Segmentary Hierarchy of Identity:
The Case of Yakuts and Evens
in Northern Yakutia

Shiro Sasaki

Copyright (c) 1998 by the Slavic Research Center. All rights reserved.

Problems of the socio-cultural conditions of the indigenous peoples of Siberia were brought forward for public discussion in the period of Perestroika. People who had held their tongues for a long time opened their mouths and began to tell the facts of their having been discriminated against by the major population, their traditional, unique culture and language facing a crisis of destruction, their pasture land and hunting-fishing territory being ruined by mineral-industrial development, and many people not being able to identify themselves as a member of their own ethnic group. A local newspaper of the Nenets Autonomous District revealed in 1987 that oil-gas research boring had long disturbed the pasture land of the Nenets reindeer nomads and had seriously damaged their reindeer husbandry. An association of the indigenous peoples of Siberia, called "Assotsiatsia malochislennykh narodov Severa" was established in 1989 for the sake of protection of their various rights.
At the same time the Soviet government began to permit scientific research in Siberia by the scholars of Western countries. After its collapse there was a rapid increase in the number of research projects in Siberia, in which anthropological or ethnological researches were included. Siberia is the last virgin field for the anthropologists and ethnologists of Western countries. However, the post-soviet social and cultural conditions of the indigenous peoples demand of them a kind of research that contributes to the solution of the above-mentioned problems. It is inevitable that the problems of ethnic identity, land usage and rights, and restoration of language and "traditional" culture are focused upon in recent anthropological research, which has opened new perspectives in the study of society and culture of Siberian indigenous peoples.
Anthropological and ethnological studies of Siberia had long been dominated by the Soviet ideology, in which anthropologists and ethnologists had only been permitted to study the origins of the culture of a given ethnic group or the process of its cultural formation, so as to justify the ethnic policy of the Soviet government. Stimulated by the active expeditions and writings of Western anthropologists, Russian Siberianists began to shake off the old research style dominated by political ideology. One can feel a more free and liberated atmosphere in the scientific journal of the Institute of Anthropology and Ethnology RAN, since its name was changed from Sovetskaia Etnografiia to Etnograficheskoe Obozrenie.
I sometimes feel a sense of incongruity, however, in the recent studies of Siberian peoples. While it is clear that researchers try to be free from the framework of the Soviet ethnology (etnografiia), they seem to be still adhering to it in the study of problems of ethnic or national identity. First of all, many researchers, including Western anthropologists, still use the ethnic names and categories determined by the Soviet government in the 1930s without any critical attitude. As is well known, the Soviet government decided to categorize the Siberian non-Russian indigenous peoples as ethnic minorities in the North (narodnost' Severa) with some exceptions like Buryats, Yakuts, and Tuva, and classified them into thirty or more ethnic groups (narodnost'), according them names which, it was said, were based on self-denotation. Their boundaries, however, were often highly political and administratively determined, rather than reflecting the self classification of a people. For example, it is unbelievable that all the Evenki, which consist of Tungus-speaking people with various origins and, scattered all over Siberia, share a common consciousness of identity of the "narodnost' Evenki". Their linguistic relatives in China are classified into two independent ethnic groups, "Ewenki" and "Elunchun" (Orochon), by the Chinese government. It is inconsistent to use the Soviet ethnic categories and classifications for the analysis of the problems of ethnic identity, while criticizing the ethnic policy of the Soviet Union and the methodology of Soviet ethnology.
The problems of ethnic identity of the Siberian indigenous peoples are now very complicated. I think there are three historical reasons. First, the classification of the people by the Soviet government into official ethnic groups in the 1930s was not always coincident with the self-classification of the people themselves. Many indigenous people felt it strange to be called by the ethnic name given them by the government. For example, A. V. Smoliak said that in 1947, when she was engaged in the first field work among the Ul'chi on the Lower Amur basin, they had often asked her why they had been called "Ul'chi" [Smoliak 1975:36]. They complained of not being called "Nani" or "Mangguni", which were self-denotations. Secondly, although the people identified themselves as a member of the self-defined group, they accustomed themselves to being called by the official ethnic name through the seventy-year rule of the Soviet government, and later even began to identify themselves as a member of the official ethnic group. This was obvious among younger generations and urban inhabitants, because they were much influenced by education.
