lissner, 160)
2. Ancient Ancestral Belief-System – The bear’s position of prominence within the totemic dominance hierarchy, in each of these groups, is the result of a common ancestral belief-system of Asiatic origin dating back to the time of the Magdalenian period of 20,000 years ago. The Sami, the ancient Finns, the Tungus, the Gilyaks and various other tribes of Siberia, the Ainu of Japan, and Native North American groups, such as the Algonkins and Tlingit, all derived this belief (more or less intact) from the bear cult of prehistoric times.
3. Historical Interaction – Reverence is a common reaction for humans living in close contact with bears. However, many of the similarities in rites, rituals, and folklore are the result of cultural interactions. Other similarities are purely superficial and do not indicate a shared ancestral system.

One of the inherent difficulties of a broad -based cultural analysis- especially one requiring an outsider to explain alien practices- is the temptation to interpret data in a manner favorable to the ethnographer’s assumption. The author of Theoretical Archaeology warns against this tendency. Dark asserts, ìin order to recognize artifacts, structures or actions associated with religion or ritual, we must employ a reliable middle-range theory capable of doing so, unless we choose a relativist positionî (Dark, 145) It appears to me that the best way to create a ìmid-range theoryî in this particular case is to explore multiple levels of ritual interpretation. Once multiple interpretations have been established we can investigate how these levels overlap and influence one another. The bear ceremony is a good example of a ritual containing multiple functions. I will maintain that these functions can be interpreted as follows:

1. Religious Level – The bear ceremony is a form of communication with the supernatural world, and is an expression of the belief in a hierarchy of spiritual entities. The bear is the representative of a high-ranking deity.
2. Economic Level – This belief-system is the result of a perceived need for reciprocity with nature. ìSuccess in hunting and fishing is dependent on the good will of the bear that rules over the reproduction of animalsî (Shnirelman, 9)
3. Psychological Level – In hunter-gatherer societies there is a certain amount of guilt associated with killing animals. The level of guilt may be greater when it is necessary to kill an animal that is seen as being more anthropomorphic or rare. The bear ceremony is performed in order to pacify the bear’s vengeful spirit.

I will not claim that any one of these levels alone is the causal motivator. Nor will I assert that one of the three hypotheses on its own can sufficiently explain every aspect of this subject. However, in order to avoid a ìrelativist positionî, I will attempt to integrate all of these hypotheses, and levels of interpretation, into one satisfactory conclusion.

[…]Particulars of the Bear Ceremony

The Sami

The hunting and killing of such animals is certainly necessary, but at the same time it is frequently a dangerous matter, because in doing so the hunter naturally incurs the anger of the animal killed.
-Rafael Karsten, Religion of the Samek, p.113

1. Departure for the forest. Bear hunting usually takes place during the hibernatory season, late winter or early spring. Once a den has been located the hunters are assembled, the Noajdde and his drum are consulted, and they then depart for the forest. The one who has located the bear takes the lead. He holds a staff with a brass ring attached to it. A Noajdde usually follows him and precedes the hunter elected to strike first.
2. The Hunt. The one who located the bear is sent into the den to awaken it. The Sami were known to have used firearms, bow and arrow, lances or spears, and even axes as a means of slaying the bear. The animal was not attacked directly if a spear was being used, the weapon was held in reverse until the beast began its attack and impaled itself.
3. ìBirchingî the bear. After the bear has been killed they drag it out from the lair and begin to whip it with soft twigs or birch branches. ìA switch is twisted into the form of a ring which is fastened to the lower jaw of the bear. It is tied to the belt of the principal bear-killer; the latter pulls at it three times singing (joiking) in a peculiar tone that he has become the bears masterî (Karsten, 116)
4. The Bear Master returns. When the hunters return to the sijdda their wives greet them by spitting elder bark juice in their faces. The principal bear-killer brings the ring to his goahte, knocking three times at the door. If the bear is female he calls out s–ive neit (holy virgin), if the animal is male he shouts s–ive olmai (holy man) The bear master’s wife keeps the ring in a linen cloth until after the ceremonial meal.
5. The Feast. It was customary for the men to prepare and cook the bear meat in a specially erected goahte that no woman could enter. Women must cover their heads and during the next five days can only look at the bear killer through a brass ring. After this prescribed period of three days, the bear’s skin is stretched out in the center of the banquet area where various libations of tobacco and foodstuff are offered to its spirit. After an apologetic speech is given the feast of bear meat begins.
6. Ringing Him in. After the feast the ring is removed and the women and children attach pieces of a brass chain to it, which is then tied to the bears tail. Next, the ring is given to the men who bury it with the bones. Great care is taken to ensure that the bones are arranged in their original form.
7. Immunizing the women. Finally, the skin is laid out on a stump and the blindfolded wives of the bear slayers take turns shooting at it with arrows.

