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The Evenks (autonym: Эвэнкил Evenkil; Evenki; ; formerly known as Tungus or Tunguz; ) are a Tungusic people of Northern Asia. In Russia, the Evenks are recognized as one of the Indigenous peoples of the Russian North
Indigenous peoples of the Russian North
The following peoples are officially recognized as Small-numbered Indigenous Peoples of Russia. They are included into the Common List of Indigenous Small-numbered Peoples of Russia approved by the government of Russia on March 24, 2000....

, with a population of 35,527 (2002 Census
Russian Census (2002)
Russian Census of 2002 was the first census of the Russian Federation carried out on October 9 through October 16, 2002. It was carried out by the Russian Federal Service of State Statistics .-Resident population:...

). In China, the Evenki form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

, with a population of 30,505, as per 2000 Census. There are also 535 Mongolized Evenki in Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

, referred to as Khamnigan.

Origin


The Evenki or Ewenki are sometime conjectured to be connected to the Shiwei
Shiwei
Shiwei were a Mongolic people that inhabited far-eastern Mongolia, northern Inner Mongolia and northern Manchuria and were recorded from the time of the Northern Wei until the rise of the Mongols of Genghis Khan in 1206 when the name "Mongol" and "Tatar" were applied to all the Shiwei tribes....

 people who inhabited the Greater Khingan
Greater Khingan
The Greater Khingan Range , also called the Greater Hing'an Range or Greater Hinggan Range, is a volcanic mountain range in the northeastern part of the People's Republic of China. The range extends roughly 1,200 km from north to south, narrowing towards the south...

 Range in the 5-9th centuries, although the native land of the majority of Evenki people is in the vast regions of Siberia between Lake Baikal
Lake Baikal
Lake Baikal is the world's oldest at 30 million years old and deepest lake with an average depth of 744.4 metres.Located in the south of the Russian region of Siberia, between Irkutsk Oblast to the northwest and the Buryat Republic to the southeast, it is the most voluminous freshwater lake in the...

 and the Amur River. The Ewenki language forms the northern branch of the Manchu-Tungusic language group and is closely related to Even
Evens
The Evens or Eveny are a people in Siberia and the Russian Far East. They live in some of the regions of the Magadan Oblast and Kamchatka Krai and northern parts of Sakha east of the Lena River. According to the 2002 census, there were 19,071 Evens in Russia...

 and Negidal in Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

. By 1600 the Ewenkis or Evenkis of the Lena and Yenisey valleys were successful reindeer herders. By contrast the Solons and the Khamnigans (Ewenkis of Transbaikalia) had picked up horse breeding and the Mongolian deel
Deel (clothing)
A deel is the traditional clothing commonly worn for many centuries among the Mongols and other nomadic tribes of Central Asia, including various Turkic peoples, and can be made from cotton, silk, or brocade....

 from the Mongols
Mongols
Mongols ) are a Central-East Asian ethnic group that lives mainly in the countries of Mongolia, China, and Russia. In China, ethnic Mongols can be found mainly in the central north region of China such as Inner Mongolia...

. The Solons (ancestors of the Evenkis in China) nomadized along the Amur River. They were closely related to the Daur people. To the west the Khamnigan were another group of horse breeding Evenkis in the Transbaikalia area. Also in the Amur valley a body of Siberian Evenki-speaking people were called Orochen by the Manchus.

Historical distribution


The Evenks have most likely been in the Baikal region of Southern Siberia (near the modern-day Mongolian border) since the Neolithic era;
"The origin of the Evenks is the result of complex processes, different in time, involving the mixing of different ancient aboriginal tribes from the north of Siberia with tribes…related in language to the Turks and Mongols. The language of these tribes took precedence over the languages of the aboriginal population" (Vasilevich, 623). Elements of more modern Evenk culture, including conical tent dwellings, bone fish-lures, and birch-bark boats, were all present in sites that are believed to be Neolithic. From Lake Baikal, “they spread to the Amur and Okhotsk Sea…the Lena Basin…and the Yenisey Basin” (623).

