Archaeological evidence suggests a human presence on the Chukotka peninsula before the disappearance of the Bering land bridge, which subsided 10,000 years ago, with finds dating to 70,000-50,000 BC. However, remains of the first known coastal marine mammal hunting cultures date to roughly 1400 BC. Inland Chukchi, Yukagir, Koryak, and Even moved to reindeer husbandry from subsistence hunting slightly later, possibly in the first or second centuries AD (Dikov, 1989).

Semyon Dezhnev, a Cossack explorer, reached Chukotka by ship in 1648 and established a small fort on the upper Anadyr River, in the territory of the Chuwan Yukagir. By the early 18th century, however, the hostility of the inland and coastal Chukchi further east and the indifference of the Russian state had driven the European presence out of the region. The Chukchi expanded their territory and herds to fill the vacuum left by the Cossack invasions and subsequent retreat, and only in the late 19th century did Russian missionaries and traders return to Chukotka. Meanwhile, along the Arctic and Bering seas, American whalers and traders established relationships with the Yupik and Chukchi, which by the turn of the century threatened the sovereignty of the Russian state, in its own estimation.

Communist control was established in Chukotka's settlements by 1923, although until 1950 the European population was a small minority and the first efforts at collectivization began only in 1941. Only in 1955 were all Chukotka's indigenous peoples fully institutionalized in collective farms; many Chukchi herders violently resisted the collectivization of reindeer herds and were suppressed by NKVD (secret police) troops.

The Soviet industrialization of Chukotka occurred in roughly two phases: by forced labor until 1956 and by voluntary labor thereafter. Prisoners of the gulag system were used to mine uranium, tin, tungsten, and gold, and to build the port towns of Egvekinot and Pevek. After Stalin's death in 1953, Soviet authorities were compelled to offer an array of "northern benefits" to attract voluntary labor to Chukotka's harsh conditions: high pay, long holidays, early retirement and, with time, better living conditions in northern towns than in central Russia. Chukotka, then part of Magadan Oblast', produced tin, tungsten, gold, and fish for the Soviet economy, although it is doubtful that the region contributed more wealth than was invested in the effort to settle and industrialize it. Chukotka, Alaska's neighbor, was also a strategic outpost during the Cold War and heavily militarized.

The indigenous population was both subject to policies of "enlightenment" and an adjunct to the industrialization effort, supplying settlers with meat and fish. In the postwar period, Soviet authorities implemented a series of "rationalizing" measures, including amalgamating traditional settlements into larger towns and forcing nomadic herders to settle, creating large state agricultural enterprises (sovkhozy) and institutionalizing native children in residential homes.

In 1991, Alexander Nazarov was appointed the head of Chukotka's administration, and he engineered the secession of the Chukchi Autonomous Okrug from Magadan in June 1992. Nazarov claimed that Magadan stifled the development of the okrug by monopolizing revenues, especially those from gold mining. However, Chukotka proved particularly vulnerable to Russia's collapse, and the 1990s witnessed an exodus of skilled labor from the okrug, the failure of shipping deliveries upon which Chukotka's isolated communities relied, and the liquidation of state enterprises. Poor governance compounded Chukotka's crisis. Federal loans to renew Chukotka's gold-mining sector disappeared and the Nazarov administration introduced a virtual barter economy, withholding budget funds disbursed by Moscow. By the late 1990s, Chukotka was suffering a major humanitarian disaster, with starvation in the settlements, high suicide rates, and epidemic alcoholism, while the administration supported a professional football team in Moscow. Meanwhile, access to the okrug for Russians and foreigners alike was strictly controlled, and independent organizations, many based within the indigenous community, were harassed and controlled by state structures.

Roman Abramovich, a Moscow oil magnate who became Chukotka's Federal Duma representative, in 1999, won gubernatorial elections in December 2000 in a landslide victory against Nazarov. His administration promised to repair the damage inflicted on Chukotkans and "return a normal life" to the okrug. Abramovich's companies have invested heavily in infrastructure, and support virtually the entire okrug budget. He has financed the departure of many long-term residents trapped in Chukotka during the crisis. His rural development programs aim to resurrect the traditional indigenous economy by returning to the Soviet sovkhoz model, while almost completely rebuilding indigenous settlements. The administration is also trying to create sources of revenue within the okrug, and secured the first major foreign investment in late 2002 from a Canadian gold-mining company. The okrug's long-term economic future is not secure, however; Abramovich has promised not to run for a second term in 2004 and he warns that without his own charity, the okrug remains insolvent and a hostage to future federal subsidies. Consequently, reunification with former parent Magadan Oblast' is a distinct possibility.

