Economic-Cultural Type

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Economic-Cultural Type


a concept in Soviet ethnography that groups together historically established cultural and economic characteristics of different peoples who are at the same level of socioeconomic development and live under similar natural conditions.

The identification of economic-cultural types makes it possible to carry out an ethnographic classification of various peoples and to clarify the reasons for similarities and differences in their cultures. Thus for example, the following economic-cultural types have been identified among the indigenous population of northern Siberia: taiga hunters and fishermen; arctic hunters of sea mammals; fishermen of the basins of large rivers; taiga hunters and reindeer herders; and tundra reindeer herders. Each of these economic-cultural types is characterized by unique features of material culture related to the type of economy favored by the particular natural environment. Thus, the possibility of hunting ;ea mammals in their permanent habitat made it possible for the arctic hunters to live a settled way of life in subterranean dwellings. The scarcity of wood and certain features of their economy caused them to use oil lamps for illumination and heating, boats made of hides, and hooded pullover fur garments. The taiga fur trappers and hunters were characterized by greater mobility and a material culture appropriate to such a way of life, for example, the use of chum (a teepee-like dwelling), and light, pullover clothing.

Identical economic-cultural types may exist among peoples of different origin, living at considerable distances from one another, while different types may exist among related peoples. Therefore, economic-cultural types must be taken into account when attempting to solve problems of ethnogenesis.

Soviet scientists are studying the relationship between economic-cultural types and socioeconomic formations. Whereas there is virtually no surplus product and consequently no basis for exploitation and the formation of classes in the hunting, gathering, and, in part, fishing economic-cultural types, classes do appear in the land-cultivation and stock-raising types. Plowed farming was the basis of most class societies until the emergence of capitalism.

Linked to the concept of economic-cultural types is the idea of historical ethnographic regions, where a common material culture developed among different peoples owing to their common historical destinies, as in the Baltic Region, Middle Asia, and the Caucasus.


Chesnov, Ia. V. “O sotsial’no-ekonomicheskikh i prirodnykh usloviiakh vozniknoveniia khoziaistvenno-kul’turnykh tipov (v sviazi s rabotami M. G. Levina).” Sovetskaia etnografiia, 1970, no. 6.
Cheboksarov, N. N., and I. A. Cheboksarova. Narody, rasy, kul’tury. Moscow, 1971.
Andrianov, B. V., and N. N. Cheboksarov. “Istoriko-etnograficheskie oblasti (problemy istoriko-etnograficheskogo raionirovaniia).” Sovetskaia etnografiia, 1975, no. 3.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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