Contact with Russians


In the 17th century, the Russian empire began to expand enough to contact the remote Evenkis. Cossacks, men who served as a kind of “border-guard” for the tsarist government, imposed a fur tax on the Siberian tribes. The Cossacks exploited the Evenki clan hierarchy and took hostages from the highest members in order to ensure payment of the tax. Although there was some rebellion against local officials, the Evenks generally recognized the “great need of peaceful cultural relations with the Russians (624). Contact with the Russians and constant demand for fur taxes pushed the Evenkis east all the way to Sakhalin island, where some still live today (Cassell’s). In the 19th, some groups migrated south and east into Mongolia and Manchuria (Vasilevich, 625). Today there are still Evenki populations in Sakhalin, Mongolia, and Manchuria (Ethnologue), and to a lesser extent, their traditional Baikal region (Janhunen).

Traditional life


Traditionally they were a mixture of pastoralists and hunter-gatherers—they relied on their domesticated reindeer for milk and transport and hunted other large game for meat (Vasilevich, 620-1). Today “[t]he Evenks are divided into two large groups…engaging in different types of economy. These are the hunting and reindeer-breeding Evenks…and the horse and cattle pastoral Evenks as well as some farming Evenks” (620).
The Evenks lived mostly in areas of what is called a taiga, or boreal forest. They lived in conical tents made from birch bark or reindeer skin tied to birch poles. When they moved camp, the Evenks would leave the dwelling’s framework and carry only the more portable coverings. During winter, the hunting season, most camps consisted of one or two tents while the spring encampments encompassed up to 10 households (Vasilevich, 637).

The skill of riding the domesticated reindeer allowed the Evenkis to “colonize vast areas of the eastern taiga which had previously been impenetrable” (Vitebsky, 31). The Evenks use a saddle unique to their culture which is placed on the shoulders of the reindeer which lessens the strain on the animal. Also, the Evenks traditionally did not use stirrups but used a stick to balance (31-32). Evenks did not develop reindeer sledges until comparatively recent times (32). They instead used their reindeer as pack animals and often traversed great distances on foot, using snowshoes or skis (Vasilevich, 627). The Evenki people did not eat their domesticated reindeer (although they did hunt and eat wild reindeer) but kept them for milk. (Forsyth, 49-50).

Large herds of reindeer were very uncommon. Most Evenks had around 25 head of reindeer because they were generally bred for transportation purposes. Unlike several other neighboring tribes Evenk reindeer-breeding did not include “herding of reindeer by dogs nor any other specific features” (Vasilevich, 629). Very early in the spring season, the winter camps broke up and moved to places suitable for calving. Several households pastured their animals together throughout the summer, being careful to keep “[s]pecial areas…fenced off…to guard the newborn calves against being trampled on in a large herd” (629).

Clothing


The Evenks wore a characteristic costume “adapted to the cold but rather dry climate of Central Siberia and to a life of mobility…they wore brief garments of soft reindeer or elk skin around their hips, along with leggings and moccasins, or else long supple boots reaching to the thigh” (49). They also wore a deerskin coat that did not close in front but was instead covered with an apron-like cloth. Some Evenkis decorated their clothing with fringes or embroidery (50). The Evenki traditional costume always consisted of these elements: the loincloth made of animal hide, leggings, and boots of varying lengths (Vasilevich, 641). Facial tattooing was also very common.

Hunting


The traditional Evenki economy was a mix of pastoralism (of horses or reindeer), fishing, and hunting. The Evenki who lived near the Okhotsk Sea hunted seal, but for most of the taiga-dwellers, elk, wild reindeer, and fowl were the most important game animals. Other animals included “roe deer, bear, wolverine, lynx, wolf, Siberian marmot, fox, and sable” (Vasilevich, 626). Trapping did not become important until the imposition of the fur tax by the tsarist government. Before acquiring guns in the 18th century, Evenks used steel bows and arrows. Along with their main hunting implements, hunters always carried a “pike”—“which was a large knife on a long handle used instead of an axe when passing through the thick taiga or as a spear when hunting bear” (626). The Evenks have deep respects for animals and all elements of nature: "It is forbidden to torment an animal, bird, or insect, and a wounded animal must be finished off immediately…It is forbidden to spill the blood of a killed animal or defile it…It is forbidden to kill animals or birds that were saved from pursuit by predators or came to a person for help in a natural disaster" (Sirina, 24).

