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Khanty: People of the Taiga Surviving the Twentieth Century


Khanty: People of the Taiga Surviving the Twentieth Century Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Drawing on nearly twenty years of fieldwork, as well as ethnohistory, politics, and economics, this volume takes a close look at changes in the lives of the indigenous Siberian Khanty people and draws crucial connections between those changes and the social, cultural, and political transformation that swept Russia during the transition to democracy. Delving deeply into the history of the Khanty—who were almost completely isolated prior to the Russian revolution—the authors show how the customs, traditions, and knowledge of indigenous people interact with and are threatened by events in the larger world.

Book News Annotation:

By the end of the Soviet period, Siberia's indigenous peoples had maintained much of their traditional cultures due to their physical isolation. Their land and culture are now threatened due to oil exploration and mining. This study draws on 20 years of fieldwork, as well as ethnohistory, politics, and economics, to examine the changes in the lives of the indigenous Siberian Khanty people and how these changes parallel the social, cultural, and political transformations that swept Russia during the 20th century. Khanty kinship structures, religious ideas, social identity, courtship and marriage, and communal rituals are described. There is also discussion of alcoholism and violence in the culture, the transition from shamanism to Russian Orthodox Christianity, the impact of oil exploration, and strategies of cultural resistance and persistence. The book contains a wealth of b&w photos, 94 in all, of families, the landscape, and cultural practices and celebrations. Wiget directs the New Mexico Heritage Center at New Mexico State University. Balalaeva is a folklorist and specialist in Finno-Urgic studies. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

About the Author

Andrew Wiget is professor of English and director of the New Mexico Heritage Center at New Mexico State University.

Olga Balalaeva is a folklorist and specialist in Finno-Ugric studies who has been working in Siberia since 1988.

Table of Contents

List of Figures

Notes on Spelling, Pronunciation, and Usage


1. Iugra

    Before the Russians

    Vlast and Volost: Russian Power from 1600 to 1917

    The Soviet Era

2. Iakh and Sir

    Kinship and Residency, History and Territoriality

    Soul, Conception, and Rebirth

    Adulthood and Social Identity 

    Courtship and Marriage

    Alcoholism, Accidents, and Violence

    Being Elderly

    Death and Transformation

    Tradition, Modernity, and “Being Khanty”

3. Traditions

    The Khanty World

    Ordinary Competence, Religious Practice, and the Family Sphere

    Spirits, Land, and Kin

    Pori and Yir: Ritual Communion

    Communal Rituals

    Other Communal Rituals

4. Transformations

    Cultural Specialists and Cultural Change

    Russian Orthodoxy

    When the Insider Becomes the Outsider

    Khanty Traditions

    The Politics of Cultural Survival

5. Kurlomkin: Taiga Hunter

    Land Use in the Iugan Basin

    The Kurlomkins of Bolshoi Iugan

    Beyond the Settlement: The Family Hunting Territory

    The Domestic Economy

    Difficult Futures

6. Kanterov: Muskeg Reindeer Herder

    Historic Land Use on the Pim River

    Kirill Kanterov and His Brothers

    The Kanterov Family Territory

    The Domestic Economy


7. Black Snow

    Post-Soviet Administration

    Defacing the Land

    Marginalization and the Press of Oil

    Making Way for Oil

    Reimagining Land and Community

    Emergent Types

8. Land, Leadership, and Community

    Oil, Ethnicity, and Perestroika

    The Obshchina Movement

    The Fight to Save the Iugan

9. Accommodation, Resistance, and Resilience

    Vectors of Change

    Revitalization, Resistance, and Revival

    Strategies of Cultural Persistence

    A Resilient People



Product Details

Wiget, Andrew
University of Alaska Press
Balalaeva, Olga
Anthropology - Cultural
anthropology;cultural anthropology
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
80 halftones, 15 figures
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Anthropology » Cultural Anthropology
History and Social Science » Anthropology » Europe
History and Social Science » World History » General
Travel » Travel Writing » General

Khanty: People of the Taiga Surviving the Twentieth Century New Trade Paper
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Product details 398 pages University of Alaska Press - English 9781602231245 Reviews:
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