From an ethnographic standpoint, the Tungus peoples are made up of a series of ethnic groups today dispersed over a vast territory covering all of Siberia, northern China and Mongolia, which speak languages from the Tungusic branch of the Altaic language family.Author(s): R. Hamayon, A. Lavrillier
In Siberia the Tungus population is comprised of small groups strung from the Yenissei River to the Okhotsk Sea and from Lake Baikal to the Arctic Ocean (c. 73,616 persons in all). These small groups are located in hard-to-reach areas with few exploitable resources outside of hunting (forests), fishing (the Amur Valley) and husbandry (everywhere).
The Tungus as a whole number 44,200 individuals in China and 1,000 in Mongolia, which, counting those living in Siberia, brings the total number to 118,816.
The Tungus of Siberia are divided into two groups:
1. The Amur Tungus (including Sakhalin Island). These are the Nanai (formerly called Golds) (12,023), the Ulch (formerly Mangun) (3,173), the Orok (also Ultía) (400) and the Udehe (also Udeghei) (2,020), and the Neghidal (1000).
2. The Tungus. These are the Evenk (35,000) (scattered over Siberia from north to south and east to west) and the Even (19,000 (distributed over the whole of northern Siberia).
In 1930 the Soviet regime decided to give each nationality a name that it could regard as its self-appellation. At the time, though, the Tungus groups already designated themselves using clan names or the name of their valley. The new name was thus often viewed as a creation. In 1931 Evenk became the official name of the reindeer herders and hunters of the forest region (they are regarded as the true Tungus), and Even (formerly Lamut) the name of those living in the Verkhoiansk Mountains. The Even researcher U.G. Popova (1981: 9, 17) gives the meaning of even as ěfrom here, localî. The new appellation of the groups making their living from fishing in the Amur and Ussuri valleys, formerly designated by various names, are taken from the term meaning ěhuman beingî in their respective languages.
The substitution of these new names for the former appellations, which were often derogatory, having been invented by peoples superior in numbers and power, was instrumental in these groupsí discovery of a national identity. But at the same time, the adoption of a different name for each group masked their linguistic and ethnic ties.
Date created: 2003-06-30 - Date modified: 2004-06-01