Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug

Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug


(formerly Yamal-Nenets National Okrug), an okrug in Tiumen’ Oblast, RSFSR; formed on Dec. 10, 1930. The Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug is located in the extreme north of the Western Siberian Lowland; approximately 50 percent of the okrug’s territory is above the arctic circle. Washed by the Kara Sea, the okrug includes such islands as Belyi, Olenii, and Shokal’skii. The okrug has an area of 750,300 sq km and a population of 144,500 (1978). It is divided into seven raions and has three cities and two urban-type settlements. The administrative center is the city of Salekhard.

Natural features. The shoreline is extremely irregular. The okrug has two large peninsulas—the Yamal and Gyda peninsulas—separated by Ob’ and Taz bays. Baidarata Bay is in the west, and Gyda Gulf and Iurak Bay are in the east. Most of the okrug is a low-lying plain, with an average elevation of 100 m; in the west there is a narrow strip of the eastern slopes of the Polar Urals, with a maximum elevation of 1,499 m at Mount Paier.

The climate is continental. The winter in the Far North is long and severe, with frequent snowstorms. The mean January temperature ranges from –24.5°C on Belyi Island to –25.7°C at Novyi Port. The summer is short and cold, with frosts. The mean July temperature ranges from 3.6°C to 10.2°C. In the southern part of the okrug the climate is more continental. The mean January temperature ranges from –22°C to –25.6°C; the summer is warmer than in the north, with mean July temperatures of 14.4°C to 15.3°C. Precipitation totals 220 to 420 mm annually, and the length of the growing season ranges from 44 days in the north to 120 days in the south. Permafrost is widespread.

The oblast’s principal rivers—the Ob’, Taz, Pur, Nadym, and Messoiakha—drain into the Kara Sea. There are numerous lakes, the largest of which are Iarroto, Neito, and Iambuto. The northern part of the okrug has tundra-gley bog soils, and the southern part has gley-podzolic and podzolic-bog soils. Alluvial soils, often of a loamy character, are found in the valleys of the principal rivers.

Tundra and forest-tundra occupy three-fifths of the okrug; sphagnum bogs are widespread. Forests of Siberian larch, spruce, and nut pine occur in the south, primarily along river banks. Animals found in the tundra regions include the reindeer, blue hare, arctic fox, wolf, and ermine. In the southern part of the okrug, the sable, Siberian weasel, squirrel, and Siberian chipmunk are encountered. Among the birds of the okrug are various ptarmigans (including the willow ptarmigan), the capercaillie, and the hazel hen. The rivers and lakes are rich in such fish as sturgeon, nelma, muksun, and whitefish. The beluga and bearded seal are found in Ob’ and Taz bays.

Population. According to the 1979 census, Russians total 93,700, Nentsi 17,400, Khanty 6,500, and Komi 5,600; in addition, there are small numbers of other peoples, such as the Selkups. The average population density is 0.2 person per square kilometer. The population lives mainly along the banks of the large rivers, such as the Ob’, and around the southern part of the Ob’ Bay. It is 58 percent urban. The cities of the okrug are Salekhard, Nadym, and Labytnangi; the two urban-type settlements are Tazovskii and Tarko-Sale.

Historical survey. The area was first settled in the Neolithic period. During the Bronze Age, hunters and fishermen lived in pit houses along the Ob’ and Taz; they were ethnically closely related to the southern forest-steppe and steppe tribes of the Andronovo culture. In the second half of the first millennium B.C., the indigenous population adopted a settled mode of life and engaged in fishing and hunting, including seal-hunting. They lived in large, deep pit houses. The Nentsi originated as a people as a result of the intermingling of the aborigines and Samoyeds who had moved north. In the second millennium A.D. the Nentsi took up reindeer herding in the tundra zone. Primitive communal relations predominated.

In the 11th century, Russian trappers and merchants from Novgorod began penetrating the territory, which was incorporated into Russia in the late 16th century. In 1595 a fort was erected near the mouth of the Ob’; called Obdorsk until 1933, it is now the city of Salekhard. In 1601 the city of Mangazeia was founded. Selkup hunters and fishermen moved from the Narym area to the Taz River in the 17th and 18th centuries; their culture combined features of Khanty and Samoyed origin. A mass movement of Zyrians (Komi) from beyond the Urals to the Ob’ basin began in the 19th century.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, feudal relations and then capitalist commodity-money relations developed among the population of the lower Ob’ region. The Nentsi, Khanty, and Selkups, who were required to pay the tsarist iasak (tribute), were subjected to mistreatment by bureaucrats and to harsh exploitation by the Russian and Zyrian Komi industrialists and traders. The population, which was illiterate, was gradually dying out as a result of famine and epidemics. The process of social differentiation began in the 19th century. One of the largest uprisings of the impoverished Khanty and Nentsi took place in the 1820’s to 1840’s under the leadership of Vauli Piettomin.