Niobe Thompson

See also Anadyr; Bilibino; Chukchi; Chukotskoya Range; Dezhnev, Semyon; Pevek; Provideniya; Siberian (Chukotkan Yupik)

Further Reading

Baker, Peter, "An unlikely savior on the tundra: a Russian tycoon adopts abandoned Arctic region, but why?" Washington Post Foreign Service, March 2, 2001, p. A01 Bogoras, Waldemar (Bogoraz, Vladimir), 1904-9, The Chukchee, American Museum of Natural History Memoirs 11, Jesup North Pacific Expedition Publications, Volume 7, 1911

Dikov, N.N., Istoriia Chukotki, Moscow: Mysl', 1989 Forsyth, James, A History of the Peoples of Siberia: Russia's North Asian Colony 1581-1990, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992 Kertulla, Anna M., Antler on the Sea: The Yupik and Chukchi of the Russian Far East, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000 Kotov, A.N. (editor), Chukotka: prirodno-ekonomicheskii ocherk, Moscow: Art-Liteks, 1995

Krupnik, Igor & Nikolai Vakhtin, "In the 'House of Dismay': Knowledge, Culture, and Post-Soviet Politics in Chukotka, 1995-96." In People and the Land: Pathways to Reform in Post-Soviet Siberia, edited by Erich Kasten, Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 2002 Romriell, Lucas, "On the road, tycoon touts Chukotka's potential." The Russia Journal, RJ Weekly Reports, Issue 17, May 4, 2001

Stephan, John J., The Russian Far East: A History, Stanford,

California: Stanford University Press, 1994 Znamenski, Andrei A. "'Vague sense of belonging to the Russian Empire': the reindeer Chukchi's status in nineteenth century Northeastern Russia." Arctic Anthropology, 36(1-2) (1999): 19-36


The submarine Chukchi Plateau is a topographic high measuring about 600 by 700 km situated to the north of the East Siberian shelf in the Canadian Basin (see the bathymetric map in Arctic Ocean). This plateau constitutes a north-trending extension of continental crust into the ocean basin from the Chukchi continental margin with a width of 200 km. The plateau rises steeply from the deep ocean floor and has a truncated and divided peak, which has apparently been eroded by iceberg keels during Pleistocene glaciation.

The Chukchi Plateau has steep flanks of more than 1000 m, at angles of up to 45°. The highest points over the plateau are two flat ridges, the Chukchi Cap and North wind Ridge, at depths of 600 and 1800 m, respectively. The foot of the Chukchi Plateau is defined at the abyssal depths of the bordering Mendeleev Basin (3200 m deep), Chukchi Basin (2200 m), and Northwind Basin (2000 m). The relatively small (150x250 km) Chukchi Basin separates the Mendeleev and Chukchi ridges.

The Chukchi Plateau, together with the bordering Chukchi and Northwind basins, separates the Mendeleev and Northwind ridges. However, in spite of differences in their bathymetric level (up to 1000 m), the three ridges are morphologically related to the continental edge of Eurasia, and to the north of the Chukchi Basin form a connected system of crustal blocks, separated only by the narrow spur valley from the Chukchi Basin to the Mendeleev Basin.

The slopes of plateaus in the Chukchi Basin are divided by canyons, forming a radial-centripetal pattern. This is a common feature of the Mendeleev and Chukchi plateaus. On this basis, both plateaus can be considered not as isolated edge plateaus, but as a common topographic system of residual relief. This system, together with the Chukchi Basin, is the natural continuation of the continental edge into the Arctic Basin. According to seismic data, the continental shelf of the Chukchi Sea represents continental crust, the thickness of which reaches 30 km here.

The shallow bottom of the Chukchi Sea is evidently a peneplain, formed on the sunken structure that connects the Verkhoyansk-Chukchi orogenic belt with the Brooks Range in Alaska, and also with Wrangel Island and Gerald Island. This Bering-Chukchi platform or land bridge is believed to have sunk beneath sea level at the end of the Pliocene, about one million years ago.

Valery Mit'ko See also Canadian Basin; Chukchi Sea

Further Reading

Gorbatskiy, G.V., Physicogeographical-Zoning of Arctic, Volume 3, Arctic Basin, Leningrad: Leningrad University Publishing House, 1973 Gramberg, I.S. (editor), Orographic Map of Arctic Basin.

