Indigenous peoples of Siberia
|Regions with significant populations|
Chukotko-Kamchatkan languages, Eskimo–Aleut languages, Nivkh languages, Mongolic languages, Tungusic languages, Turkic languages, Uralic languages, Yeniseian languages (Ket), Yukaghir languages
|Buddhism, Christianity (Eastern Orthodoxy), Islam, Shamanism, Tengrism|
Siberia and the Russian Far East have a population of around 34 million people. As a result of the Slavic-Russian conquest of Siberia (17th to 19th centuries) and of the subsequent population movements during the Soviet era (1917-1991), the demographics of Siberia today is dominated by native speakers of Russian. There remain a considerable number of indigenous groups, between them accounting for below 10% of the total Siberian population (about 4,500,000), some of which (the earliest existing, usually the northernmost) are distantly genetically related to indigenous peoples of the Americas.
In Kamchatka the Itelmens' uprisings against Russian rule in 1706, 1731, and 1741, were crushed. During the first uprising the Itelmen were armed with only stone weapons, but in later uprisings they used gunpowder weapons. The Russian Cossacks faced tougher resistance from the Koryaks, who revolted with bows and guns from 1745 to 1756, and were even forced to give up in their attempts to wipe out the Chukchi in 1729, 1730–1, and 1744–7. After the Russian defeat in 1729 at Chukchi hands, the Russian commander Major Dmitry Pavlutsky was responsible for the Russian war against the Chukchi and the mass slaughters and enslavement of Chukchi women and children in 1730–31, but his cruelty only made the Chukchis fight more fiercely. A war against the Chukchis and Koryaks was ordered by Empress Elizabeth in 1742 to totally expel them from their native lands and erase their culture through war. The command was that the natives be "totally extirpated" with Pavlutskiy leading again in this war from 1744 to 1747 in which he led to the Cossacks "with the help of Almighty God and to the good fortune of Her Imperial Highness", to slaughter the Chukchi men and enslave their women and children as booty. However this phase of the war came to an inconclusive end, when the Chukchi forced them to give up by killing Pavlutskiy and decapitating him.
The Russians were also launching wars and slaughters against the Koryaks in 1744 and 1753–4. After the Russians tried to force the natives to convert to Christianity, the different native peoples like the Koryaks, Chukchis, Itelmens, and Yukaghirs all united to drive the Russians out of their land in the 1740s, culminating in the assault on Nizhnekamchatsk fort in 1746. Kamchatka today is European in demographics and culture with only 2.5% of it being native, around 10,000 from a previous number of 150,000, due to infectious diseases, such as smallpox, mass suicide and the mass slaughters by the Cossacks after its annexation in 1697 of the Itelmen and Koryaks throughout the first decades of Russian rule. The genocide by the Russian Cossacks devastated the native peoples of Kamchatka and exterminated much of their population. In addition to committing genocide the Cossacks also devastated the wildlife by slaughtering massive numbers of animals for fur. Ninety percent of the Kamchadals and half of the Vogules were killed from the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries and the rapid genocide of the indigenous population led to entire ethnic groups being entirely wiped out, with around 12 exterminated groups which could be named by Nikolai Iadrintsev as of 1882. Much of the slaughter was brought on by the fur trade.
In the 17th century, indigenous peoples of the Amur region were attacked and colonized by Russians who came to be known as "red-beards". The Russian Cossacks were named luocha (羅剎), rakshasa by Amur natives, after demons found in Buddhist mythology. They feared the invaders as they ruthlessly colonized the Amur tribes, invaders who were subjects of the Qing dynasty during the Sino–Russian border conflicts.
The regionalist oblastniki was, in the 19th century, among the Russians in Siberia who acknowledged that the natives were subjected to violence of almost genocidal proportions by the Russian colonization. They claimed that they would rectify the situation with their proposed regionalist policies. The colonizers used slaughter, alcoholism and disease to bring the natives under their control, some small nomadic groups essentially disappeared, and much of the evidence of their obliteration has itself been destroyed, with only a few artifacts documenting their presence remaining in Russian museums and collections.
