ALTERNATE NAMES: Ewen, Lamut
LOCATION: Russia (northeastern Siberia)
POPULATION: 19,071 (2002)
LANGUAGE: Even; Russian; Yakut
RELIGION: Russian orthodox Christianity and native beliefs
The Evens are an indigenous people of Northeastern Siberia. Most Evens are nomadic hunters and reindeer herders, but some Evens along the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk also engage in fishing and seal hunting. They are closely related in language, culture, and physical type to the Evenki (see separate entry). The Evens' name for themselves is Even (plural Evesel); the origin of this term is obscure. (Some Western scholars write Even as Ewen.) The Evens who dwell on northern Kamchatka and along the northernmost coastline of the Sea of Okhotsk also refer to themselves as the Oroch (plural Orochel) from oroch (reindeer). The adjective Mene, which means "settled," is sometimes used by the non-nomadic fishermen of the Sea of Okhotsk coast. (A different Tungusic-speaking people of the Amur River region—not to be confused with the Evens—also uses the self-appellation Oroch.) Some Evens also identify themselves by the names of their clans or tribes (Huldacha, Dutki, Kukuin, etc.). In older Russian and Western ethnographic literature, the Evens who occupied what is now northern Yakutia and Magadan Region (Russian oblast) were called Lamut: this term is of Evenki origin and is derived from lamu (sea). The remaining Evens were not differentiated from the Evenki in ethnographic writing until the Soviet period (when the anthropological and linguistic study of the peoples of Siberia greatly developed) and, like the Evenki, were called Tungus (from Tongus, the Yakut word for Evenki).
Although there is much that is uncertain in the origins of the Evens, it is clear that the Evens were formed over many centuries from Tungusic-speaking tribes that mixed with other native peoples of Siberia (particularly the Yukagir and Yakut) as they migrated through the taiga and tundra of Eastern and Northeastern Siberia. Russian Cossacks and explorers began to move into Even territory in the first half of the 17th century. The Evens put up a fierce resistance and frequently attacked and burned Russian forts. Nevertheless, Russia succeeded in subduing them by 1700. Thereafter, the Evens were required to pay the yasak (tax in furs). The Russian government's use of Evens as agents to collect the yasak from neighboring Chukchi, Koriak, and Yukagirs facilitated the Evens' expansion onto land previously settled by these peoples.
Russian contact brought diseases such as smallpox, mumps, chicken pox, and influenza, to which the Evens had no immunity. This, coupled with the loss of lands to Russian settlers, a decline in the animal population (caused by overhunting in order to pay the yasak), the rise of alcoholism, and economic exploitation by Russian officials and merchants, led to a reduction of the Evens' numbers and a steep decline in their standard of living. After the October Revolution, the Communist government attempted to shield the Evens and other northern groups from the negative effects of Russian contact. This effort was influenced by Russian anthropologists who specialized in the study of the Siberian peoples and idealistic Bolsheviks who shared the anthropologists' concern. To aid them in developing economically and culturally within the framework of their own traditions, 10 Even National Districts (Russian raion) and one National Region (krai) were established in northern Yakutia and on the shores of the Sea of Okhotsk. Taxes on the Evens were reduced, and Even debts to traders were canceled. State-run trading posts that offered fair prices for Even furs were established, and education and Western medical care began to be provided in at least some Even areas. This relatively humanitarian approach to ruling the Evens was abruptly abandoned upon Stalin's rise to power by the end of the 1920s. During the1930s, Even hunters, fishermen, and reindeer herders were forced into collectives as part of the collectivization of agriculture. At the same time, Stalin's campaign to speedily raise Soviet industry to Western levels brought an enormous number of Russian miners and loggers into Even territory, particularly after the discovery of gold deposits in 1931 and 1932. The proportion of Evens in the population of the Even national areas dropped from 80% to 40%. The eastward evacuation of Soviet industry away from the front during World War II, and the further growth of extractive industries after the war, continued the ecological damage begun in the 1930s. Moreover, increasing official pressure against Even culture (particularly the Even language) from the Stalin years on placed the Evens' survival as a people in jeopardy. Like the other Siberian peoples, the Evens were powerless to criticize policies harmful to their economy and culture until the Gorbachev era.