Third, since the 1970s the number of those who identify themselves as neither a self-defined group nor an official ethnic group has increased because of the politics of generating the "Soviet nation". According to this policy, the Soviet government encouraged inter-ethnic marriage and distribution of Russian culture and language through education. In fact, however, such a policy resulted in a serious identity crisis of the Siberian peoples after the collapse of the Soviet Union, because the "Soviet nation" could not be finally established.
In the late Perestroika period and just after the collapse of the Soviet Union, campaigns for the restoration of rights to live in their own style, to speak their own language, and to keep and develop their "traditional" own culture were enthusiastically conducted by many Siberian indigenous peoples. Their results, however, were not always successful, though they could obtain some compromises in negotiations with the Soviet or Russian government. One of the reasons for the unsuccessful campaigns was that their leaders could not be free from the framework of ethnic classifications defined by the government. It prevented them from understanding real conditions and demands of the people who sympathized with their campaigns. The official ethnic groups, which were accepted by leaders and ideologues of the campaigns, did not have any reality in the consciousness of ordinary people.
Though the Russian government, like that of the Soviet Union, insists that cultural pluralism is one of the principles of its ethnic or national policy, it would be difficult for it to govern the present Siberian people if it only followed the ethnic classifications and categorizations of the Soviet Union. Siberian peoples, not only the indigenous peoples but also the immigrants, are now undergoing a process of reformation of the new ethnic entities.
In this paper I would like to clarify the recent process of reformation of the ethnic or socio-cultural unit through an analysis of the complicated identity of the people of northern Yakutia (Eveno-Bytantaiskii ulus in Republic of Sakha). It is said that the main inhabitants of this region consist of the Yakuts and the Evens, and both scholars and inhabitants themselves often underline the importance of the protection of rights of the minor Evens and cohabitation of both ethnic groups. However, the groups were already no longer substantial units in this region. No one is conscious of identifying himself or herself as a member of Yakuts or Evens except on their passport. I would like to answer the question whether there are units for socio-cultural pluralism other than the official ethnic groups in northern Yakutia, and to suggest what kind of units they are.


Before the analysis of the concrete case, I would like to examine the theoretical framework for the analysis of ethnic identity.
There is a major opinion in recent anthropology that an "ethnic group" cannot be defined by scholars or administrators on the basis of the difference of some cultural traits, e.g. language, social structure, material culture, psychomental complex, etc., but is defined by the self consciousness of identity of people who share a common consciousness of belonging to the same ethnic group. In fact, even though they lost or were deprived of their most important cultural traits, the ethnic group itself is still alive if they identify themselves as its members. The Ainu in Japan and the Manchu in China are good examples.
In general, one can identify him or herself as a member of various kinds of groups, communities, associations, and organizations. Accordingly, such a definition of an ethnic group raises the question of what identity determines ethnicity. Moreover, such groups constitute nested boxes, or may partially overlap each other.
In the former case the structure is often segmentary just like the social structure of the Nuer, famous African nomadic people, who were investigated by an English anthropologist, E. E. Evans-Pritchard. The chief characteristic of the Nuer society was the segmentary lineage system, which consisted of various levels of patrilineal descent groups segmented out from a large clan. The scale of the lineages principally depended on the genealogical position of their ancestors. The older the ancestor they shared, the higher was the level of their lineage. Those who shared an ancestor of a later generation formed a lineage of lower level. Theoretically, opposition and conflict was permitted only between lineages at the same level and they automatically integrated at times of conflict with lineages of higher levels. For example, the opposition of the lowest lineages L and M was cancelled and they were integrated during any conflict between the lineages of higher level H and I. But they were corporate during any conflict between the lineages of still higher level D and E. This system restrained permanent conflicts between the lineages of each level and functioned as a mechanism which kept social order without any permanent chief (see Fig. 1).
