The Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire

September 3, 2008 at 2:49 pm | Posted in Language, Naming, Siberia | Leave a comment
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Deepening into the geography of Russia is not easy, as it is en enormous country with lots of tribes and peoples. This website, The Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire, offers a very good guide to wide our knowledgment, as it lists and describe a long list of Russian languages and tribes. It is based on a book with the same name published in Estonia, that you can also buy. I present the site today, and I will keep posting about the Nordic tribes later on:

The Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire

Introduction

In the cliché-ridden propaganda of the Soviet era tsarist Russia was frequently dubbed the “prison of nations”. When the Soviets came into power this “prison”, by virtue of new national policies, transformed into a family of friendly and brotherly nations in whose bosom all the national cultures flourished. To boast of the achievements under the Communist Party leadership, grandiose cultural festivals were arranged in the Soviet republics, folkloristic dance, song and instrumental groups were established and the revival of old peasant culture was encouraged. The slogan “socialist in content, nationalist in form” came to be applied to the new Soviet culture. Behind this deceptive facade of ethnographic originality, the tsarist prison of nations never ceased to exist: russification was carried out on a large scale, nationalist intellectuals were persecuted, a policy of extensive exploitation of land was pursued and nations were continuously resettled and mingled. The desired result was the birth of a new, Russian-speaking “Soviet nation”, and to lay the theoretical foundation for this a whole army of scholars was employed. The evolution of the Soviet nation was seen as the process of history within the cognizance of Marxist-Leninist principles which was as inevitable as the process of life itself.

The recent rapid collapse of the Soviet economic and political system has revealed the consequences of these brutal colonization policies: hundreds of culturally and economically crippled nations, with the smallest of them nearing the crucial point of extinction.

[…]

The authors of the present book, who come from a country (Estonia) which has shared the fate of nations in the Russian and Soviet empires, endeavour to publicize the plight of the small nations whose very existence is threatened as a result of recent history. Perhaps it is not too late to give a supporting hand to them without an attempt at either ideological brainwashing or economic exploitation.

Peoples according to language groups

[I quote the only the groups related with this blog, if you want to read the complete list you have it here]

PALEO-ASIATIC PEOPLES: Aleuts, Aliutors, Asiatic Eskimos, Chukchis, Itelmens, Kereks, Kets, Koryaks, Nivkhs, Yukaghirs.

MANCHU-TUNGUS PEOPLES: Evens, Evenks, Nanais, Negidals, Orochis, Oroks, Udeghes, Ulchis.

URALIC PEOPLES: Enets, Ingrians, Izhorians, Karelians, Khants, Kola Lapps, Livonians, Mansis, Nenets, Nganasans, Selkups, Veps, Votes.

It seems that my work it has been multiplied now! But I see they use the language as a criteria to stablish the boundaries of a tribe, so I have not been wrong until the date. They offer also a selected bibliography of the different tribes for further research.

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Native people of Kamchatka

July 29, 2008 at 1:39 pm | Posted in Maps, Naming, Siberia | Leave a comment
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Some times you find out information in a weird way, as it happened to me last week. I was finding material fot the blog, and I ended up in a website with information of the native people of Kamchatka, a big big island in Russia. The surpising thing for me was that the site was owned by a travel agency! Anyway, it was a good starting, this is what they say:

Koryaks

The Koryaks are the main population of the northern Kamchatka part. They have their own autonomy – the Koryaksky Region. The name of this people as Krasheninnikov and Steller thought originated from “khora” – “deer”. But Kryaks don’t call themselves with this word. The coastal residents call themselves as “nimilany” – “residents of a settled village”. Nomads herding deer called themselves “chavchuvens“, it means “reindeer people”.

For the Chavchuvens reindeer breading was the main, even the only way of living. Deer gave them everything necessary: meat, skin for clothes (reindeer skin for coveralls, footwear) and for building of thansportable dwellings (yarangas), bones were used for making tools and household articles, fat – for dwelling lightening. Deer were a means of conveyance either.

For the Nimilans the main way to survive was fishing. Fish was generally caught in rivers with the help of stinging-nettle (it took about two years to make one net and it was used only for one year). In settled villages marine hunting was the second way of surviving after fishing. Going out to sea on skin covered baydarkas was common. Harbor seal and whales became the target of harpoons, which were tied to the bow, and were killed with stone tip spears. Marine animals, skin was used for boat, ski covering, footwear, bags, sacks and belts. Domestic activities were highly developed – wood and bone carving, metal works, national clothes and carpets making, embroiling with beads, braiding. A lot of such works are displayed at the Museum of Local Lore. Tourists can admire the skillfulness of the masters. The Nimilans lived in groups: in winter – in half-dug-houses, in summer – in booths with their families, they used to catch fish, to hunt, and to pick berries. The Chavchuvens lived in temporary settlements consisting of some skin-covered yarangs. They used to herd reindeer and to dress skin. Hunting and fishing were of the secondary value for them. They migrated on dog- and reindeer-sledges.