LOCATION AND HOMELAND
According to the 2002 Russian census the Evens number 19,071, all of whom live in the Russian Federation. Although they do not form a compact mass and their settlements are located in areas in which members of other nationalities (mainly Russians and Yakuts) form a majority, they are scattered over a very wide territory—almost 3 million square kilometers (1,864,200 square miles). There are 8,700 Evens in the north-ernmost reaches of the Sakha (Yakut) Republic, particularly its Sarkyryrskii, Ust'-Yanskii, Oimiakonskii, Nizhne-Kolymskii, Sredne-Kolymskii, Verkhne-Kolymskii, Tomponskii, Momskii, Allaikhovskii, and Verkhoianskii districts (Russian raion); 1,900 in the Okhotskii and Verkhne-Bureinskii Districts of Khabarovsk Territory (Russian krai); 1,300 in the Chukchi Autonomous District (Russian okrug); 3,800 in the Ol'skii, Severo-Evenskii, and Sredne-Kanskii Districts of Magadan Region (Russian oblast); and 1,500 in the Bystrinskii District and Koriak Autonomous District of Kamchatka Region.
The climate of the Even lands is generally harsh and cold. In northern areas of Even settlement such as the Indigirka River valley, winters last up to nine or ten months, and average annual temperatures do not exceed –13.5°c (7.7°f). Even territory is characterized by mountainous taiga forests of cedar, fir, pine, larch, birch, and spruce, and in the northernmost regions barren or sparsely forested tundra. Reindeer, mountain sheep, squirrel, bear, elk, sable, fox, wolves, ducks, geese, and grouse are the most common animals. Grayling, cod, loach, and freshwater salmon are found in the rivers and streams of the Even lands, and saltwater salmon and seals inhabit the coastal waters of the Sea of Okhotsk.
The Even language belongs to the Tungusic branch of the Altaic language family, which includes tongues spoken in Siberia and the Far East (for example, Evenki, Nanai, Udegei, and Ul'chi), as well as the language of the Manchus who conquered China in the 17th century. The language most closely related to Even is Evenki. Even is divided into three dialect groups—western, central, and eastern. These three groups are in turn subdivided into 13 or so numerous local forms whose pronunciation and vocabulary differ from each other to varying degrees. The Even language was unwritten until 1931, when the Evens adopted the Latin alphabet. This was replaced in 1936 by the Cyrillic (Russian) alphabet. As was the case among other Siberian peoples who had hitherto used the Latin alphabet, this change was not based on sound linguistic reasons; rather, it took place under pressure from chauvinistic Russian and pro-Russian officials who considered the Russian alphabet inherently superior and did not wish to encourage the use of a "foreign" alphabet by ethnic minorities. The modern Even literary language is based on the eastern Ola dialect and is written in the Cyrillic alphabet with extra letters and diacritical marks that represent Even sounds absent in Russian. Some 44% of the Even speak Even as their native tongue; Russian or Yakut are the first languages of the remainder.
Many Even given names take their origins from the names of animals in the Even environment. For example, the male names Kabiavchan , Giakan , and Hingerken are based respectively on the Even words for "partridge," "eagle," and "little mouse." Of similar derivation are the female names Hulichan ("fox"), Sakla ("owl"), and Kachikan ("puppy"). Some Even personal names were formed by adapting Russian names to the Even phonetic system, for example N'evde (female, from Russian Evdokiia) and N'iuku (male, from Russian Nikolai). Russian given names such as Vasilii (male) and Agaf'ia (female) are also common. In traditional society, Evens did not use family names unless they were baptized; in that case, they were assigned Russian surnames (e.g., Lebedev , Nikulin , Trofimov) by the Russian Orthodox Church. Surnames, usually created by adding Russian suffixes such as -ov and -in to clan names (Bugach , Dutki , Huldacha) became universal during the Soviet period, because all families were required to adopt a permanent surname for the sake of bureaucratic convenience.
The Even have amassed a sizeable body of folklore over the centuries. Even folklore includes many genres: nemkan (folk tales) about people and animals, which sometimes borrow themes from Evenki, Russian, and Koriak folklore; teleng (long epic stories), which are often sung; ike (short songs), which often provide humorous glimpses at scenes from everyday life (such as the quarrels of cantankerous elderly couples); and nenuken (riddles). The teleng usually describe the feats of warrior heroes—for example, Chibdevel, who rescues his bride from enemies who have abducted her—or the Evens' historical conflicts with the Koriak, Chukchi, Russians, and other neighboring peoples.
