These carefully designed materials offer a variety of information
inhabitants of Khanty-Mansy National Area-Ugra. These materials include
information about the nature of the area, the customs and traditions of
the Khanty and
Mansy people. Using these materials allows teachers and their students
to know more about
Native People of Siberia.
In the center of Russia behind the Urals there is the Khanty-Mansi
region. It has a
total area of more than 523000 square km. and its border is more than
4500 km. long.
Khanty-Mansiysk is the capital of the region. The distance between
Khanty-Mansiysk is 2750 km. The Khanty-Mansiysk region forms a part of
the Tyumen region.
It lies in the central part of the West-Siberian lowland-one of the
biggest lowlands in
the world. Despite its monotonous relief the Khanty-Mansiysk region is
famous for the rich
variety of its scenery. The most characteristic feature of the climate
is its variability.
One day may be very different from the next especially in spring and
forcasts cannot be made for more than a very short time ahead. Sunshine
can rapidly change
to rain, winds can abruptly alter their direction. There is the
permafrost in the North
and in summer the soil thaws out only for some metres. There are many
bogs there and the
trees are thin and low. They are called diminutive trees. To the South
the bogs become the
taiga. The taiga is the coniferous forests chiefly of pines, firs and
cedars. The taiga
occupies the largest part of the Khanty-Mansi region. In the North of
the region the most
common trees are birch, asp, rowan-tree and bird cherry. In the North of
there is no sunset in spring and early summer. This period is called the
white nights. The
variety of scenery is extraordinary at this time of the year; fresh air
which is full of
aroma of bird berry, wonderful quiet and the beauty of the nature in
spring combine to
form a never-to-be-forgotten panorama.
More than 2000 big and small rivers are in West Siberia. The biggest
rivers in the
Khanty-Mansi region are the Ob river and the Irtysh river. These rivers
influxes. The Ob is the chief river in Siberia and it is the 4th longest
river in the
world. Only the Kongo, the Amazon and the Mississippi are longer than
the Ob. Its length
together with Ob Bay is 5205 km.
The name of the Ob river came from the Komy language and the Khanty
say that the Ob
means great water. This area is well known for its lakes. There are more
than 25000 lakes
there. They show a wonderful variety of Northern nature. The water is
blue, clean and cold
and very often you can see white swans, geese and ducks there. The area
around the lakes
is covered with forests and bogs which are full of different kind of
birds, wild animals
and berries. In spring there are many first spring berries-cloud-berry,
Labrador tea; and
in autumn there are many health-giving cranberries.
The climate is continental. Winter is long and severe, spring comes
very late, summer
is short and autumn comes very early. Sometimes it is very hot in
summer. During a normal
summer the temperature is usually +16C;+22C.
There are 27 species of land mammals in the taiga. The most valuable
are fur bearing
animals such as the squirrel, the sable, the fox, the furmusquash, also
there are many
game birds in the taiga.
There are more than 40 species of fish in our rivers: the sturgeon,
the sterlet, the
white salmon, the ide (fish of carp family), the pike and so on.
The Khanty-Mansi region is famous for valuable kinds of trees. The
most valuable tree
is the Siberian pine. Houses built from this tree will remain in good
condition for a
hundred years and the milk keeps its freshness for a long time if it is
in a cup which is
made from the Siberian pine.
In autumn there are many pine nuts. They are very healthy and
Siberians like them very
much. They say in Siberia: many nuts-many squirrels. There are many
berries in autumn in
the taiga: bilberries, blueberries, red whortleberries, black and red
currants and also
there are many mushrooms there.
Our region is rich in natural resources: it has unique deposits of
oil and gas, and
large reserves of wood-pulp.
In the Polar Urals there are many deposits of brown coal, coloured
metal, rock crystal,
marble, quartz dust. Nowadays the Khanty-Mansi region is the first in
Russia in obtaining
oil and the second in producing electricity.
Exploration for natural gas and oil has been going on in Western
Siberia since the
early 1960s.As a result of this many new towns have appeared on the map
of Russia. They
are Surgut, Nizhnevartovsk, Megion, Langepas, Lyantor.
The first settlers came to Siberia during the late or the upper
Paleolithic period. At
that time there was a gigantic glacier which stood in the way of the
rivers' flow and
that's why in the lower stream of the Irtysh river and its inflows there
was a spacious
freshwater lake. To the South of the glacier and on the banks of the
lake there was a
glacier-side steppe. The fauna of the Ice Age was represented by the
the mammoth, the woolly rhinoceros, the horse and so on. The first known
settlers came to
the North of Western Siberia in the 8th or 6th century B.C. It was the
Middle Stone Age or
the Mesolithic. Mesolithic finds and settlings were found on the
territory of the
Khanty-Mansi region practically everywhere. During this post glacial
period the climate
became warmer, glaciers were melting and it was the beginning of the
formation of the
taiga, the tundra, the flora and the fauna.