1:5000000, Helsinki: Karttaneskus, 1995 Gramberg, I.S. & G.D. Naryshkin, Peculiarities of the Arctic deep-water basin's ground. SPb, VNII Okenologiya, 2000 (in Russian)

Grantz, A., D.C. McAdoo P.E. Hart & S.D. Lewis, "Structure and origin of the Chukchi borderland, Amerasia Basin, Arctic Ocean, from seismic reflection and marine and satellite gravity data [abstr.]. EOS," 80(46) (Suppl.) (1999): 99 Miller, E.L., A. Grantz & S.L. Klemperer(editors), Tectonic Evolution of the Bering Shelf-Chukchi Sea-Arctic Margin and Adjacent Landmasses, Geological Society of America Special Paper 360, 2002 Perry, R.K., H.S. Fleming, J.R. Weber, Y. Kristofferson, J.K. Hall, A. Grantz & G.L. Johnson, Bathymetry of the Arctic Ocean; Map 1:4,704,075, Washington: Naval Research Laboratory, 1985 Sweeney J.F., J.R. Weber & S.M. Blasco, "Continental ridges in the Arctic Ocean: Lorex constraints." Tectonophysics, 89 (1982): 217-238


The Chukchi Sea is located east of the East Siberian Sea between Wrangel Island to the west and Barrow Cape in Alaska to the east; from north to south it is limited by the outer continental shelf boundary (approximately 75° latitude at the longitude of Wrangel Island and 72° near Barrow Cape). It has an area of 590,000 km2 and a volume of 45,500 km3. The sea is relatively shallow, with a wide continental shelf and an average depth of 77 m. The coastline has many small bays and gulfs.

The climate is extreme with average winter temperatures of -21°C in the south and -27°C in the north, and minimum temperatures reaching -46°C. The average temperature in July is 2°C in the north and 6°C in the south.

Arctic waters enter the Chukchi Sea through Long Strait, which divides Wrangel Island and Gerald Island from the mainland. Cold waters also enter episodically from the West Siberian Sea via Barrow Canyon.

These waters bring a lot of ice and form a cold current, which flows by the northern coast of Chukchi and enters the western part of the Bering Strait and then the Bering Sea. On the southern Chukchi Sea, Pacific waters enter via the Bering Strait (and particularly from Kotzebue Sound). These waters are relatively warm (+4°C to 12°C) with low salinity, and are the reason why Chukchi Sea remains ice-free from mid-June to October with surface waters reaching 7°C and higher. In general, the Chukchi Sea differs from the local seas by melting of its ice cover, which leads to a low salinity of the water below.

There are three main pathways for the warm water pouring into the southern part of Chukchi Sea. Most moves to the area of Barrow Cape (Alaska branch), one part goes from the Gerald Island (Gerald branch), and the other one moves to the Long Strait passing to the north of the cold Chukchi stream flowing in the opposite direction (Longa branch). Here the mix of cold and warm streams forms vortices that make the ice situation more complicated and can cause choke-points. Deep currents in the Long Strait may pass in the direction opposite to the movement of ice cover and the layer of water that lies beneath, which are influenced by local winds.

The most difficult shipping conditions are found in Long Strait, because of ice jams and complicated tides along the strait due to the half-daily tides coming from the west. Tides in the Chukchi Sea are generally small (1.15 m near Barrow Cape) and are determined by the Atlantic Ocean. The influence of the Pacific Ocean is not large because of the closeness of Bering Strait.

Choppiness is determined by the atmospheric circulation in the eastern sector of the Arctic. Northern and northwestern winds dominate in summer with average speeds of 5-6 ms-1 forming choppiness in the same direction. Sometimes southern and southeastern winds are formed in summer and autumn under the influence of the Pacific Ocean. Storms are infrequent, and can last 1-4 days per month in summer, and 7-9 days and sometimes more in November. Ice conditions are changeable. In practice, ice covers the sea during the year, although in summer southern districts can be totally free of ice.

The sea floor is mostly at a depth of 40-60 m, approaching 100 m in the northern part. It is crossed by two large canyons—Gerald and Barrow—whose depths are about 100 m. Bottom relief is generally flat, with microrelief of different types formed by different factors including bottom ice. The bottom sediment is a thin layer of loose silt, sand, and gravel, reaching 10-12 m in the eastern part. In other parts sediment is confined to small trenches. Loose sediments reach 30 m and more (up to 200 m) at the border with the Bosphor Sea.