Figure 1
The Lineage System of the Nuer [Evans-Pritchard 1940:193]
Such a segmentary lineage system has been applied to analysis of the nested box structure of ethnic identity by Dru C. Gladney, who has been engaged in research on the Turkic peoples and Muslims in Turkey, Central Asia, and China, since the late 1980s. He tried to explain the difference of consciousness of identity among the Uygurs, Kazakhs, and Hui (Dungan) by analogy with the social system of the Nuer. He said the following:
This approach can be roughly diagrammed for heuristic purposes as an articulating hierarchy of relational alterities, a schematic that segmental kinship theorists have been playing with for some time. For example, when "A" and "B" encounter a higher level of opposition "D", they form "C", moving a node up the scale to form higher-level relations, or conversely, down the scale when the higher-level threat subsides. While this scheme is binary, it is always constructed in a field of social relations, and is inherently ternary in that A and B are always in union or opposition depending on their interaction with D. [Gladney1996:455-456] (see Fig. 2)
He showed three diagrams of the "articulating hierarchy of relational alterities" to represent the structure of consciousness of identity among Hui, Uygurs, and Kazakhs (Fig. 3, Fig. 4, Fig. 5).
Articulating Hierarchy of Relational Alterities[Glandney 1996:455]
The Relational Alterities of Hui(Dungan)[Gladney 1996:457]
The Relational Alterities of Uygur
[Gladney 1996:460]
The Relational Alterities of Kazakh
[Gladney 1996:467]
They indicate how and when a man or woman from these nations identifies him or herself as a member of a certain group or category. With regard to the African model of social structure in the 1930s being well applied to the analysis of consciousness of ethnic identity in the 1990s, Gladney said:
While Evans-Pritchard's study was mired in the nineteenth century colonialist structuralism which portrayed "tribal" pastoralists as pre-modern and over-determined by tradition, his model of alterity is surprisingly relevant to the post-modern, post-cold war period, where it could be argued the world is becoming increasingly acephalus and breaking down into smaller and smaller relational units. These relations, like Evans-Pritchard's Nuer, are segmentary in principle, taking as their basic components not the face-to-face herding units, but the imagined community of the nation, and its constituent parts. [Gladney1996;454-455]
According to this quotation, "the imagined community of the nation and its constituent parts" of the post-modern, post-cold war period are identical with the pre-modern "tribal" pastoralists over-determined by tradition in the respect that the world is "acephalus" and breaking down into "smaller relational units". It is inevitable, however, that the segmentary lineage system not only functioned as a mechanism for keeping social order but also represented the relational alterity of identity and nested boxes of social groups. A Nuer man could, of course, identify himself as a member of each level of lineage according to the situation. If the problem of ethnic identity had been investigated in the Nuer society in the 1930s, the Evans-Pritchard's system could have been a constituent part of a whole structure of consciousness of identity which spanned the level of the smallest lineages to the level of the colonizers and natives. Evans-Pritchard could not extend his model outside the Nuer society, because a major stream of anthropology at his time considered that uncivilized, pre-modern societies like that of the Nuer should be analyzed as a closed system.
Although Gladney's model is excellent for explaining the complicated structure of the consciousness of identity, I can raise two questions in relation to the model:
Firstly, is the framework of administrative nations or ethnic groups like Uygurs, Hui, and Kazakhs still alive or active in the consciousness of the people in current times? Even if it is alive and active in China, the situation in the Russian Federation is different. As I mentioned before, some Siberian indigenous people are not conscious of being members of an administrative ethnic group except with regard to their passport. Though Gladney did not say on what theoretical and empirical bases he decided to put "Uygur", "Kazakh", and "Hui" in a certain position within his diagrams, I would like to examine the position of administrative ethnic groups like Evens and Yakuts in Gradney's diagram, taking into consideration the consciousness of the people.
Secondly, though Gladney showed the model of the case of nested box type structure of identity, the partly overlapping model is still not visualized. In his model of relational alterity and oppositional identities a group at a higher level includes the groups at lower levels, i.e. in his diagram the groups A and B are always a part of the group C. To say more concretely, in the case of the Uygurs, for example, "Uygur" and its opponent "Kazakh" are included within "Turkic", and "Turkic" and its opponent "Non-Turkic Muslim" are included within "Muslim". Though his diagrams do not imply the generalized "including-included" relations of mathematical set theory, it is undeniable that they give us an impression of such relations.
