The Dolgans are a sparse population. They live in the south and east of the Taymyr (Dolgan-Nenets) Autonomous Okrug of Krasnoyarsk Kray, mainly in the Khatanga District but also in Dudinka District, with a small number in the Anabar District of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). On the Taymyr peninsula, they are the most numerous ethnic group (about 10% of the total population). In the 1989 (most recent) Soviet census, the total population of Dolgans within the Russian Federation was 6584, of whom 731 lived in the Sakha Republic. Novorybnoye is the largest Dolgan settlement.

Dolgans are one of the most recent Siberian ethnic groups, and originated from the influence of many component groups that moved into the Taymyr region from the 17th century onward. They speak a specific dialect of the Yakut language (part of the Turkic language family), differentiated by the presence of Evenki words. The degree of difference of the Dolgan dialect from the Yakut dialect decreases westward from Yakutia. The native language is taught in schools. There is no Dolgan orthography; instead, the Cyrillic script is used.

The formation of the Dolgans as an independent ethnic group occurred at the beginning of the 20th century. There are four subgroups of Dolgans from four tribal clans of Tungus origin: the Dolgan proper, Edzhen, Karanto, and Dongot. From the 19th to the beginning of the 20th centuries, these clans were joined by families of Yakut, Enets, Nenets, Russian Old Settlers of Taymyr, and so-called tundra peasants.

The Dolgan clan called themselves Dulgaan, a name that spread to all Dolgans in the 19th century. Many Dolgans, however, called themselves by the name of the clan to which they belonged: Edzhen, Karuntuo, and Dongot. In the district of Noril'sk, some Dolgans called themselves "toakihilar" (in Yakut "people of the wood"). Sometimes Dolgans called themselves Tungus, but separated themselves from local Evenki of the Taymyr and Evenk okrugs. They did not consider themselves as Yakuts and differentiated themselves ethnographically from the latter.

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