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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the Yakut heroic epos.

The olonkho consists of numerous tales that are similar in subject and style. The tales vary in length from ten to 15 thousand verse lines (sometimes more), which alternate with rhythmic prose and prose insertions. The olonkho is performed by folktale narrators, or olonkhosuts, the most celebrated of whom were T. V. Zakharov-Cheebii (died 1931), N. A. Abramov-Kynat (died 1941), and D. M. Govorov (died 1943). The speech of the characters in the tale is sung; the rest of the text is recited, often without instrumental accompaniment.

The olonkho tales, which originated in antiquity, reflect the features of the patriarchal-clan system and the interclan and intertribal relations of the Yakuts. Each tale is usually named after its principal hero (for example, “Niurgun-Bootur the Swift” and “Kulun Kullustuur”). The tales deal with the struggle of the heroes of the Aiyy Aimaga tribe with the evil one-armed or one-legged monsters Abaasy or Ad’arai and with the defense of justice and a peaceful life. The olonkho is characterized by fantasy and hyperbole in the depiction of the heroes, realistic descriptions of the everyday life of the Yakuts, and numerous myths of very ancient origin. The olonkho verse is free and alliterative; the number of syllables in a line ranges from six or seven to 18. The style and imagery of the olonkho are similar to the epic literature of the Altai, Khakas, and Tuvinians, and to the Buriat uligers. The olonkho is highly popular among the Yakut people, and the names of favorite heroes have become household words.


Govorov, D. M. Byudyuryuybët myul’dzhyu-bege. Moscow-Yakutsk, 1938.
Obraztsy narodnoi literatury iakutov. Texts edited by E. K. Pekarskii. [Part 1], fascs. 1–5. St. Petersburg, 1907–11. [Part 2], fasc. 1. St. Petersburg, 1913. [Part 3], fasc. 1. Petrograd, 1916.
Iastremskii, S. V. Obraztsy narodnoi literatury iakutov. Leningrad, 1929.
Iakutskii fol’klor. Texts translated by A. A. Popov. [Moscow-Leningrad] 1936.
Niurgun-Bootur Stremitel’nyi. Edited, with translation and commentary, by G. U. Ergis. Yakutsk, 1947.


Oiunskii, P. A. “Iakutskaia skazka (olonkho): Ee siuzhet i soderzhanie.” Soch, vol. 7. Yakutsk, 1962.
Pukhov, I. V. Iakutskii geroicheskii epos olonkho. Moscow, 1962.
Ocherki istorii iakutskoi sovetskoi literatury. Moscow, 1970. Pages 13–22.


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