The Red Book of Peoples of the Russian Empire: the Aliutors

October 7, 2008 at 6:48 am | Posted in Language, Naming, Siberia | Leave a comment
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More information from the Red Book of peoples of the Russian Empire:


Like the Chavchu group of the Chukchi and the Koryak, the Aliutor people were mostly nomadic reindeer-breeders which is exactly what their self-designation, ramkyken, means. The earliest reports of settled off-shore Aliutors date from the end of the 17th century. They called themselves elutel’u. S. Krasheninnikov, who explored Kamchatka in 1755, considered the Aliutors to be a separate ethnic group. Various documents from the 18th century also give separate mention to the Koryaks, Aliutors and Chukchis. In the 1930s the Aliutors were confused with the Koryaks, and both were called nymylan. The name Aliutors, reinstated later, obviously comes from the previous designation of the settled tribes. Hence also, the name of the Oliutor district.


The Aliutors live on the Kamchatka Isthmus in northeast Siberia. Their territory encompasses nearly 15,000 sq. km. stretching from the Karaga Bay of the Bering Sea to Oliutorka (formerly Alutorskoye), and from Rekinniki to Podkagernaya on the coast of the Okhotsk Sea. Administratively, they belong to the Koryak Autonomous District, Kamchatka Region, Russian Federation. From 1930 to 1977 the territory had the status of a National District. Beside the Oliutor District, Aliutors live in the southern part of the Karaga district and the northern part of the Tigil district. The administrative centre is Tilichik (Tyliran) in the Oliutor district. Most of the territory belongs to the zone of woodland tundra. The climate is influenced by both the Bering and the Okhotsk Seas.


No official data on the Aliutor population is available. A report of 1934 mentions them as a sizable ethnic group after the Chavchus. Nowadays, the Oliutor district, like the Koryak Autonomous District displays enormous ethnic variety. In all probability official statistics still do not distinguish the Aliutors from the Koryaks. Their actual number is possibly 2,000 to 3,000.

Anthropologically the Aliutor people, like the Chukchi and the Koryak belong to the mongoloid Northern-Asiatic race. They are characterized by a swarthy complexion, dark eyes and straight hair, a short and stocky figure, a very broad flat face and a conspicuous Mongolian fold. There is little facial hair.


The Aliutor language is a member of the Chukchi-Kamchatka group of the Paleo-Asiatic or Paleo-Siberian languages. Genetically, it is connected to the Chukchi, Koryak, Kerek and Itelmen languages. In the 1930s Aliutor was still unanimously considered one of the four southern dialects of the Koryak language, but since the 1950s, it has been regarded as a separate language. Morphologically, the language most resembles Chukchi. In terms of structure Aliutor is an incorporating or polysynthetic language.

There are three dialects: Ukin, Karaga and Palana, but neither the dialectal division nor the individual dialects have been sufficiently studied. According to P. Skorik, the Karaga and Palana dialects could be classified as cognate languages of Aliutor.

As with the Chukchi language, there are regular pronunciation differences in men’s and women’s usages. Women say ts where men have l or s (e.g. plaku versus ptsaku ‘footwear’). Men’s usage is considered improper for women and vice versa.

Through close contacts with their kindred peoples the Aliutors are able to use their mother tongue to communicate with the Koryak and the Chukchi. The role of Russian has grown since the 1930s and since the 1960s the Aliutors have voluntarily started to change over to the Russian language as this schooling helps them gain work in a Russian environment.


There is no written language. Instead, the Aliutors, who were then considered just a dialect group of the Koryak, used the Koryak written language introduced in 1923. A few articles in the so-called Aliutor dialect were published in a local newspaper. Since 1958, Aliutor has been considered a separate language (P. Skorik), but this has not meant a higher prestige, more attention or more active research. Communication with neighbouring peoples is still in either Koryak or Russian. Russian is also the sole language of education and cultural activities.

