Evens

The Evens (Lamut) are one of the indigenous peoples of the Russian North, and are closely related to the Evenki. Before the 1930s, they were not distinguished as an independent ethnic group, being thought of as a

Elderly Even woman holding a traditional wooden calendar, Chukotka, Russia.

Copyright Bryan and Cherry Alexander Photography

Elderly Even woman holding a traditional wooden calendar, Chukotka, Russia.

Copyright Bryan and Cherry Alexander Photography territorial subgroup of the Evenki. There are 17,200 Evens in the Russian Federation.

Evens live in small groups across a large area from Khabarovsk Kray, Magadan Oblast', Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, and the Sakha Republic (Yakutia). Yakutia is one of the largest concentrations of the Evens in the North, with over 8000 Evens in the Sakha Republic (in Ust-Yanskiy, Oimakonskiy, Nizhnekolymskiy, Srednekolymskiy, Verkhnekolymsky, Tomponsky, Momsky, Allaikhovsky, and Verkhneyansky uluses). The Even language, which is spoken by only about 7000 of the Even people, belongs to the Tungus branch of the Tungusic-Manchurian languages. Isolation of some Even groups led to different dialects within the Even language. Today there are about 20 dialects known, consolidated into eastern, middle, and western groups. The Evens have many similarities in terms of language and culture with the Evenki.

The origin of the Evens, like the Evenki, is connected with the Tungus tribes, who probably originated from the Lake Baikal area. According to historical data, the Tungus nation, including Evens, had their own independent state, Bokhai, from the 7th century to about AD 926. This state, in scientists' opinions and judging by names of the Even families and ancient geographic names of Even origin, was situated in the area of the present northern part of Khabarovsk Kray, not far from the coast. The state had a highly developed culture, with their own alphabet. After Bokhai's collapse following attacks from other tribes, the Tungus tribes were forced to the north of Russia. The Tungus lost important aspects of their culture, such as iron working and tool use, commodity-money relations, and efficient social stratification of the society.

By the 11th to 12th centuries, Even had begun to settle in the Indigirka and Kolyma river basins, gradually moving downstream to the Arctic Ocean. By the time of contact with the Russians (mid-17th century), the Even had migrated to the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk and to the west from it, in spurs of the Verkhoyansk Range, Kolyma, Indigirka, and Omolon basins. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, they moved to the northern part of the Okhotsk coast and to Kamchatka. As the Even spread, they came into contact with many different groups, and assimilated with Yukagirs and Koryak.

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