This last feature is the most outstanding of the Sami ritual. Special care must be taken to guard women and children against the bear’s vengeful spirit. By shooting the carcass they conquer this fear.

The Gilyaks

The bear plays a great part in the life of all the peoples inhabiting the region of the Amoor and Siberia as far as Kamtchatka, but among none of them is his importance greater than among the Gilyaks.
-J. Frazer, The Golden Bough, (517)

1. A cub is captured in the forest; its mother is killed if necessary.
2. The cub is brought back to the village, where it is confined in a cage until reaching maturity. During its time at the village the cub is treated like an honored guest, it is routinely walked, cleaned, and well fed.
3. An arena where the bear will die is prepared. It is then removed from its cage for the final time and is lead from hut to hut where it is teased with fir branches. At the same time reassuring words are spoken to it. The bear’s host sometimes sneaks up on it and kisses it good-bye.
4. The bear is led down to a river, around the host’s house three times, and then into the house. Everyone must leave the house except for the oldest kinsman. Finally, the bear is led to a place that has been prepared for it and tied down between two stakes. The animal is left alone for a moment while the banquet commences.
5. The host feeds the bear for the last time. ìFarewellî, he says to the bear, ìI feed you for the last time; go directly to your owner. May you be able to gain your master’s affection.
6. The procession of the executioner begins. The village headman walks in front, carrying a kettle and an axe, he is followed the Narch-en (shaman), holding the same, and then the rest of the guests.
7. The executioner waits for the bear to turn in such a way that an arrow can be sent straight to its heart, all the while he speaks to it reassuringly.
8. The bear’s corpse is laid out in the snow facing west. All of its skin is removed except for the head. The head and skin are laid out on a framework resembling a body. A quiver of arrows, tobacco, and eatables are laid beneath the head.
9. The meat is eaten on the day after the execution. A lively feast goes on through the night.
10. Two dogs are often sacrificed to the bear’s spirit on the day after the feast.

The great winter festival is only an extension of the rite that is observed at the slaughter of every bear.

The Ainu

I-yomante- ìthing/send, ìthing/let goî
Hunting, particularly bear hunting, required strict adherence to ritual. The bear itself is a deity and the Bear Ceremony is the best known of all Ainu rituals.
-N.G. Munro, Ainu Creed And Cult, p.4

1. Hunters capture a bear cub from a den or shortly after emerging.
2. The bear is raised among the villagers for a year and a half inside a special hut. The women of the village sometimes nurse the cub.
3. The Iyomante festival is held at the beginning of the cold season, September or October.
4. Prayers are offered to Fuchi the fire goddess and to Kimun-Kamuy the god of the mountains.
5. The bear is lead out of the hut by a procession of prominent village men to the nusa (sending place). At this time the women begin addressing it with terms of endearment.
6. The bear is shot with blunt arrows. Critical wounds are made using sharp arrows, and then the bear is strangled between two logs. ìMeantime the women and girls had taken post behind the men, where they danced, lamenting and beating the men who were killing the bearî (Frazer, 508)
7. Male elders skin and dress the bear. The skin is left attached to the head. Afterwards they place the skin in front of an altar with gifts that may include food, sake, and a sword and quiver. She-bears are sometimes adorned with a necklace and earrings.
8. The meat of the bear is taken to back to the hut and left there till the next day. Its liver is cut into small pieces, salted, and then eaten. The men drink the blood that has been gathered in cups. While the bear is being disemboweled the women begin to cry and dance mournfully.
9. The meat is eaten the next day and the celebration continues.