The first settlers soon got used to their new surroundings and stayed
for a long time.
Many ground dwellings and polysection dug-outs were found by
archaeologists on the banks
of the Konda river.
The final period of the Stone Age-the New Stone Age spanned from the
5th century to the
3d century B. C. The main distinctive characteristic of this period of
time was the
appearance of earthenware crockery which was widely used.
The earliest finds which were discovered on the "Barsova Gora" date
the New Stone Age. "Barsova Gora" is a unique archaeological monument,
well-known among archaeologists all over the world.
The natural boundary "Barsova Gora" is situated between 8 and 15 km
West of Surgut town. This picturesque place has provoked great interest
of Russian and
foreign archaeologists for many years. In 1891 the Swedish scientist F.
investigated 6 sites of ancient settlements and excavated 111 interments
on the medieval
burial ground "Barsov small town" Two more foreign expeditions under the
guidance of the Hungarian professor I. Papai and the Finnish professor
U. Sireliusa were
realized at the beginning of the XX century.
Archaeologists from Ekaterinburg city discovered remains of more than
and buildings-61 sites of ancient settlements, 7 burial grounds,
The earliest of them date back to the New Stone Age, but the possibility
visiting these places earlier cannot be ruled out.
Late archaeological monument date back to the 18th and-19th
A.D. Not so long ago the Natural boundary "Barsova Gora" was the holy
It was in 1973 that they performed sacrifice there for the last time.
There are no
other places in Russia where such a great number of antiquities were
Finds of "Barsova Gora" are being kept in the museums of Western
the Hermitage(St. Petersburg), in Ekaterinburg, in Tyumen and in Surgut.
And now some words about the finds which were discovered in "Barsova
More than 29 sites, locations, and one burial ground of the Stone Age
were discovered by
the archaeologists there. Luxuriously decorated earthenware crockery,
were found on "Barsova Gora". Polished axes and adzes, knives and
were made from the shale-rocks. Beautiful statuettes of birds, animals,
men were made of
bronze. It was already the early Iron Age.
Twenty sites of ancient settlements, many settlings, sanctuaries,
treasures date back
to the Middle Ages (IV-XVI centuries A.D.). Modem excavations have given
new finds of iron
weapons. There are many monuments of the XVII-XIX centuries on "Barsova
There are settlings, sanctuaries of the Khanty and remains of hunting
The Khanty are the indigenous population of the Khanty-Mansi region.
their neighbours the Mansi and the inhabitants of Central Europe
Hungarians are related to
the Finno-Ugric group. The forbears of the Khanty and the Mansi were
ancient tribes. They
were living in Western Siberia during the New Stone Age and the Bronze
Age. They were
engaged in hunting and fishing, their main food was the meat of killed
wild animals and
fish. They made their clothes from animal pelt and fish skin. Their
means of transport
were boats in summer and skis and dogs teams in winter. They lived in
dug-outs and their
utensils were made of wood, cortex, bone and fur.
During the first millennium B.C. other tribes came to West Siberia
from the South, from
the Altai and the Sayany Mountains and from the Kazakh steppe. One of
them spoke the Ugric
language, another tribe spoke the Samodiyski language and the third one
spoke the Ketskiy
language. They bred cattle and they were nomads. Gradually local and new
As a result of this influence local tribes began to speak Ugric language
and new tribes
acquired the aboriginals' culture and forms of management. Up to now the
Khanty and the
Mansi and other indigenous populations of Western Siberia were kept
style of life.
Their main occupations are still hunting, fishing and breeding deer.
The Khanty and the
Mansi have kept some traditions which descended from ancient times.
Fish is of great importance in the life of the Khanty. It is their
main food all year
round and it has always been so. That is why the Khanty always lived
near big or little
rivers. When they have fish it is of no importance if there is bread,
sugar or salt. The
Khanty like fresh, smoked, dried and salted fish. Most of all they like
They make "varka" from calf, viscera and fish fat. They make
fish fat for the whole year and they use it instead of butter.
They can fish in any season of the year and they know a lot of
methods and devices for
fishing. The oldest method is fishing with the help of a snare which is
"morda"-one of the most reliable snares. It is made of wood. When the
thawed this snare is installed in a narrow channel. The construction of
the snare makes
fishing possible when fish goes with the stream or against the stream.