Evenks of Russia



The Evenks were formerly known as tungus. This designation was spread by the Russians
Russians
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....

, who acquired it from the Yakuts
Yakuts
Yakuts , are a Turkic people associated with the Sakha Republic.The Yakut or Sakha language belongs to the Northern branch of the Turkic family of languages....

 and the Siberian Tatars
Tatars
Tatars are a Turkic speaking ethnic group , numbering roughly 7 million.The majority of Tatars live in the Russian Federation, with a population of around 5.5 million, about 2 million of which in the republic of Tatarstan.Significant minority populations are found in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan,...

 (in the Yakut language tongus) in the 17th century. The Evenks have several self-designations, of which the best known is evenk. This became the official designation for the people in 1931. Some groups call themselves orochen ('an inhabitant of the River Oro'), orochon ('a rearer of reindeer
Reindeer
The reindeer , also known as the caribou in North America, is a deer from the Arctic and Subarctic, including both resident and migratory populations. While overall widespread and numerous, some of its subspecies are rare and one has already gone extinct.Reindeer vary considerably in color and size...

'), ile ('a human being'), etc. At one time or another tribal designations and place names have also been used as self-designations, for instance manjagir, birachen, solon, etc. Several of these have even been taken for separate ethnic entities.

There is also a similarly named Siberian group called the Evens
Evens
The Evens or Eveny are a people in Siberia and the Russian Far East. They live in some of the regions of the Magadan Oblast and Kamchatka Krai and northern parts of Sakha east of the Lena River. According to the 2002 census, there were 19,071 Evens in Russia...

 (formerly known as Lamuts). Although related to the Evenks, the Evens are now considered to be a separate ethnic group.

The Evenks are spread over a huge territory of the Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

n taiga
Taiga
Taiga , also known as the boreal forest, is a biome characterized by coniferous forests.Taiga is the world's largest terrestrial biome. In North America it covers most of inland Canada and Alaska as well as parts of the extreme northern continental United States and is known as the Northwoods...

 from the River Ob
Ob River
The Ob River , also Obi, is a major river in western Siberia, Russia and is the world's seventh longest river. It is the westernmost of the three great Siberian rivers that flow into the Arctic Ocean .The Gulf of Ob is the world's longest estuary.-Names:The Ob is known to the Khanty people as the...

 in the west to the Okhotsk Sea in the east, and from the Arctic Ocean
Arctic Ocean
The Arctic Ocean, located in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Arctic north polar region, is the smallest and shallowest of the world's five major oceanic divisions...

 in the north to Manchuria
Manchuria
Manchuria is a historical name given to a large geographic region in northeast Asia. Depending on the definition of its extent, Manchuria usually falls entirely within the People's Republic of China, or is sometimes divided between China and Russia. The region is commonly referred to as Northeast...

 and Sakhalin
Sakhalin
Sakhalin or Saghalien, is a large island in the North Pacific, lying between 45°50' and 54°24' N.It is part of Russia, and is Russia's largest island, and is administered as part of Sakhalin Oblast...

 in the south. The total area of their habitat is about 2,500,000 km². In all of Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 only the Russians inhabit a larger territory. According to the administrative structure, the Evenks live, from west to east, in Tyumen
Tyumen Oblast
Tyumen Oblast is a federal subject of Russia . Its administrative center is the city of Tyumen. The oblast has administrative jurisdiction over two autonomous okrugs—Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Tyumen is the largest city, with over half a million inhabitants...

 and Tomsk Oblast
Tomsk Oblast
Tomsk Oblast is a federal subject of Russia . It lies in the southeastern West Siberian Plain, in the southwest of the Siberian Federal District. Its administrative center is the city of Tomsk. Population:...

s, Krasnoyarsk Krai
Krasnoyarsk Krai
Krasnoyarsk Krai is a federal subject of Russia . It is the second largest federal subject after the Sakha Republic, and Russia's largest krai, occupying an area of , which is 13% of the country's total territory. The administrative center of the krai is the city of Krasnoyarsk...

 with Evenk Autonomous Okrug
Evenk Autonomous Okrug
Evenk Autonomous Okrug , or Evenkia, was a federal subject of Russia . It had been created in 1930. Its administrative center was the urban-type settlement of Tura...