The Iyomante ritual was performed in honor of many of the other animals that the Ainu hunted, as well as certain plants and tools. However, the bear ceremony was by far the most important and elaborate

Many of the peoples living in Siberia and North America called the bear ìold manî, ìlordî or ìsacred animal.”
-Viktor Shnirelman, Grandfather Bear, p.9

Interpreting the rituals

The parallels between the bear ceremonies of these three very distantly related cultures are unmistakable. In each case all three functional levels are simultaneously present. A consistent belief in the bear’s role as mediator between humanity and the lord of the forest reveals much about the rationale behind the ceremony. It was not the physical manifestation of the bear that controlled natural phenomena, such as reproduction; rather it was his or her archetypal ìownerî. In each of these examples the creature’s spirit is begged for forgiveness -the blame is often ascribed to a neighboring tribe- and offered gifts to take to its master. Many of the rites performed may appear paradoxical to the western mind. Why is it that they would kill an honored guest? Why tease and praise the bear at the same time? Why fear its wrath if you are paying homage?

The motif that reoccurs most often is reciprocity with nature. The animal is expected to sacrifice its mortal self so it may return to the god with words of praise for its human counterparts. Still, there may be some uncertainty as to whether or not the animal wishes to leave. The bear’s spirit is not feared because of any inherent malignance, he may simply be angry for having been slain. This idea could indeed be the result of the respect, and guilt, experienced after taking the life of a formidable creature. Equally plausible explanations can be given in terms of religious beliefs, economics, or underlying psychology, but I find none of them alone to be adequate. Only by assuming the participant’ mind set can one hope to appreciate the ritual’s true meaning.

The widespread dispersal of these notions, from S·pmi to the Hudson Bay, does suggest that its origins are indeed rooted in the bear cult of prehistory. A wall painting from the Trois-FrËres cave, which dates back to the Magdalenian period, clearly depicts an ancient bear ritual. The bear is shown being shot and stoned to death while blood streams from its mouth. Countless collections of Ursine bones and skulls have been found deposited across the Northern Hemisphere. Of course many of the similarities shared by the Gilyak and the Ainu ceremonies can no doubt be explained by the close contact between these two groups. But this should in no way negate the theory of its ancient origin. Nor should the fact that reverence for bears does seem to be a natural inclination for humans everywhere. There are remnants of this in western culture as well: the word berserk is of Norse origin meaning ìbear shirt,î the Welsh name Arthur is usually translated as ìbear hero,î and the Greek myth explaining the origin of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor is strikingly similar to some of the beliefs of the peoples discussed.

The animal’s peculiar habit of hibernation certainly lends it an air of mystery. Bear remains are difficult to find because they usually crawl away to the mountains to die. Above all, the bear is a creature that lends itself easily to anthrophomorphication, its habit of standing on two legs to strike and the human-like appearance of its skinned carcass gave many cultures, including the Sami, a sense of kinship.

Interesting, right? One of the main problems I have found for this projects is which criteria to use when chosing and limiting which communities to include or exclude on the trip. I think that religious practices may be a good one to use, as it provides a very interesting approach.


Fourth and last step: Russia and Japan

July 29, 2008 at 8:56 pm | Posted in Language, Maps | Leave a comment
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After some months, we finish this trip around the world with Ethnologue. We started in Alaska and Canada, passed by Greenland and Scandinavia, and now we finish in Russia and Japan. It has been a cool trip, right? Lets see what they have for Russia and Japan:

Russia (Asia) and Japan

Ainu: [ain] South Sakhalin Island and southern Kuril Islands. Dialects: Sakhalin (Saghilin), Taraika, Hokkaido (Ezo, Yezo), Kuril (Shikotan). Classification: Language Isolate Nearly extinct.

Aleut: [ale] 190 in Russia (2002 K. Matsumura). 5 on Bering Island Atkan (1995 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 702 (1989 census). Nikolskoye settlement, Bering Island, Commander (Komandor) Islands. Alternate names: Unangany, Unangan, Unanghan. Dialects: Beringov (Bering, Atkan). Classification: Eskimo-Aleut, Aleut

Aleut, Mednyj
: [mud] 10 (1995 M. Krauss). Copper Island, Komandor Islands. Alternate names: Medny, Copper, Copper Island Aleut, Attuan, Copper Island Attuan, Creolized Attuan. Classification: Mixed Language, Russian-Aleut Nearly extinct.