In 1918-1921 there was a violent revolutionary upheaval in Siberia. Russian Cossacks under Captain Grigori Semionov established themselves as warlords by crushing the indigenous peoples who resisted colonization. The Russian colonization of Siberia and conquest of its indigenous peoples has been compared to European colonization in the United States and its natives, with similar negative impacts on the natives and the appropriation of their land. However Siberian experience was very different, as settlement was not resulted to dramatic native depopulation. The Slavic Russians outnumber all of the native peoples in Siberia and its cities except in Tuva and Sakha (where the Tuvans and Yakuts serve as the majority ethnic groups respectively), with the Slavic Russians making up the majority in Buryatia and the Altai Republic, outnumbering the Buryat and Altaian natives. The Buryats make up only 30% of their own Republic, and Altai is only one-third, and the Chukchi, Evenks, Khanty, Mansi, and Nenets are outnumbered by non-natives by 90% of the population. The Czars and Soviets enacted policies to force natives to change their way of life, while rewarding ethnic Russians with the natives’ reindeer herds and wild game they had confiscated. The reindeer herds have been mismanaged to the point of extinction.
Classifying the diverse population by language, it includes speakers of the following language families (number of speakers reflect the 2002 Russian census):
- Yukaghir (nearly extinct)
- Yakut (456,288 speakers)
- Dolgan (population: 7,261; speakers: 4,865)
- Tuvan (population: 243,442; speakers: 242,754)
- Tofa (population: 837; speakers: 378)
- Khakas (population: 75,622; speakers: 52,217)
- Shor (population: 13,975; speakers: 6,210)
- Siberian Tatar (populations: 6,779)
- Chulym (population: 656; speakers: 270)
- Altai (some 70,000 speakers)
- Mongolic (some 400,000 speakers)
- Tungusic (some 80,000 speakers)
- Ket (population: 1600; some 210 speakers)
- Chukotko-Kamchatkan (some 25,000 speakers)
- Nivkh (some 200 speakers)
- Eskimo–Aleut (some 2,000 speakers)
Simplified, the indigenous peoples of Siberia listed above can be put into four groups,
Altaic has not been proven to be a language family, a phylogenetic unit. It may be a Sprachbund. Paleosiberian is simply a geographic term of convenience. Here, these two terms are listed just to serve as portal-like starting points – without suggesting genetic considerations.
Khanty and Mansi
The Khanty (obsolete: Ostyaks) and Mansi (obsolete: Voguls) live in Khanty–Mansi Autonomous Okrug, a region historically known as "Yugra" in Russia. By 2013, oil and gas companies had already devastated much of the Khanty tribes' lands. In 2014 the Khanty-Mansi regional parliament continued to weaken legislation that had previously protected Khanty and Mansi communities. Tribes' permission was required before oil and gas companies could enter their land.
Samoyedic peoples include:
- Northern Samoyedic peoples
- Southern Samoyedic peoples
Yukaghir is spoken in two mutually unintelligible varieties in the lower Kolyma and Indigirka valleys. Other languages, including Chuvantsy, spoken further inland and further east, are now extinct. Yukaghir is held by some to be related to the Uralic languages in the Uralic–Yukaghir family.
The Yukaghirs (self-designation: одул odul, деткиль detkil) are people in East Siberia, living in the basin of the Kolyma River. The Tundra Yukaghirs live in the Lower Kolyma region in the Sakha Republic; the Taiga Yukaghirs in the Upper Kolyma region in the Sakha Republic and in Srednekansky District of Magadan Oblast. By the time of Russian colonization in the 17th century, the Yukaghir tribal groups (Chuvans, Khodyns, Anauls, etc.) occupied territories from the Lena River to the mouth of the Anadyr River. The number of the Yukaghirs decreased between the 17th and 19th centuries due to epidemics, internecine wars and Tsarist colonial policy. Some of the Yukaghirs have assimilated with the Yakuts, Evens, and Russians. Currently Yukaghirs live in the Sakha Republic and the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug of the Russian Federation. According to the 2002 Census, their total number was 1,509 people, up from 1,112 recorded in the 1989 Census.