, Irkutsk
Irkutsk Oblast
Irkutsk Oblast is a federal subject of Russia , located in southeastern Siberia in the basins of Angara River, Lena, and Nizhnyaya Tunguska Rivers. The administrative center is the city of Irkutsk. Population: -History:...

, Chita
Chita Oblast
Chita Oblast was a federal subject of Russia in southeast Siberia, Russia. Its administrative center was the city of Chita. It had extensive international borders with China and Mongolia and internal borders with Irkutsk and Amur Oblasts, as well as with the Buryat and the Sakha Republics. Its...

, and Amur Oblast
Amur Oblast
Amur Oblast is a federal subject of Russia , situated about east of Moscow on the banks of the Amur and Zeya Rivers. It shares its border with the Sakha Republic in the north, Khabarovsk Krai and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast in the east, People's Republic of China in the south, and Zabaykalsky...

s, the Buryat and the Sakha Republics, Khabarovsk Krai
Khabarovsk Krai
Khabarovsk Krai is a federal subject of Russia , located in the Russian Far East. It lies mostly in the basin of the lower Amur River, but also occupies a vast mountainous area along the coastline of the Sea of Okhotsk, an arm of the Pacific Ocean. The administrative center of the krai is the...

, and Sakhalin Oblast
Sakhalin Oblast
Sakhalin Oblast is a federal subject of Russia comprising the island of Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands.The oblast has an area of 87,100 km² and a population of 546,695...

. However, the territory where they are a titular nation
Titular nation
The titular nation is the single dominant ethnic group in the state, typically after which the state was named.-Soviet Union:The notion was used in the Soviet Union to denote nations that give rise to titles of autonomous entities within the union: Soviet republics, autonomous republics, autonomous...

 is confined solely to Evenk Autonomous Okrug, where 3,802 of the 35,527 Evenks live (according to the 2002 Census). More than 18,200 Evenks live in the Sakha Republic.

Anthropologically the Evenk belong to the Baikal or Paleo-Siberian group of the Mongolian type, originating from the ancient Paleo-Siberian people of the Yenisei River
Yenisei River
Yenisei , also written as Yenisey, is the largest river system flowing to the Arctic Ocean. It is the central of the three great Siberian rivers that flow into the Arctic Ocean...

 up to the Okhotsk Sea.

The Evenki language is the largest of the northern group of the Manchu-Tungus languages, a group which also includes the Even and Negidal languages.

Russian Federation


According to the 2002 census 35 527 Evenki lived in Russia.
Evenki in Russia
Administrative unit Evenki population, according to the 2002 censushttp://www.raipon.org/russian_site/people/people_perepis_2002_rus.htm
Sakha (Yakutia) Republic 18.232
Krasnoyarsk Krai
Krasnoyarsk Krai
Krasnoyarsk Krai is a federal subject of Russia . It is the second largest federal subject after the Sakha Republic, and Russia's largest krai, occupying an area of , which is 13% of the country's total territory. The administrative center of the krai is the city of Krasnoyarsk...

4.632
Evenk Autonomous Okrug (Evenkia)
Evenk Autonomous Okrug
Evenk Autonomous Okrug , or Evenkia, was a federal subject of Russia . It had been created in 1930. Its administrative center was the urban-type settlement of Tura...

3.802
Khabarovsk Krai
Khabarovsk Krai
Khabarovsk Krai is a federal subject of Russia , located in the Russian Far East. It lies mostly in the basin of the lower Amur River, but also occupies a vast mountainous area along the coastline of the Sea of Okhotsk, an arm of the Pacific Ocean. The administrative center of the krai is the...

4.533
Amur Oblast
Amur Oblast
Amur Oblast is a federal subject of Russia , situated about east of Moscow on the banks of the Amur and Zeya Rivers. It shares its border with the Sakha Republic in the north, Khabarovsk Krai and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast in the east, People's Republic of China in the south, and Zabaykalsky...

