Alcohol and its functions in the culture of the Khanty of the Surgut Ob region  

Rud A.A.


Vestnik arheologii, antropologii i etnografii, 2021, 4 (55)


              page 224234




The aim of the research is to show the functions of alcohol in the traditional culture of the Eastern Khanty. The basis of the work is formed by the author's field data collected in 20022018 in Khanty Surgut Ob region, including the right bank of the Ob River (Lyamin, Pim, Tromyegan, and Agan) and its left bank (Bolshoi Yugan, Malyy Yugan), as well as the right tributary of the Irtysh River (Demyanka). The study of the role of alcohol in the traditional rituals of the Eastern Khanty was based on the methodology of gift exchange proposed by M. Mauss [2011]. The structural-functional approach was used to analyze the functions of alcohol, its place in the traditional culture, and social relations of the Eastern Khanty [Malinovskiy, 2006]. Despite the problems associated with alcoholism, as well as the negative impact on the health of the Eastern Khanty, alcohol performs a number of functions in the traditional culture. The recognition of the legitimacy of alcohol in the traditional worldview is based on the cosmogonic myths. In the ritual sphere, alcohol is a gift to the deities, from whom the indigenous people, in return, expect assistance to a person in hunting and fishing, prosperity, health, and safety. Alcohol performs the function of erasing social boundaries in the community of participants in a traditional ritual. During traditional rituals, alcohol is a tool for a person's transition to an altered state of consciousness. In everyday life, alcohol performs the functions of relaxation and stress relief. Alcohol serves as a social catalyst when a stranger is included in a traditional collective. Until recently, alcohol occupied not the last place as an equivalent of money in the in-kind exchange of goods and services. At the beginning of the 21st century, structural changes caused by the industrialization of the Surgut Ob region, as well as economic and social reforms of the Post-Perestroika period, led to reduction in the consumption of alcohol by the Eastern Khanty. Today, these changes are represented by two oppositely directed trends. The first tendency is represented by the processes of the revival of traditional culture, nature management, and religion. The second trend includes reappraisal of traditional religion and transition of a part of the Eastern Khanty to Protestantism.

Keywords: Surgut Ob region, Eastern Khanty, drinking practices, social functions of alcohol, alcohol in traditional religion, alcohol in everyday life.


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

Accepted: 16.09.2020

Article is published: 23.12.2021


Rud A.A., Tyumen Scientific Centre of Siberian Branch RAS, Malygina st., 86, Tyumen, 625026, Russian Federation, E-mail:,