The Khanty of the Yugan River in the Demyanka River basin: formation of local identity 

 Adaev V.N.


Vestnik arheologii, antropologii i etnografii, 2021, 3 (54)


              page 176186




The study is focused on the deep taiga territory located in the upper and middle reaches of the Demyanka River Uvatsky district of Tyumen Oblast (Western Siberia, Russia). A particular case of the development of local identity in a small community of taiga inhabitants the Khanty reindeer herders from the Bolshoi Yugan River, who migrated in the first half of the 20th century to the basin of the neighbouring Demyanka River is presented. This study aims to examine in detail the mechanism of formation of local identity and to trace how a new territorial identity determines development of specific ethnic local community. The paper is largely based on field ethnographic materials collected in 20002020, as well as information from archival documents. The study builds upon a system analysis where the formation of a new local community is viewed through the prism of its changing external contacts and socio-cultural boundaries. There were identified the broken links with the historical homeland and new bonds that rooted the people into the new territory. The corresponding role of administrative transformations, socio-economic relations, marriage contacts, and religious beliefs has been established. The main markers of the local identity formed by the 1990s are territorial rooting, a sense of belonging to the region, a new legal status and consolidation of the considered Khanty community. Presently, the descendants of the Bolshoy Yugan Khantys living in the Demyanka River basin are undoubtedly a separate group within the Eastern Khantys with established local identity. Their territorial belonging includes, at the regional level, self-identification as inhabitants of the Uvatsky District, and at the local level, an upheld notion of the Demyanka Region as their homeland. The long isolated existence of the new Khanty community has already led to the emergence of some cultural characteristics that noticeably distinguish these Khanty people from their kin who live in the Bolshoi Yugan River basin.

Keywords: Siberian ethnography, indigenous people of the North, reindeer husbandry, migration, local ethnic communities, social contacts and isolation.


Funding. The work was done according to the state order 121041600045-8.


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

Accepted: 27.05.2020

Article is published: 27.08.2021


Adaev V.N., Tyumen Scientific Centre of Siberian Branch RAS, Malygin st., 86, Tyumen, 625026, Russian Federation, E-mail:,