All research on the Aliutor people dates from recent times. The first notes on their language were made by S. Stebnitski in 1927. He was also the author of the first survey of the phonetics, morphology and syntax of the language (1934, 1938), but, as everybody else he considered it a Koryak dialect. Any attention hitherto paid to the Aliutor language and its dialectal divisions can hardly be considered sufficient. A survey by I. Vdovin (1956) and a study of the Karaga dialect from the point of view of experimental phonetics made by G. Melnikov (1940) are unpublished. The longest publication available is a chapter dedicated to the Aliutor language by A. Zhukova, published in Vol. 5 of The Languages of the Peoples of the USSR (1968).


The Aliutors have long been considered as part of the Koryak people. Yet the Aliutor reindeer-breeders ramkyken could be distinguished from Chavchus as the Chavchus’ main activities were fishing, and seal hunting, and their herds were not large. So the language and life-style of the ramkyken were more resemblant of those of the settled Aliutors for whom fishing and the hunting of sea animals was the main livelihood.

By the end of the 18th century the resistance of the Kamchatka peoples was broken by Russians. The territories of the Aliutors were also conquered. In the 19th century Russian Orthodox missionaries were followed by Russian merchants. As well as being swindle by the merchants — often pulled off with the help of vodka and promissory lists — the Aliutor people were subjected to the whims and compulsions of Russian bureaucracy.

Major changes were brought about by the establishment of Soviet power in 1923. In 1930, the Koryak National District was formed. Along with the introduction of collectivization the reindeer-breeders were forced to settle down. This had a far-reaching effect on a large part of the Aliutors as well. Their whole life-style changed. New economic relations were woven accompanied by ideological reorientation and the abolishing of illiteracy. Initially, the Aliutors learned the Koryak script, but the use of written Russian gradually came to dominate. A ‘militant atheism’ was propagated to counter shamanism and religion. Russian homes and machines, their education system and traditions in clothing and diet were held up as examples of progress. Nowadays all of these things are constituents of the normal way of life. The use of the Aliutor language and the observance of local customs are derided by Russians who consider such conduct primitive.

The fate of the Aliutors is a sad example of the accumulation of negative phenomena in accompaniment with the advance of civilization. The political and industrial innovations have become a danger not only to the survival of the Aliutors’ own culture but also to their whole physical existence.

Some tiding up

October 1, 2008 at 3:32 am | Posted in Chatting, Naming | Leave a comment
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When I started this blog more than six months ago my knowledge of Arctic peoples was weak, very weak. I was starting almost from zero, so the firsts posts where uncertain and maybe a bit vague, not to mention I categorized and tagged them intuitively, without a previous planning. This lead to a bit of chaos in the categories system, which I have just tried to partially solve. I have been reorganizing the categories for the location of the information.

There were two evident problems:

1) A mixed system was used, with some categories (Innu, Na-Dene), referring to tribes or ethnicities and another ones (Scandinavia, Alaska) referring to geographical places.
2) The categories for the places where not well-established, coexisting denominations such as Russia/Siberia, or Scandinavia/Sápmi which refer to similar places.

So some decisions where made, and now the new categories to locate the entries are the following:

Alaska, Canada, Greenland Scandinavia, Siberia, Japan

Of course, this system has problems. In some cases it existed a decision to be made between the native name (Sápmi instead of Scandinavia for the Saamis, or Kalaallit Nunaat for Greenland) and the general or English one. Though n those cases my personal preference and tendency is to use the native name, I finally opted for the general name in order to keep the blog usable and accessible to more people.

My decision for avoiding the tribe or ethnicities name is because for me it is very difficult to create a closed list right now. Furthermore, the number of categories would be too high, making more difficult the navigation through the blog. The name of the tribes has been used when tagging, so it should not by difficult to find it anyway.

Of course good-intentioned criticism is always welcomed, as the list is like a trial for next months.