Alutor: [alr] 100 to 200 (2000 A. E. Kibrik). Ethnic population: 2,000 (1997 M. Krauss). Koryak National District, northeast Kamchatka Peninsula, many in Vyvenka village, 2 families in Rekinniki, and individual families in Tilichiki and Tymlyt. Some speakers are separated at considerable distances and without regular contact. Alternate names: Alyutor, Aliutor, Olyutor. Dialects: Alutorskij (Alutor Proper), Karaginskij (Karaga), Palanskij (Palana). Considered a dialect of Koryak until recently. Classification: Chukotko-Kamchatkan, Northern, Koryak-Alyutor

Chukot: [ckt] 10,000 (1997 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 15,000. Chukchi Peninsula, Chukot and Koryak National Okrug, northeastern Siberia. Alternate names: Chukcha, Chuchee, Chukchee, Luoravetlan, Chukchi. Dialects: Uellanskij, Pevekskij, Enmylinskij, Nunligranskij, Xatyrskij, Chaun, Enurmin, Yanrakinot. Classification: Chukotko-Kamchatkan, Northern, Chukot

Enets, Forest: [enf] 40 (1995 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 209 with Tundra Enets (1989 census). Taimyr National Okrug. Along the Yenisei River’s lower course, upstream from Dudinka. The Forest variety is in the Potapovo settlement of the Dudinka Region. Alternate names: Yenisei Samoyedic, Bay Enets, Pe-Bae. Dialects: Forest and Tundra Enets are barely intelligible to each other’s speakers. It is transitional between Yura and Nganasan. For a time it was officially considered part of Nenets. Classification: Uralic, Samoyed Nearly extinct.

Enets, Tundra: [enh] 30 (1995 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 209 together with Forest Enets (1990 census). Taimyr National Okrug. Along the Yenisei River’s lower course, upstream from Dudinka. ‘Tundra’ in the Vorontzovo settlement of the Ust-Yenisei Region. Alternate names: Yenisei Samoyedic, Madu, Somatu. Dialects: Tundra and Forest Enets barely intelligible to each other’s speakers. It is transitional between Yura and Nganasan. For a time it was officially considered part of Nenets. Classification: Uralic, Samoyed Nearly extinct.

Even: [eve] 7,543 (1989 census). Ethnic population: 17,199 (1989 census). Yakutia and the Kamchatka Peninsula, widely scattered over the entire Okhotsk Arctic coast. Alternate names: Lamut, Ewen, Eben, Orich, Ilqan. Dialects: Arman, Indigirka, Kamchatka, Kolyma-Omolon, Okhotsk, Ola, Tompon, Upper Kolyma, Sakkyryr, Lamunkhin. Ola dialect is not accepted by speakers of other dialects. A dialect cluster. It was incorrectly reported to be a Yukaghir dialect. Classification: Altaic, Tungus, Northern, Even

Evenki: [evn] 9,000 in Russia (1997 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 30,000 in Russia (1997 M. Krauss). Evenki National Okrug, Sakhalin Island. Capital is Ture. Alternate names: Ewenki, Tungus, Chapogir, Avanki, Avankil, Solon, Khamnigan. Dialects: Manegir, Yerbogocen, Nakanna, Ilimpeya, Tutoncana, Podkamennaya Tunguska, Cemdalsk, Vanavara, Baykit, Poligus, Uchama, Cis-Baikalia, Sym, Tokmo-Upper Lena, Nepa, Lower Nepa Tungir, Kalar, Tokko, Aldan Timpton, Tommot, Jeltulak, Uchur, Ayan-Maya, Kur-Urmi, Tuguro-Chumikan, Sakhalin, Zeya-Bureya. Classification: Altaic, Tungus, Northern, Evenki

Gilyak: [niv] 1,089 (1989 census). Population includes 100 Amur, 300 Sakhalin (1995 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 4,673 (1989 census), including 2,000 Amur, 2,700 Sakhalin (1995 M. Krauss). Sakhalin Island, many in Nekrasovka and Nogliki villages, small numbers in Rybnoe, Moskalvo, Chir-Unvd, Viakhtu, and other villages, and along the Amur River in Aleevka village. Alternate names: Nivkh, Nivkhi. Dialects: Amur, East Sakhalin Gilyak, North Sakhalin Gilyak. The Amur and East Sakhalin dialects have difficult inherent intelligibility of each other. North Sakhalin is between them linguistically. Classification: Language Isolate

