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Evenki National Region: Encyclopedia Arctica 10: Soviet North, Geography and General
Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962

Evenki National Region


(Eugene Golomshtok)

The Evenki National Region, organized in 1930, is situated in the north–
ern part of central Siberia between 60° and 69° North latitude and 90° and 106°
East longitude. It comprises an area of 627,000 square kilometers.
The terrain is mountainous, covered with taiga, and includes the basins of
two tributaries of the Yenisei: the Podkamennaya Tunguska and the Lower Tunguska
rivers. About one quarter of its territory is above the polare circle.
The rivers running through this mountainous terrain have numerous rapids
and, in the spring, the breaking of the ice creates ice jams which raise the
river levels by 15 to 20 meters.
The Lower Tunguska runs for nearly 1,200 kilometers within the confines
of the region. It is 200 to 300 meters wide in its upper course for about 400
kilometers, and 250 to 600 meters wide in the rest of its length, where it is
navigable in the summer. It is ice-covered for about 210 days during the year,
and is fed by numerous tributaries.
The Podkamennaya Tunguska or Khatanga, runs for 1,800 kilometers with an
average width in the upper course of 150 to 200 meters. In its lower course
it crosses mountains and narrows, forming many rapids which make navigation
difficult. It is ice-covered for 190 to 200 days, and is fed by numerous tribu–
The region abounds in lakes, most of which are no more than 2 or 3 kilometers
in diameter. They are rich in fish. The largest of these in Lake Ogata which

EA-U.S.S.R. Golomshtok: Evenki National Region

is 2 to 3 kilometers wide and more than 100 kilometers long.
The climate is extremely continental, characterized by clear, very severe
winters with little snow, and fairly dry and hot summers. In Tura the mean
yearly temperature is minus 9.6° C., reaching minus 53° in January and plus
30° Centigrade in July. Precipitation is scant and only the southwestern part
has more than 350 mm. per year. The entire region is in the permafrost zone.
This, combined with poor drainage, has resulted in the formation of a large
number of marshes.
Pine forests are prevalent in the hilly region between the Angara and
the Podkamennaya Tunguska. Farther north the forests are characterized by
north Siberian larch, spruce, fix, and cedar. Northern valleys are covered
with dwarf birch and wild rosemary, small willows, etc.
The fauna of the region consists of the typical northern forest and tundra
species. Industrially important fur-bearing animals include the arctic fox,
kolinaky, ermine, fox, sable, hare, wolf, wild reindeer, elk, and kabarga-deer.
Varieties of ducks are plentiful in the north, where several species of geese,
awans, and wild hens are also found.
Salmon are plentiful in all the tributaries of the Yenisei. Pike, perch,
and carp are the Siberian species which provide the remainder of the fishing
Geological study of the region shows that this area forms a part of the
Central Siberian Plateau, and is composed of two geological complexes, in which
many valuable minerals are found. The most important of those are: coal, of
various types and quantities, found in some 15 localities; graphite, found in
seven localities; zinc, magnetite and lead, the value of which has not as yet
been determined. Some salt and semiprecious stones have also been found.

EA-U.S.S.R. Golomshtok: Evenki National Region

Coal is the most important mineral deposit, and the Tunguska basin is
estimated to contain 750 million tons. Another important source of energy is
the forests with a potential yearly output of 8 to 10 million cubic meters of
fuel wood. There is also an unestimated amount of hydroelectric power to be
gained if the numerous rivers are harnessed.
The Evenki National Region is divided into the [: ] imeisk area with its
center in Tura and 9 migratory soviets, the Chunsk area with Strelka as its
center and 5 migratory soviets, and the Baikitsk area with Baikitsk as a center
and 6 migratory soviets. The regional soviet consisted of 20 Evenki, 9 Russians,
and 2 Yakuts in 1931, thus providing a measure of self government for the native
population and some participation in national policy.
The area is sparsely inhabited, with an estimated population of 4,932 (1931).
Of these, the Evenki constitute 81% of the total. The bulk of the population
is concentrated in the area of the Podkamennaya Tunguska, and the number gradually
decreases northward. (Figures for 1939 indicate a population of 10,000 for the
Evenki Region.)
Occupation and Resources
Both the Evenki and the Yakuts lead nomadic lives. Hunting, reindeer breed–
ing, and fishing are their chief means of subsistence, supplemented for a certain
portion of the population by transportation of goods on reindeer, and to a very
small degree by some crafts (making sleighs and clothing).
The nomadic season differs for the various regions. Thus, the population
of the Podkamennaya Tunguska area gather near the trading posts in October and
wander to the upper reaches of some rivers, hunting squirrels until late December

EA-U.S.S.R. Golomshtok: Evenki National Region

or early January, returning to the trading points where they remain sedentary
until February, when the second hunting season starts. During the summer they
are much more stationary and spend the i r time fishing in the upper reaches of
the rivers and grazing their hords on these higher levels where insects are less
Their wanderings are dictated by the necessity of finding pastures for their
herds, fishing, and hunting squirrels. In two southern regions their movements
depend on the abundance of game in the winter and the richness of pastures for
their reindeer herds in the summer. In the north they base their economy on
fishing, and lead a semisedentary life; they start from the shores of lakes that
are abundant in fish and go on hunting expeditions, after which they return to
these lakes and fish again.
Family hunting territories are inherited, and their ownership is symbolized
by the permanent traps which are set there by the owners.
Hunting fur-bearing animals and birds is the main occupation of the Evenki,
and the most abundant animal in the region is the squirrel. In 1932 more than
half a million of these animals were killed. The second greatest catch that year was
in ermine and there was a great drop in the number compared to the number of squirrels.
The figures for 1932 were: 1,835 ermine, 685 wild reindeer, 567 elk, and 177 fox.
The yearly monetary rewards were between 6,000 and 8,000 rubles.
Squirrels are hunted with guns, although the types used are now old and
ineffective. The results of hunting would be substantially increased if better
guns were supplied. Snares and traps are used to hunt the other fur-bearing an–
imals, which are more shy and difficult to approach. Dogs are used in hunting.
Reindeer are used chiefly for transportation, either as saddle animals or
for drawing sleighs. The total number of reindeer in this area, although gradually

