Metamorphoses of the Ob-Ugric ethnicity 

Martynova E.P. (Tula, Russian Federation)


              page 176183


Modern approach to the study of ethnicity implies examination of its variability (drift, shifts and procedurality). This paper aims at the analysis of manifestations of ethnicity amongst the Ob-Ugrians in different historical periods (traditional society, Soviet modernization and post-Soviet democracy). The author draws attention to explaining dominant role of one or another manifestation of ethnicity. The work is based on author’s observations made during the expeditions in the Khanty-Mansiysk Okrug (1980s-2000s) and publications by other researchers. Prior to the 1930s, the Ob-Ugric population was represented by a family of related languages and local ethnic groups with close cultures. The main factor of their self-identity was local ethnicity – names by a river. ‘People of the same river’ were bound by commercial, exchange and cultural-ritual bonds. In the official records, the Russian government registered, in the first place, social status of the indigenous population, calling its people ‘inorodtsy’ (‘non-Russians’) and ‘yasashnye’ (‘tributary’). Socialist transformations in the socio-economical, cultural and ideological spheres marked the beginning of the assimilation policy with respect to the peoples of the North. As the all-Soviet standards of living were adopted, and social (including ethnocultural) uniformity achieved, ethnicity of the Ob-Ugrians continuously leveled out. At the same time, their ethnic identity was largely influenced by recording their nationality in the passports – Khanty and Mansy, coincident with the name of the okrug. In the post-Soviet period, ethnicity of the Khanty and Mansy, ‘hibernated’ during the Soviet time, ‘woke up’ suddenly and loudly turning into a powerful creational factor. The ethnic mobilization unwrapped by the initiative of ethnic leaders significantly raised the status of the ethnic culture and people themselves. As a result, three levels of identity emerged. The first level is trans-ethnicity of ‘natives’ or ‘aborigines’, which is an important political instrument. The second level is official ethnic identity, which is reflected in the ethnonyms ‘Khanty’, ‘Mansy’ and ‘Nentsy’. Its representation in the ethnocultural politics of the okrug (organizing celebrations and festivals, folk group activities etc.) is given a high attention. Lastly, the third level is the traditional local ethnicity.

Key words: Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, Ob Ugrians (Khanty and Mansi), ethnicity, ethnonyms, communications, state policy, socialist transformations, ethnic mobilization.


Funding. The article was supported by the RFBR for the project No. 18-05-60040 «New technologies and social institutions of the indigenous population of the Russian Arctic: opportunities and risks».


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Accepted: 29.05.2020

Article is published: 28.08.2020


Martynova E.P.

Tula State Lev Tolstoy Pedagogical University, prosp. Lenina, 125, Tula, 300026, Russian Federation