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Indigenous Peoples of the Russian North – Nanais – are Still Holding Their Own

In the basin of the Amur River in the Khabarovsk region, ancient people live – the Nanai.

Besides the Amur River basin, Nanais also live in Primorye region and on Sakhalin. With the establishment of the Soviet power there was an outflow of Nanais to neighboring China. Shamans were fleeing from persecution by commissioners and the whole villages followed them.

Nanai’s idols

Nanai’s idols

But improved living conditions of the Nanai in the Soviet period had its benefits: currently their population has increased several times as compared with the first quarter of the 20thcentury.

Only Old People Know the Native Language

Over the past century Nanaian writing was created. However, the preservation of the language has its difficulties. Nowonly the older generation speaks the native Nanai language.

Nanais can read in their native language. Their children study using the textbooks written in their native language. But most of Nanais prefer speaking Russian.

Traditional Clothing from Fish Skin

The main occupation of Nanais was fishing. It got reflected in national clothing. Nanais learned to manipulate fish skin and make clothing from it.

Simple casual clothes were made from the skin of catfish or chum salmon. And for making festive clothing they used skins of pike or carp. The clothing was adorned with embroidery of hemp or nettles. An embroidered ornament is a story about the status of its owner.

Master Fishermen

For each species of fish, fishing season or place Nanais came up with special gear and catching methods. Nets, traps, hooks, various fish forks–it’s only a part of their extensive fishing equipment.

Skillful Craftsmen

Nanai women are known for their talents of handling the fish skin, birch bark and fur.

Nanais are skilled wood carvers. Wooden utensils, doors and windows were decorated with carvings.

Revival of Traditions

Many Nanais today live in cities, but they still do not abandon old traditions. In recent years, old crafts are being revived.

Nanai dance:

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To discover Russia with Alexey Gureev

фото-Павел Годин / Фотобанк Лори

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