Moreover, it is problematic to put the "Muslim" on a higher level than "Turkic" from the point of view of the Siberian Turkic peoples like the Yakuts and the Tuva, though it may not be problematic from the point of view of the Uygurs and the Kazakhs. The Yakuts and the Buddhist Tuva are "non-Muslim Turkic" and, at the same time, they also know that many of their linguistic relatives are Muslim. The "Turkic" and the "Muslim" should be put on the same level from their point of view, and the two sets are partially overlapping.
In this paper, based on my field data, I would like to show the two types of models, that is, the relational alterity model and the partially overlapping model, of the structure of consciousness of identity of the people in northern Yakutia (Eveno-Bytantaiskii ulus), to examine whether or not it is effective to analyze problems of ethnic identity in the framework of the administrative ethnic classification, and to clarify what units or groups are socially active as an ethnic entity in this region.


My field research in northern Yakutia was conducted in Batagai-Alyta (or Sakkyryr) in the summer of 1995 and in Kustur in the winter of 1996. Both villages are located in the Eveno-Bytantaiskii ulus (raion in Russian, region in English), which became independent of the Verkhoyanskii raion in 1989, and has the smallest population in the Republic of Sakha (former Yakut ASSR). There are only three main villages in this ulus. Batagai-Alyta is the central and largest village, and is located about 200km west from the famous city Verkhoyansk, which is the coldest city in the northern hemisphere. Its population was 1719 in 1992. The administrative center of the ulus is in this village. Kustur is located about 110km northeast from Batagai-Alyta. Its population was 975 in 1992. The third village is Zhargalakh, located 75km south from Batagai-Alyta, and its population was 400 in 1992.
Though this ulus was independent as an autonomous region of the Evens, who are defined as one of the ethnic minorities in the Republic of Sakha, they are still a minority in this ulus. The majority people of this ulus are the Yakuts. For example, the population of the Evens is 372 (21.6%) in Batagai-Alyta, 414 (42.5%) in Kustur. Moreover, these figures indicate the population of those who are registered as Even on their passport. Most of them cannot speak Even language (usually they speak one of the northern dialects of the Yakut language), and they are not conscious of being Evens in their daily life. to map
The main productive activities are stock farming, reindeer husbandry, and hunting and fishing. Though there was a large sovkhoz for stock farming, reindeer husbandry, and hunting, including all the population of three villages during the Soviet regime, it was divided into three parts and allotted to the villages after the collapse of the Soviet Union (in 1992). The one founded in Batagai-Alyta was reorganized into the corporate farm "Agrofirma Leninskii", another part which was founded in Kustur was not reorganized and still remained as a kolkhoz ("Kolkhoz Bytantaiskii") like that of the Soviet Union. Each organization consists of three main sections according to its principal activities; stock farming, reindeer husbandry, and hunting. Cattle and horses are raised in the pasture grounds near the villages in summer and in sheds in winter in order to provide villagers and the market in Yakutsk with meat and milk, while the reindeer are pastured on the tundra or forest-tundra zone in order to provide the villagers and their relatives with meat. Though it has been said in general that there was an ethnic division of labor between the Yakuts and the Evens, Р in other words, that the former were stock farmers and the latter were reindeer herdsmen Р it is not so strict today and there are quite a few Yakut reindeer herdsmen and Even stock farmers.
The management of each organization is very difficult under the present economic conditions in the Republic, though each organization possesses many domestic animals. For example, the "Agrofirma Leninskii" in Batagai-Alyta keeps 11,000 reindeer, 780 horses, and 279 cattle, the "Kolkhoz Bytantaiskii" in Kustur has 6,000 reindeer. Reindeer husbandry, which was the main and "traditional" activity in Siberia, is in danger of collapse because of the decrease of demand for reindeer meat and the shortage of herdsmen. It cannot be continued without large financial aid from the government of the Republic. Hunting and fur animal breeding, which are also "traditional" and have brought a large monetary income to the Siberian people, are still more dangerous. Both the Agrofirma in Batagai-Alyta and the Kolkhoz in Kustur recently abandoned their hunting teams and fox breeding farms. It is said that the rivalry in the Yakutsk market with Russian and foreign fur traders, the decrease of demand for fur products because of the development of alternative synthetic materials to protect against cold, and the campaign for the protection of wild animals prevent the people of northern Yakutia from continuing the fur animal hunting and fox breeding.