Itelmens

The name of the nationality means “living here”. The south bound of settling is the Lopatka Cape. Northern one – the Tigil River on the west coast, the Uka River is on the east coast. Ancient Itlmen settlements were located on the banks of the Kamchatka (Uykoal), Yelovka (Kooch), Bolshaya, Bistraya, Avacha rivers and on the Avacha Harbor coast.

At the end of the 17 – beginning of the 18 centuries, when Russian explorers crossed the central part of Kamchatka, the Itelmens were at the level of disintegration primitive communal system development.
At the settlement consisting of a few half-dug-houses the folk Toyony lived. Some names of Toytony are written on the of Kamchatka. Itelmens life in summer was spent near some water resources and on them. They moved along the rivers in whole-carved boats made mainly of poplar. They caught fish with threshed nettle nets, built trapping dams. Some fish was cooked as yukola, some was burried for some time under the ground. But lack of salt didn’t allow to store much fish.

Hunting was of the same value for this folk – fox, sable, bear, snow sheep; at the coast area – marine animals: sea lion, seal, sea otter. Also gathering was very popular (edible roots, edible and officinal plants, berries). Means of conveyance were made of birch (sledge and cargo sledge with soft belts). The ancient sledges were richly decorated.

The Itelmens ate a lot of fish, preferred baked one (chuprikh) and fish cakes “telno”, they ate young sprouts and runners of Filepinolium Maxim, Heracleum Dulse Fish (processed and ate them only after they acquired stinging power); as a medicine against scurvy they used cedar cones with dry salmon caviar chasing this mixture with tea. Food was seasoned with fat – favorite spice of all northern peoples. Women-Itelmens had a custom to wear wigs. Those who had the most luxurious and the thickest one was highly honored. Those fashionable women never wore hats. Young women did up their heavy black raven-wing-like hair in lot of thin plaits decorating them with small hair wigs in the shape of hats. Perhaps, that’s why the Chukchis and Koryaks might have called the Itelmens kamchadals, because in both languages the word “kamcha” means “curly”, “disheveled”, and “levit” or “lyavit” means “head”.

Itelmens clothes were extraordinary, they were made of sable, fox, snow sheep, dog’s skin with numerous ermine tassels and fluffy edged sleeves, hood, collar and hem. Steller wrote: “:the most beautiful reindeer skin coveralls (kukhlyankas) were decorated on the collars, sleeves and hems with dog’s fur, and on the kaftan (short reindeer skin coverall) was hanged with hundreds of seal’s tassels coloured red, they dangled to and fro at every movement”. Such Itelmens’ clothing made an impression of hairiness.

Evens and Evenky (tunguses)

The Evens and Evenky (tunguses) are similar by culture. The Evens ancestors having come to Kamchatka changed their traditional occupation hunting for reindeer breeding. Russians arriving to Kamchatka called the Evens roaming from place to place along the Okhotsk seaside “lamuts”, it means “living by the sea”. Herdsmen they called “orochi”, it means “reindeer men”. Beside reindeer breeding and hunting the coastal Evens caught fish and hunted marine animals. For fishing they made different kinds of dams and traps. Blacksmith’s work was very popular with the Evens.

The Evens did not wear blind clothes like the Koryaks, Itelmens and Chukcis did, but unlacing ones. Complete set of a man’s wear consisted of a short knee-reaching reindeer parka with running down lapels, trousers, a chest apron put on the parka, knee protectors, furstockings and boots made of reindeer led skin with soles of bearded seal skin. Wearing especially women’s one was decorated with beads. In contrast to other natives of Kamchatka the Evens didn’t use dogsleds and didn’t wear blind clothes.

Chukchis

The Northern Koryaks’ neighbours were the Chukchis, “reindeer men” (chauchu), some of them moved to Kamchatka. As for the household the Chukchi were like the Koryaks – reindeer breeders. A holder of less than 100 reindeer was considered poor and couldn’t keep a herd. Unfortunately, history of these two peoples’ neighbourhood knows a lot of examples of wars for herds. The Chukchis are native Kamchatka people, now a lot of them live here. Like the Koryaks there were the Chukchis who lived in settled villages and provided their living by fishing and hunting for marine animals. The Chukchis are perfect seamen skillfully operating boats on a cold sea. It is well known that their “fleet” used to trade with the Eskimoes launching towards the American shore. Main hunting implements were a bow and arrows, a spear and a harpoon. A bow and a spear were used in hunting for wild reindeer and snow sheep, a harpoon and a lance – in marine hunting. Arrow-, spear- and harpoon-heads were made of bone and stone. In catching all water-fowl and game the Chukchis used bola (an instrument for catching birds on the wing) and pratsha (a military weapon either). The protection armour was made of antlers, walrus’ skin and tusks. Main Chukchis‘ means of conveyance was reindeer, but like the Koryaks and Itelmens they also used dogsledges. On the sea the Chukchis moved in kayaks accommodating 20-30 men. With favorable wind they used square sails made of reindeer suede (rovdugas) like the KoryaksNimilans, and for a better balance they tied to board sides stocking-like sealskin, which was filled with air.