The October Socialist Revolution liberated the peoples of the northern Ob’ region from oppression and exploitation. Soviet power was established in Obdorsk in April 1918, but it was not consolidated until the end of the Civil War in late 1921. Soviets became the local governing bodies, and Nentsi, Khanty, and Komi served in them along with Russians. The territory of what is now the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug was initially part of Berezovo and Surgut districts of Tiumen’ Province and then, until 1930, part of Obdorsk Raion, Tobol’sk Okrug, Ural’sk Oblast. In 1944 the okrug became part of Tiumen’ Oblast.

Collectivization of reindeer herding, hunting, and fishing began in the early 1930’s and was completed by 1940. At the same time, settlements provided with services and utilities were constructed, and the nomadic and seminomadic population adopted a settled way of life. A network of general-education, cultural, and medical institutions was developed, and a national intelligentsia was formed. The Russian people gave the indigenous population considerable help in building socialism. During the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45, the working people of the okrug fought selflessly at the front and labored in the rear. Economic and cultural development, reorganization of the living conditions of the indigenous population, and further exploitation of the resources of the okrug continued from the 1950’s through the 1970’s.

In 1971 the okrug was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor for its progress in economic and cultural development, and in 1972 it was awarded the Order of Friendship of Peoples.


Economy. In the industrial sector of the economy, commercial fishing and the gas industry occupy the leading positions. The traditional basis of the economy—reindeer herding, fur trapping, and fishing—still is of considerable importance. The industrial product of the okrug increased 101-fold between 1941 and 1977.

In the 1960’s large deposits of natural gas were discovered in the okrug (seeWESTERN SIBERIAN OIL AND GAS BASIN). Natural gas is extracted from the Medvezh’e, Urengoi, Severo-Komsomol’skoe, and Vyngapur deposits. The okrug has two fish-processing combines and five fish-processing plants (in Salekhard, Tazovskii, and Novyi Port). The lumber and wood-products industries are developing. Timber production totals 93,200 stacked cu m a year; the manufacture of wood products includes the production of lumber in Salekhard. A building-materials industry is being established.

As of 1977, the okrug had 13 sovkhozes. The area is one of the major reindeer-herding regions of the country, and in 1978 the number of reindeer in the okrug was 379,000 (out of a total of 434,000 head in the entire oblast). Large reindeer-herding sovkhozes, such as the Nydimskii and Purovskii sovkhozes, have been established.

The Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug is also a major fur supplier. On its fur farms, silver foxes, blue arctic foxes, and minks of various colors are raised. The most important animals that are trapped in the wild are the arctic fox, sable, squirrel, and ermine. There is an agricultural station in Salekhard that has hothouse and hotbed facilities.

Of the okrug’s rivers, the Ob’, Nadym, Taz, and Pur are navigable. The Northern Sea Route is an important transport route, and oceangoing vessels dock in Ob’ Bay. The Chum-Labytnangi railroad is linked with Salekhard by riverboat in the summer and by bus in the winter. As of 1978, a railroad from Surgut to Urengoi was being built to further the exploitation of natural resources, especially the development of gas deposits and the felling of timber. Salekhard is linked by air with various cities of the USSR.

Pipeline transportation is of considerable importance. The system for transporting natural gas from Nadym to Punga has four lines; as of 1978 additional gas pipelines were under construction—from Messoiakha to Noril’sk (the third phase) and from Urengoi via Surgut to Cheliabinsk.


Education and cultural affairs. In 1914 the area had only three primary schools. By contrast, in the 1977–78 academic year, there were 24,500 students enrolled in 60 general-education schools and 1,300 students in four specialized secondary educational institutions; in the same year, the okrug had 69 preschool institutions serving a total of 6,400 children. As of Jan. 1, 1975, there were 84 public libraries (with more than 675,000 books and journals), an okrug museum of local lore (in Salekhard), 93 clubs, and 103 stationary motion-picture projection units.

The okrug newspapers are Nar”iana ngerm (Red North; published since 1953 in the Nenets language) and Krasnyi Sever (published since 1931 in Russian). Program 1 of Central Television is transmitted via the Orbita–3 system and offers 12.6 hours of programming a day. Program 1 of All-Union Radio provides 19 hours of radio programs a day, and local radio provides 1.5 hours of broadcasting a day.


lamalo-Nenetskii natsional’nyi okrug. Moscow, 1965.
Belorusov, D. V., I. I. Panfilov, and V. A. Sennikov. Problemy razvitiia i razmeshcheniia proisvoditel’nykh sil Zapadnoi Sibiri. Moscow, 1976.
Rossiiskaia Federatsiia: Zapadnaia Sibir’. Moscow, 1971. (Sovetskii Soiuz series.)
lamalo-Nenetskii natsional’nyi okrug (ekonomikogeogr. kharakteriskika). Moscow, 1965.


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