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The Alyutors (Russian: Алюторцы; self designation: Алутальу, or Alutal'u) are an ethnic group (formerly classified as a subgroup of Koryaks) who lived on the Kamchatka and Chukotka peninsulas of the Russian Far East. Today most of them live in the Koryak Autonomous Okrug. The name also occurs as Olyutorka, a settlement where many of the Alyutors used to live. There is no precise data on the number of Alyutors, but it is estimated that there are approximately 2,000 to 3,000 of them living in Russia nowadays.
Alyutors spoke the Alyutor language (also known as Nymylan language), which belongs to the Chukotko-Kamchatkan language family; however less than 10% of the Alyutors still speak it. Today, many Russian experts believe it to be a separate language, though it used to be considered a dialect of the Koryak language.
The Alyutors are mentioned in the very first chronicles about the Russian colonization of Kamchatka. In 1697, the Russian Cossacks imposed taxes on the Alyutors, who would show armed resistance in the next few years. After the suppression of the 1751 uprising, the number of the Alyutors significantly decreased. Also, they were constantly under attack from the Chukchis, who often confiscated their reindeer herds. In the late 18th century, the Alyutors were an isolated and secluded group of people, which helped them to avoid the smallpox epidemics almost unharmed. Also, such isolation helped them to preserve their traditional way of life.
Traditionally the Alyutors were engaged in reindeer breeding, fishing, trapping, and hunting. They positioned their settlements along the rivers on elevated spots with good visibility around them. Octagonal earth houses with vertical walls meant for 3 to 5 families were the only type of housing among the Alyutors up until the 19th century. Beginning in the 1950s and continuing through the 1970s, Alyutor children were sent to boarding schools which increased their loss of the Alyutor language and decreased their training in Alyutor traditions. Many Alyutors became teachers, doctors, geologists, and zoo technicians during the Soviet period.
Presently, the Alyutor traditions, culture, and art are endangered because of the decreases in reindeer population and reproduction caused by the worsening ecology of the region.
- Russian Census 2010: Population by ethnicity (Russian)
- Young, T. Kue and Bjerregaard, Peter (2008) Health Transitions in Arctic Populations University of Toronto Press, Toronto, p. 75, ISBN 978-0-8020-9401-8, citing the Russian 2002 census
- Krauss , Michael E. (1997). "The Indigenous languages of the North: A Report on their present state: Northern minority languages: problems of Survival" Senri Ethnological Studies (Osaka, Japan) 44: pp 1-34; based on the earlier report: Krauss, Michael E. (1995) The indigenous languages of the North: A report on their present state Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska.
- Kibrik, Alexandr E.; Kodzasov, Sandro V. and Muravyova, Irina A. (2000) Yazyk i folklor alutortsev Nasledie, Moscow; English edition: Kibrik, Alexandr E.; Kodzasov, Sandro V. and Muravyova, Irina A. (2004) Language and folklore of the Alutor people (translated by Megumi Kurebito) Osaka Gakuin University, Faculty of Informatics, Osaka, Japan, OCLC 166421257
- See Young (2008), above, for the reclassification of eastern Siberian ethnicities.
Wixman, Ronald (1984) The Peoples of the USSR: An Ethnographic Handbook