The position of the native peoples Khanty and Mansi in the conditions of ecological crisis

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The main way we made our research is by analyzing the problem of the native peoples Khanty and Mansi in the conditions of ecological crisis. Having analysed the position of the native peoples Khanty and Mansi habitation in the conditions of ecological crisis the author defines their survival by preserving their cultural traditions. This research should focus public attention on the position of the native peoples Khanty and Mansi in the conditions of ecological crisis.

2.Basic part 
•Khanty and Mansi
•Traditions, customs, believes
•Hunting and food
•Territory of residing
•The position of the native peoples Khanty and Mansi in the conditions of ecological crisis

Облако в нефти

По Ватьегану плывет

Нефть, нефть, нефть

Лодку, сети и весло

Пропитала нефть.

Щуку вспорешь —

Нож в нефти

За водой для чайника

Некуда идти.

Ноги у оленей

Пропитались нефтью —

От соседей прибежали

С бедственною вестью.

Даже у вороны

Брюхо пожирнело

Облако на небе

Тоже почернело.

На подоле чума

масляные кляксы.

Лес мой перечеркнут

Черной полосой...

Олененок детства,

Что так горько плачешь?

Я твой нос чумазый

Вымою росой.

Юрий Бэлл


The goal work is dedicated to Khanty and Mansi as they pooled all their knowledge of nature, worked out special ways to survive under extreme natural conditions and managed to create lively and original cultures. The Khanty culture dates back to the second half of the first Millenium A.D. They came here thousands of years ago, examined these severe lands and made them their home. These are the peoples of the North and, at the present time, their life is not easy. We have to admire of their careful attitude to nature and their traditions. Today the nature of the north and its closely integrated indigenous inhabitants have almost reached a dangerous boundary and their further existence and development in harmonious and historical continuity can not be guaranteed.[1; 21] At the present time, less that 43 percent of the working population of the indigenous northerners are involved in deer farming, fishing and hunting. All these occupations are in a state of ecological crisis because of the influence of industry which led to unfortunate results: deterioration of pastures, natural areas, poisoned fish. In many areas the forests have been destroyed by the oil industry.

The subject matter of the present paper deals with the problem of surviving the native peoples Khanty and Mansi in the conditions of ecological crisis.

The aim of this study is to draw attention to the problem of surviving the native peoples Khanty and Mansi by preserving their cultural traditions.

The main objective of our study is by analysing the problem of surviving the native peoples Khanty and Mansi who try to keep their traditions and customs in the conditions of ecological crisis.

Materials of this research can be used as extra class work, additional source of material, at free elective courses for discovery learning.



Khant and Mansi, Khant also called OSTYAK, Mansi also called VOGUL, western Siberian peoples, living mainly in the Ob River basin of central Russia. They are grouped to¬gether as the Ob-Ugrians, for their language belongs to the Ugric branch of the Uralic language family, and they numbered about 28,600 in the late 20th century. They are descended from people from the south Ural steppe who moved into this region about the middle of the 1st millennium AD. Although the term Ostyak has been applied to other groups, in precise usage it refers only to the Khant.[2;15] Their present-day territory lies to the east of the Urals along the Ob River and its tribu¬taries, from the Urals and a narrow belt of foothills to a vast lowland that slopes gently to the Arctic Ocean. Some of the territory, both highlands and lowlands, is covered by vast swamps grown over with moss, peat, sedge, and small marsh pine.[3; 34] The Khant and Mansi have the same kind of habitat, economy, organization, and traditions. Their principal sources of subsis¬tence are hunting (traditionally with bows and arrows and spears, later with guns), trapping, and fishing (with nets, weirs, seines, and traps); reindeer herding was usually a subsidiary oc¬cupation and was probably borrowed from the neighbouring Nenets in the 15th century. The Ob-Ugrians traditionally were either nomadic or had settled dwellings according to their subsistence pattern. At summer hunting sites they generally lived in tents; their permanent winter homes were wooden huts. Boats, skis, and some horse or reindeer sleds provided transportation. What is more, the Khant and the Mansi were formerly divided into tribes consisting of local territo¬rial groupings. Each individual regardless of tribe belonged to one of two phratries and was expected to marry outside his phratry. A phratry consisted of several clans, each with a name or names of an ancestor or ancestor hero, a sign or brand to identify clan property, internal organization, an ancestor cult, and a sacred site.[ 4; 27]