EA-U.S.S.R. Golomshtok: Evenki National Region

increasing, is comparatively small. In 1932 the herd was estimated to contain
65,800 head, an increase of almost 300% over the figure estimated for 1926. The
bulk of the reindeer are concentrated in the herds of a few wealthy persons. The
large herds are driven to winter pastures where they are allowed to graze in
groups of 100 to 400 head, under the supervision of herdsmen. Toward spring the
herds are allowed to roam, and they seek higher places. During the summer and
fall they are allowed complete freedom and the herdsmen do not supervise their
actions at all. Small herds are supervised at all times. The former high mortal–
ity of the herds has been somewhat checked, leading to an increase in the herds.
The reindeer still suffer from numerous diseases, especially hoof disease
Reindeer meat and milk are eaten, and the skins, horns, and ligaments are
used as material for dress and household objects.
Fishing has a subordinate position everywhere in the region, though as a
rule it increases in importance with the decline of hunting. The rivers of the
region are not especially rich in fish. Fish is the basic food of the poor,
and its total production in 1931 was estimated between 65,000 and 100,000 kg.
Coal deposits of the area are estimated at 75,000,000,000 tons. Obruchev
believed that the amount of coal in this area exceeded that of the Don Basin
coal region. Coal of all types is found. Bugarekta on the Lower Tunguska, 218
km. from its mouth and 548 km. from Igarka, is one of the main coal areas. Up
to the present, coal production has been limited by the lack of proper trans–
portation facilities.
Graphite is found in Noginsk, 218 km. from the mouth of the lower Tunguska.
It is of very fine quality and the deposits are estimated at two million tons.
It is mined in large blocks, both for export abroad and for processing in the
Ural or Igarka factories. It is also used as one of the important ingredients

EA-U.S.S.R. Golomshtok: Evenki National Region

in the manufacture of fireproof pottery.
The salt industry is confined to extraction of this mineral from the salt
springs in one factory with a capacity of 100 tons per year.
The considerable lumber resources of the region are concentrated along the
water basins of the two main rivers and consist of: 51% Siberian larch, 31% pine,
12% cedar, and 6% others. In spite of the current output of about 900,000 cubic
meters of lumber, the lumber processing industry is poorly developed, partly due
to the lack of transportation facilities other than the rivers.
Agriculture under the existing climatic conditions is restricted by the
short period of the year free from frost (average 87 days), and is practiced
only by the Russian settlers along the river valleys. They raise some potatoes,
radishes, beans, etc., both in open gardens and in hothouses. Of late horse and
cattle breeding have been introduced and can be greatly increased because of
the abundance of pasture land.
There is no railway in the region, and the main artery of communication
between this region and the outside world is the Yenisei River which connects
it with the Trans-Siberian railway. The sea-going steamers of the northern route
can enter the river and carry freight up to 100,000 tonsyyearly.
The Lower Tunguska is navigable for 1,288 kilometers, though rapids and
whirlpools constitute obstacles at some places. The Podkamennaya Tunguska has
numerous obstacles and is fully navigable only for its last 260 kilometers, while
in the upper part barges must be pulled by men on the shore. Several tributaries
of both rivers are navigable. A considerable amount of freight is carried on
rafts. Water transport is possible for only four months during the year. The
remainder of the time, reindeer and horse-drawn sleighs are used. Airplanes have

EA-U.S.S.R. Golomshtok: Evenki National Region

come into use during recent years. There are two or three radio stations in
the region in Tura, Negids, and Baikit.
The socialization of the region, since the revolution, has resulted in the
establishment of a hunting station which facilitates methods of both hunting
and disposal of furs. A number of hunting cooperatives, reindeer collective
farms, fishing and craft cooperatives have also been established.
The main cultural center is the administrative center of the Tura region.
The cultural base there includes a school with a dormitory, a hospital, a vet–
erinary clinic, a bacteriological laboratory, meteorological station, museum,
a motion picture theatre, and a radio station which sends and receives broadcasts.
In 1933 there were nine schools with 280 native students, and in 1939 the
number of schools had increased to a point where they reached all who cared to
attend. Some Evenki students were sent to the Institute of Northern Tribes in
Leningrad for further study.
The region now has several hospitals and a medical center.

Bazarov, A. G. and Kazansky, N. G. The School in the Far North . Leningrad, 1939.

Berg, L. S. The Geographical Zones of the Soviet Union . Moscow, 1947.

Encyclopedic Dictionary of Brokhaus and Efron.

Lamont, Corliss The Peoples of the Soviet Union . New York, 1944.

Large Soviet Encyclopedia.
Leonov, V. I. The Native Soviets in Taiga and Tundra . Soviet North, 1929.

Kostrov, K. N. The Yenisei Tungus . Moscow, 1855.

Kurilovich, A. P. and Naumov, N. P. The Soviet Tungusia . Leningrad, 1934.

Eugene A. Golomshtok
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