The crustal structure is continental and part of the Bering-Chukchi platform uniting the Asian and North

American continents. According to a number of researchers, sea covered the land bridge between Siberia and Alaska during the Holocene after glaciers of the last Ice Age melted, and a modest sea level rise is still taking place. Geophysical surveys have proved that the crust of the Chukchi shelf is continental, gravitational anomalies at the shelf being slightly positive. Parallel to the Alaska coast, a zone of intense magnetic anomalies crosses the Chukchi shelf.

The North Chukchi basin has a high potential for oil and gas by analogy with Alaska's North Slope. The passive-margin sediments here are more than 8 km thick and are highly favorable for petroleum. Offshore oil exploration and exploratory drilling have been under way since the 1990s.

The Chukchi Sea differs from the other polar seas in its relative richness of flora and fauna due to the warm waters from the Bering Strait that carry large amounts of nutrients. There are walruses, ringed seals, polar bears, gray and bowhead whales, cod, and salmon. In summertime on the coast, there are ducks, geese, eider-ducks, seagulls, loons, and guillemots.

Valery Mit'ko

See also Arctic Ocean; Bering Strait; Chukchi Plateau; East Siberian Sea

Further Reading

Dobrovol'skiy, A.d. & B.S. Zalogin, Seas of the USSR,

Moscow: Moscow University, 1982, p. 192 Fairbridge, Rhodes W. (editor), "Chukchi Sea." In Encyclopedia of Oceanography, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1966 Gorbatskiy, G.V., Physicogeographical Zoning of Arctic, Volume 2, The Belt of Distant Seas with Islands. Leningrad: Leningrad University Publishing House, 1973 Gramberg, I.S. (editor), Orographic Map of Arctic Basin.

1:5000000, Helsinki: Karttaneskus, 1995 Miller, E.L., A. Grantz & S.L. Klemperer (editors), Tectonic Evolution of the Bering Shelf-Chukchi Sea-Arctic Margin and Adjacent Landmasses, Geological Society of America Special Paper 360, 2002 Musatov, E.E., The Russian Arctic. The Arctic on the Threshold of the Third Millennium, Moscow: Nauka, 2000 Vize, V.Yu., Seas of the Soviet Arctic: Novels on the History of Investigation (3rd edition), Moscow: Glavsevmorput, 1948 (in Russian)

Weingartner, T.J., D.J. Cavalieri, K. Aagaard & Y. Sasaki, "Circulation, dense water formation and outflow on the northeast Chukchi Sea shelf." Journal of Geophysical Research, 103 (1998): 7647-7662


The Chukchi-Kamchadal or Chukotka-Kamchatkan languages are a closely related group of languages found in the Chukotka and Kamchatka peninsulas in the far northeast of Asia: the name of the languages is derived either from the geographical names in Russian or from the names of the two main ethnic groups living, respectively, in Chukotka and Kamchatka: the Chukchi and Kamchadal (the old name of the Itel'men). Chukchi-Kamchadal languages are traditionally included into the so-called Paleo-Siberian languages. The speakers of Paleo-Siberian languages since the 19th century have been regarded as the descendants of the most ancient population of northeast Asia. Paleo-Siberian languages represent the set of Siberian languages that have no genetic affinity to other language families (the affinity of some of these language groups to each other is possible, although not yet proved by linguists). In addition to Chukchi-Kamchadal, Paleo-Siberian languages include the Eskimo-Aleut language group (numerous Eskimo dialects and the Aleut language), the Yukagir language (probably related to the Uralic family of languages), the Nivkh language (to the mind of some scholars, related to the Altaic language family, and even possibly to the Tungusic-Manchurian language group), and the Ket language, the only member of the Yenisey language family that had survived by the beginning of the 21st century (the other languages of the Yenisey family, the languages of the Arins, Assans, Kotts, and Pumpokols, disappeared in the 18th to 19th centuries, and the Jug dialect of Ket was lost in the second half of the 20th century).

According to archaeological discoveries, the ancestors of Chukchi-Kamchadal speakers occupied a large territory in the interior of Asia from the basin of the Lena River to the East. The geographical names of Chukchi-Kamchadal origin are found in the territory of contemporary Yakutia (Sakha Republic) and also in the coasts of the Sea of Okhotsk southward up to the south of Okhotsk town and in the Arctic Ocean coast eastward to the mouth of the Lena River. The Chukchi-Kamchadal language group includes five languages: Chukchi, Koryak, Aliutor, Kerek, and Itel'men (Kamchadal), although the genetic affinity of Itel'men to the Chukchi-Kamchadal group, according to the opinion of some linguists and ethnologists, is in doubt. It is possible that the similarities in vocabulary of the Itel'men and Chukchi-Kamchadal languages is the consequence of long contact between the Itel'men language and the various dialects of Koryak. The Aliutor and Kerek languages for some time were regarded as Koryak dialects and were described as separate languages only in the second half of the 20th century.

