Ulchi (Russia)

The number of Ulchi living on the banks of the Amur River is small, only slightly more than 2 700 people (2010), but they have very interesting traditions.

Source of Existence for Ulchi

Fishing is the main source of welfare for Ulchi. They learned to fish all year round: in winter under the ice. Every Ulchi family reserves a particular spot for fishing. But to get permission from the neighboring family to fish in their spot was not difficult: everyone knew that in the North you will not survive without mutual help.

Ulchi always catchonly the amount of fish that is needed to feed the family.

Taiga also provided some help for Ulchi in the form of some animals. A catch was always shared between all members of the community.

Fishing and hunting were reserved exclusively for men. Women were raising children, doing household chores, milling fish, deer, and seal skins and made from them clothes and shoes. Men in their spare time carved on bone and wood.

And this is where the traditional cuisine of Ulchi came from: all kinds of fish dishes and dishes made of meat of wild animals. If you are invited to the table, it would be very upsetting for Ulchi if you refused.

Development by Russians of Far East brought change to the traditional life of Ulchi. Ulchi became involved in gardening, started getting one-off or permanent jobs, and began producing fish not only to eat but also for sale.

Ulchi Beliefs

A scope of Ulchi beliefs is quite wide. Along with the common in the Russian Far East traditional shamanism they also have a cult of ancestors, and family and fishing cults. Ulchi always bring offerings to the spirits of heaven, taiga and water otherwise there won’t be successful fishing; in these ritesshamans do not participate.

Christian missionary work, which was carried out at the Ulchi places of residences about 150 years ago brought almost no significant changes.


The birth of twins was a serious event, a sign of good luck in Ulchi life. Twins were appreciated and revered.

Ulchi Lineages

All Ulchi belong to a particular lineage. Patriarchs of each Ulchi lineage had quite serious rights. They could provide a strong support to the needy. Without the consent of the ancestral patriarch you could not marry. Moreover, in contrast to the European traditions, as part of which people preserved the “purity of race”, Ulchi saw to it that the marriage was made only with a different lineage.

Several lineages of Ulchi formed a community that solved controversial issues inside the settlement.

Ulchi Dwellings

Ulchi lived in houses with gable roofs, but without floors or ceilings. Sometimes 2-3 Ulchi familieslived in the same house. Such a house was heated by fireplaces on two sides. Or there could even be more fireplaces – one for each of the families that lived in the house. The house also had a low platform for feeding dogs. During the summer Ulchi moved to bark covered houses, and during fishing away from home they built huts.

The Ulchi language contains relics of ancient Altaic vocabulary which suggests that Ulchi are ancient inhabitants of the Amur Region.


To discover Russia with Alexey Gureev

The photo from “The Russians on the Amur” (1861)

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