The history of the region of this ulus is complicated. Until the October Revolution the Yakuts lived in the valley of the river Bytantai (one of large tributaries of the river Yana) and were engaged in stock farming and trading, while the Tungus speaking people, who were registered as members of Tyugyasir clan by the Russian administration, wandered with their reindeer in the tundra and forest-tundra zones surrounding the valley. The Tungus people often visited the villages along the river Bytantai to trade with the Yakuts, selling their hunting and reindeer-breeding products. During the period of the Civil War just after the October Revolution, a counter-revolutionary rebellion led by Yakut leaders occurred even in such a peripheral region. In 1931 the Sakkyryrskii raion (region) was established, and at the same time reindeer husbandry or stock farming kolkhozes were organized in various villages in this region. In 1963 the Sakkyryrskii raion was included in the Verkhoyanskii raion and large scale sovkhoz ("Sovkhoz Leninskii") was established by integrating small size kolkhozes. In 1989, however, when nationalistic campaigns flourished all over the Soviet Union, "Eveno-Bytantaiskii National ulus" was admitted as independent of the Verkhoyanskii raion by the government of the Republic of Sakha, as a result of the campaign for revival of the former Sakkyryrskii raion by Even leaders of Batagai-Alyta.
During the seventy-year rule of Soviet Union, social and cultural conditions of the Tungus speaking people of this region greatly changed. They were defined by the Soviet government as members of one of the northern minorities (narodnost'), the Evens, and as uncivilized hunters or nomads who should leap to become a socialistic society, bypassing the stage of capitalism. The regional government constructed houses, schools, hospitals, cultural bases, and clubs in villages to sedentarize the wandering Even people, to provide them with education and medical services, and to "develop" their traditional language and culture. At the same time the life style and the system of animal husbandry were changed from permanent wandering to village based, in which a reindeer herdsman had a timber house in a village, where his family usually lived, and periodically went to the herd to take care of reindeer. Though some of them have continued wandering with their herd until today, most became sedentary herdsmen.
As a result of the sedentarization, the Tungus speaking people had more chances for contact with the Yakuts and were exposed to their strong influence. Linguistic assimilation, in particular, is so serious that the original Tungus language, which was defined by Soviet linguists as a dialect of the Even language, has been almost forgotten by the Tungus inhabitants of this region at the present time except a few terms concerned with reindeer husbandry. The mother tongue of the people of this region is one of the northern dialects of the Yakut language, with some vocabulary of Tungus origin, regardless of speaker's ethnicity.
Some intelligentsia in this region insisted that three major events are responsible for the loss of their own language; the collectivization of the 1930s, the enlargement of collective farms in the postwar period during the 1950s, and the abolition of the so-called futureless villages in the 1960s [Ammosov 1997]. I. A. Ammosov, however, who was a deputy headman of Batagai-Alyta at the time of my research, pointed out in his paper that inter-ethnic marriage and the language politics of the government played a more decisive role in their loss of language. As to inter-ethnic marriage, one of his informants said, "Evens have a tradition of prohibiting the marriage between relatives who share the ancestor of less than 9 generations before. Therefore an Even youth has to go to Verkhoyanskii ulus to marry a Yakut girl. Inevitably the Yakut language is dominant in the family in which the mother is Yakut". [Ammosov 1997]
Ammosov insists that the invention of the literary language was also one of the obstacles of language education for the Evens of this region. The Even literary language was like a foreign language for the speakers of western dialects, because it was invented on the basis of the Ol'skii dialect, which was one of the eastern dialects and was spoken by the Evens of Okhotsk regions. It was difficult and ineffective to teach such language to children, though teachers could not but use it in language education. The invention of the literary language does not always contribute to the promotion of distribution of the original language of an ethnic group. On the contrary, a language which was invented regardless of the diversity of dialects is sometimes a serious obstacle against the restoration or distribution of minority languages, as is the case in this region.
