Learn more about Nenets people
|Regions with significant populations||Russia|
|Religion|| Russian Orthodox, Shamanism <tr>
<th style="background-color:#fee8ab;">Related ethnic groups</th> <td style="background-color:#fff6d9;">other Samoyedic peoples</td>
The Nenets people (Russian name: Ненцы - IPA: [nʲɛntsɨ](plural)) are an indigenous people in Russia. According to the latest census in 2002, there are 41,302 Nenets in the Russian Federation. They speak the Nenets language.
Sometimes the name is spelled as Nenet, probably because of the erroneous assumption that the terminal 's' is for the plural number.
The term "Samoyedic peoples" applies to the whole group of different peoples. It is the general term which includes Nenets, Enets people, Selkup people and Nganasan people. Nenets are just a part of the Samoyedic peoples.
There are two distinct groups based on their economy: the Tundra Nenets (living far to the north) and the Khandeyar or Forest Nenets. The third group Kominized Nenets (Yaran people) has emerged as a result of intermarriages between Nenets and the Izhma tribe of the Komi peoples. Some believe that they split apart from the Finno-Ugric speaking groups around 3000 BCE and migrated east where they mixed with Turkic and Altaic speaking peoples around 200 BCE. Those who remained in Europe came under Russian control around 1200 CE but those who lived further east did not come in contact until 14th century. In the early 17th century, all Nenets were under Russian control. The Samoyedic languages form a minor branch of the Uralic language family, the major branch being the Finno-Ugric languages. It is of major importance for the basic comparison between the Uralic and Finno-Ugric languages. Another consideration is that they moved (probably from farther south in Siberia) to the northernmost part of what later became Russia before the 12th century.
They ended up between the Kanin and Taymyr peninsulas, around the Ob and Yenisey rivers, with some of them settling into small communities and taking up farming, while others continued hunting and reindeer herding, travelling great distances over the Kanin peninsula. They bred the Samoyed dog to help herd their reindeer and pull their sleds, and European explorers later used those dogs for polar expeditions, because they have adapted so well to the arctic conditions. Fish was also a major component of their diet.
In Russian ethnographic literature of 19th century the Nenets were also called "Самоядь", "Самодь", (samoyad', samod', samodijtsy, samodijskie narody) which was often transliterated into English as Samodi. The name Samoyed quickly went out of usage in the 20th century, and the people now bear the name of Nenets, which means "man" in the Nenets language. When reading old Russian documents it is necessary to keep in mind that the term samoyed' was often applied indiscriminately to different peoples of Northern Siberia who speak different Uralic languages: Nenets, Nganasans, Enets, Selkups (speakers of Samoyedic languages).
After the Russian Revolution, their culture suffered due to Soviet collectivisation policy. The government of the Soviet Union tried to force the nomad Samoyeds to settle down, and most of them became assimilated. They were forced to settle on permanent farms and their children were educated in state boarding schools, leading to an erosion of their cultural heritage. Environmental damage due to the industrialisation of their land and overgrazing of the tundra migration routes in some regions (Yamal Peninsula) have further endangered their way of life.
 Samoyedes of Imperial Russia
The section is based on the text from 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica
The people may be subdivided into three main groups:
(a) The Yuraks in the coast-region from the Yenisei to the White Sea; (b) the Tavghi Samoyedes, between the Yenisei and the Khatanga; (c) the Ostiak Samoyedes, intermingled with Ostiaks, to the south of the others, in the forest regions of Tobolsk and Yeniseisk. Their whole number may be estimated at from 20,000 to 25,000. The so-called Samoyedes inhabiting the S of the governments of Tomsk and Yeniseisk have been much under Tatar influence and appear to be of a different stock; their sub-groups are the Kamasin Tatars, the Kaibals, the Mators (aka "Motors"), the Beltirs, the Karagasses and the Samoyedes of the middle Ob.
The proper place of the Samoyedes among the Ural-Altaians is very difficult to determine. The names assumed by the Samoyedes themselves are Hazovo and Nyanyäz (Nenets). The Ostiaks know them under the names of Orghoy, or Workho, both of which recall the Ugrians; the name of Hui is also in use among the Ostiaks (Khants), and that of Yaron among the Syrgenians.
It is probable that formerly the Samoyedes occupied the Altay Mountains, whence they were driven north by Turco-Tatars. Thus, the Kaibals left the Sayan mountains and took possession of the Abakan steppe (Minusinsk region), abandoned by the Kirghizes, in the earlier years of last century, and in northeast Russia the Zyrians (Komi peoples) are still driving the Samoyedes farther north, towards the Arctic coast. Since the researches of Schrenk it may be regarded as settled that in historical times the Samoyedes were inhabitants of the so-called Ugria in the northern Urals, while Radlov considers that the numberless graves containing remains of the Bronze Age which are scattered throughout West Siberia, on the Altay, and on the Yenisei in the Minusinsk region, are relics of Ugro-Samoyedes. According to his views this nation, very numerous at that epoch - which preceded the Iron Age civilization of the Turco-Tatars, - were pretty well acquainted with mining; the remains of their mines, sometimes 50 ft. deep, and of the furnaces where they melted copper, tin and gold, are very numerous; their weapons of a hard bronze, their pots (one of which weighs 75 lb), and their melted and polished bronze and golden decorations testify to a high development of artistic feeling and industrial skill, strangely contrasting with the low level reached by their earthenware. They were not nomads, but husbandmen, and their irrigation canals are still to be seen. They kept horses (in small numbers), sheep and goats, but no traces of their rearing horned cattle have yet been found. The Turkish invasion of southern Siberia, which took place in the 5th century, drove them farther north, and probably reduced most of them to slavery.