The Chukchi language is the language of the Chukchi, one of the most numerous people of northeast Asia. The total number of Chukchi in the all-Soviet census of 1989 was 15,107, of which 10,636 (or 70.4%) name Chukchi as their maternal language, and this figure may also characterize the number of native speakers. In 1959, there were 11,727 Chukchi, and 94% named Chukchi as their maternal language. Today most Chukchi live in Chukchi Autonomous Okrug, in the Chukotka peninsula (whose administrative center is the town of Anadyr on the estuary of the Anadyr River). Approximately 100 Chukchi live in Koryak Autonomous Okrug (neighboring the Chukchi Autonomous Territory), 150 Chukchi live in Magadan, and 600 Chukchi live in the northeast of Yakutia in the lower part of the basin of the Kolyma River.

The Chukchi language is spoken by representatives of the middle and older generations (some older Chukchi still do not speak Russian), as well as some youngsters living in small settlements and carrying out reindeer breeding or sea hunting. Since the 1930s when the language received its written form, it has been taught in primary schools as the language of instruction, and since 1960 as a subject for study. Since the 1990s in Chukotka, the teaching of Chukchi was introduced into secondary school till the 11th year, but teaching in secondary schools is not provided with Chukchi-language textbooks. Chukchi literature is well developed; more than 200 books of Chukchi prose (original literature and folklore and translations from Russian) and poetry (poems and songs of Chukchi authors) have been published. Chukchi writer Yuri Rytkheu (born in 1930) is well known in many Arctic countries, although he creates his best literary works in Russian, and some of his earlier stories were translated into Chukchi from Russian by professional translators. From 1953 to 1995 in Anadyr, a regional newspaper "Murgin nutenut" ("Our land") was published in Chukchi. There are also radio and TV programs in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. The Chukchi language has no dialects. Some lexical peculiarities of eastern groups of Chukchi reflect the former influence of spoken English in the shores of Bering Strait.

The Koryak language is the language of the Koryak people, who inhabit both coasts and the northern part of Kamchatka peninsula. The administrative unit of the Koryaks is the Koryak Autonomous Territory (capital Palana on the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk). Most Koryak live in this territory, and about 600 Koryaks live in Magadan region in the territories neighboring Kamchatka peninsula, and several hundred live in the middle and in the southern parts of Kamchatka in Kamchatkan region outside the okrug. According to the census of 1989, their total number was 8942; 52.4% of them named the Koryak language as their maternal language (in 1979, the number of Koryaks was 7900, and 69.6% named Koryak as their first language), but according to linguists, only 5.4% of Koryak people speak their language fluently.

The Koryak language is the language of mutual communication among the older and middle (older than 45 years) generations, primarily in the small collectives of traditional occupations (reindeer breeding). It is the subject of instruction in primary school for one to two years. The number of books published in Koryak (both original and translated from Russian) is less than 50. The use of Koryak language in radio broadcasts is irregular.

The Koryak language consists of the following dialects: Chavchuven (the dialect of reindeer breeders who name themselves "chavchyva"), Paren, Itkana, Apuka, Palana, Karaga, and Kamenskoye (the names of the dialects derived from the names of Koryak villages, some of which have now disappeared).

The Aliutor language is spoken by the inhabitants of several villages on the coast of the Bering Sea in the northern part of Kamchatka (Olutorsky district of the Koryak Autonomous Okrug). The total number of people in this ethnic group is not more than 2000, and the number of speakers of Aliutor is unknown because in census data the Aliutors were counted together with the Koryaks. The Aliutor language is very similar to the dialects of the coastal Koryaks and is closely related to them. For a long time, this language was regarded as one of the Koryak dialects and had no official written form; nevertheless in the 1960s, occasional materials in local newspapers were published in this language. Today Aliutor functions as the spoken language only among older people.

The Kerek language is thought to be the offspring of a language spoken by the ancient inhabitants of the coastal territory between the mouth of the Anadyr River and Kamchatka peninsula. Until the end of the 1950s, it was regarded by specialists as a dialect of Koryak. Today Kereks live in some settlements of Beringovsky district of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. Russian linguists and explorers found two dialects in the Kerek language: Mainopylgen and Khatyrka (from names of villages where the Kereks live). The number of speakers of the first dialect has been reduced to three representatives of the older generation; the exact number of speakers of Khatyrka dialect is unknown because this dialect was never observed by the linguists. Most Kereks also speak and write Chukchi. The Kerek language never had a written form because of the small number of speakers.