Khanty the old name - ostiaks. Their number in Russian Federation is 22,300 people. Khanty mainly live in Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous okrug, in Yamalo-Nenetsky Autonomous okrug and in the Tomsk region. Three ethnographic groups are singled out among the khanty-people: northern, southern and eastern. They differ in dialects, peculiarities in culture and economy. Their traditional occupations are fishing and hunting, also deer-breeding in the north and cattle-breeding in the south. Some traditional clothes are similar for men and women (trousers, shirt, gown, shoes). In 17-18 century Khanty were turned to Orthodox Church but still they retained some of their faiths and customs. One of them is "Bear-holiday". It is characterized by special fairy-tales, myths, "bear songs",dances with masked participants. The folklore of the Khantys is rich: fairy-tales, myths, heroic tales, ritual and lyric songs.[5; 13] Mansi the old name is voguly. Their number in Russian Federation is 8,400 people. Mansi is the native population of Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous okrug. The meaning of the word "mansi" is "man", this word was added to the location name from where the group originates. Mansis have rich folklore: songs, legends, fairy-tales. As an ethnic group mansi appeared as merging of local tribes of ural neolit culture and ugorsk tribes. The first contacts with Russians come back to 11 cent. After Sibiria joined the Russian State at the end of 16 cent. Russian colonization strengthened and at the end of 17 cent the number of Russians exceeded the number of natives. Gradually mansi moved to the north and the east, partially assimilated and in 18 cent they were formally turned to Orthodox Church. Contacts with other folks played a great role in the formation and development of the ethnic group. For example, there are common features in culture with Khantys (esp.northern group), Nentsys, Komis, Tatars, Russians, etc. Basic occupations of mansi people were hunting and fishing, partially deer-breeding. “They have one or several following characteristics: the special language distinguishing them from the dominating population; they are restrained in the rights by political and legal systems; their culture differs from culture of dominating community; they differ in ways of wildlife management, being hunters and collectors, nomads”. [6; 25]

Khanty and mansi have some differences: the 1st, number in Russian Federation of the Khants is 22,300 people, the 2nd, Knant’s and Mansi’s languages are close to each other, but there are distinctions in a dialect, that’s why they don’t understand each other. The 3rd, there are differences in decorating of clothes (symbolizing of ornaments) and some each different. But Khanty and Mansi are very similar people. There are identical things in customs, believes, traditions, culture (especially in the graphic arts and in the folk-lore), food and occupation. They live in north-west Siberia in the Khanty-Mansi and Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Districts that are located in the Tyumen region of the Russian Federation. Their location is to the east of the Mansis in the Ob-Irtysh river basins, stretching for 1,500 kilometres from the Vasyugan, a tributary of the Ob, to the Ob's estuary. The Khant villages are mainly situated in the river valleys (Vakh, Kazym, Agan, Salym, Yugan and others), the northernmost reaching the estuary of the River Ob where it flows into the Arctic Ocean. The indigenous tribe has traditionally used the skins of deer, and the fur of fox, sable, and minx to make clothing and keep warm during the coldest periods. The Khanty also tend to move from settlements on the rivers inland during winter, and live in Cold. Homes built of wood as opposed to the summer homes which are essentially tents made of animal skins.[7; 18]


The Khanty and Mansi people of Yugra were pagans throughout almost all of their history. The traditional religions of the Khanty and the Mansi are based on the triple division of the world: the upper (the sky), the middle (the earth), and the lower (subterranean). According to the Mansi beliefs, all the worlds are populated by spirits, each of whom has a special function to fulfill. The equilibrium between the human world and the world of gods has been maintained by means of sacrifices. The traditional religions are also characterized by shamanism, and a set of totemic figures: the bear being the most deeply respected. In honor of this animal, bear festivals were conducted regularly until they and the associated worship of idols and sacred groves were formally banned by the Soviets in 1933. This was the result of widespread resistance to collectivization policies which culminated in the Kazym rebellion.[8;24] The Khanty live in big families. They have equal respect for men and women. In addition to this, Khanty and Mansi could clearly understand their capabilities and duties. At the Bear Festivities men would be allowed to eat the right part of the bear, and women only the left part. A woman may go hunting or bring the meat on the sledge from the forest, but she is not allowed to step over the personal belongings of the man. Men do not hesitate to perform 'womanly' chores when on a far-away hunting expedition, but the woman remains the keeper of the hearth, peace. The Khanty have many ancient rites surrounding the birth, marriage and death, the main events in a human life. In their beliefs, children come to their parents from the other world, and Salym's Khanty would make offerings to the God Torum and spirits of fire asking for offspring. The place of birth, outside the house, represented a borderline between two worlds and was protected against intrusion by a special birth hut.[9;15] When a girl turned 16–17 years, she would be tested: she may marry only if she can bake good bread, without cracks, otherwise she had to wait next year. A bride considered beautiful, if she could make nice-looking and durable clothes. Reindeer are of particular importance to the Khanty culture because they are used for a multitude of purposes such as food and clothing. Bones are also often used to make buttons and knife handles. Often ears, lips, kidneys, and eyes are eaten, while extra meat is preserved for the winter months when temperatures dip down to 50 degrees below zero. Fish and timber are also extremely important to the Khanty. Approximately 70% of the Khanty diet consists of fish. Trees are used to build dwellings and are often hallowed out to make canoes for transport on the rivers. Wild berries are also an important source of food for the Khanty reindeer.[10;47]