Fish can live for a long time in such a snare and it is always fresh
when it is got by
The Khanty also fish with the help of nets, sweep-nets and many other
also played a big role in the life of natives. Hunting fed them provided
hem with boots
and dressed them. The Khanty exchanged the fur of forbearing animals for
fabric, adornments and they sewed clothes and footwear from the skin of
animals. They had many devices for killing wild animals and catching
birds. Some of them
are still used nowadays. One of the best snare the "cherkan" is used for
squirrels, beavers and Siberian polecats. For elks and reindeers they
used cross-bows and
for bears they used traps. The number of squirrels is dependent on the
Siberian pine nuts
In addition to the main marketable furry animals-squirrels and far
sables there are
many other furry wild animals in the taiga. They are hares, foxes,
polecats, trots, wolverences and beavers. The Khanty also catch forest
Their outer clothes are determined by a very changeable climate. They
can be worn open
or buttoned up. The clothes worn open are called "sackcoats" and the
worn buttoned up are called "geese". The sackcoat is an outer coat with
light fur inside and with the durable white fabric on the outside. The
collar is made of
foxes' paws or squirrels' heads. They are worn with a white belt and a
white shawl round
Their footwear is called Nyriki. They are made of fur inside with the
fabric on the outside. Such white hunting garment is necessary for the
The "Goose" is also an outer garment. It is buttoned up and is made
reindeer pelt. It is put on over the head. Such clothes are
indispensable for the reindeer
and dog journeys. And the hunter in such clothes can sleep even in snow.
Usually summer sackcoat are very long and blue, rarely yellow and
All details of their coat and footwear, sometimes very small are
sewed with tendons and
very fine and clear-cut stitches. They say that only women -northerners
can sew so
skilfully. They prepare the colour from the cortex of larch, and if you
dye some parts of
your coat or footwear with this paint, they preserve their colour until
quite worn out.
The woman's sackoat is decorated with beads. The woman's winter
clothes are made of
cloth and their summer clothes are made of satin. Women have always
all their clothes with beads, fur and buttons. Their sackcoats or
dresses have red or
yellow belts. The women wear shawls all year round. Their footwear is
the same as the
men's with not a great difference. Their children have the same clothes.
But there are
many adornments of buttons, beads, little bells and other little things
on their clothes.
The Khanty's household items are made of wood, bone, roots, cortex of
grass and skin. Their kitchen utensils are usually made of wood and
birch - bark. In such
utensils provisions are kept fresh for a long time.
Large and small wooden plates, cups, spoons and ladles have beautiful
forms and are
decorated with ornaments.
The most interesting things are "komevatiki". They are something like
of different forms and size. The Khanty keep their treasures in these
From the cortex of trees and wood they make camplife and night
cradles which are also
decorated with ornaments. The Khanty's fine arts are immensely rich. The
place on bone, fabric, fur and cortex are real pearls of folk business.
The ornaments have
names: "Deer's horns ", "Hare's ears", "Geese's herd",
"Gnats" and "Birch's twigs".
The Khanty decorate the cortex and sometimes they use dye - stuffs.
They also use
specially manufactured bone stamps for producing ornaments.
The beauty of the ornaments is achieved without any stencils or
drawings, everything is
determined by their master's imagination.
The Khanty have a rich musical heritage. The "Nyn-yukh" is the
violin. It is made of the stem of cedar. The strings and the bow are
made of a horse-hair.
This violin sounds quiet, monotonous, sad.
But among the taiga s stillness this music is the most genuine, the
most harmonious and
the most faithful.
The " Narkas-yukh" is a very long musical instrument. It is like a
Maybe it is a forefather of gusli, or gusli perhaps was a forefather of
The Khanty and the Mansi are hardy people. Nature is incredibly
beautiful in the place
where they live and it is very severe. There is the tundra and taiga and
the mighty Ob
flowing into the Ocean. According to a long-standing tradition they
occupy themselves with
hunting and fishing, they are remarkably good at different applied arts.
It is not easy to
live and work there Nevertheless people of the North of Russia are
firstrate fishermen and
hunters, they are skillful at different handicrafts. Their motto is:
life and work, doing
no harm to Nature. Nature and Earth for them are like a Mother giving
The Surgut district is the biggest in the Khanty-Mansi region. Surgut
town is situated
in this district. It is the main town of the oil industry in Western
Siberia. Nearly 70
million tons of oil and approximately 8 thousand million cubic meters of
natural gas are
extracted in this region. There are approximately 100 deposits of oil in
this area. The
population of the Surgut district is nearly 400 thousand people
including 3 thousand
people of the Khanty and the Mansi. There are 1200 people of indigenous
Surgut. They are doctors, teachers, many of them are public figures in
2000 natives of the Surgut district who live in their birth areas or m
nomad camps are
engaged in hunting, fishing, deerbreeding and gathering berries, cedar
nuts and mushrooms.
But because of industrialization of this area it is very difficult
for the Khanty and
the Mansi to keep their customs, to live in agreement with the laws of
nature. It is very
important to keep their economic conditions, folklore and customs safe,
handing them down
from one generation to another.