Itelmen: [itl] 60 (2000). Ethnic population: 2,481 (1989 census). Southern Kamchatka Peninsula, Koryak Autonomous District, Tigil Region, primarily in Kovran and Upper Khairiuzovo villages, west coast of the Kamchatka River. Alternate names: Itelymem, Western Itelmen, Kamchadal, Kamchatka. Dialects: Sedanka, Kharyuz, Itelmen, Xajrjuzovskij, Napanskij, Sopocnovskij. Classification: Chukotko-Kamchatkan, Southern

Karagas: [kim] 25 to 30 (2001). Ethnic population: 730 (1989 census). Siberia, Irkutsk Region. Alternate names: Tofa, Tofalar, Sayan Samoyed, Kamas, Karagass. Classification: Altaic, Turkic, Northern Nearly extinct.

Kerek: [krk] 2 (1997 M. Krauss). There were 200 to 400 speakers in 1900. Ethnic population: 400. Cape Navarin, in Chukot villages. Dialects: Mainypilgino (Majna-Pil’ginskij), Khatyrka (Xatyrskij). Previously considered a dialect of Chukot. Classification: Chukotko-Kamchatkan, Northern, Koryak-Alyutor Nearly extinct.

Ket: [ket] 550 to 990 (1995 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 1,222 (2000). Upper Yenisei Valley, Krasnoyarski krai, Turukhansk, and Baikitsk regions, Sulomai, Bakhta, Verkhneimbatsk, Kellog, Kangatovo, Surgutikha, Vereshchagino, Baklanikha, Farkovo, Goroshikha, and Maiduka villages. East of the Khanti and Mansi, eastern Siberia. Alternate names: Yenisei Ostyak, Yenisey Ostiak, Imbatski-Ket. Classification: Yeniseian

Koryak: [kpy] 3,500 (1997 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 7,000. Koryak National Okrug, south of the Chukot; northern half of Kamchatka Peninsula and adjacent continent. Alternate names: Nymylan. Dialects: Cavcuvenskij (Chavchuven), Apokinskij (Apukin), Kamenskij (Kamen), Xatyrskij, Paren, Itkan, Palan, Gin. Chavchuven, Palan, and Kamen are apparently not inherently intelligible. Classification: Chukotko-Kamchatkan, Northern, Koryak-Alyutor

Nenets: [yrk] 26,730 (1989 census). Population includes 1,300 Forest Nenets, 25,000 Tundra Nenets. Ethnic population: 34,665 (1989 census) including 2,000 Forest Enets. Northwest Siberia, tundra area from the mouth of the northern Dvina River in northeastern Europe to the delta of the Yenisei in Asia, and a scattering on the Kola Peninsula; Nenets, Yamalo-Nenets, and Taimyr national okrugs. Alternate names: Nenec, Nentse, Nenetsy, Yurak, Yurak Samoyed. Dialects: Forest Yurak, Tundra Yurak. Classification: Uralic, Samoyed

Nganasan: [nio] 500 (1995 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 1,300. Taimyr National Okrug, Taimyr Peninsula, Siberia, Ust-Avam village in the Dudinka Region; Volochanka and Novaya villages in the Khatang Region. They are the northernmost people in Russia, near the Yakut, Dolgan, and Evenki peoples. Alternate names: Tavgi Samoyed. Dialects: Avam, Khatang. Classification: Uralic, Samoyed

Oroch: [oac] 100 to 150 (1995 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 900 (1990 census). Eastern Siberia in the Khabarovsk Krai along the rivers that empty into the Tatar Channel, on Amur River not far from the city of Komsomolsk-na-Amure. Many live in the Vanino Region in Datta and Uska-Orochskaya settlements. Some live among the Nanai. Alternate names: Orochi. Dialects: Kjakela (Kjakar, Kekar), Namunka, Orichen, Tez. Classification: Altaic, Tungus, Southern, Southeast, Udihe

Orok: [oaa] 30 to 82 in Russia (1995 M. Krauss). Population total all countries: 33 to 85. Ethnic population: 250 to 300 (1995 M. Krauss). Sakhalin Island, Poronajsk District, Poronajsk town, Gastello and Vakhrushev settlements; Nogliki District, Val village, Nogliki settlement. Also spoken in Japan. Alternate names: Oroc, Ulta, Ujlta, Uilta. Dialects: Poronaisk (Southern Orok), Val-Nogliki (Nogliki-Val, Northern Orok). Significant differences between dialects. For a while Orok was officially considered part of Nanai. Classification: Altaic, Tungus, Southern, Southeast, Nanaj Nearly extinct.