Photo by curiousyellow under Creative Commons

Alaska Native Collections

September 28, 2008 at 3:41 pm | Posted in Alaska, Education, Maps, Naming, Siberia | 4 Comments
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Today I want to share a very good general resource I found las week: the Alaska Native Collections site, by the Smithsonian institute. Despite its name, the site includes information about Alaska but also about Russia or other polar contruies. The site is not only beautifully designed but also packed with a lot of maps, photographies and information, allowing the visitor to learn about the arctic cultures easily. If you just want to learn a few basics, you can do a quick reading, if you want to deep more, you just need to open the “Read more” sections.

Through the Sharing Knowledge project, members of Indigenous communities from across Alaska and northeast Siberia are working with the Smithsonian Institution and the Anchorage Museum to interpret the materials, techniques, cultural meanings, history, and artistry represented by objects in the western arctic and subarctic collections of the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, D.C. The Arctic Studies Center, which organized and implemented the project, is a special research program within the Department of Anthropology, NMNH, with offices in Washington and at the Anchorage Museum in Alaska.

The goals of Sharing Knowledge are to make the Smithsonian collections accessible to all and to support cross-cultural learning among Indigenous home communities, in schools, and around the world. Interest in the extraordinary arts and cultural heritage of the North is truly global in scope. Participants in this project are Elders, scholars, artists, and teachers who invite all to explore, learn, and appreciate.

The combined holdings of NMNH and NMAI are vast—more than 30,000 items from Alaska and northeast Siberia, most collected between the mid-19th century and the mid-20th century. The great majority has never been published, exhibited, or seen by contemporary residents of source communities in the North. Collaborative study of these collections for Sharing Knowledge began in 2001-2005, with a series of trips to the museums in Washington by more than forty Elders and regional representatives. This documentation process will continue as many more objects are brought from Washington to new Smithsonian exhibition galleries and Arctic Studies Center facilities at the Anchorage Museum, starting in 2010. Through its alliance with the Arctic Studies Center (since 1993) and its planned physical expansion to house these programs and collections, the Anchorage Museum has become an important Smithsonian partner in fostering the collaborative work of museums and Native communities.

Object records on this site include edited transcripts of museum discussions as well as summaries drawn from history, anthropology, and recorded oral tradition. The Cultures section includes regional introductions and information about contributors. The Resources section offers reading materials, web links, and a curriculum guide with lesson plans designed for middle and high school students.

The Sharing Knowledge site reflects the current state of an on-going project, with inevitable gaps and uneven representation of the different cultural regions. It will grow over time as more information is recorded and new contributors can be brought into the discussion. Please watch the site for continually updated materials and features.

Photography (C) Larry McNeil

As I mentioned this place has tones and tones of info about the cultures and the people, so it seems an unforgetable place to ask for help whenever I can manage to do the big trip!

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


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.

Odyssée Sibérienne and others

August 21, 2008 at 9:49 pm | Posted in Alaska, Scandinavia, Siberia, travel | Leave a comment
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I found my hero! I found a the website of Nicolas Varnier, a French guy who travels the North with a dog sledge! Wow! He has an interesting website, though it is in French. I am quite able to read it but too lazy  to translate it… Anyway you can take a look at it if you want. Wannabe that guy!

Nicolas Varnier

From all his expeditions, my favorite ones are l’Odyssée Sibérienne, l’Odyssée Blanche and the Translaponie:

Translaponie (Hiver 88- 89) de Kiruna à Mourmansk, 1000 km. Le Grand Nord Lapon a été le premier Grand Nord de Nicolas. Il s’y est rendu pour la première fois à l’age de dix-sept ans pour une longue randonnée à pied dans les vastes espaces sauvages du nord de la Finlande. Accessible depuis la gare du Nord de Paris, la Laponie était aussi le seul grand Nord adapté au petit budget qu’un étudiant sans le sous pouvait économiser et consacrer à cela. [Read more]

L’odyssée blanche (1999): depuis Skagway à Québec, 8600 Kilomètres. À l’origine de ce nouveau défi que Nicolas Vanier se lance à lui-même : son attelage, il est au top de sa forme . Formidables coureurs des neiges, puissants, endurants mais également très rapides, ses chiens ont réalisé de belles performances lors de la Yukon Quest , l’une des deux plus difficiles courses de chiens de traîneau auquel Nicolas à participé durant l’hivernage qu’il à effectué au Yukon avec sa famille qui s’est agrandie d’un petit garçon. [Read more]

