Minority Peoples of the North

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Minority Peoples of the North


a collective term applied in the mid-1920’s to small nationality groups living in the northern and far eastern regions of the USSR.

In the 1970 census the minority peoples of the north were grouped as Nationalities of the North, Siberia, and the Far East. The total population is approximately 150,000 (1970 census) and includes the Chukchi, Asiatic Eskimo, Aleuts, Koryak, Itelmen, Yukaghir, Chuvan, Evens, Evenki, Dolgan, Nganasani, Nentsy, Entsy, Selkups, Ket, Khanty, Mansi, Lapps, Nivkh, Negidal, Nanai, Olcha, Orochi, Oroke, Udegei, and Tofalar. These nationalities were placed together in a special group, because, in addition to being few in number, they share economic orientation (hunting, fishing, reindeer breeding, and, in some regions, hunting sea mammals) and distinctive way of life. In prerevolutionary Russia the minority peoples of the north were the most backward and unfortunate groups of the population; certain groups were on the verge of extinction. Their economy was based on primitive techniques and implements, such as bows and arrows and stone-tipped harpoons and spears.

As a result of the Leninist nationalities policy, the minority peoples of the north overcame their backwardness and exchanged their archaic forms of economy and way of life for socialist forms. Great efforts to involve the minority peoples of the north in Soviet construction were made by a special body— the Committee for Assistance to the Nationalities of the Outlying Northern Districts under the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (called the Committee of the North, 1924-35). Under its guidance from 1924 to 1929, the sovietization of the north was accomplished, the hunting and fishing economy was improved, and the private purchase of furs was eliminated. The minority peoples of the north were freed from all direct general state and local taxes and duties; considerable credits were allocated to them through cooperatives; stationary and mobile schools were established, as were kul’tbazy—multipurpose cultural centers consisting of a boarding school, hospital, trading post, club, and guest houses. Writing systems were created for the nine languages with the largest number of speakers. The Nenets, Yamal-Nenets, Khanty-Mansi, Taimyr (Dolgan-Nenets), Evenki, Chukchi, and Koriak national okrugs were formed in 1929 and 1930. The minority peoples of the north received their own statehood, which is similar to that of an autonomous oblast. Collectivization permitted the radical modernization of the hunting and fishing economy, the mainstay of these peoples.

The minority peoples of the north now work in reindeer-breeding sovkhozes, promkhozes (hunting and fishing cooperatives), kolkhozes, and fishing artels, using modern techniques and equipment. Most of the minority peoples of the north have switched to a settled way of life. Well-organized settlements and a network of schools and medical and cultural institutions have been established. An original literature has emerged in the languages of the northern peoples. The works of northern writers, including the Chukchi Iu. Rytkheu, the Udegei D. Kimonko, and the Mansi Iu. Shestalov, have been translated into many languages. Handicrafts are developing.


Narody Sibiri. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956.
Sergeev, M. A. Nekapitalisticheskii put’ razvitiia malykh narodov Severa. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956.
Novaia zhizn’ narodov Severa. Moscow, 1967.
Osushchestvlenie leninskoi natsional’noi politiki u narodov Krainego Severa. Moscow, 1971.


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