1.501
Sakhalin Oblast
Sakhalin Oblast
Sakhalin Oblast is a federal subject of Russia comprising the island of Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands.The oblast has an area of 87,100 km² and a population of 546,695...

243
Republic of Buryatia 2.334
Irkutsk Oblast
Irkutsk Oblast
Irkutsk Oblast is a federal subject of Russia , located in southeastern Siberia in the basins of Angara River, Lena, and Nizhnyaya Tunguska Rivers. The administrative center is the city of Irkutsk. Population: -History:...

1.431
Zabaykalsky Krai 1.492
Tomsk Oblast
Tomsk Oblast
Tomsk Oblast is a federal subject of Russia . It lies in the southeastern West Siberian Plain, in the southwest of the Siberian Federal District. Its administrative center is the city of Tomsk. Population:...

103
Tyumen Oblast
Tyumen Oblast
Tyumen Oblast is a federal subject of Russia . Its administrative center is the city of Tyumen. The oblast has administrative jurisdiction over two autonomous okrugs—Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Tyumen is the largest city, with over half a million inhabitants...

109

Evenks of China



According to the 2000 Census, there are 30,505 Evenks in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 mainly made up of the Solons and the Khamnigans. 88.8% of China's Evenks live in the Hulunbuir
Hulunbuir
Hulunbuir is a region that is governed as a prefecture-level city in northeastern Inner Mongolia, in the People's Republic of China. Its administrative center is located at Hailar District, its largest urban area. Major scenic features are the high steppes of the Hulun Buir grasslands, the Hulun...

 region in the north of the Inner Mongolia
Inner Mongolia
Inner Mongolia is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China, located in the northern region of the country. Inner Mongolia shares an international border with the countries of Mongolia and the Russian Federation...

 Province, near the city of Hailar. The Evenk Autonomous Banner
Evenk Autonomous Banner
Evenk Autonomous Banner is an autonomous banner that lies directly south of the urban district of Hailar in the prefecture-level city of Hulunbuir, People's Republic of China. It has an area of 19,111 km ². According to the 2000 census, there are 146,808 inhabitants with a population density of...

 is also located near Hulunbuir. There are also around 3,000 Evenks in neighbouring Heilongjiang
Heilongjiang
For the river known in Mandarin as Heilong Jiang, see Amur River' is a province of the People's Republic of China located in the northeastern part of the country. "Heilongjiang" literally means Black Dragon River, which is the Chinese name for the Amur. The one-character abbreviation is 黑...

 Province.

The Manchu Emperor Hong Taiji
Hong Taiji
Hong Taiji , also transliterated as Huang Taiji based on the Chinese language transcription of his name, was the first Emperor of the Qing Dynasty.Hong Taiji was the first Emperor of the Qing dynasty after acceding to the title in 1636...

 conquered the Evenks in 1640, and executed their leader Bombogor
Bombogor (Evenk chief)
Bombogor was an Evenk chief, leader of the Evenk federation. His power base laid on the basin of the Amur river...

. After the Manchu conquest, the Evenks were incorporated into the Eight Banners
Eight Banners
The Eight Banners were administrative divisions into which all Manchu families were placed. They provided the basic framework for the Manchu military organization...

.

In 1763, the Qing
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 government moved 500 Solon Evenk and 500 Daur families to the Tacheng
Tacheng
-References:* Khālidī, Qurbanʻali, Allen J. Frank, and Mirkasym Abdulakhatovich Usmanov. An Islamic Biographical Dictionary of the Eastern Kazakh Steppe, 1770-1912. Brill's Inner Asian library, v. 12. Leiden: Brill, 2004....

 and Kuldja areas of Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and spans over 1.6 million km2...

, in order to strengthen the empire's western border. 1020 Xibe
Xibe
The Xibe or Sibo are a Tungusic ethnic group living mostly in northeast China and Xinjiang. They form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China.- History :...

 families (some 4000 persons) followed the next year. Since then, however, the Solons of Xinjiang have assimilated into other ethnic groups, and are not identified as such anymore.