Odyssée Sibérienne (Hiver 2005/2006): depuis le Lac Baïkal jusqu’à Moscou, 8000 Kilomètres. C’est une aventure dans des paysages époustouflants à la rencontre de peuples rivalisant d’ingéniosité pour vivre dans l’un des endroits jugé par d’autres comme l’un des plus hostiles de la planète. Sur plus de 8000 km de montagne, de taïga et de toundra, Nicolas Vanier et ses dix chiens progressèrent à raison de plus de 80 km par 24 heures sur une piste éphémère tracée une semaine avant son passage par des sibériens, trappeurs, éleveurs de rennes menés par une équipe Franco-Russe qui se relayèrent d’un village à l’autre, d’un campement à un autre depuis Irkoutsk jusqu’à Moscou. Cette Odyssée qui débuta le 2 décembre sur les bords du très mythique Lac Baïkal s’est achevée à la fin de l’hiver le plus froid de la planète, sur la très symbolique Place Rouge de Moscou , spécialement enneigée pour l’occasion, le 19 mars 2005. [Read more]

Yo can also check his movies:

Loup (un film produit par MC4 et distribué par Pathé. Tournage 6 semaines en 2008, sortie sortie la fin de 2009) Nicolas voue une véritable fascination à cet animal dont il a croisé la route plusieurs centaines de fois. Il a toujours rêvé de lui consacré un grand film. L’histoire de ce film est né de la rencontre que Nicolas avait faite avec une famille de nomades éleveurs de rennes au cours de sa longue traversée de la Sibérie en 1990. Pendant près d’un an, Nicolas vivant comme l’un des leurs avait partagé la vie de ces nomades et de leur grande harde, se déplaçant avec eux d’un alpage à un autre, à dos de rennes ou juché sur un traîneau. Il avait alors constaté le lien très fort qui unissait ces hommes au territoire sur lequel il vivait en parfaite harmonie. Territoire qu’ils se partageaient avec les loups qu’ils haïssaient et vénéraient en même temps.

– Le Dernier Trappeur (Long métrage de fiction – Décembre 2004): Norman Winther est l’un des derniers trappeurs à entretenir avec les majestueuses Montagnes Rocheuses une relation d’échanges fondée sur une profonde connaissance du milieu et un grand respect des équilibres naturels. Avec sa femme, Nebaska, une indienne Nahanni, et ses fidèles chiens de traîneau, Norman nous emmène à la découverte d’un autre monde rythmé par les saisons. Randonnées dans la froidure de l’hiver, descentes de rivières tumultueuses, attaques de grizzly et de loups sont le quotidien du trappeur. Norman cultive sa vie comme un art de vivre dans ce monde où les blizzards soufflent parfois plus fort que les mots. Ce film est un hymne aux pays d’en haut et à la magnificence de ces vastes espaces sauvages.

Breathtaking! I like to see that there are still adventurers today!

Yakutsk: Journey to the coldest city on earth

August 19, 2008 at 1:50 pm | Posted in Siberia, writing | Leave a comment
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I found this article in The Independent newspaper. I do like travel writing, and I recently read some books about Siberia. This one, by Shaun Walker, it is quite interesting too. What a wonderful job, to be a travel writer!

Yakutsk: Journey to the coldest city on earth

Think our winter’s been a bit grim? Try visiting Yakutsk – the Russian city where ‘a bit nippy’ means minus 50C, and a quick dash to the corner shop could end in frostbite. Shaun Walker enjoys amini-break in deepest Siberia.

Monday, 21 January 2008

At minus 5C, the cold is quite refreshing and a light hat and scarf are all that’s required to keep warm. At minus 20C, the moisture in your nostrils freezes, and the cold air starts making it difficult not to cough. At minus 35C, the air will cold enough to numb exposed skin quickly, making frostbite a constant hazard. And at minus 45C, even wearing glasses gets tricky: the metal sticks to your cheeks and will tear off chunks of flesh when you decide to remove them.

