Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Nenets are the most numerous of the five Samoyed groups living in the Russian north and western Siberia. Their traditional subsistence rested on a combination of reindeer herding, big game hunting and fishing in a vast region that included forest tundra and arctic islands. They lived as members of autonomous small bands that moved seasonally to exploit different resources. The Nenets have continued to hold onto their traditional way of life, despite their increasing incorporation into the Russian state and the deleterious effects of mineral and oil exploitation in the region on traditional reindeer herding practices.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Asia --North Asia



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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number. In addition to this culture summary, the Nenets collection (RU41) consists of documents providing a variety of cultural and historical information, circa 1850 to 2011).

The oldest documents in the collection were compiled by a Russian missionary who lived in the area in 1826-1830 (Veniaminov 1855, no. 5) and two Russian government officials who visited the area in 1844 (Islavin 1847, no. 2) and 1894 (Engelhardt 1894, no. 15). Together with an essay by an unknown author which appeared in 1823 (Samokvasov 1876, no.10), these three documents provide the first systematic attempts at understanding Nenets people prior to their increasing incorporation into the Russian empire. Other earlier works in the collection include Lehtisalo’s works hunting practices and equipment (Lehtisalo 1918, no. 23) and aspects of religion and mystical beliefs (Lehtisalo 1924, no. 17).

The basic source to consult is E. D. Prokofeva’s essay which provides an overview of Nenets culture and history including territorial reorganization and aspect of change brought about by the Russian conquest (Prokofeva 1964, no. 31).

The earlier and condensed information in the above sources is supplemented and updated by other documents which focus on a specific theme including continuity of ethnic identity (Golovnev and Osherenko 1999, no. 32), dynamics of settlement and resource use (Svoboda et al 2011, no. 33), property rights and transformation (Osherenko 1995, no.34), indigenous leadership (Golovnev 1997, no. 35) and effects of mineral and oil exploitation on reindeer herding practices (Tuisku 2002, no. 36).

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Balok –Nenets house type– Use DWELLINGS ( 342)

Legend of Five Yaptiks Use TRADITIONAL HISTORY ( 173) with MYTHOLOGY ( 773)

Nibtara –domestic purification ritual conducted women– Use PRAYERS AND SACRIFICES ( 782) with PURIFICATION AND ATONEMENT ( 783)

Okrug –Russian term for “autonomous” administrative region for indigenous “nationalities”– Use TERRITORIAL HIERARCHY ( 631)

Kolkoz –Russian term for Soviet collective farms– Use COOPERATIVE ORGANIZATION ( 474) with RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ( 654)

Parka –fur coat in Nenets– Use NORMAL GARB ( 291) with ANIMAL BY PRODUCTS ( 237)

Siudbabts –Nenets long spic songs– Use MUSIC ( 533) with VERBAL ARTS ( 5310)

Sovkhoz –Russian term for Soviet state farm– Use GOVERNMENT ENTERPRISES ( 655)

Varabts –Nenets short personal and lyric songs– Use MUSIC ( 533)

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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