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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(self-designation, Sakha), a nation and the indigenous population of the Yakut ASSR. Yakuts also live in the northern part of Krasnoiarsk Krai and in Magadan, Sakhalin, and Amur oblasts of the RSFSR. Of the 328,000 Yakuts living in the USSR, 313,900 reside in the Yakut ASSR (1979 census). They speak the Yakut language.

The Yakuts are subdivided into a number of local groups. Archaeological and ethnographic data suggest that the Yakuts evolved through the absorption of local tribes by southern Turkic-speaking people probably migrating from the Baikal Region. Many features of the traditional economy and material culture of the Yakuts are similar to those of the herding peoples of Central Asia, but there are also northern taiga elements. The last wave of southern migrants is believed to have reached the Middle Lena in the 14th and 15th centuries. Some groups of Yakuts, such as the reindeer breeders of the northwest, emerged relatively recently as a result of the mingling of Evenki groups with Yakuts coming from the central regions.

The inclusion of the Yakuts within the Russian Empire in the 1620’s and 1630’s hastened their socioeconomic and cultural development. At the same time, the Yakuts were subjected to the heavy burden of the iasak (tax in furs) and the oppression of the tsarist military servitors, officials, and traders. From the 17th to 19th century the chief occupation of the Yakuts was the raising of cattle and horses; in the second half of the 19th century a considerable number of Yakuts took up farming. Hunting and fishing always played a subsidiary role. The principal type of dwelling was the log yurt; a collapsible summer dwelling called urasa (seeURASA) was also used. The Yakuts wore garments made of hides and fur. In the second half of the 18th century most of the Yakuts were converted to Christianity, although shamanism never completely died out.

The October Revolution of 1917 caused profound socioeconomic and cultural changes in Yakut life. The archaic features of the Yakut material culture have become things of the past. Comfortable kolkhoz and sovkhoz settlements have been built. Most Yakuts are engaged in agriculture, and a large number work in various branches of industry. A Yakut intelligentsia has emerged. A national literature, art, and music are developing, and traditional handicrafts are flourishing. A Yakut national theater has been created. In the course of socialist construction the Yakuts have been transformed into a socialist nation. (For the history, economy, and culture of the Yakuts see.)


Narody Sibiri. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956. (With bibliography.)
Istoriia Iakutskoi ASSR, vols. 1–3. Moscow-Leningrad, 1955–63.




the language of the Yakuts, who inhabit the Yakut ASSR and adjacent areas of Krasnoiarsk Krai, Khabarovsk Krai, and the Amur, Irkutsk, Magadan, and Chita oblasts, RSFSR. Yakut is also spoken by the Dolgan (Taimyr Autonomous Okrug) and many Evens and Evenki. The total number of speakers is approximately 300,000.

Yakut belongs to the Turkic language group, although, through prolonged contact with Evenki, Mongolian, and other languages, it has developed its own characteristic systems of phonetics, vocabulary, and, in part, grammar. Primarily an agglutinative language, it also has analytic elements. Its phonetic system is characterized by the preservation of original long vowels and the presence of the diphthongs ïa, uo, ié, and üö. In addition to the cases common to the Turkic languages—accusative, dative, and ablative—there are cases that have developed independently in Yakut. These are the partitive; instrumental, comparative, and comitative, which is marked by the affix -liïn attached to elements constituting the same sentence part. Conjugated forms are based primarily on the old participles -ar ~ïïr; -bat ~bït; -tax; batax; -ïa; and -aay.

A writing system for Yakut was created in 1922 by S. A. Novgorodov; based on the International Phonetic Alphabet, it was revised in 1924. The Latin alphabet was used from 1929 until 1939, when Cyrillic was introduced.


Kharitonov, L. N. Sovremennyi iakutskii iazyk, part 1: Fonetika i morfologiia. Yakutsk, 1947.
Ubriatova, E. I. Issledovaniia po sintaksisu iakutskogo iazyka, vols. 1–2 (books 1–2). Moscow-Leningrad-Novosibirsk, 1950–76.
D’iachkovskii, N. D. Zvukovoi stroi iakutskogo iazyka, parts 1–2. Yakutsk, 1971–77.
Pekarskii, E. K. Slovar’ iakutskogo iazyka, 2nd ed., vols. 1–3, fascs. 1–13. [Moscow] 1958.
Böhtlingk, O. Über die Sprache der Jakuten, vols. 1–2. St. Petersburg, 1848–51.


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