Aleuts

The Aleuts – ancient Aleutian Islands natives. They called themselves “unangan”, it means “seaside residents”. Main traditional Aleuts‘ occupations were hunting for marine animals and fishing. For winter the Aleuts stored eggs from birds colonies on the seashore.

The dwellings of the Aleuts were similar to the traditional half-dughouses but slightly different. Among the household articles there were baskets, bags plaited from grass; for storing of fat, yukola, crowberries with fat and so on dry seal stomach was used. On the Bering Island dogsleds became a very popular means of conveyance. For wandering in the mountains the Aleuts of the Medny Island used broad skis covered with seal skin for the nap would help while climbing not to slide down from the mountain.

Did you read that? Aleut people in Kamchatka! I find this connection amazing. I am reading a book about genetics, if I finish it some day – I will, I will… – I will summarize the main information related to this blog. Anyway, I also searched a bit about Kamchatka, as, to be honest, I did not now almost anything about it! So thanks to the Wiki, here you have some facts:

Illustration from Stepan Krasheninnikov’s Account of the Land of Kamchatka (1755).

The Kamchatka Peninsula (Russian: полуо́стров Камча́тка) is a 1,250-kilometer long peninsula in the Russian Far East, with an area of 472,300 km². It lies between the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Sea of Okhotsk to the west.[1] Immediately offshore along the Pacific coast of the peninsula runs the 10,500 meter deep Kuril-Kamchatka Trench.

[…] Muscovite Russia claimed the Kamchatka Peninsula in the 17th century. Ivan Kamchaty, Simon Dezhnev, the Cossack Ivan Rubets and other Russian explorers made exploratory trips to the area during the reign of Tsar Alexis, and returned with tales of a land of fire, rich with fish and fur.

In 1697, Vladimir Atlasov, founder of the Anadyr settlement, led a group of 65 Cossacks and 60 Yukaghir natives to investigate the peninsula. He built two forts along the Kamchatka River which became trading posts for Russian fur trappers. From 1704 to 1706, they settled the Cossack colonies of Verkhne- (upper) and Nizhne- (lower) Kamchatsky. Far away from the eye of their masters, the Cossacks mercilessly ruled the indigenous Kamchadal.

Excesses were such that the North West Administration in Yakutsk sent Atlasov with the authority (and the cannons) to restore government order, but it was too late. The local Cossacks had too much power in their own hands and in 1711 Atlasov was killed. From this time on, Kamchatka became a self-regulating region, with minimal interference from Yakutsk.

By 1713, there were approximately five hundred Cossacks living in the area. Uprisings were common, the largest being in 1731 when the settlement of Nizhnekamchatsky was razed and its inhabitants massacred. The remaining Cossacks regrouped and, reinforced with firearms and cannons, were able to put down the rebellion.

The Second Kamchatka Expedition by the Danish explorer Vitus Bering, in the employ of the Russian Navy, began the “opening” of Kamchatka in earnest, helped by the fact that the government began to use the area as a place of exile. In 1755, Stepan Krasheninnikov published the first detailed description of the peninsula, An Account of the Land of Kamchatka. The Russian government encouraged the commercial activities of the Russian-American Company by granting land to newcomers on the peninsula. By 1812, the indigenous population had fallen to fewer than 3,200, while the Russian population had risen to 2,500.

In 1854, the French and British, who were battling Russian forces on the Crimean Peninsula, attacked Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. During the Siege of Petropavlovsk, 988 men with a mere 68 guns managed successfully to defend the outpost against 6 ships with 206 guns and 2,540 French and British soldiers. Despite the heroic defense, Petropavlovsk was abandoned as a strategic liability after the Anglo-French forces withdrew. The next year when a second enemy force came to attack the port, they found it deserted. Frustrated, the ships bombarded the city and withdrew.

The next fifty years were lean ones for Kamchatka. The military naval port was moved to Ust-Amur and in 1867 Alaska was sold to the United States, making Petropavlovsk obsolete as a transit point for traders and explorers on their way to the American territories. In 1860, Primorsky (Maritime) Region was established and Kamchatka was placed under its jurisdiction. In 1875, the Kuril Islands were ceded to Japan in return for Russian sovereignty over Sakhalin. The Russian population of Kamchatka stayed around 2,500 until the turn of the century, while the native population increased to 5,000.

World War II hardly affected Kamchatka except for its service as a launch site for the invasion of the Kurils in late 1945. After the war, Kamchatka was declared a military zone. Kamchatka remained closed to Russians until 1989 and to foreigners until 1990.

Well, it seems that this project is getting bigger and bigger, and the more I learn the less I know! A lot of job for the summer I guess 😉

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