I know this because I’ve just arrived in Yakutsk, a place where friendly locals warn you against wearing spectacles outdoors. Yakutsk is a remote city in Eastern Siberia (population 200,000) famous for two things: appearing in the classic board game Risk, and the fact that it can, convincingly, claim to be the coldest city on earth. In January, the most freezing month, average “highs” are around minus 40C; today the temperature is hovering around minus 43C, leaving the city engulfed in an oppressive blanket of freezing fog that restricts visibility to 10 metres. Fur-clad locals scurry through a central square adorned with an icy Christmas tree (left over from the New Year holidays) and a statue of a strident Lenin, with one arm aloft and pointing forward, thoroughly unfazed by the cold.

A couple of weeks ago, Yakutsk hit the headlines after a series of burst pipes caused Artyk and Markha, two nearby villages, to lose their heating for several days. The temperatures then were minus 50C. Television footage of the ensuing “big freeze” showed groups of people huddled in swathes of blankets gathering round makeshift wood-fired stoves to keep warm. It looked like fun – of a sort. So I decided to come to Yakutsk for myself to find out how people manage to survive, and go about something resembling daily life, in the world’s coldest place.

[Keep reading here]

Geography of Siberia: first aproximation

August 18, 2008 at 6:19 pm | Posted in Demographics, Maps, Naming, Siberia | Leave a comment
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If you take a look at a map, you will see how a vast land Siberia is. Thousands of thousands of frozen kilometers that extend from the Urals in the border between Europe and Asia to almost Alaska. Breathtaking! As it is to find out which indigenous people live there, where and who they are. So I will start looking fot it. In the following months I will try to redraw my route map, to make it more concrete. First step, the Wikipedia, as usual:

Demographics of Siberia

Geographically, Siberia includes the Russian Urals, Siberian, and Far Eastern Federal Districts. The north-central parts of Kazakhstan are sometimes included in the region.

Siberia has population density of only three persons per square kilometer. The oblasts with the highest population densities are Chelyabinsk Oblast and Kemerovo Oblast, with 41 and 30 persons per square km, respectively. Koryak Okrug has population density of less than 0.1 per square kilometer.


Click here to see the complete list of districts and territories.

Excluding territories of north-central Kazakhstan, Siberia thus has a total population of ca. 38.7 million (2005). The North Kazakhstan oblast has another 1.1 million inhabitants (2002).

About 70% of Siberia’s people live in cities. Most city people are crowded into small apartments. Many people in rural areas live in simple, but more spacious, log houses. Novosibirsk is the largest city in Siberia, with a population of about 1.5 million, followed by Yekaterinburg (1.3 million, Urals), Omsk (1.1 million), Chelyabinsk (1.07 million, in the Urals), Krasnoyarsk (0.91 million), Barnaul (0.60 million), Irkutsk (0.59 million), Kemerovo (0.52 million), Tyumen (0.51 million), Tomsk (0.48 million), Nizhny Tagil (0.39 million, Urals), Kurgan (0.36 million), Ulan Ude (0.36 million), Chita (0.32 million).

The above count, however, by including the entire Urals Federal District, includes areas not usually considered part of Siberia, e.g. the cities Yekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk and Nizhny Tagil listed above.

Ethnicities and languages

Most Siberians (close to the average measured over all of Russia of 79%) are Russians and Russified Ukrainians, but in certain Oblasts (e.g. Tuva), Slavic population is as low as 20%.

Most non-Slavic groups are Turkic. Smaller linguistic groups are Mongols (ca. 600,000 speakers) Uralic (Samoyedic, Ugric, Yukaghir; roughly 100,000 speakers), Manchu-Tungus (ca. 40,000 speakers), Chukotko-Kamchatkan (ca. 25,000 speakers), Eskimo-Aleut (some 2,000 speakers), and languages isolates, Ket and Nivkh.