Evenks of Mongolia


Khamnigan is the Buriat-Mongolian
Mongolian language
The Mongolian language is the official language of Mongolia and the best-known member of the Mongolic language family. The number of speakers across all its dialects may be 5.2 million, including the vast majority of the residents of Mongolia and many of the Mongolian residents of the Inner...

 term for all Ewenkis. In the early 16th century, the Ewenkis of Transbaikalia or Khamnigans were tributary to the Khalkha
Khalkha
Khalkha is the largest subgroup of Mongol people in Mongolia since 15th century. The Khalkha together with Tsahar, Ordos and Tumed, were directly ruled by the Altan Urag Khans until the 20th century; unlike the Oirat people who were ruled by the Dzungar nobles or the Khorchins who were ruled by...

. The Khamnigan are only ethnic group of Manchu-Tungus origin in Mongolia.http://medeelel.mn/index.php?page=people&sm=147 They who lived around Nerchinsk
Nerchinsk
Nerchinsk is a town and the administrative center of Nerchinsky District of Zabaykalsky Krai, Russia, located east of Lake Baikal, east of Chita, and about west of the Chinese border on the left bank of the Nercha River, above its confluence with the Shilka River, which flows into the Amur...

 and the Aga steppe faced both Cossack demands for tribute and Khori-Buriats trying to occupy their pastures. Most of them came under the Cossack rule and enrolled the Cossack regiments in the Selenge valley. The Khori Buriats occupied most of the Aga steppe and forced the Ewenkis to flee to the Qing Dynasty.

After 1880 Russia's Khamnigan Ewenkis moved to semi nomadic herding of cattle, sheep, camels and horses. Some time after 1918 the Ewenkis, along with their Buriat neighbors, fled over the border into Mongolia and Hulun Buir, establishing the current Khamnigan communities there. The Khamnigan of Mongolia, numbering 300 households, are scattered among the Buriats and speak only the Khamnigan dialect of Buriat language. They live around the Yeruu Lake, Dornod and Khentii provinces as well as Möngönmorit
Möngönmorit
Möngönmorit is a sum of Töv Province in Mongolia....

 of Töv Province
Töv Province
Töv is one of the 21 aimags of Mongolia. The national capital Ulaanbaatar is located roughly at its center, but the city itself is administrated as an independent municipality.- Geography :...

.

Religion



Prior to contact with the Russians, the belief system of the Evenks was animistic. Many have adopted Tibetan Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism is the body of Buddhist religious doctrine and institutions characteristic of Tibet and certain regions of the Himalayas, including northern Nepal, Bhutan, and India . It is the state religion of Bhutan...

.

The Evenki, like most nomadic, pastoral, and subsistence agrarian peoples, spend most of their lives in very close contact with nature. Because of this, they develop what A. A. Sirina call an “ecological ethic.” By this she means “a system of responsibility of people to nature and her spirit masters, and of nature to people” (9). Sirina interviewed many Evenks who until very recently spent much of their time as reindeer herders in the taiga, just like their ancestors. The Evenki people also spoke along the same lines: their respect for nature and their belief that nature is a living being.

This idea, “[t]he embodiment, animation, and personification of nature—what is still called the animistic worldview—is the key component of the traditional worldview of hunter-gatherers” (Sirina, 13). Although most of the Evenkis have been “sedentarized”—that is, made to live in settled communities instead of following their traditional nomadic way of life (Fondahl, 5)—“[m]any scholars think that the worldview characteristic of hunter-gatherer societies is preserved, even if they make the transition to new economic models (Sirina, 30 quoting Barnard 1998, Lee 1999, Peterson 1999).
Although nominally Christianized in the 18th century, the Evenki people maintain many of their historical beliefs—especially shamanism (Vasilevich, 624). The Christian traditions were “confined to the formal performance of Orthodox rites which were usually timed for the arrival of the priest in the taiga (647).

The religious beliefs and practices of the Evenks are of great historical interest since these retain some extremely early archaic forms of belief. By the beginning of this century, the religion of the Evenks included the remnants of various stages of development of religious ideas. Among the most ancient ideas are spiritualization of all natural phenomena, personification of them, belief in an upper, middle, and lower world, belief in the soul (omi) and certain totemistic concepts. There were also various magical rituals associated with hunting and guarding herds. Later on these rituals were conducted by shamans. Shamanism brought about the development of views of spirit-masters (Vasilevich 647).

External links