According to the final phrase of I. A. Ammosov's paper, his neighbors are courageous and patient enough to be Tyugyasirs (we must note that he did not say "to be Evens"), because they have much invaluable cultural property apart from the language [Ammosov 1997]. Their consciousness of identity as a member of Tyugyasirs (or the Tyugyasir clan) is still alive and active today. Tyugyasir is substantially different from the "narodnost'" Even, though it is one of the clans or regional subgroups of the Evens from the point of view of Soviet ethnology. The former still holds the heart of the people, while the latter is only an ethnic category written on their passports. It is easy to communicate among Tyugyasirs in their native language or Yakut language, while Evens from different regions find it difficult to understand one another unless they speak in Russian. The Tyugyasirs share a consciousness of belonging to the same ethnic group, while it is doubtful that all the Even people share such consciousness. The Tyugyasirs feel a large psychological distance from the Evens of Magadanskaia Oblast' or Khabarovskii krai.
Both the Tyugyasir and the Even were administratively defined by a government. The former was organized by the Russian Imperial government as a unit for the collection of yasak (fur tax), while the latter was defined by the Soviet government to include the Tungus speaking indigenous peoples in northeastern Siberia and the Far East within the multiethnic socialist nation. The administrative clans or local units like Tyugyasir often turned to one of the social groups within which people identify themselves as members. This is because the Russian Imperial government reorganized previous local units or kin groups into such clans or units. The establishment of "narodnost' Even", however, was already problematic at its beginning. The Soviet government only followed the customary classification of Tungus people into the "Tungus proper" and the "Lamuts" by classifying them into the Evenki and the Evens. Moreover, the classification of Lamuts was authorized by neither scholars nor the Imperial government. For example, the Lamuts were not registered as an independent ethnic group like the Yakuts and the Tungus in the statistical data of 1897 [Patkanov 1906; Aziatskaia Rossiia 1914]. And M. G. Levin, who edited a large handbook, Narody Sibiri 1956 (The Peoples of Siberia 1964), and who wrote about the Evens in it, clearly did not mention the theoretical or empirical bases on which the Evens should be an independent ethnicity [Levin 1956].


Adapting the above mentioned models of relational alterity and partial overlap to my empirical data of the people of Eveno-Bytantaiskii ulus, it is possible to visualize the structure of the groups or categories of which the people identify themselves as members.
Let me take an example of an old Tyugaysir man who lives in Kustur and is registered as an Even, like some of Ammosov's informants. According to the theory of relational alterity, he identifies himself as a member of the Tyugyasir of Kustur village at the lowest level, which opposes those of Batagai-Alyta and Zhargalakh. The rivalry between the villages is canceled and they are integrated into the Tyugyasir people when they encounter the Yakuts of the Eveno-Bytantaiskii ulus. But the opposition between the Tyugyasirs and the Yakuts is canceled and they form a larger group as inhabitants of the ulus when they encounter people from Verkhoyanskii raion. Such opposition is canceled and they form a still larger group of people of the Yana water system when they meet the people from Kolyma or Olenek, and, in turn, all the people of the northern territory of the Republic of Sakha share a consciousness to be "northern people" against those who came from southern part of the Republic (see Fig. 6).

Figure 6
The Relational Alterities of Tyugyasir in Eveno-Bytantaiskii Ulus

Some differences can be seen in the diagram of people of the younger generation (younger than 40 years old) with whom I could easily interact in my field research, because they do not identify themselves as members of Tyugyasirs, but as members of the villages or reindeer herdsmen. The Tungus language and culture are already not familiar to them. They are conscious of being nothing other than Yakut reindeer herdsmen except for the ethnicity on their passport.
Though diagrams based on Gladney's theory of relational alterity can well figure the segmentary structure of identity, they cannot visualize all the aspects of the structure of identity consciousness, but should be complemented by the partial overlap model. For example, the group of villagers and that of Tyugyasir people overlap each other. A category of reindeer herdsmen, which can be extended to the peoples of the entire Siberian tundra and forest-tundra zone, crosscuts the groups of Kustur villagers, Tyugyasir people, inhabitants of the Eveno-Bytantaiskii ulus, and "northern people" of the Republic. The entire schema of the model is shown in Fig. 7.