Selkup: [sel] 1,570 (1994 Salminen, 1994 Janhunen). Northern Sel’kup has 1,400 speakers out of 1,700, Central Sel’kup has 150 speakers out of 1,700, Southern Sel’kup has 20 speakers out of 200. Ethnic population: 3,600. Tom Oblast, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, Krasnoyarski Krai and Tomskaya Oblast. The northern dialect is spoken in Krasnoselkup Region, Krasnoselkup, Sidorovsk, Tolka, Ratta, and Kikiyakki villages; part of the Purovsk Region, Tolka Purovskaya village; adjacent regions of the Krasnoyarski Krai; Kureika village, Kellog, and Turukhan River basin and Baikha. The southern dialect (Tym) is spoken in a range of villages in the northern part of the Tomskaya Oblast. Alternate names: Ostyak Samoyed. Dialects: Taz (Northern Sel’kup, Tazov-Baishyan), Tym (Central Selk’up, Kety), Narym (Central Sel’kup), Srednyaya Ob-Ket (Southern Sel’kup). A dialect continuum with difficult or impossible intelligibility between the extremes. Speakers in the south are separated from others. Classification: Uralic, Samoyed

Yugh: [yuu] 2 or 3 (1991 G. K. Verner in Kibrik). Nonfluent speakers. Ethnic population: 10 to 15 (1991 G. K. Verner in Kibrik). Turukhan Region of the Krasnoyarsk Krai at the Vorogovo settlement. Previously they lived along the Yenisei River from Yeniseisk to the mouth of the Dupches. Alternate names: Yug. Classification: Yeniseian Nearly extinct.

Yukaghir, Northern: [ykg] 30 to 150 (1995 M. Krauss, 1989 census). Ethnic population: 230 to 1,100 (1995 M. Krauss, 1989 census). Yakutia and the Kamchatka Peninsula. Alternate names: Yukagir, Jukagir, Odul, Tundra, Tundre, Northern Yukagir. Dialects: Distinct from Southern Yukaghir (Kolyma). It may be distantly related to Altaic or Uralic. Classification: Yukaghir Nearly extinct.

Yukaghir, Southern
: [yux] 10 to 50 (1995 M. Krauss, 1989 census). Ethnic population: 130 (1995 M. Krauss, 1989 census). Yakutia and the Kamchatka Peninsula. Alternate names: Yukagir, Jukagir, Odul, Kolyma, Kolym, Southern Yukagir. Dialects: Not inherently intelligible with Northern Yukaghir. Classification: Yukaghir Nearly extinct.

Yupik, Central Siberian: [ess] 300 in Russia (1991 Kibrik). Ethnic population: 1,200 to 1,500 in Russia (1991 Kibrik). Chukchi National Okrug, coast of the Bering Sea, Wrangel Island. The Chaplino live in Providenie Region in Novo-Chaplino and Providenie villages. Alternate names: Yoit, Yuk, Yuit, Siberian Yupik, “Eskimo”, Bering Strait Yupik, Asiatic Yupik. Dialects: Aiwanat, Noohalit (Peekit), Wooteelit, Chaplino. Classification: Eskimo-Aleut, Eskimo, Yupik, Siberian

Yupik, Naukan: [ynk] 75 (1990 L.D. Kaplan). Ethnic population: 350. Chukota Region, Laurence, Lorino, and Whalen villages, scattered. Formerly spoken in Naukan village and the region surrounding East Cape, Chukot Peninsula, but they have been relocated. Alternate names: Naukan, Naukanski. Dialects: 60% to 70% intelligibility of Chaplino. Classification: Eskimo-Aleut, Eskimo, Yupik, Siberian.

The situation is quite depressing, with a lot of languages that are tagged as “nearly extinct”… Here you have, as usually, the map for the zone. As Russia is a huge country, Ethnologue has one general index map, which I am showing here, and then some more detailed maps, that you can find clicking here:

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