In one nemkan, a young man goes out hunting with his faithful dog. He finds a wild duck but spares its life. On the way home, the dog suddenly becomes fatally ill and asks his master to cut his body up into six parts after he dies; the hunter is confused at this request, but nevertheless honors it. When he returns to the dog's dismembered corpse the following day, two bears, two wolves, and two foxes are eating it; they greet him as their master and begin to follow him everywhere as his dog had done. Later, the hunter's evil sister takes up with an iron-toothed, one-eyed, one-legged, one-armed monster called Chölere. She conspires to feed her brother to Chölere, but his animal friends come to the rescue and slay and cremate the monster. The hunter's sister finds Chölere's iron teeth among his ashes and uses them to kill her brother. After his death, the six animals wash his wounds in magic water. He then comes back to life and kills his treacherous sister.
The Evens' religion is a unique mixture of shamanism and Russian Orthodox Christianity. The Evens were largely Christianized by the middle of the 19th century, and many Evens attend Orthodox church services, wear necklaces bearing crosses, undergo baptism and observe various Christian holidays. It is thought that during the Soviet era anti-religious efforts directed against the Orthodox Church resulted in a revival of traditional beliefs among the Evens. These practices are integrated into a very ancient form of shamanism, which is based on the belief that the forces of nature are ruled by spirits who must be ritually honored in order to ensure man's survival and prosperity. The togh-muranni (fire-spirit) is considered particularly powerful, and bits of food are thrown into the fire as an offering at mealtimes. A host of taboos surrounds the use of fire: it is forbidden to spit into a fire, quarrel in front of it, or stick a knife into it. Reindeer are sometimes ceremonially sacrificed to the sun when a person falls ill. Like the shamans of other Siberian peoples, the Even haman (shaman) uses ritual prayers, dances, and drum-beating to communicate with the spirits in order to heal the sick, seek advice in personal matters, and foretell the future. The shaman is aided by helper spirits called ibdiril , who are described as resembling people, birds, fish, and other animals. The Evens' religious practices were forced underground as a result of the Soviet regime's antireligious policies from the 1930s on. They have begun to reemerge since the end of religious persecution in the 1980s, but the role of the Church and the shaman in everyday life has been much diminished.
The most important holidays in traditional Even society were clan gatherings that took place every year in either spring or summer (depending on the locality). These often coincided with annual trade fairs established by the Tsarist administration, at which Russian traders purchased furs gathered by Even hunters, and Russian officials collected taxes from the Evens. The most common name for these gatherings was dalbu (from the root dal -, meaning "friend" or "relative"), but other names were used as well: khededek ("the time and place of dancing"), chakabak or sakabak ("gathering, meeting"), and munnak ("the time of sport"). The dalbu were marked by reindeer, dog-sled, and foot races; dancing; singing; storytelling; wrestling; and feasting. These activities are now performed at occasional Even folklore festivals, which replaced clan- and trade-based holidays after the 1930s.
RITES OF PASSAGE
As was the case among many other native Siberian peoples, pregnancy and childbirth in traditional Even society were accompanied by many rules that the mother-to-be must follow in order to ensure a safe delivery. For example, she could not receive guests, visit other households, keep company with other pregnant women, go out of her home at night, hold broken dishes, touch fishnets, eat fatty foods, or drink strong tea. After the onset of labor, all items in the home that had ties or lids were unfastened or opened to ensure that the child had a clear path into the world. Above all, she was required to keep her home, person, and clothing absolutely clean at all times. Some of these taboos had a practical as well as superstitious, aspect: the ban on socializing and the insistence on a particularly clean environment, for example, protected the expectant mother and her fetus from possible sources of infection. During pregnancy and birth, an older, experienced woman (atykan-"grandmother" or "old lady") lived with the expectant mother to help her with household tasks, instruct her in childbirth procedures and parenting skills, and ensure that she followed all relevant rules and taboos. During labor and delivery and for a week after birth, only the atykan and the khevkilen (midwife) were allowed to be with the mother, whose home was roped off to indicate that no one else could enter. The mother gave birth squatting over the bed while supporting herself on a sturdy wooden frame, which allowed gravity to help the infant through the birth canal; the khevkilen continually massaged the mother's belly to relieve pain and move the infant along. For this reason, Even women gave birth quickly and easily. If the child was a boy, its umbilical cord was cut with the mother's knife; if a girl was born, the father's knife was used. Children were named after deceased relatives. Even birth taboos and procedures have largely vanished as a result of modernization.