The Samoyedes, who now maintain themselves by hunting and fishing on the lower Ob, partly mixed in the south with Ostiaks (Khants), recall the condition of the inhabitants of France and Germany at the epoch of the reindeer. Clothed in skins, like the troglodytes of the Weser, they make use of the same implements in bone and stone, eat carnivorous animals - the wolf included - and cherish the same superstitions (of which those regarding the teeth of the bear are perhaps the most characteristic) as were current among the Stone Age inhabitants of western Europe. Their heaps of reindeer horns and skulls - memorials of religious ceremonies - are exactly similar to those dating from the similar period of civilization in northern Germany. Their huts often resemble the well-known stone huts of the Eskimo; their graves are mere boxes left in the tundra. The religion is fetishism mixed with Shamanism, the shaman (tadji-bei) being a representative of the great divinity, the Num. The Yamal Peninsula, where they find great facilities for hunting, is especially venerated by the Ob Ostiak Samoyedes, and there they have one of their chief idols, Khese. They are more independent than the Ostiaks, less yielding in character, although as hospitable as their neighbours. They are said to be disappearing owing to the use of ardent spirits and the prevalence of smallpox. They still maintain the high standard of honesty mentioned by historical documents, and never will take anything left in the tundra or about the houses by their neighbours. The Yurak Samoyedes are courageous and warlike; they offered armed resistance to the Russian invaders, and it is only since the beginning of the century that they have paid tribute. The exact number of the Ostiak Samoyedes is not known; the Tavghi Samoyedes may number about 1000, and the Yuraks, mixed with the former, are estimated at 6000 in Obdorsk (about 150 settled), 5000 in European Russia in the tundras of the Mezefl, and about 350 in Yeniseisk.
Of the Samoyedes, who are completely Tatarized, the Beltirs live by agriculture and cattle-breeding in the Abakan steppe. They profess Christianity, and speak a language closely resembling that of the Sagai Tatars. The Kaibals, or Koibals, can hardly be distinguished from the Minusinsk Tatars, and support themselves by rearing cattle. Castrén considers that three of their stems are of Ostiak origin, the remainder being Samoyedic. The Kamasins, in the Kama district of Yeniseisk, are either herdsmen or agriculturists. They speak a language with an admixture of Tatar words, and some of their stems contain a large Tatar clement. The interesting nomadic tribe of Karagasses, in the Sayan Mountains, is disappearing; the few representatives are rapidly losing their anthropological features, their Turkish language and their distinctive dress. The Mators are now little more than a memory. One portion of the tribe emigrated to China and was there exterminated ; the remainder have disappeared among the Tuba Tatars and the Soyotes. The Samoyedes on the Ob in Tomsk may number about 1000; they have adopted the Russian manner of life, but have difficulty in carrying on agriculture, and are a poverty-stricken population with little prospect of holding their own.
 Famous Nentsy
 See also
- The works of M. A. Castrén are still of authority on the Samoyedes. See Grammatik der samojedischen Sprachen (1854); Wörterverzeichnisse aus den samojedischen Sprachen (1855); Ethnologische Vorlesungen über die altaischen Völker (1857); Versuch der koibalischen und karagassischen Sprachlehre (1857).
- A. Middendorf, Reise in den düstersten Norden und Osten Sibiriens. (1875).
- Janhunen, Juha: Glottal stop in Nenets. - Helsinki : Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura, 1986. - 202 p. - (Suomalais-Ugrilaisen Seuran toimituksia ; 196). - ISBN 951-9403-03-5
- Salminen, Tapani: Tundra Nenets inflection. - Helsinki : Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura, 1997. - 154 S. - (Suomalais-Ugrilaisen Seuran toimituksia ; 227). - ISBN 952-5150-02-X
- Sammallahti, Pekka: Material from Forest Nenets. - Helsinki, 1974. - 140 p. - (Castrenianumin Toimitteita ; 2). - ISBN 951-45-0282-5
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
 External links
- UNESCO Red Book on endangered languages: Northeast Asia
- Endangered Uralic Peoples
- Jarkko Niemi: The types of the Nenets songs. 1997
- Minority languages of Russia on the Net
- The Red Book of the peoples of the Russian Empire
- Historic-demographic note on the Nenets of the Komi Republicde:Nenzen