Nenets People (Russia)

The main population of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug in Russia – are Nenets people with ancient roots.

The history of this northern nation began back before Christ. Definitively, the ethnicity was formed by the 19th century.

In the 20th century the Soviet government tried to actively change the patriarchal lifestyle of the Nenets people. Still, Nenets managed to preserve their traditions.

Deer – The Holy Animal of Nenets

Nenets are nomadic deer herders. Deer gives them food, clothing, housing, and even medicine. Deer is the most reliable transportation in the North.

White deer are considered sacred. They are guarded and relieved from any work. Horns and ears of white deer are decorated with red ribbons.

Nenets tent does not stand in one place for more than ten days in the summer and a couple of days in the winter. Otherwise, it is impossible to feed large herds. Migrations amaze by their scale:

Naming a Child is a Serious Matter

A newborn in Nenets family got the name only after the umbilical cord fell off. A baby could only be named by the most respected woman in the family: a grandmother, an aunt, or a midwife. But first the child and its mother had to take a rite of purification.

Newborn received two names. “Open”name was known by everyone, but a “closed” one was known only by close relatives. Nenets traditional names reflect the peculiarities of a child’s birth or his purpose in life.

Respected People are not Called by Name

As they get older,the names of Nenets become taboo. You can’t call an adult by his name, it’s considered rude. That is why, when growing up, almost all of them take up as a kind of “alias” some Russian name.

Christianity: Nenets Style

Nenets originally worshiped the spirits. Eventually Nenets embraced Christianity rather quickly. But with some peculiarities: Orthodox icons have taken their place among pagan idols.

Don’t Trust “White People”

The Nenets people always feared outsiders. Perhaps that is what saved them from assimilation. Nomadic lifestyle and isolation allowed them to preserve their national language.

The Nenets appreciate the benefits of modern civilization, including medicine and education, but they carefully guard their traditions and lifestyle.


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