Prior to Russian contact, the Evens interred their dead in wooden coffins, which they decorated with carvings of crows and raised on tall platforms. The belongings of the deceased were broken or torn (to allow them to be used in the world of the dead) and placed under the platform. Reindeer were sacrificed in the dead person's honor. Platform burial has been replaced by burial in the ground as a result of Russian influence, and graves are now marked with crosses. Yet elements of the Evens' pre-Christian practices remain: the crosses are generally decorated with bird carvings, and broken pieces of the deceased person's possessions, along with the poles of his tent, are scattered around the grave.
Among the Even, it has been customary since time immemorial to share the products of herding, fishing, or hunting with clan members, hunting partners and neighbors. In traditional society, this practice, called nimat , was crucial to the community's physical survival, so it was taken very seriously. If an Even repeatedly refused to share his game or fish or the reindeer he slaughtered, he could be put to death by members of his clan or settlement. Nimat is still observed by modern Evens, although violations no longer result in death.
There are several types of traditional Even housing. The dyu (dyum in some dialects), like the Evenki dwelling of the same name, is a large conical tent that closely resembles the teepee of nomadic Native American peoples of the Great Plains. The dyu consists of a frame of wooden poles covered with reindeer hides or sheets of birchbark made tough and flexible by steaming. A hearth in the center of the dyu is used for cooking, warmth, and illumination, and the dyu is ventilated by a hole at the top where the tent poles meet. Fur sleeping bags around the edges of the dyu serve as beds. The door is made of thick suede decorated with colorful appliqué patterns. Another dwelling, the chorama-dyu, is made of the same materials as the dyu, but its construction is slightly different. The base of the chorama-dyu consists of a set of 8-14 poles about one meter long. These are fastened in pairs into inverted V's, the V-shaped pairs are placed in a circle with the ends fastened to the ground, and horizontal planks are laid across the tops to create a sturdy circular frame. To the top of this frame is attached a conical framework of support poles similar to those of the dyu. The entire structure is then covered with deerskin or birchbark. (Travelers to the Even lands in the 17th century reported seeing chorama-dyu covered with tanned fish-skins as well). Undressed deer or other animal hides serve as carpets. The dyu and chorama-dyu were traditionally used by nomadic Evens, who found them convenient to disassemble and reassemble when moving to new grazing or hunting grounds. Settled Even fishermen along the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk lived in utan (dugouts) covered with turf in previous centuries; after the 1700s, the dugouts began to be replaced by rectangular log cabins (called uran). Many Evens now live in the one-story wooden houses ubiquitous in rural areas of the former Soviet Union. Herdsmen and hunters still make use of the traditional tent-type dwellings, but cloth coverings are often used in place of the former deerskin or birchbark ones.
The reindeer naturally forms the basis of most traditional Even modes of transport. Along with using reindeer as pack animals, the nomadic Evens ride them as well. Evens who live near Yakut, Chukchi, or Koriak settlements have adopted the use of reindeer-drawn sleighs from them. The settled Evens of the Sea of Okhotsk coast also use dogsleds, and less frequently horses, for transportation. Skis are another widespread traditional means of transport, especially among hunters, who use fur-covered skis in order to move silently when stalking game. Although airplanes, tractors, helicopters, and snowmobiles have become common in the 20th century, they have not displaced the traditional modes of transport, which are well-suited to the Evens' environment.
Western medicine was all but unknown among the Evens before the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917; instead, they used a wide pharmacopia of medicinal herbs and barks. Animal substances such as bear's bile and fat and reindeer kidney and blood were also successfully employed as medicines. In the case of frostbite, a reindeer was killed and skinned and the patient was wrapped in its skin in order to warm him gradually. Because illness was traditionally considered to have a spiritual cause, shamans performed prayers and rituals to heal the sick. There has been a significant increase in the use of modern medicines and treatments since the Soviet period, but traditional Even medicine is still widely employed. Hospitals and clinics in Northeastern Siberia are often many miles away, and in some cases Even plant-based medicines are more effective than modern ones.
Prior to the 20th century, the Evens were organized into ngunmin (clans) whose members were related to each other by blood. It was forbidden for two members of the same clan to marry each other. Clan members shared hunting and herding grounds and were obligated to help each other in times of need. Egdengen (elders) gathered taxes from the clan communities and delivered them to Russian officials, distributed gunpowder from the clan's stores, and judged disputes between members. The clan system was weakened considerably by the Soviet-era forced resettlement of members of different Even clans into the same herding and hunting collectives, and the nuclear family has replaced the clan as the basic Even social unit. Nevertheless, some traits of the clan system—particularly mutual aid and the taboo on marriage between clan members—continue to be observed.