The baby became a human after the 'resurrection of the soul' rite that took place before the appearance of first teeth. Based on the looks of the baby, the parents decided who of their deceased relatives had been reincarnated in it. At that point the baby acquired a soul and, of course, a name. The system of religious representations as a whole is traditional is a belief in existence at the person of several souls: five — at the men, four - at women. The soul as a vital substance is represented differently: as a shade, breath, a phantom-double or spirit of the person. One of souls, soul-shade, a sepulchral soul, goes to a tomb after death of the person, but can and leave a body died, to return to the house and to withdraw with itself a live soul. According to beliefs, the next world is in the north, downwards on the river. The second soul ("leaving downwards on the river") is represented in the form of a bird, a mosquito and as if lives in a head of people, leaving during a dream. If it long does not come back, the person faints, falls ill, and then dies.[11;32] To keep the soul, sick do a tattoo in the form of a bird (a wagtail, a titmouse, a swallow,) on a hand or a shoulder. After death this soul is called urt. The third, "a sleepy soul" is represented also in the form of a bird. Unlike first two, she lives in wood and only for the period of a dream arrives to the person. Its long absence leads to a sleeplessness. On a back of a cradle of the child is its receptacle - a bird of a dream for the reason him sleeping well. The fourth soul (poured) lives in hair and if leaves the person, it becomes tired, powerless, shy. The known custom is connected with this representation on folklore sources of enemies. Mansi believe that after death of the person the fourth soul can revive in the newborn. The parents would be guided by their dreams to determine the personal guardian spirit for the son or daughter. In this process, the child gradually becomes a member of the family and bearer of the family name. The baby was weaned at three to four years: that marked the end of the cradle period and the start of childhood. The small members of the family did their part of household duties and even in games imitated the activities of their parents. The boys competed in archery, and the girls sewed clothes for their dolls. By 14 to 15 years, boys must become accomplished fishermen and hunters, and girls must become good housewives.[12; 22] When they marry, the boy and girl in Khanty - become real adults and equal members of the family, they become man and woman - iki and imi. The groom and bride should belong to different families. For taking the girl from the village, the matchmakers pay a 'bride price' to the parents and guardian spirits. From early childhood, kids are taught never raise hand against adults, even in play, otherwise when they grow up, their hands will be shaky and they will never make things and tools of grownups, which make them feel really important; lazy and careless ones would be compared with frightening characters from fairy tales and myths.[13;25]


The traditional economic lifestyle of the Khanty included fishing, hunting, cattle breeding and gathering. In winter they hunt elk, trapped fur animals and often hunt bears in den. They return to the village in March, when the fur hunt is over. Women during winter do household chores, take care of the cattle, and shuttled between home and hunting grounds bringing in food and taking away elk meat. They live in a cage to later ship it to the summer camp by river. In late April they also hunt on large hoofed animals. Starting in May, when the rivers are released from ice, they use nets for fishing. In late summer they make hay for domestic animals. Berry gathering starts in July with the cloudberry. In Khanty tradition, the first cloudberry they found in a season should be wrapped in a red cloth.[14;115] Historically, the Khanty hunt elk, wild deer, forest birds and water fowl. Young and strong hunters reach far into the taiga on their hunting tours, leaving the nearby areas to those who possess less stamina: the elderly and youngsters. It is difficult to imagine a Khanty without a dog. Dogs are primarily used for hunting, but they also pull sledges with cargoes and sometimes people. The hunting qualities of a cub are checked immediately after birth. They picked up a cub by the tail and if the dog manage to raise its back feet above its head, they decide that the dog is a good runner. The Khanty give preference to dogs with light, especially white fur. The hunting dogs are specially trained. Puppies are taken to the forest early in their lives to check their hunting abilities by the way they react to squirrel.[15;139]


