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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(formerly, Tungus), a people of Siberia. The Evenki today inhabit a territory bounded on the west by the left bank of the Enisei, on the north by the tundra between the Enisei and Lena rivers beyond the arctic circle, in the east by the southern coast of the Sea of Okhotsk, and on the south by the Amur River and the northern raions of the Buriat ASSR. According to the 1979 census, the Evenki number 27,500 in the USSR; some live in Northwest China. The Evenki speak Evenki (Tungus).

The Evenki originally inhabited Transbaikalia and the Baikal Region, from which they appear to have migrated early in the second millennium A.D. to the area they now inhabit. By the 17th century, when they were incorporated into the Russian state, they had divided into exogamous patrilineal clans; they were nomadic and engaged in hunting, reindeer herding, and sometimes fishing. Although they became members of the Orthodox Church in the early 17th century, the Evenki retained various forms of pre-Christian worship, such as shamanism.

In 1930, Evenki National Okrug was created in Krasnoiarsk Krai (seeEVENKI AUTONOMOUS OKRUG). Under Soviet power, the culture and economy of the Evenki underwent dramatic changes. A writing system was created, and illiteracy was stamped out. Many nomadic Evenki made the transition to a settled way of life. Land cultivation, livestock raising, and fur farming are being developed on kolkhozes and sovkhozes, along with the traditional occupations.


Narody Sibiri. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956.
Vasilevich, G. M. Evenki. Leningrad, 1969. (Contains bibliography.)




(also Tungus), the language of the Evenki. According to the 1970 census, Evenki is spoken by 13,000 people in the USSR, mainly in Eastern Siberia—from the left bank of the Enisei to Sakhalin Island. There are approximately 9,000 speakers, including the Solon, in North China (Inner Mongolia and the Sinkiang-Uighur Autonomous Region) and Mongolia.

Evenki, together with Even and Negidal, belongs to the northern group of the Manchu-Tungus languages. It is divided into northern, southern, and eastern dialects and has, in addition, many subdialects, which are classified by phonetic features as the ha-subdialects, se-subdialects, and še-subdialects. The Solon sub-dialect is sometimes regarded as a separate language. Literary Evenki is based on the Nepa subdialect, called the Poligus sub-dialect since 1953, of the southern dialect.

Evenki has a complex, or “graded,” law of qualitative and quantitative vowel harmony. It is an agglutinative language in which grammatical relations are expressed through the addition of suffixes to word stems. Evenki has a highly developed system of cases, verbal aspect and voice, and adverbial participles. The lexicon shows traces of close contacts with the Yakut and Buriat languages, and there are Russian loanwords. A Latin alphabet was created in 1931, and a Cyrillic alphabet was introduced in 1937.


Konstantinova, O. A. Evenkiiskii iazyk. Moscow-Leningrad, 1964.
Vasilevich, G. M. Evenkiiisko-russkii slovar’ (s grammaticheskim ocherkom). Moscow, 1958.
Castrén, M. A. Grundzüge einer tungusischen Sprachlehre nebst kurzem Wōrterverzechniss. St. Petersburg, 1856.


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