The clans were divided into nuclear families consisting of a man, a woman, and their children, who lived with their parents until marriage. In traditional society, marriages were usually arranged by the parents, sometimes when the pair in question were still minors. The parents of the groom were required to pay a tori (bride-price) of reindeer, deerskins, leather tobacco pouches decorated with beadwork, clothing, tea sets, cooking utensils, leather-working tools, knives, axes, or other useful items to the wife's parents, who reciprocated with gifts of their own. After the gifts were exchanged, the bride was taken to the groom's parents' home, which she circled three times on reindeer-back before entering. She then circled the hearth three times and cooked meat there in her own cauldron to signify her entry into the groom's household. Newlyweds usually lived with the groom's parents until they were able to establish a new household. Wealthy Evens sometimes had two wives, but since polygamy was forbidden by the church, one of the wives had to pose as a servant or blood relative when non-Evens visited the household. Arranged marriages have disappeared during the 20th century. Now men and women marry for love, and polygamy has become a thing of the past.
Traditional Even garments are made of deerskin. Even men and women both wear loose, knee-length deerskin robes called tety that are fastened at the throat but otherwise left open in front. They also wear nel (leather aprons) that provide warmth for the front of the body, and kherke (loincloths) and leggings. The Even tety is very similar in form to the khegilme and sun of the Evenki, but the sides and hems of Even robes, unlike those of the Evenki, are trimmed with fur. Merun or nugdu (winter boots) are made from skins taken from the legs of reindeer or moose and are decorated with beads or fur strips; olachik and aramra (summer boots) are made from suede. The typical Even hat is the avun , a close-fitting deerskin cap that covers the ears. Women's clothing is of the same cut as that worn by Even men but tends to be more elaborately decorated. At present, traditional clothing is usually worn in winter, while western clothing (factory-made cloth dresses, shirts, trousers, and underclothes, and leather shoes) is worn in summer.
Most traditional Even cuisine revolves around the meat of the reindeer and various game animals and birds (moose, mountain sheep, squirrel, elk, ducks, geese, and grouse). Meat is usually roasted over a fire or dried, but reindeer kidneys, livers, lungs, and eyes are eaten raw, as this is considered better for one's health. Reindeer blood is used as a tonic and is drunk warm as soon as the animal is butchered. The contents of slaughtered reindeers' stomachs are frozen or dried and mixed with berries. Fish (particularly salmon) and seal meat and fat form the central part of the diet of the sedentary Evens along the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk. Fish is roasted or dried. Kam or niukola (dried fish) is sometimes kept in special huts to prevent smoke from the hearth and other household odors from spoiling its flavor. Berries, nuts, and edible roots and herbs are also part of the traditional Even diet. During the 20th century, canned foods (vegetables, meat, and fish), bread, potatoes, and fruit have became staples of the Even diet.
With the exception of a handful of missionary schools operated by the Russian Orthodox Church, education was unknown among the Evens prior to the Soviet period. Secular schools began to be established during the 1920s, and the first Even teachers were trained at the Institute of the North (now the Pedagogical Institute of the Peoples of the North) founded in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in 1926. Now primary and secondary schooling are universal, and many Evens go on to attend universities in Yakutsk, Khabarovsk, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other cities of the Russian Federation. Alongside these gains, however, the Evens have experienced great cultural losses as the result of Soviet educational policies. Because of the official discouragement of the teaching of "primitive" peoples' languages and cultures during much of the Soviet period, and the widespread use of Russian-speaking boarding schools that kept native pupils from their families for many years, many young and middle-aged Evens are ignorant of their own people's cultural heritage, language, and traditional occupations. During the 1980s, native activists and teachers managed to include Even history, language, and folklore, and vocational training in reindeer herding and hunting, in the curricula of some of the schools attended by Evens. Some boarding schools have been replaced by day schools closer to home, thus allowing children to spend more time with parents, and especially grandparents, who are able to teach them the ways of their people.
Besides the mouth organ used by almost all Tungusic-speaking peoples, the most widespread traditional Even musical instrument is a flat, oval-shaped drum called an untun, which is usually used by shamans in religious rituals. In appearance, the untun resembles the shamans' drums of many other Siberian peoples (as well as some Native American ones). The untun is beaten with a gisun (stick) whose striking end is padded with deer-hair and suede to protect the leather drum-head. Small pieces of bone and iron fastened to the inside of the frame of the untun produce a tambourine-like sound when the drum is struck.
