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Far-flung Siberian hamlet works to keep alive Russian indigenous minority’s culture

May 04, 2017, 15:40 UTC+3

Residents of a tiny village known as Iyengra in Yakutia’s south are struggling to preserve their traditions

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© Artiom Geodakyan/TASS

MOSCOW, May 4. /TASS/. The Evenks, an ethnic group numbering around 30,000 are scattered over huge swaths of Siberia and the Far East. Many of them have assimilated into Russian society and forgotten their native language and traditional occupations, such as deer raising, hunting, fishing and fur farming.

Residents of a tiny village known as Iyengra in Yakutia’s south are struggling to preserve their time-honored Evenk traditions.

Iyengra is located just 50 km away from the nearest town of Neryungri. Seventy-five percent of the village’s 1,500 population are Evenks.

The heart of the village is the Eyan Ethnic and Cultural Center, which opened in the early 2000s. Its staff works on promoting ethnic culture and preserving the Evenks’ traditions, customs and skills. The craftspeople are the center’s crown jewel, they can make boots, carpets, coats, gloves and other clothing from deer skins.

Evenk elders fear that their culture and language will disappear as soon as they stop raising deer.

The Evenks are nomadic people who traditionally followed deer herds across the taiga. They settled in Iyengra due to the gold that was discovered here in the late 19th century. Subsequently, a village was founded here in 1926 and Evenks started transporting cargoes and mail for gold miners.

Iyengra  used to have a unique fur farm, which bred silver foxes. Animals from the Altai Region and Tatarstan and even as far away as Latvia were brought here in Soviet times. Furs were sold at Moscow and Leningrad auctions. Now the farm has only 300 foxes and breeding has become too expensive.

It is also difficult to keep the younger generation in the village and to promote Evenk culture among them.

But this task is successfully being tackled by a folklore group called, Yukte (which means ‘a source’ in Evenk).

“The ensemble has 27 children and they practice singing and dancing daily,” said Alexandra Ignatenko, Yukte supervisor. 

The group is popular in many Siberian and Far Eastern regions and has already performed in China and South Korea.

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