Mongolian, Turkic and Manchu-Tungus languages are sometimes taken together under the term Altaic. Uralic and Altaic form the Ural-Altaic group, and the Uralo-Siberian group combines the Ural-Altaic with the Chukotko-Kamchatkan group. These are more umbrella terms than accepted linguistic relationships.

This last part is the most interesting for me. There are also some interesting links at the bottom of the page, this will be tomorrow’s homework. I see that they do not include the territories that are next to the Bering Strait and Kamchatka. So separate searches for them too.

Teaching endangered languages in Siberia

July 26, 2008 at 12:02 pm | Posted in Education, Language, Siberia | Leave a comment
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During the lasts years the Mercator Centre has been running some projects concerning endangered languages, some of them in Siberia. I already told you about the Voices from tundra and taiga projects, which apart of a consistent database of linguistic information included also the creation of teaching materials and methods adapted to the specific sociolinguistic situation of those communities. Here you have a sample of their work:

Teaching Endangered Languages in Siberia

During the last years several teaching methods for endangered languages have been developed and special seminars have been organised for teachers of these languages in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk (2003), Hanty-Mansiisk (2004) and Buryatia (2005).

Teaching Samoyedic
Within the framework of the joint project “Writing and teaching Samoyedic”, the Russian-Nenets Audio Phrasebook and the Nganasan Multimedia Dictionary have been created. This work has been initiated by scholars in St.Petersburg and Groningen and financially supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research NWO (as part of the research program Voices from Tundra and Taiga), the Russian Foundation for Humanitarian Research and the Endangered Language Fund. The results of this project will be applied to other minority languages.

Russian-Nenets Audio Phrasebook Nganasan Multimedia Dictionary

Teaching Nivkh
During his research work on Nivkh the Japanese scholar Hidetoshi Shiraishi (2002-2005 in Groningen, since March 2005 at Sapporo Gakuin University) has written a series of books with Sound Materials of the Nivkh Language. These books are published together with the related sound material on CD and they can be used for the teaching of Nivkh. The World’s Largest Sound Archive of the Nivkh Language on the Web can be found at the web site of Hidetoshi Shiraishi, which refers to the following publications:

Sound Materials of the Nivkh Language 1 (2002)
-Folktales of V.F.Akiliak-Ivanova-

Sound Materials of the Nivkh Language 2 (2003)
-Songs and Folktales of the Amur Dialect-

Sound Materials of the Nivkh Language 3 (2004)

Read the preface to the third volume by Tjeerd de Graaf here.

Of course there is so much work to be done, but that is a beginning, and a very positive one. To be honest, I would not mind to work in something like this in the future!

Are you hungry?

July 24, 2008 at 1:05 pm | Posted in Maps | Leave a comment
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I found this curious map thanks to Strange Maps – one of the most curious blogs ever, by the way – last week. Of course it can not be considered as something rigurous, but it is funny to take a look at it.

The Cannibal Map of the World

Cannibalism is believed to have been practised by the Neanderthals and, in a more or less ritualistic context, by many ancient (modern) human cultures the world over. The object of the practice seems not to have been hunger so much as power – eating others is the ultimate way of establishing dominance over them, and/or acquiring their strength.

This map, from the German/Austrian publisher A. Hartleben, dating from the early 20th century by the look of it, presents a map of the range of anthropophagy, both contemporary (in red) and historical (in yellow).


The whole of Asia is blighted only by the past sins of the Ostiaks, a Siberian tribe and – bet the Dalai Lama never brags about this – the Tibetans.


Anthropophagy was shockingly widespread in North America (according to this map at least), with a continuous swathe of territory marked by the practice, ranging from the east coast (Algonquins, Iroquois) through the Midwest (Chippeway, Dakota) to the west coast (Oregon peoples). Other areas were to be found in Texas (Apache), Louisiane (Atacapa) and Florida.


It should be remembered that cannibalism probably was over-reported – people in previous centuries being as fascinated by the taboo as we are – and often used as a propaganda tool: cannibalism providing the ultimate yardstick for barbarity, and the ideal excuse to subjugate the peoples accused of it.