Even literature began to develop after the creation of an Even written language in the 1930s. Authors such as Nikolai Tarabukin, Platon Stepanov (who writes under the pen name Lamutskii), and Vasilii Lebedev have published poems, short stories, and novels on themes from traditional and modern Even life. Because these works are published in Russian and Yakut as well as Even, they are accessible to readers belonging to other native Siberian nationalities and to Evens who do not know Even but wish to learn about their people's culture.
Thanks to their many centuries of experience in herding reindeer, the Evens have become quite skilled at breeding reindeer. Because Even herdsmen and hunters ride their reindeer like horses for long distances, they require animals with specific characteristics: physical stamina; ease of taming and training; and large, heavily muscled bodies. Even reindeer have long been prized among the peoples of Northeastern Siberia for their size, strength, and endurance. Koriak and Chukchi traders traditionally gave two of their own reindeer for one of the Evens'.
The most popular Even traditional sports are reindeer and dogsled racing, wrestling, skiing, archery, and jumping contests. Foot races are also commonplace. Even runners have long been renowned among the peoples of Northeast Siberia for their endurance. This is probably a result of the persistence and tirelessness of Even hunters, who often track wounded animals on skis for several days.
ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION
Dancing is a favorite pastime of the Evens. In one traditional Even dance, the hed'e , the participants form a circle facing each other, link arms, and begin to move slowly from left to right. The circle grows to several dozen people as bystanders spontaneously join in. As the speed increases from a shuffle to a near-run, the dancers bend and unbend their knees and move their heads and torsos from right to left and backwards and forwards. At certain points in the hed'e , the participants leap high into the air in unison without breaking the rapidly whirling circle! Evens of both sexes and all ages enjoy the hed'e , and performances sometimes last for hours, until the dancers collapse from exhaustion.
FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES
Even arts and crafts tend to be similar to those of the Evenki, who also practice nomadic reindeer herding and hunting. Men carve and engrave wood, bone, metal, horn, and leather into saddles and saddle horns, tobacco pipes, knife and tool handles, and other items of everyday use. Women use beads, fur appliqué, and embroidery to embellish articles of clothing with a variety of geometric shapes. Because of the influence from the Yakut, who have long been accomplished metalworkers, the Evens have become skilled at casting iron purchased from Yakut and Russian traders and silver and copper obtained by melting coins into leather-working tools, knife blades, arrow-and spear-heads, and jewelry.
Contemporary Evens share a number of social problems with other peoples of Siberia: a low life expectancy due to inadequate medical care, alcoholism, and respiratory diseases; widespread poverty; the degradation of their native region's environment; the prejudices of local Russians (and even some Yakuts, who consider the Evens "primitive"); and the threat to their cultural survival posed by Soviet-era policies aimed at eliminating "backward" non-Russian cultures. Representatives of the Evens are active in the Association of the Small Peoples of the North and other native-rights organizations, where they voice their concerns over these issues and fight government plans (for example, for the construction of dams and electric plants in ecologically fragile areas) that, if implemented, would damage their ancestral lands even further.
The Evens of the Sakha (Yakut) Republic have fared better than their compatriots in other administrative regions in recent attempts to gain official support for their cultural and economic needs. Because the Sakha are themselves an indigenous Siberian people who have faced both attacks by officialdom on their culture and way of life and damage to their native environment by extractive industries, their political leaders are particularly sensitive to the problems of native Siberians in general. For example, the Sakha government has founded an Institute of the Problems of the Northern Minorities for the study, preservation, and teaching of the languages, arts, folklore, and history of the Evens and other native groups—that is, Yukagirs, Chukchi, Evenki, and Dolgans—who dwell in the northern reaches of the Sakha Republic. Moreover, in 1989 the Sakha administration established the Even-Bytantaisk District (Russian raion)—the first autonomous Even area since its predecessors were abolished in the 1930s.
In traditional Even society a sharp division of labor enforced gender norms. Some scholars have even suggested that women in traditional Even society held a relatively privileged position, especially in economic sector as property holders. During Collectivization, and particularly the period during and after the Second World War, the integration of the Evens into the Soviet economy and society blurred this division of labor, particularly as women gained access to education and industry and Russian migration came to the Even territories. At the same time the imposition of collective property and the abolition of private property had a direct impact on many Even women.
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—revised by A. Frank