Figure 7
Partial Overlap Model of Identity of the Peoples of Northern Yakutia
On the basis of these models, let us discuss the following two problems: Firstly, where should the official ethnic group, "narodnost' Even", be placed in the relational alterity model and the partially overlapping model? Secondly, what kind of a group or a category can be an "ethnic" unit of cultural pluralism in the Republic of Sakha or Russian Federation, instead of the official ethnicity?
As to the former problem, I think, there is no place to fit the official ethnic group, in so far as it does not reflect the consciousness of identity of the people. If it can be assumed that the Tyugyasir is identical with the regional group of the Evens, that is, the Evens of the Bytantai and Omoloi water systems, the "regional Evens" can be placed in the relational alterity model as opponents of the regional Yakuts. I imagine, however, that such a group is meaningless for young people who do not identify themselves as members of the Tungus people.
Some Even intelligentsia in Batagai-Alyta insisted upon the restoration of various kinds of rights as an indigenous people of this region against the Yakut majority, identifying themselves as members of the Evens. Independence and the establishment of the Eveno-Bytantaiskii National ulus was the result of their campaign in the period of Perestroika. The "National" means that this ulus is an autonomous unit of the Evens. However, it was not successful in this sense, because the ulus is administered under the strong leadership of the regional Yakut elite and people have lost interest in the autonomy of the ethnic minority under the present difficult economic conditions. The fact that identity as a Tungus-speaking people was weakened by the seventy-year Soviet rule during which inter-ethnic marriage was encouraged and Russian and Yakut languages were distributed as a medium of communication in this region has also played an important role in destroying the autonomy of this ulus. As far as I know, the only successful result of the campaign for restoration of minority rights in the Republic is a free license for hunting wild reindeer and Siberian big hones (wild sheep), given by the government only to the northern minority, including the Even people.
If the official ethnic classification is not active and is not adequate for studies of the problems of ethnic identity in this region, what groups or categories in my models should be defined as an ethnic unit?
I admit that the term "ethnic" itself is problematic. Because people can identify themselves as members of any kind of and any level of social groups or categories, and because it is impossible to define a certain group as an "ethnic" one only based on a people's identity. There are, however, some groups or categories which can be treated as being equal to the ethnic one, for example, the inhabitants of the Eveno-Bytantaiskii ulus, the reindeer herdsmen in the Yana water system, and Tyugyasirs (only among the elder generations) in my models. They are groups whose members are conscious of sharing some common cultural traits and which could have been an independent ethnic unit under certain political conditions. In order to obtain more fruitful results in the discussion of ethnic problems in the northern Yakutia, researchers should observe the groups which are really active as an object of the people's identity in each area and analyze their historical background.
The official framework of ethnic classification is sometimes active in Siberia. For example, integration of people into the official ethnicity was strengthened among urban inhabitants of the Tuva and the Yakuts by the serious conflicts against the Russians in the later period of Perestroika. In general, it depends on the strength of the ethnic intelligentsia whether the official ethnicity is active or not. They grew up as representatives of the ethnicity for the Soviet government and played an important role in the invention and distribution of a purified and stereotyped ethnic culture, which is one of the symbols of integration of ethnicity today. Though the purified and stereotyped culture sometimes contributes to the consolidation of ethnic entity and the restoration of lost cultural traits, there is the possibility that it destroys regional diversity just like the case of the language education in the Eveno-Bytantaiskii ulus.
The researcher, who cannot be free from the official ethnic framework, must inevitably consider the stereotyped ethnic culture as a common one for people who are registered as a given ethnicity on their passport and will overlook the regional peculiarity which was established under particular ecological and socio-cultural conditions. The culture of the Yakuts from northern regions is originally different from that of the Yakuts from central Yakutia, and resembles the culture of reindeer herdsmen of Tungus origin. It is not unnatural that the Yakuts of the Eveno-Bytantaiskii ulus share some common cultural traits and identity consciousness with people of Tungus origin of the same region, and that they distinguish themselves from the linguistic relatives in central Yakutia under recent socio-cultural conditions.

I think that it is more fruitful for researchers to analyze problems concerning ethnic identity, the restoration of "traditional" culture and language, indigenous rights, and the policy of cultural pluralism on the basis of socio-cultural units which can be observed in the field rather than given official ethnic classifications.


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