The Eastern Arctic Seas Encyclopedia

2016 Edition
| Editors: Igor S. Zonn, Andrey G. Kostianoy, Aleksandr V. Semenov


Reference work entry

Chukchi – people in the Russian Federation (15,900 in 2010), the indigenous population of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug (12,800). They also live in the north of the Koryak Autonomous Okrug (1,500) and in the Lower Kolyma Region of Yakutia (1,300). They speak the Chukchi of the Chukchi-Kamchatka family. They also speak Russian.

The Chukchi were divided into the deer Chukchi, tundra reindeer-herding Chukchi, and seaside (coastal) Chukchi, sedentary hunters who hunted sea animals living near the Eskimos. The ancestors of the Chukchi and their relative Koryak people lived in the interior of Chukotka. They were engaged in hunting reindeer and were relatively sedentary. The first mention in the Chukchi Russian documents dates from the 1640s of the seventeenth century. In 1897, the number of Chukchi was approx. 12,000. In 1930, the Chukotka National District was formed and since 1980 – the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug.

The main occupation of tundra Chukchi is nomadic herding. They use reindeer as sled animals.

The basis of employment and food for coastal Chukchi is aboriginal whaling and hunting other marine mammals: in winter and spring, it is the seal; in summer and autumn, it is the walrus and the whale.

Traditional crafts include fur tanning, weaving bags of fireweed and wild rye in women, treatment of bone in men, advanced carving and bone and walrus tusks engraving, and, application of fur and sealskin, deer hair embroidery. The art center for bone carving was the village Uelen (established in 1931). Most modern Chukchi preserve traditional occupations like the reindeer herding and fishing farms. Some are engaged in cattle breeding and greenhouse vegetable production, the service sector, education, and health. Family of reindeer herders live in settled villages; there are aggregated settlements of coastal Chukchi.

Traditional clothing is made from the skins of deer and seals.

The main food of deer Chukchi is venison and of the coastal Chukchi – the meat of sea animals (walrus).

Chukchi preserved pre-Christian beliefs (worship of animals, polar bears, whales, walruses, etc.; sacred objects, amulets, tambourines, a device for making fire; shamanism).

Writing was developed in 1931 on the basis of Latin and since 1936 – on the basis of the Russian alphabet. Since 1990s the Association of the Chukchi peoples of Chukotka is reviving the traditional culture of the Chukchi.

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016