The Buryats number 461,389 in Russia according to the 2010 census, which makes them the second largest ethnic minority group in Siberia. They are mainly concentrated in their homeland, the Buryat Republic, a federal subject of Russia. They are the northernmost major Mongol group.
Buryats share many customs with their Mongolian cousins, including nomadic herding and erecting huts for shelter. Today, the majority of Buryats live in and around Ulan Ude, the capital of the republic, although many live more traditionally in the countryside. Their language is called Buryat.
- 1. The Chukotko-Kamchatkan family, sometimes known as Luoravetlan, includes Chukchi and its close relatives, Koryak, Alutor and Kerek. Itelmen, also known as Kamchadal, is also distantly related. Chukchi, Koryak and Alutor are spoken in easternmost Siberia by communities numbering in the dozens (Alutor) to thousands (Chukchi). Kerek is now extinct, and Itelmen is now spoken by fewer than 10 people, mostly elderly, on the west coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula.
- 2. Yukaghir is spoken in two mutually unintelligible varieties in the lower Kolyma and Indigirka valleys. Other languages, including Chuvantsy, spoken further inland and further east, are now extinct. Yukaghir is held by some to be related to the Uralic languages.
- 3. Ket is the last survivor of the Yeniseian family along the middle of the Yenisei River and its tributaries. It has recently been claimed  to be related to the Na-Dene languages of North America, though this hypothesis has met with mixed reviews among historical linguists. In the past, attempts have been made to relate it to Sino-Tibetan, North Caucasian, and Burushaski.
- 4. Nivkh is spoken in the lower Amur basin and on the northern half of Sakhalin island. It has a recent modern literature and the Nivkhs have experienced a turbulent history in the last century.
Relationship to Indigenous peoples of the Americas
Paleo-Indians from modern day Siberia are thought to have crossed into the Americas across the Beringia land bridge between 40,000 and 13,000 years ago.
Analysis of genetic markers has also been used to link the two groups of indigenous peoples. Studies focused on looking at markers on the Y chromosome, which is always inherited by sons from their fathers. Haplogroup Q is a unique mutation shared among most indigenous peoples of the Americas. Studies have found that 93.8% of Siberia's Ket people and 66.4% of Siberia's Selkup people possess the mutation. The principal-component analysis suggests a close genetic relatedness between some North American Amerindians (the Chipewyan [Ojibwe] and the Cheyenne) and certain populations of central/southern Siberia (particularly the Kets, Yakuts, Selkups, and Altaians), at the resolution of major Y-chromosome haplogroups. This pattern agrees with the distribution of mtDNA haplogroup X, which is found in North America, is absent from eastern Siberia, but is present in the Altaians of southern central Siberia.
Culture and customs
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Custums and beliefs vary greatly among different tribes.
Kutkh (also Kutkha, Kootkha, Kutq Kutcha and other variants, Russian: Кутх), is a raven spirit traditionally revered by the Chukchi and other Siberian tribal groups. He is said to be very powerful.
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- Siberia portal
- Ancient Beringian, Siberian indigenous people.
- History of Siberia
- Demographics of Siberia
- First All Union Census of the Soviet Union
- Indigenous people
- Indigenous peoples of the Americas
- List of ethnic groups
- Y-DNA haplogroups in populations of Central and North Asia
- Kola Norwegians
- Uralic languages
- Shamanism in Siberia
- List of indigenous peoples of Russia
- List of small-numbered indigenous peoples of Russia
- Small-numbered indigenous peoples of Extreme North
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Dr. Willerslev's team found DNA in the Kolyma skull as well. A small fraction of that individual’s ancestry came from Ancient North Siberians. But most of it came from a new population. Dr. Willerslev and his colleagues call them the Ancient Paleo-Siberians.
The DNA of the Ancient Paleo-Siberians is remarkably similar to that of Native Americans. Dr. Willerslev estimates that Native Americans can trace about two-thirds of their ancestry to these previously unknown people.
One reason that the Ancient Paleo-Siberians were unknown until now is that they were mostly replaced by a third population of people with a different East Asian ancestry. This group moved into Siberia only in the past 10,000 years — and they are the progenitors of most living Siberians.
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