Voices from tundra and taiga

April 2, 2008 at 9:44 pm | Posted in Language, Research, Siberia | 1 Comment
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Yestarday, a snowball came rolling from the Netherlands to Barcelona. It said that there is a research center, Mercator, the European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning. They work on a wide range of topics, so I just searched for the Arctic-related ones. With that beautiful title, here you have their Siberian project:

Voices from tundra and taiga

The NWO project “Voices from Tundra and Taiga” started in May 2002 and lasted until June 2005. In a number of subprojects, carried out by different teams throughout the Russian Federation, this project contributed to the strengthening and revitalization of various minor indigenous languages of the Russian North, including Nenets, Nivkh, Yukagir, Khanty, Mansi and others. The project was part of a general research program with the same name.

Final report

Short description of the overall approach:

The topic of the research program “Voices from Tundra and Taiga” is the study of endangered languages and cultures of the Russian Federation, which must be described rapidly before they become extinct. This research is in the fortunate position that our earlier work on the reconstruction technology for old sound recordings found in archives in St. Petersburg has made it possible to compare languages still spoken in the proposed research area to the same languages as they were spoken more than half a century ago. These sound recordings consist of spoken language, folksongs, fairy tales etc., among others in Siberian languages.

In the NWO project we applied the developed techniques to some of the disappearing minority languages and cultures of Russia: Nivkh and Orok on Sakhalin and Yukagir and Tungus languages in Yakutia. Our aim is to set up a phono- and video-library of recorded stories, and of the folklore, singing and oral traditions of the peoples of Sakhalin and Yakutia. For this purpose the existing sound recordings in the archives of Sakhalin and Yakutia are used together with the results of new fieldwork expeditions. The data are added to the existing archive material in St. Petersburg and part of is made available on the Internet and/or CD-ROM.

Spontaneous speech and prepared texts are collected that are valuable for (ethno)linguistic as well as for anthropological, folkloric and ethno-musicological analysis. For that purpose, the data are (video)recorded and analysed as to the art of story telling and language use. Described texts are published in scientific journals and books with audiovisual illustrations on CD-ROM and on the Internet. The materials thus become available for further analysis to researchers working in the field of phonetics, linguistics, anthropology, history, ethno-musicology and folklore. This information is also important for the development of teaching methods for representatives of the related ethnic groups and for the conservation of their language and culture. For this purpose the new centres are equiped with computers, software, sound recorders, literature, etc.

The research and documentation is carried out in close co-operation with local scholars. In Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and Yakutsk local scholars and their assistants participate in the archiving of the sound recordings and in fieldwork expeditions. They are trained at St. Petersburg State University and specialists from St. Petersburg State University also visit them in order to set up new centres for the study and teaching of local languages and related subjects.

Voices from Buryatia

In July 2005, Tjeerd de Graaf presented the final report of the NWO project carried out together with Russian colleagues in the framework of theVoices from Tundra and Taiga research program.The research group received positive reactions, both from scientists as well as from teachers, students, native speakers and local authorities. This applied in particular to Buryatia, one of Russia’s federal republics in Siberia, where Tjeerd de Graaf and his Buryat colleague Ljubov Radnajeva visited several centres in June and July 2005. During special teacher seminars, they reported on the results of their projects and on the use of information technology in language teaching. Scientists and teachers from Buryatia are ready and eager to take an active part in the realization of similar new projects. A proposal for such a project has been prepared and submitted to the INTAS Organisation of the European Union.

According to the latest UNESCO data, the Buryat language is considered an endangered language and is registered in the UNESCO Red Book of Endangered Languages. Meanwhile, many Buryat people demonstrate their wish that their children use the native language. Modern educational resources (such as computer-assisted language learning, multimedia teaching material) are almost non-existent in teaching the Buryat language. It should be mentioned that good and promising conditions exist to develop such teaching resources based on information technology. The proposed joint research project will make this possible.

If you have more snowballs for me (aka information, links and resources…) do not hesitate to drop me a line!

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