The Itel'men language is the language of the Itel'men (Kamchadals), who inhabited both coasts in the middle and in the southern part of Kamchatka peninsula in the 18 th to 19 th centuries. This language consisted of three dialects: western, eastern, and southern dialects. The latter two dialects disappeared during the end of the 18th to 19th centuries, and today only the language of western Itel'men can be consid ered as functioning in the role of a spoken language. The contemporary Itel'men live in some settlements of the southwestern part of the Koryak Autonomous Okrug. Their number was 2481 according to the census of 1989; 20% of them name Itel'men as their maternal language, but the actual number of people who can speak the language fluently has to be much less, perhaps several tens of older people. The Itel'men language gained its written form in 1932. However, in 1937 the teaching of Itel'men in schools was discontinued, and in 1988 a new Itel'men script based on the Cyrillic alphabet was introduced. Although Itel'men is not spoken by children and has not been taught in schools for a long time, it nevertheless presents a good example of language revival carried out by adults who desire to conserve their ancestral language for their proper ethnic identification.

From the genetic point of view, the Chukchi and the Koryak languages are rather close to each other. According to Morris Swadesh's glottochronological analysis of a core vocabulary of 100 words, Chukchi and Koryak separated from each other not earlier than 1000 years ago, and the speakers of these languages say their languages are mutually understandable. For a long time, Aliutor and Kerek were regarded simply as Koryak dialects. Itel'men differs much more; some linguists and ethnologists believe that Itel'men had no primary genetic affinity with the other languages of this group (Chukchi-Koryak), and their similarity in vocabulary and partly in morphology has to be the result of long contact and the influence of Chukchi-Koryak languages (at least two different Koryak dialects) upon Itel'men. Although there is no doubt as to the close affinity of Chukchi, Koryak, Aliutor, and Kerek—the position of Itel'men in this group is the object of discussion—nevertheless there has never been a successful attempt to find traces of the affinity of Itel'men to languages outside the Chukchi-Koryak group. The further genetic relations of Chukchi-Kamchadal languages are unclear. It is possible that this group has ancient genetic relations with the Nostratic language family (which includes Indo-European, Semito-Khamitic, Kartvelian (Georgian and similar languages), Uralic, Altaic, and Dravidian languages). An ancient genetic affinity of Chukchi-Kamchadal languages with the Eskimo-Aleut languages is also probable in the mind of some scholars, although it is not proved by regular phonemic correspondences: contacting dialects of Eskimo and Chukchi have a considerable number of mutual lexical borrowings.

The vowel systems of Chukchi and Koryak consist of six vowels; in Aliutor and Kerek there are four vowels. In Chukchi and Koryak there is vowel harmony based on the distinctive feature of higher/lower rise with complicated morphonological rules: the vowel characteristics of the word can be determined with both the roots and suffixes, and the latter can occupy any position of the word from the very beginning (roots) to the very end (case markers, suffixes of converbs). There is no vowel harmony in Aliutor and Kerek; in the opinion of some scholars, it disappeared under the influence of Eskimo dialects. Consonantal systems of these languages are rather poor, and there is no opposition of voiced-voiceless and velar-palatal consonants. The main peculiarity of the set of consonants is the opposition of back and uvular consonants K/Q: in Chukchi, Aliutor, and in Palana Koryak there is a glottal stop consonant that corresponds to a pha-ryngeal spirant in Chavchuven Koryak. The Itel'men system consonants differ from other Chukchi-Koryak languages. Case forms of nouns are rather numerous; forms of quality equivalent to the adjectives of other languages are either similar to participial forms or behave as intransitive verbs. In verbal conjugation, there is opposition of two types of paradigms: intransitive verbs express number and person of subject, and transitive verbs express number and person of both subject and object. In the frames of three tense forms (present, past, future), there is opposition of nonprogressive/progressive forms (in Chukchi) of different modal forms (in Koryak). There are three cate-gorial forms of mood: indicative, imperative, and subjunctive. The most remarkable feature in syntax of the Chukchi-Kamchadal language is the ergative construction of sentence with transitive verbs in the function of predicate; the incorporation as one of the ways of word derivation and as a type of syntactic construction exists in all languages with the exception of Itel'men.