A complex mixture of alluvial, sod, meadow, and boggy soils is characteristic of the Ob River floodplain. Tundra, raw organic, fragmentary, mountain primitive, and organogenic-rubbly soils are widespread in mountainous areas. Forests, bogs, meadows, water bodies, and mountain tundra all have their characteristic vegetation. Forests cover 52.1% of Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area. The predominant forest type is middle taiga, consisting of coniferous, softwood, and mixed forests of spruce, cedar, larch, fir, and pine. Meadow vegetation is confined to river floodplains and lowlands. Lichen communities used as reindeer pastures are widespread in northern parts of the area. Edible berries such as cranberries, lingonberries, blueberries, bilberries, currants, cloudberries, raspberries, rose hips, bird cherries, and rowanberries are abundant in the forests and bogs. Wildlife of the area includes animals such as fox, squirrel, sable, marten, ermine, Siberian weasel, polecat, mink, otter, hare, mole, chipmunk, wild reindeer, and moose. Typical birds are geese, grouse (capercaillie, black, and hazel), partridge, ducks, and sandpipers. Forty-two species of fish inhabit the various water bodies, including valuable commercial species such as sturgeon, sterlet, white salmon, whitefish, peled, and tugun. The area's most important mineral resources are oil and gas. The largest oil and gas fields are the Samotlor, Fedorov, Mamontov, and Priobskoe fields. [16;75]


In Siberia, Russia's tribal peoples are being pushed off their land by oil and gas. They have no right to own their land under Russian Federal law. When the companies arrived they built towns, polluted the forests and sacred lakes, killed the reindeer. Many Khanty were forced off their land and into 'native villages'. In many areas the forests have been destroyed by the oil industry – they will take 100 years to recover enough to sustain reindeer, which are central to the Khanty way of life.[18;108] At the present time, all occupations of Khanty and Mansi are in a state of crisis because of the unbalanced economy, non-rational methods of trade and deterioration of pastures and natural areas, and the influence of industry. The fishing resources in many internal waterways of the North are close to exhaustion because of oil industry. Boris Borisovich Prokhorov (the Head of the Laboratory of Regional Problems of Health of National Academy of Sciences) has been conducting field research in the northern regions for many years. The oil and gas companies should understand that they pollute the earth and animals, and through pollution of animals and the earth we, people, get the same pollution. Surviving the native peoples of Khanty and Mansi is possible only by preserving their cultural traditions. Over many years, day and night, the gas-burning flames around Nizhnyevartovsk have been lighting everything in a crimson glow, oil has been floating on the tributaries of the Ob, the forest has been cut down. All this is because of indifference, and obvious neglect of the land providing the wealth.[19;22] According to A.S. Sopochinoi : «Khants have a replacement of traditional representations about the world, about themselves, about the nature. Oil industry workers occupy the new areas, but they do not follow the new economic agreements. It makes the life of Khanty and Mansi intolerable. All attempts to alter their traditions bring these people to extinction». [20; 216] Alitet Niemtushkin (who was a delegate at the Nineteenth Congress) declared " there is no end to the list of crimes against nature and, therefore, against the indigenous population itself. Whole ethnic groups could find themselves on the edge of extinction under the influence of oil and gas industry. The confusion appeared among the Khanty and Mansi several years ago when powerful equipment began to involve in their life.”[21; 218]


Only having studied the native land, we have a just cause to be called as inhabitants of our native land. Every respecting person should know about the first inhabitants occupying our autonomous region, about the local people - Khanty and Mansi. All attempts to alter their traditions bring these people to extinction. The governmental departments which exploited the natural treasures of the North, changed traditional occupations of the native peoples of Khanty and Mansi must compensate them not simply with money, but by creating modern, comfortable settlements by building schools, hospitals, clubs, industrial workplaces and a transport system. The most important thing is to give them their own desire for self-preservation by helping them to save their cultural individuality.


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