Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Yukaghir of the Kolyma River basin of Siberia are divided into two groups traditionally reliant on contrasting ecologies and livelihoods: those on the tundra of the northern or Lower Kolyma who relied on reindeer herding; and those in the taiga of the southern or Upper Kolyma who were primarily hunter-gatherers. Both also engaged in fishing and the fur trade. They revered shamans, and had a reciprocal relationship with game to the extent that hunter and prey could exchange consciousness. By the end of the twentieth century the territory of the Yukaghir had been greatly reduced and they suffered rapid decline in population and their traditional way of life because of incursion and assimilation by Yakuts, Chukchee, Evens, and Russians.


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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 title where necessary.

The Yukaghir collection contains documents that underscore the continuous decline of Yukaghir people and their traditional way of life in the period from their first contact with Russians to the end of the twentieth century. The most comprehensive source is the work of Jochelson (1975), whose fieldwork around the turn of the twentieth century sought to document aspects of traditional Yukaghir culture and society prior to their anticipated extinction due to incorporation into the Russian empire. Other works, especially Forde (1963) and Graburn and Strong (1973), draw heavily upon Jochelson’s account. Additional field observations come from nearly a century later among the Upper Kolyma Yukaghir (Ivanov 1996; Willenslev 2004 “Not animal…”, 2004 “Spirits…”).

Documents other than Jochelson (1975) address specific themes. Forde (1963) summarizes the economic activities, with particular focus on the dynamics of seasonal mobility. Stepanova et al. (1964) and Graburn and Strong (1973) deal with the demographic and cultural consequences of national policies of ethnic assimilation, religious conversion, and collectivization. Ivanov (1996) highlights the continuity of core Yukaghir cultural values and ethical concerns among remnant populations, including descents who no longer speak the language or practice nomadic hunting and fishing. Willerslev (2004 “Spirits…”, 2004 “Not animal…") discusses Yukaghir peoples’ understanding of the spiritual world, in particular how spirits are believed to be encountered and embodied in the everyday experiences of hunters and trappers.

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

Bed hospitality – also see "hospitality prostitution"– use "VISITING AND HOSPITALITY (574)"

Hospitality prostitution – also see "bed hospitality"– use "VISITING AND HOSPITALITY (574)" with "PREMARITAL SEX RELATIONS (836)"

Protector amulets – use "MAGIC (789)"

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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