Paleo-Asiatic Peoples

Paleo-Asiatic Peoples


(also Paleo-Asiatics), a term proposed in the mid-19th century by the Russian scholar L. I. Shrenk to designate a number of small peoples in northern and northeastern Siberia having archaic cultural features characteristic of a Neolithic stage of development. The Paleo-Asiatic, or Paleosiberian, languages are not related to the large language families of northern Asia, and this was another basis for classifying these peoples separately. Shrenk believed that the Paleo-Asiatic peoples were the descendants of the oldest inhabitants of northern Asia.

The Paleo-Asiatic peoples include the Chukchi, Koriaks, ItePmeny, Yukaghir, Chuvans, Nivkh, Ket, Eskimo, Aleuts, and Ainu. Linguistic, ethnologic, and archaeological research since Shrenk’s time has shown that the Paleo-Asiatic peoples, although ancient and indigenous inhabitants of northern Asia, cannot be regarded as a single ethnic group. The problem of their origin involves a number of independent issues associated with the individual peoples. The term “Northeastern Paleo-Asiatics” is preserved in Soviet ethnologic literature as a collective designation of the Itel’meny, Koriaks, and Chukchi. Similarities in the language and culture of these peoples attest to a common origin.


Shrenk, L. I. Ob inorodtsakh Amurskogo kraia, vols. 1–3. St. Petersburg, 1883–1903.
Levin, M. G. Etnicheskaia antropologiia i problemy etnogeneza narodov Dal’nego Vostoka. Moscow, 1958.