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The Evenk belong by their language to the Tungus-Manchu branch of the Altaic linguistic family, which also includes the T¸rk and Mongolian branches. (cf. Tungus supra-group file).

According to the main archeological theories, the ancestors of the Evenk and the other Tungus peoples used to live in the South-East of Siberia and North-East of China. They have migrated a lot through the centuries, and are now scattered over a wide region. The Evenk are present in small groups from the Ienissei River to the Okhotsk Sea and from the Arctic Ocean to the Amur River. This ethnonym, ìEvenkî, was chosen for them in 1930 by the Soviet administration among the numerous auto-ethnonyms and clan names.

The Evenk are hunters by tradition, but most groups also breed domestic reindeers, as mounts and draft animals more than for food. Some groups have borrowed from other peoples encountered during their migrations horse- and cow-breeding, and even some agriculture, while still keeping their hunting practices.

The Evenk met, and helped, the Russian explorers as early as the 16th century, and their culture was first described in written form in Europe in the 17th century ñ of course, they had been in contact with the Chinese for a much longer time.

Those modern Evenk closest in lifestyle to these classical descriptions live in South-Eastern Siberia. Some of them are known under the name Orochon, which means ìreindeer breedersî. This Evenk file shows mainly Orochon scenes and tools.
The Evenk nomads move their camps frequently. All year long, they have to balance the constraints of the hunt and of the herd. To manage it, they change the size and set-up of their groupings from season to season according to the dominant activities of the time. Thus, their social organization is based on the flexible relations of mata, neighbour from another camp, and nimak, neighbour from the same camp. These concepts and the social organization of the Evenk in general were studied by numerous anthropologists, for example C. LÈvi-Strauss.

Many factors influenced the lifestyle and culture of the Evenk. At first, it was the colonization and conversion to christianism by the Russian Empire in the 17th century, then the communism in the 20th century, and now the economic crisis, millenarist movements, and the market economy. Despite all this, some rites, mainly hunting rituals, have endured and remain as they were described in the 18th century. The Soviet atheistic politic forbid all collective rituals, and replaced them with various folklorized celebrations. Nowadays, the Evenk re-invest those celebrations, and some of their intellectuals try to re-establish the ancient rituals in a ìreturn to the traditionsî movement.

The greatest part of the Evenk collections in French museums (MusÈe du Quai Branly in Paris, MusÈe des Confluences in Lyon, MusÈe díEthnographie of Bordeaux II University) comes from the StanovoÔ Mountains. They were collected by Joseph Martin between 1877 and 1887. Most of the objects currently shown in the Evenk file come from these collections.

Author(s): A. Lavrillier
Date created: 2003-06-04 - Date modified: 2004-04-14

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3D Object(s):

Evenk round dance (0MB)

The winner of the <i>uktevun</i> reindeer race

Autochtonous populations of Siberia

Evenk baby

Evenk shaman

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(please leave your comments for this article in the form provided below or reply to a comment)

yves, 18/05/2004
what is the difference between evenk and even ,
keldrx, 18/05/2004
the even are very similar to the evenk, but they are more tundra-oriented, and extended pastoralism tends to be more important to them than hunting

odayla, 18/05/2004
could we now more about Joseph Martin ?
necep, 27/05/2004
an article about Joseph Martin and its collections in three different French Museum should be put online soon
Peni, 03/03/2007
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inside, 18/03/2007
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inside, 19/03/2007
Very interesting website. Keep up the outstanding work and thank you...
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Anatoliy, 18/04/2007
thank you, excellent site!

Tristian, 17/06/2007
You have a very nice site and good guestbook, thank you.

nrlokomotivesd, 14/08/2007
hello! nice site, I like it!

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