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(self-designation, Nenets; earlier names. Samoyed, Yuraks), a people inhabiting a considerable expanse of territory in the northern USSR from the Kola Peninsula to the right bank (lower course) of the Enisei. Most of the Nentsi live in three national okrugs of the RSFSR: the Nenets National Okrug of Arkhangel’sk Oblast, the Yamal-Nenets National Okrug of Tiumen’ Oblast, and the Taimyr (Dolgan-Nenets) National Okrug of Krasnoiarsk Krai. The Nentsi number 29,000 (1970 census). They speak the Nenets language.
The Samoyed-speaking ancestors of the Nentsi, some of whom were probably familiar with reindeer breeding, were forced by nomadic cattle-breeding tribes in the first millennium A.D. to migrate from the taiga and forest-steppe regions of southern Siberia to the north, where they merged with the aboriginal hunting and fishing population (known in Nentsi legends as the sikhirtia). The Nentsi led a nomadic way of life. Their economy was based on herding reindeer, hunting marine and terrestrial animals, and fishing. Prior to the October Revolution of 1917 there existed sharply pronounced property inequality, along with considerable vestiges of the tribal system. Some Nentsi converted to Orthodoxy, but the majority held on to animistic beliefs; shamanism was widespread. During the Soviet period, the Nentsi were integrated into the cooperative and state economy. A national intelligentsia has emerged.
REFERENCESNarody Sibiri. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956.
Khomich, L. V. Nentsy. Moscow-Leningrad, 1966.
S. I. VAINSHTEIN