Chukchi-Kamchadal languages became the object of scientific research in the middle of the 18 th century; most lexical materials collected at that time belong to those scholars who lived and worked in Russia (Stepan Krasheninnikov, Georg Steller, Yakov Lindenau). In the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century, research into these languages as well as into the culture of the peoples of the Chukchi-Kamchadal group is connected with the names of Waldemar Jochelson and Vladimir Bogoraz. Since 1930, linguistic studies in these languages have gained a practical orientation because of the need to train students in their own language. Today these languages attract the attention of scholars as the object of academic study or in connection with bilingualism, linguistic affinities, and other sociolinguistic problems of the languages of indigenous peoples of the Far North of Russia.

Alexis Burykin

See also Alphabets and Writing, Russia; Chukchi; Itel'men; Koryak; Languages of the Arctic

Further Reading

Asinovskiy, A.S., Konsonantizm chukotskogo yazyka [The consonantal system of the Chukchi language], Leningrad: Nauka, 1991

Bogoraz, V.G., Materialy po izucheniyu chukotskogo yazyka i fol'klora, sobrannye v Kolymskom okruge, ch. 1 [Materials on the study of the Chukchi language and folklore, collected in Kolyma territory], Part 1, St Petersburg: Izd, Akademii Nauk, 1900

Bogoraz, W., "Chukchi." In Handbook of American Indian Languages, edited by F. Boas, Washington: Government Printing Offices, 1922 Burykin, A.A., Narody Chukotki [The peoples of Chukotka], Moscow, 1995

Kibrik, A.Ye., S.V. Kodzasov & I.A. Muravyova, Yazyk i fol'k-lor alyutortsev [The language and folklore of the Aliutors], Moscow: IMLI RAN, "Nasledie," 2000 Leontyev, V.V. & K.A. Novikova, Toponimicheskiy slovar' Severo-Vostoka SSSR [The Toponymic Dictionary of the North-East of the USSR], Magadan: Magadanskoe knizhnoe izd-vo, 1989

Moll, T.A., Koryaksko-Russkiy Slovar' [The Koryak-Russian

Dictionary], Leningrad: Uchpedgiz, 1960 Moll, T.A. & P.I. Inenlikey, Chukotsko-russkiy slovar'

[Chukchi-Russian Dictionary], Leningrad: Nauka, 1957 Skorik, P.Ya., Russko-chukotskiy slovar' [Russian-Chukchi Dictionary], Leningrad, 1941

-, Ocherki po sintaksisu chukotskogo yazyka [Essays on

Chukchi syntax], Leningrad, 1948

-, Grammatika chukotskogo yazyka [The grammar of the

Chukchee language], Volume I, Moscow-Leningrad: Izd-vo AN SSSR, 1960, Volume II, Leningrad, 1977 Vdovin, I.S. & N.M. Tereshchenko, Ocherki istorii izucheniya paleoaziatckix I samodiyskix yazykov [Essays on the history of researches in the Paleosiberian and the Samoyedic languages], Leningrad: Uchpedgiz, 1959 Volodin, A.P., Itelmenskiy yazyk [The Itel'men language],

Leningrad: Nauka, 1976 Yazyki mira. Paleoaziatskiye yazyki [The languages of the world. The Paleosiberian languages], Moscow: Indrik, 1997 Yazyki narodov SSSR, Volume 5, Mongol'skiye, tunguso-manchzhurskiye I paleoaziatskiye yazyki [The languages of the peoples of the USSR, Volume 5, Mongolian, Tungus-Manchu and Paleosiberian languages], Leningrad: Nauka, 1968 Zhukova, A.N., Russko-koryakskiy slovar' [Russian-Koryak Dictionary], Moscow: Sov, entsiklopediia, 1967

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fologiya [The grammar of the Koryak language. Phonetics and morphology], Leningrad: Nauka,1972

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gogicheskix uchilishch [The Koryak language. Manual for the pedagogical colleges], Leningrad: Prosveshchenie, 1987

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[Materials and researches in the Koryak language], Leningrad: Nauka, 1988


The Chukotskoya Range forms part of the Aniusk-Chukotka mountain system in the Chukchi Autonomous Okrug in the extreme northeast of the Russian Federation. The range extends from Chaun Bay on the Arctic Ocean in the west to Bering Strait

(Pacific Ocean) in the east. It is bordered by the Chukchi Sea coastal plain in the north and the Anadyr River basin with its northern tributaries and the Anadyr Upland in the south. It is usually called an upland or plateau (in Russian nagor'ye), and has a maximum relief of 1843 m. Being a major watershed of rivers flowing to the Chukchi and Bering seas, the range is, in fact, a set of differently oriented ranges. The major ranges are Palavaamsky, Ekytyksky, and Iskaten' in the central part, Ekiatapsky, Pegtymelsky, and Shelagsky in the north, and Pekulnej and Zolotoi in the south.

