Religion and Folklore

Although by the 20th century Dolgans were considered to have all converted to Orthodox Christianity, following

Christian rituals and practices, they retained many traditional beliefs (animism, deification of forces of nature). Stones of unusual forms, trees, and other natural objects were revered as sacred objects, considered to be spirit protectors of hunting and fishing.

Dolgan deities and spirits were divided, as were those of the Yakuts, into three categories: itchi— unbodied invisible creatures, which bring life to all objects; aiuu or ajyy—benevolent spirits; and abaasu—spirits that bring different kinds of illnesses and unhappiness to people. Shamans struggled against evil and acted as mediators between people and the spirits. Dolgan shaman's clothes and tambourine were of Evenki type.

Dolgans buried their dead in the ground after the spring thaw. They killed a deer near the grave, leaving the clothes of the dead man on the ground or in a tree.

Dolgan oral folklore consists of riddles, stories, fairy tales, sagas, and songs. Historical sagas by their plot, and also by the method of performance were close to the Yakut olonkho and namad. The plot consists of a struggle of heroes with evil. The song alternated with stories. Usually the song parts where the hero speaks are sung with a different timbre of voice.

Dolgans did not have musical instruments, and only at the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th centuries did they begin to use the Yakut vargan or jew's harp.

All clothes for festivals and domestic use were embroidered with beads or decorated with thin strips of colored fur or fabric. Ornamental embroidery with reindeer hair on reindeer hide was also common, colored red with alder-tree bark and black with graphite.

Thin transparent embroidery with a string of tendons was found on straps and on the harnesses of reindeer sledges. Ornamentation of clothes was a woman's craft. Men's art was associated with carving of mammoth ivory, which was used to make buttons for and decorate reindeer harnesses. Dolgans were considered to be very skillful blacksmiths, producing decorated copper and silver wares. Dolgan designs are geometric, consisting of crosswise, round circles, zigzag (chevron), and broken stripes.

Maya Vasil'eva

See also Evenki; Northern Altaic Languages; Taymyr (Dolgan-Nenets) Autonomous Okrug; Tungus; Yakuts

Further Reading

Dolgikh, B.O., "Proiskhozhdenie Dolgan" [Origin of the Dolgan]. In Sibirskii Etnograficheskii Sbornik V Trudy Instituta Etnografii im. N.N. Mikhlukho-Maklaia, Novaia Seriia 84, Moscow: USSR Academy of Sciences Publishers, 1963, pp. 92-141

Narody Rossii, entsyklopediia [The peoples of Russia], edited by V.A. Tishkov, Moscow: Bol'shaia Rossiiskaia Entsyklopediia, 1994 Narody Sibiri, edited by M.G. Levin and L.P. Potapov, Moscow: Russian Academy of Sciences, 1956; as The Peoples of Siberia, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1964 Popov, A.A., "Olenevodstvo u Dolgan" [Reindeer herding of the Dolgan], Sovietskaia Etnografiia, 4-5 (1935)

- O zhizni i ustno-narodnom tvorchestve Dolgan //

Dolganskiy folklor [About the life and folklore of Dolgan // Dolgan folklore], Moscow and Leningrad: Sovetskii pisa-tel', 1937

Ziker, J., "Land Use and Economic Change Among the Dolgan and the Nganasan." In People and the Land: Pathways to Reform in Post-Soviet Siberia, edited by E. Kasten, Berlin: Reimer Verlag, 2002

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