The individual ranges have different origins. The oldest rocks of pre-Paleozoic age (nearly two thousand million years) are exposed in the low mountains of the easternmost part (Chukotka Peninsula). Most of the range (its central and southern ranges) is part of the arc-shaped Okhotsk-Chukotka volcanic belt, which extends from the Chukotka Peninsula to the Sea of Okhotsk. About one hundred million years old, the belt resulted from volcanic activity during subduction of the Pacific plate under the continental margin. The northernmost portion of the range represents the Mesozoic-Cenozoic orogen. Intrusive igneous and effusive rocks thus prevail throughout the range. The topography of the range is rather variable. Well-dissected medium-relief mountain landscapes with smoothed ridge landforms of mid-Pleistocene glaciation predominate; late Pleistocene alpine landforms appear only in southeastern slopes of the southern ranges (Pekulnej, Iskaten') where higher precipitation coming in from the Bering Sea fell. The range is dissected by large valleys of the Paljavaam, Pegtymel', Kuvet, and Amguema rivers running northward, and the Belaya and Tanyurer rivers running southward. Several mountains reach 1800 m above sea level (the highest, with no name, is 1843 m), although mediumrelief mountains of 800-1000 m prevail.

Most of the range is characterized by a moderately continental Subarctic climate with an average annual temperature of -5°C to 8°C, although the northern slopes (Ekiatapsky and Shelagsky ranges) and the southeast of Chukotka Peninsula are Arctic maritime with milder temperatures and increased rainfall (up to 500 mm). Intermountain depressions and river valleys with a continental climate favor the distribution of relict tundra-steppe vegetation, which dominated in continental Beringia during dry and cold epochs of maritime regressions. In river valleys of southeastern Chukotka Peninsula, enclaves of alder and willow shrub vegetation occur, although the major northern limit of shrub vegetation lies at the southern foothills of the range in central Chukotka. Heath vegetation predominates throughout the range, which is dominated by dwarf and prostrate shrubs (such as dwarf birch Betula nana subsp. exilis, willow Salix sphenophylla, bilberry and crowberries Vaccinium uliginosum and V. vitis-idea, black bearberry Arctostaphylos alpina, crowberry Empetrum subholarcticum, Northern Labrador tea Ledum decumbens, and white Arctic mountain heather Cassiope tetragona), fruticose and foliose lichens, and non-Sphagnum mosses. Exposed ridge habitats are vegetated by prostrate shrubs, rosette and cushion forbs (such as Dryas spp., Salix phlebophylla, Diapensia obovata, Oxytropis spp., Potentilla spp.), and foliose and crustaceous lichens. Terrestrial fauna of the ridge is represented by common birds and animals of mountain tundra landscape such as ptarmigan, Arctic fox, lemmings, bighorn sheep, and brown bear. The northeastern distribution limit of Siberian wild reindeer includes the western part of the range.

The range was used by reindeer-breeding Chukchi mostly as summer pastures, and therefore there were no permanent settlements there until the mid-20th century when gold fields and tin-tungsten ore deposits were found, and Pevek expanded as a port to service the gold field settlements. Chukotka's major road crosses the range from Kresta Bay (Egvekinnot settlement with port and electric power station) to the Iultin mine, ore dressing plant, and settlement. The latter was temporarily closed in the mid-1990s. For many years, gold and tin-tungsten ore mining was the foundation of Chukotkan industrial development. During the economic crisis in the 1990s, some mining settlements were closed. Presently the Chukotkan government supports investment in renewal of the gold-mining industry and development of the road network to connect the northern territories of Chukotka with Anadyr and other ports of the Bering Sea.

Volodya Razzhivin

See also Chukchi Autonomous Okrug (Chukotka)


Christian churches played an important role in changing the beliefs and practices among societies throughout Greenland and the North American Arctic. For a long time, missionaries traveled from various European countries, and in the field churches struggled actively for native souls. But today, these missionary trends no longer dominate within Arctic societies. Moreover, Inuit did not simply adopt Christianity in its imported format; rather, they interpreted the new religion in light of their beliefs and customs, integrating Christianity into their own culture. The adoption of Christianity by the Inuit thus involved complex cultural negotiations, to use an expression introduced by cultural anthropologist Ann Fienup-Riordan (1990).

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